When the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, home to the Dallas Symphony, was shut down in March due to the pandemic, administration and staff were eager to find a solution for its thriving community of classical music lovers. The Eugene McDermott Concert Hall, where the orchestra performs, was outfitted with a Telemetrics robotic camera system, and the hall is now streaming concerts live and recording multiple performances with reduced audience in attendance.
When they returned to the stage in August, a venue that can seat 2,062 people was limited to 125 maximum with social distancing measures in place. They even extended the performance platform to provide an additional 744 sq. ft., enabling the musicians to sit farther apart. All agreed that a virtual experience was critical to sharing music performed by the Dallas Symphony.
The Dallas Symphony is now streaming its performances live and recording its performances with the help of this new robotic camera control system. The DSO started capturing performances with the system the first week of October. The concert videos are available on the DSO’s website, and the organization streamed its first live concert on November 9. They closed 2020 with a series of Christmas concerts that were televised on local station WFAA-TV and on Bloomberg Television globally. Now, season ticket holders are able to view live and on-demand performances for free. Non-subscribers pay a nominal fee for VoD access.
“It became important to share the Dallas Symphony in a way that keeps everyone safe yet still allows patrons and performers to experience the music they love,” said Lamar Livingston, Director of Technical Operations at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. “We take our mission of delivering the best music in the world very seriously.”
The camera robotics system was installed from August-October and includes six Telemetrics RoboEye Pan/Tilt systems and a RCCP-2A robotic camera control panel that is operated by a single person. This operator is also responsible for a seventh (Panasonic PTZ) camera that is installed in the second tier of the venue and provides alternate shots of the stage.
The RoboEye2 (PT-RE-2) is a fully integrated, aesthetically pleasing robotic camera system that can include a1”-type EXMOR R™ CMOS 4K digital camera or an HD camera with zoom lens and a compact pan/tilt head. The system’s robotic servo controls use motors of ultra-high position and velocity accuracy, which makes RoboEye2 the perfect choice for venues like this.
Innovative features aside, the camera’s operational sound was perhaps the most critical factor in Livingston’s buying decision.
“There were not going to be noisy cameras installed on my watch,” he said, confidently.
The McDermott Concert Hall is one of the most well-respected concert halls in the world, and its low ambient noise plays into that reputation. It was critical to Livingston and his team that the RoboEye camera does not introduce any extra sound during operation. Looking at its specs, Livingston recognized that the RoboEye offers a maximum audible noise level of 25 dB. That’s comparable to a human whisper from five feet away.
I was standing right next to one of the cameras while it was being operated, and I didn’t hear a thing.
“I was standing right next to one of the cameras while it was being operated, and I didn’t hear a thing,” said Livingston. “That’s huge for us. Other robotic cameras we considered are noisier and not suitable for our purposes. The cameras can’t be disruptive to our audience. Our HVAC, lighting, dimming systems are all incredibly quiet, so the robotics had to match that. I can confirm that the RoboEye is whisper quiet as it pans and tilts. We are very pleased with their performance.”
With the help of system integrator TM Television (based in Carrollton, Texas), they’ve mounted three RoboEyes in the soffit areas of the orchestra terrace ceiling. Two others are on poles to the left and right at each stage entrance, and one more is positioned upstage center in the choral terrace (behind the performers). Livingston said this carefully thought-out configuration—including the Panasonic PTZ camera on the second tier—provides the best coverage of the entire stage as well as closeups of the performers.
During each production, the control room is manned by a robotics operator, a TD operating a Blackmagic Atem Constellation switcher, and a music score reader to help the technical staff anticipate the music.
They added a Blackmagic router in the video control room (there’s also a separate audio control room) to manage the venue’s new fiber-optic infrastructure. It allows them to patch and route signals from the portable cameras back to the control, or when using a TV truck, broadcast cameras may be used.
The RCCP-2A Robotic Camera Control Panel features dual joystick controllers, user configurable control surface, and high-end processors to support complex automated key-frame based motion paths, as well as snapshot thumbnails for shot presets and live video preview. A single operator on Livingston’s team can maneuver the cameras with more powerful, yet natural control over camera moves. The RCCP-2A’s TeleKeys automatically adapt to show options relevant to the task at hand, while customizable wheels and knobs make it easy to operate the robotic cameras. A series of Hot TeleKeys™ provide fast access to favorite camera angles and other system parameters for on-the-fly changes and individualized program settings.
Operators of the panel were trained on the Telemetrics control panel for about a week before they began the recordings.
“The productions we’ve completed thus far have been smooth and error free,” said Livingston. “Everyone has been thrilled with the way that the image looks and the performance of the robotics. They are fluid and super quiet.”
The RCCP-2A control panel’s compact size allows it to fit in confined spaces, and it can be fully upgraded to the RCCP-2A STS with Studio software or the RCCP-2A LGS with Legislative software to take advantage of advanced features with operational cost-saving capabilities.
“We’re very pleased with the system and how it helps us share this great music with fans all over the world,” said Livingston. “I think viewers at home have come to expect a production that mirrors other live performances on TV. The robotic cameras allow us to produce our concerts in a very professional way.”
At the end of the day, for venues like the I.M. Pei-designed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, smooth and low-noise operation of the robotic cameras are essential and Telemetrics continues to perform up to what Livingston calls a “gold standard.”
About Telemetrics, Inc.
Founded in 1973, Telemetrics revolutionized television camera control with the development of Triax control systems and continues to be a pioneer of innovative robotics and camera control systems used in the Studio, Legislative, Military, and Education markets. The company began designing, manufacturing and supporting its own camera robotics systems in 1979, and ceiling and floor camera track systems in 1981. Today, Telemetrics offers the OmniGlide® Robotic Roving Platform, the ever-expanding series of Robotic Camera Control Panels, the S5 line of Pan/Tilt heads, the Televator® family of motorized columns, and ceiling- or floor-mounted TeleGlide® track systems. Telemetrics is committed to making the most reliable, durable, and dependable television broadcast robotics ecosystem in the world…products that can be built on for decades, not just years.