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Ring Cycle goes live for historic broadcasts

TV Skyline’s centre of operations was the 4K-capable OB8 truck

In August leading OB service provider TV Skyline was involved in a groundbreaking live 5.1/HD broadcast of the entire Ring Cycle by Wagner. David Davies finds out more about this challenging production.

With a total duration of more than 16 cycles, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelungen) – or the Ring Cycle, as it is often referred to – is definitely not one for the operatic dilettante. Undoubtedly one of the core works of the classical music canon, The Ring Cycle is a regular highlight of the Bayreuth Festival – the celebration of Wagner’s music that takes place in Germany during July and August every year.

Robert Kis is managing director of TV Skyline, the Mainz-based company that has supplied OB services to the festival for many years. Kis and his team work closely with Katharina Wagner, Richard’s great granddaughter, who is an acclaimed opera director and the festival’s current co-director.

“There is an ongoing conversation about how we can improve and enhance the production in order to bring the most out of the operas for people watching at home,” says Kis.

Suffice to say, the bar was raised in 2016 with the decision to produce a complete live HD/5.1 production of The Ring Cycle, as well as the separate, three-act opera Parsifal. While Parsifal was viewable live in more than 100 cinemas across Germany – as well as being recorded for subsequent broadcast by NHK Japan and BR/3Sat – Der Ring was viewable live on Sky Arts in Germany, and then broadcast subsequently by Sky Arts channels in Austria, Italy, UK and Ireland.

Inside OB8

TV Skyline’s centre of operations for these historic broadcasts was the 4K-capable OB8 truck. The specification in the extensive audio area includes a Lawo MC2 56 MkII audio console with 56 channel strips, Dynaudio Air 6 5.1 speaker system, K+H M51 speaker system, Wohler Audio Controller, 2 x128 channel multitrack recording capability, TC Electronic processors and limiters, and Riedel Artist intercom technology.

Inside the Festspielhaus auditorium, TV Skyline oversaw a fully automated camera system (“the aim is for this to be as invisible a production as possible,” says Kis) based around Ikegami cameras and TV Skyline’s own QUBE-CAM and QUBE-CAM II remote cameras. Other key contributors to the project included ChyronHego (three GFX systems for German/English/Italian subtitles, credits and Sky Arts break coverage) and Rem, who were responsible for the graphics, while TMT provided fibre transmission.

The broadcasts went off smoothly, and Kis reports an enthusiastic reception from Wagner, who is frequently found in the audio area checking to see “if her expectations of the sound are being met”. Meanwhile, conversations are already taking place about further progress in 2017.

“Our aim next year is to do a 4K production,” says Kis, for whom Bayreuth is clearly an annual highlight with its “extraordinary, special” atmosphere. More imminently, TV Skyline is mulling the prospect of a further 4K-capable truck to add to its existing two.

Pictures: Top: The Ring Cycle is a highlight of the Bayreuth Festival. Second: TV Skyline used a 4k-capable O8B truck for its operations. Third: This year, it was a live HD/5.1 production. Last: Scenes from The Ring Cycle.