A theatre Production company in Adelaide uses Pocket Cinema Camera 4Ks, ATEM Mini Extreme ISO switchers and DaVinci Resolve Studio to stream and record live shows for festivals.

Blackmagic black box live2

Hartstone-Kitney Productions (HKP) in Adelaide has created Black Box Live, a new live theatre streaming service that streamed 52 shows during the 2021 Adelaide, Edinburgh and Hollywood Fringe Festivals as part of a large-scale, worldwide live theatre streaming event. 

HKP production house, formed by Joanne Hartstone and Tom Kitney, specialises in theatre, cabaret, immersive events and theatrical digitisation. One of HKP’s main projects is participating in the Adelaide Fringe festival and presenting their shows at the Hollywood and Edinburgh Fringe festivals.

Black Box Live Service

HKP and the entire theatre world faced stressed circumstances in March of 2020. However, the company did not hesitate when in-person theatre was put on hold, and jumped straight into a hybrid digital model, which included the introduction of their Black Box Live service and live streaming worldwide for their Adelaide, Hollywood and Edinburgh Fringe shows.

“The big question when we started planning the new service and getting ready for Adelaide Fringe was if the broadcast quality was going to be good enough. Live theatre has always been judged by the in-person experience, and there was a lot to consider when translating our shows to the screen. But the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K cameras gave us such amazing images, while the ATEM Mini Extreme ISO switcher let us create a dynamic viewer experience. This was something new, and audiences loved it. They always had the best seat in the house. 2021 turned into a record breaking season for us - especially because we moved into digital,” said Joanne Hartstone.

Starting with three Pocket Cinema Camera 4Ks, an ATEM Mini Extreme ISO production switcher and DaVinci Resolve Studio for editing and colour correction of recorded shows, HKP live-streamed 19 different productions from their theatre in Adelaide. This project led to 11 Adelaide Fringe Awards, three awards from Hollywood Fringe and thousands of viewers from 38 different countries.

Digital Destination

HKP’s Black Box Live is a digital destination for live performance that allows customers to view live shows, or watch previously recorded ones ‘on demand’. The platform was designed by Tom Kitney and is run from HKP’s own site and player. Black Box Live is supporting the Australian live performance industry into the future and recently won the 2021 John Chataway Award for Innovation, one of the Adelaide Fringe Awards.

For all Black Box Live streams, including the 52 shows during the Fringe seasons, feeds from the three Pocket Cinema Camera 4Ks were fed into the ATEM Mini Extreme ISO, which was operated by Kitney. The three cameras were used for a dynamic variety of shots from the front of house as well as on stage and among the in-person audience.

“I love how these cameras work in low light. That was one of the main worries I had, because theatrical lighting varies between each act and during each show. But the Pocket cameras handled any intensity and color change, including even very minimal lighting,” said Tom.

Powerful ATEM Mini Extreme ISO

“One of the big surprises was how powerful the ATEM Mini Extreme ISO switcher is. We could could have taken a safe option and captured static wide shots, but that wouldn’t have resulted in a quality experience. With the ATEM Mini Extreme I could bring in up to eight inputs, trigger effects and remote control cameras, and had Multi-view and professional audio mixing at my fingertips. The ISO function is an excellent post-production tool for finessing our digital products, leaving me free during the show to be creative,” he said.

The switcher's ISO label means users can individually record each of the eight input videos as an MP4, as well as the program output via one of the USB Type-C ports. Further to live streaming using RTMP protocols, the Mini Extreme allows users to output the program as if the device was a webcam over USB. The switcher automatically generates a DaVinci Resolve project file, so that the user can clean it up and make changes later.

Since the Fringe festivals and Black Box Live launch, HKP has been working with theatres around the world to develop sustainable, hybrid theatre workflows.

Joanne said, “Since we started this work, digital theatre has grown. We’ve noticed that most arts grants now consider digital accessibility. We take pride in knowing that we have broken down many barriers for artists and audiences through our hybrid performance model. Blackmagic products have been a major part of this.” www.blackmagicdesign.com