Tudor theatre, 21st century technology

This summer, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London mounted a production of all three of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays, staged both at Shakespeare’s Globe itself, and outdoors at battlefield sites from the War of the Roses. The theatre collaborated with The Space, a new Arts Council and BBC-developed service which streams free, on-demand video of live cultural events, to produce a broadcast of the plays from multiple viewpoints.

Real live camera operators, with real live cameras, were following the actors around and filming the whole series of plays. But we are particularly interested in one specific camera: the tiny Throne Cam, invisible to the audience, but filming all the proceedings from the huge throne which forms part of the stage set in all three performances, giving an actor’s eye view of the plays. It was a Raspberry Pi camera board.

Thronecam in situ at Shakespeare’s Globe

It turns out that the Pi and its camera board are the ideal solution for The Space. The whole assembly is not big enough to be noticeable by the audience if it’s mounted somewhere on the stage, but can record 1080p HD video. And, because it’s driven by a Pi, it can process and encode the video onboard, so no additional work needs doing by The Space to publish the stream online.

The first of the three plays is already available to watch online. I’m on a very wobbly hotel wifi network today, so I haven’t been able to watch the video yet – please report back in the comments and let us know what you thought of it!