Britain’s Opera North has invested in the latest digital media server technology from Radical Lighting, purchasing one of their new “click and fit” NG1 media servers. Roland Higham, technical consultant for Opera North and Radical Lighting’s technical director, Simon Carter, specified the upgrade.

Opera North is in the process of building up its own AV department, explains Higham, who is currently helping them find solutions for a variety of different production scenarios that will also be usable for future productions for years to come. Higham began looking for a solution with the knowledge that there was an upcoming Opera North production utilizing video and in need of flexible control options.

NG1 has been specifically developed to provide easy playback and for conveniently adding effects to both pre-recorded video material and live camera sources in real time. “The NG1 offered all the facilities and control I needed–and some,” says Higham. “It therefore also satisfied the requirement for a future-proof system.”

The first Opera North production using NG1 is La Voix Humaine, one of the shows in the current touring repertoire. Directed by Deborah Warner and designed by Tom Pye, renowned for his work with video, the show is an intense 45 minute “tragédie lyrique” by Poulenc (based on a story by Jean Cocteau). It’s staged as a woman on a mobile phone pleading with her ex lover to reconsider his decision to end their relationship. The high profile production team also includes a beautiful subtle lighting design by Jean Kalman.

La Voix Humaine’s minimal production features a 5.8 metre projection screen onstage, set at a 30º angle to the audience, onto which a series of atmospheric video clips–some of them almost imperceptible–are projected. They’re used to express a whole range of human emotions that are affecting the woman as her conversation gets ever more desperate.

Video designer Joel Cahen produced the video clips for he show, which are stored on in the NG1 and replayed directly by its three-output video card.

Opera North has an intensive touring schedule, running up to three shows a week in rep, often with back-to-back productions, so programming and set up time is always tight. “It was essential to have a system that enabled us to work fast in technicals,” says Higham. “NG1 has already proved itself invaluable–while there’s plenty of complexity in the system if you do have the luxury of some programming time, it’s also designed to work really nimbly on-the-fly.”

The projection runs for the entire show, fed onto the screen by a pair of Barco G8 machines positioned over the stage. Another great advantage of the product is that it can be triggered by any DMX-controlled lighting desk so the video cues can be integrated into the lighting operator’s cue structure.

Radical Lighting made a few customisations to the system to meet specific Opera North requests, and then they were ready to roll.

The show, starring Joan Rodgers, has received great critical acclaim.