Making Pandemic-proof Theatre – part 1

Jack Phelan:

This post is about the video processing and distribution side of a recent live-streamed stage production To Be A Machine, and its new German-language Austrian version Die Maschine in Mir. In a future post, I’ll go into more detail about the cameras, video capture and live-streaming.

If a live-streamed theatre production about Transhumanism that uses 100+ iPads with custom app and media distribution server, an automated video processing pipeline hacked together with Python, FFmpeg and some off-the-shelf web apps, all developed in a couple of months during a pandemic sounds interesting to you, then read on!

This was my only live theatre project that wasn’t cancelled in 2020. It went ahead because of clever, reactive writing, careful planning and liberal use of tools and technology.

2020 was not the year to expect work in theatre, yet somehow along came To Be A Machine (version 1.0) in August. A clever stage adaptation by Dead Centre of Mark O’Connell’s 2017 non-fiction book that The Guardian described as “a captivating exploration of transhumanism features cryonics, cyborgs, immortality and the hubris of Silicon Valley.”