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From stage to screen. Live

An insider's guide to capturing live arts performances for the web and the screen.

The National Theatre Live (NT Live) produces ten live capture performances every year. Since 2009 not only have their productions grown in scale, ambition and reach, but they have also taken steps to launch an on-demand service for schools across the UK.

Emma Keith, Head of Broadcast & Producer for NT Live gave us an insider’s guide to capture, the process and measuring success.

“The decision to capture a live project is showing a microcosm of what the National Theatre does…”
Emma Keith

Why Capture? What’s the point?

Emma believes for a live capture project to succeed, “it must be driven from the top,” it needs the collective drive of everyone within the team, and, “have a clear purpose as to why.” The purpose for them, Emma says, “is to create a new experience for their audiences, and not capturing the performance just for the sake of filming it.”

According to Emma, “taking it from idea to final execution there are many complex issues to be dealt with.” Issues to consider are managing scope, timeframes, resources, budgets and rights.

Roll Credits!

Capture is the starting point; the biggest challenge according to Emma is going ‘live’ and ‘continual development’. Controlling live broadcast across numerous cinemas in the UK takes considerable planning and co-ordination. Emma says, “everyday is not the same; they have to continue to develop, and evolve both creatively and technically.” This all leads to giving audiences the best possible user experience.

NT Live broadcasts to 650 cinemas in the UK, 2000 across 50 countries and 5 million audiences in total. It is a success because they measure success.

How do you measure success?

There are a variety of ways to measure success for digital arts projects. NT Live measures success depending on which platform they distribute through.

For screen, success is measured by how many screens it's aired in, the number of countries it reaches and the number of people watching. For digital distribution, they measure likes, shares, views and subscriptions. Emma mentions, “measuring success is not only about how many views or likes you get, but to reach an audience that engages with them, coming back for more and original content.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how to capture a live performance, start with this toolkit produced by NT Live and NESTA or read this case study on our recent capture project with Bristol Old Vic, Handel’s Messiah.