Following Opera Singers to Capture the Experience for the Audience
I grew up with the music of Pavarotti, Verdi and Rossini coming from the living room, usually on Sundays. And a little Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra mixed in. By no means am I an expert, but I must admit, I thought the quality of the performances solely depended on the talent of the singers and the acoustics. But even with the most advanced architecture and best names in show business, apparently the live experience could still get better.
Opera can be defined as a theatrical presentation in which a dramatic performance is set to music, incorporating many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, costumes and dance. To pull the audience in with greater force and make it feel like one of the characters, Out Board, as reported by RFID Journal, developed a sound-locating system that would pinpoint the location of the performers on the stage. What that means is that the singer’s location – or coordinates - are forwarded to a software program, which determines when a specific voice should reach a certain speaker. The second piece of the puzzle is for the software to determine the precise second for that performer’s voice to come out of a certain speaker.
Remember the Saturday Nite Live skit with Bill Murray playing Hercules, poking fun at the audio and video being comically out of sync, as was the case in the days of early TV when sound suffered from latency issues. (The SNL video clip isn’t available due to copyright laws, but here is a transcript with pictures to jog your memory.) So, not exactly the same as what we’re talking about here, but an audible “out of sync-ness” can be noticed when you’re at an opera house that seats tens of thousands of people. And the larger the theatre, the more common it is for the performer's voice to be heard by the audience slightly later than when the voice comes out of the speakers. This obviously interferes with the sound quality, which is especially important when you’re listening to an opera in another language.
The authentic experience starts with each performer wearing a battery-powered Ubisense RFID tag, easily invisible to both performer and audience member. The tag transmits a unique ID number that is linked to the performer's information. When the performer enters the stage, it receives transmissions from RFID readers. The Ubisense Location Platform software calculates the location of the tag based on the angle of signal arrival to each reader, and the time at which the signal was received. Then it assigns the location of each tag to a specific zone on stage. By determining the exact location of each performer, the system can calculate the sound delay to ensure proper amplification and speaker location for each voice.
Many of the heavy metal concerts that I’ve seen in my day could have benefitted from better sound quality, among a few other things.
[Screenshot Outboard TiMax Tracker (TT) real-time location system]