Seattle Opera asked MODE Studios to produce an HD simulcast of Seattle Opera’s Madama Butterfly production for the 50th Anniversary Event at Seattle Center. Madama Butterfly was performed live at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.  The HD broadcast was directed by Frank Zamacona and simulcast to Key Arena on a 50 ft. by 80 ft. rear projection screen using four BARCO FLM20k projectors and a Blackmagic front end system.

The main challenge was bringing the complex production together using technology that simplified the process and kept the budget on target. This live event also incorporated graphics, interstitials, sponsor media, pre-recorded behind-the-scenes footage and cast interviews, with the live feed.

Seattle Opera’s Technical Director Bob Schaub and MODE’s Producer Colleen Bonniol brought in Butch Allen to create the Production Design at the Key Arena.  Allen assembled an environment to emphasize the idea of a ‘stage’ in the arena through use of soft goods, thick carpeting, and a sizable array of automated lighting fixtures.

Matthew Sutton recreated the live auditory experience at McCaw Hall with a surround sound system provided by Morgan Sound.

Bob Bonniol created a system specification for the media pipeline that provided uncompromising quality and scale.

Using multiple SONY cameras, image magnification and a backup system in case the live feed went down.   The simulcast system utilized Blackmagic Design’s ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher, ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel, HyperDeck Shuttle SSD recorder and a variety of Mini Converters, as well as QLab media management software running on a Mac-Mini.  Inside McCaw Hall MODE provided a (7) SONY 1500HD camera package and flypack with support from Screenworks/NEP and VER.

With the ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher and ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel, footage was projected from the opera house’s inbound fiber runs, to the screen in the Key Arena, as well as to monitors located throughout the concourse.

Bill Mohn pre-produced graphics, including behind-the-scenes footage of sets, costumes and cast interviews, logos and intermission information and even a cartoon, were all played back via QLab media management software running off a Mac-Mini and input directly into the ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher then output to the screen and monitors.

As with any live event, there was a possible five to ten minute disparity between the production schedule and the event flow.  A media contingency plan came in the form of the preshow graphics and recorded footage. Using the ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher, the team was able to make decisions on the fly and queue up extra media during delays, then pick up the live cut from the opera house without missing a beat.

Another contingency came in the form of the HyperDeck Shuttle, which recorded the dress rehearsal on SSDs and was used as a running backup in case the live feed from the opera house was disrupted.  Prior to the show the footage was reviewed to ensure the image and color quality of the back-up matched the live feed.  Ultimately, the live production simulcast was successful.

Equipment List:

  • BARCO FLM20k projectors
  • Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher
  • Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel
  • Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Shuttle SSD recorder
  • Blackmagic Design Mini Converters
  • QLab media management software


Design Team:

  • Speight Jenkins, General Director, Seattle Opera
  • Robert Schaub, Technical Director, Seattle Opera
  • Peter Kazaras, Director
  • Duane Schuler, Lighting Designer
  • Frank Zamacona, HD Broadcast Director
  • Colleen Bonniol, Producer
  • Kevin Tokunaga, Technical Director
  • Butch Allen, Production Designer
  • Matthew Sutton, Audio Designer
  • Bob Bonniol, Principal Creative Director/Video Designer
  • Bill Mohn, Additional Content Creator


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