A King's eye view of the audience

Programme Manager, BBC Archive Development

Editor's Note - On Saturday 24th August, The Space will stream Shakespeare’s Globe open air performances of the three Henry VI plays, live from Monken Hadley Common, site of the Battle of Barnet, one of the most decisive conflicts of the Wars of the Roses.

In this blog post, Head of Technology from The Space Jake Berger, explains how a technical innovation experimented with on a similar project earlier in the year is offering a unique view on the audience for Saturday's performance. 

When we sat down with The Globe to discuss the battlefield performances of the Henry VI plays we knew there’d be challenges and we knew we wanted to try to do something different to the usual live stream from a theatre.
Experimentation and innovation are important to The Space – it is a fundamental part of our remit – and it can make it more interesting and engaging for audiences. We make sure that our innovation is both open and low-cost, in order that other organisations can use the techniques that we’ve piloted.

While watching the Henry VI plays, online viewers will be able to switch between one of two live streams over the 10 or so hours. One of these views will show the plays as captured by a multi-camera set up, with camera crew operating fixed and roving cameras, and a multi-camera director selecting the shots that you see.

The alternative view is from what we have called ThroneCam – a miniature camera that is attached to the King’s throne which remains on the stage for the entirety of the three Henry plays.

ThroneCam. Pint-sized, but all-seeing and all-powerful, just as a monarch expects.

ThroneCam (left) will offer an ‘actors’ eye’ view of the performance, looking out across the stage and over to the audience. Clearly, a camera placed on the stage during a performance needs to be discreet, as it can’t get in the way of the action or risk distracting the audience’s attention, but it also needs to offer a high quality picture. To achieve this balance, we built a customised Raspberry Pi-based camera, which is connected directly to the internet and streamed to The Space.

ThroneCam does all of the video processing/encoding on the device itself, meaning that no additional hardware or software is needed to publish the stream online.

The Space has previously experimented with similar ‘switchers’ – during the final, pre-recorded section of ‘Royal Opera Live’ earlier this year. The ROLive switcher offered viewers the choice between a fixed view of the stage, a unique behind-the-scenes view, or a close-up of the conductor. The Henry plays will be the first time that we have used the technology for a fully live event.

I hope you enjoy the results.

Jake Berger is Head of Technology, The Space

Streaming of the three Henry VI plays will begin at 12.15pm on Saturday 24th August on The Space website.

Follow The Space on Twitter. The hashtag for this live stream is #HenryVI.

Earlier this year BBC Creative Director of New Writing Kate Rowland wrote about another theatre project she was involved in on The Space, called The Parade. 


The Space is a free, digital arts service from Arts Council England and the BBC showcasing arts and cultural events across the UK. There are posts on the BBC Internet Blog and here on About the BBC which explain how the project was established.


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