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Upgrading to UHD in the Age of Coronavirus

New World Symphony
The main New World Performance Hall stage is wired for 20 UHD cameras. In this shot, Panasonic UHD PTZ cameras are set up adjacent to the performers. (Image credit: New World Symphony)

MIAMI—With the need for video production on the increase due to the pandemic, many performance venues around the world have scrambled to upgrade their production systems. At New World Symphony, the past few years brought major upgrades to the large performance hall’s video system to full UHD.

Unlike many other performance halls and public venues, New World Center, home of NWS, was prepared to produce videos under pandemic protocols, including a recent CBS TV special featuring national performers.

Based in Miami, the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy (NWS), prepares graduates of music programs for leadership roles in professional orchestras and ensembles. The 33-year-old institution is led by its co-founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas and Lin and Ted Arison.

UPGRADE TO UHD

Areas in the NWC that were scheduled to be upgraded prior to the pandemic included the symphony’s “SunTrust Pavilion," a very large performance space used for orchestral rehearsals, and home to our extensive distance learning video system. In the world of TV production, the STP would be the equivalent of a medium-sized TV studio.

During the previous year's upgrade to UHD, we designed a setup to bring in some of the portable hall cameras as well as Panasonic UHD PTZ cameras. A small control room was created specifically for the STP, but we could control everything from the main control room if needed.

Since the pandemic greatly increased the need for distance learning, we decided to do a major update to those systems as well. This involved replacing the existing HD system with a new 64x64 12G For-A router, adding another smaller For-A HVS1200 UHD switcher controlled from our IT control room, adding a few additional practice rooms to the system, plus four much larger practice areas. To bring everything up to New World’s current 12G system standards, more Panasonic UHD cameras were added, bringing our total count of these cameras to 22.

We used Panasonic controllers to control the PTZs, with two in the central production control room, one in the STP mini control room, and two in the distance learning control room. Shifting the controller to a different group gives the various controllers the ability to control any camera. The main control area also has full shading control utilizing UHD scopes as well.

New World Symphony

Inside the mini STP control room looking into the SunTrust Pavilion (Image credit: New World Symphony)

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Our design for the STP was part of the original performance hall build but updated by Enlighten Digital of Orlando, when they did the design and integration of the distance learning system. Having worked on our previous performance hall upgrades in 2019, Jaime Gurevich, the lead designer for Enlighten Digital and Rob Ross (Enlighten’s president) provided invaluable assistance.

The total cost of the STP and distance learning upgrades were approximately $1 million while the entire UHD upgrade was north of $6 million. We’re still not quite done as the performance hall utilizes 14 Christie Roadie HD30k projectors and our outside projection system use three Christie Roadie 4K35 projectors, but we plan to replace all 17 projectors with RGB laser projectors of equal or higher lumen in 4K this summer.

The system was designed to accommodate direct routing of 12G video from our For-A router to each projector, plus utilize DisplayPort over fiber to link our immersive projection system to its server system. In addition, we’re now creating two smaller “living rooms” out in our park using two portable (12- and 9-foot) LED walls.

Dan Slentz is the chief video engineer for NWS.

Click here for a recent PBS News Hour report on NWS.