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Termination: Even better than the real thing?

Thanks to the wonders of AV technology I get perfect sound, high-definition vision and cheap booze all in the best seat in the house… no not that seat


8 February 2011

Text: / Graeme Hague

What would you prefer to see and hear: the real thing or the whole thing? We drew straws and my wife got to go to a Sting concert this weekend, part of his Symphonicity tour being held at a winery just outside of Perth (three hours away for us). It’s one of the perils of owning two large dogs, one of them big enough to steal the butter off the top of the fridge. You can never find acceptable kennels and your friends and relatives mysteriously stop answering the phone when word gets around you’re looking for someone to babysit the furry kiddies. So while my beloved is quaffing litres of chardonnay and throwing her undies at Mr Sumner, my fate will be to stay home and watch the Sting show on some DVD release later – on my wide telly playing through the loud stereo (a 5.1 mix please, Gordon) with a bucket of iced beers and a mountain of potato chips. Which means thanks to the wonders of AV technology I get perfect sound, high-definition vision and cheap booze all in the best seat in the house… no not that seat.

Yep, my wife pulled the short straw and lost – she had to go.


Okay, now we smash-cut to an event happening in a few weeks. The West Australian Opera is performing Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love in the Supreme Court Gardens in Perth with the WA Symphony Orchestra providing the grooves. At the same time in Bunbury, roughly 150km south, the opera will be ‘simulcast’ through a live feed on a huge outdoor screen at the local soundshell, complete with a zillion megawatt PA system providing – one would assume – a dedicated stereo submix of the concert. I’ve been threatened with the job of looking after the audio feed, a simple enough task, except that after 20 years in backstage theatre you only have to hum a few bars of ‘I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General’ and I get very, very twitchy indeed.

It’s worth arguing over who is getting the better deal here, too. The audience in Perth will feel obligated to peer at tiny figures on a distant stage while the sound will be pummelled from pillar to post by the elements. In fact, I bet it rains. Once seated, the concert-goers can’t move in case they distract the performers, plus there’s always the risk of copping a crusty bread roll in the back of the head from disgruntled folks at the back… not much fun really. Actually, that’s not much fun in Italian with English sur-titles – why the hell don’t they just sing it in English?

Meanwhile the punters in Bunbury get full-screen, edited vision with zoom-ins to the singer’s tortured expressions and a loud, crystal clear stereo sound. They can move around, sneak off to the toilet for a fag halfway through an aria, the blokes can even swap a few fishing stories without being hushed by the missus – the SPL will be that impressive. You can’t do much about the wog lingo, but still it’s another victory for AV technology, you’d say. 


There are some areas where AV is having a detrimental effect. Take tele-conferencing for example. Now, what would you rather do? Go to a conference in Las Vegas and check out the lap-dancers, the casinos, the mini-bar on the corporate credit card, the funny drinks with tiny umbrellas – okay, you’ll have to stick your head into the conference itself some time… or would you rather sit in the office boardroom and watch every lecture, see every Powerpoint presentation, hear every word, all streamed perfectly across the internet into a widescreen plasma on the wall? I know what your answer is and I’m guessing your boss is partial to the occasional lap-dancer, too. But the company bean-counters are going to have a different, more disappointing perspective. It’s a cruel, corporate world ruled by the almighty dollar. Damned teleconferencing! It’ll be the death of an age-old tradition – the pointless and expensive junket.

Seminar organisers have to rethink their strategies, too. It’s next to impossible to fill a seminar program with exciting, inspiring presenters. You’ll always have a duff speaker sometime. The thing is, in the past everyone still had to attend the mind-numbingly boring sessions in case you missed something important. Now, however, thanks to the omnipresent AV multi-camera and zoned audio feeds available in any venue worth its salt, you can watch the crap lectures from the bar. Brilliant! While you’re checking emails, writing notes and chatting up the cute waitress as well. Too bad about the empty auditorium seats – but hey, that’s what half-house curtains are for.


So it’s back to the original question of what you’d prefer: the real thing or the whole thing? You’d have to agree that sometimes high-definition, hi-fidelity AV technology is making the data-streamed version a better experience than the live one. Just to prove it, I’m going to screen my Blu-ray of A Perfect Storm again tonight. Mind you, my wife’s going to tip buckets of freezing salt water over my head and slap me with rotting fish now and then as I watch. That’s only because we haven’t figured out a standardised data delivery format for that kind of stuff yet. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.


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