Individual artists and ensembles are trying to make up for the harsh consequences of the Covid-19 lockdown, such as cancelled rehearsals and performances (which also mean a loss of income of up to 100% of their normal income for many professionals). At the same time digitalisation holds significant potential for innovation in culture. The non-profit initiative digital-stage.org is offering the necessary software to allow collective music-making as well as innovative formats online. To be able to offer it for fair conditions and ideally free for the artists and ensembles themselves, we need your donation for the third development phase of this project.
The usual video conferencing systems cannot really be used for artistic projects since they alter the sound, only allow 2 to 3 voices to be heard at the same time and have high latency for both sound and video transmission. Acceptable commercial alternatives are often expensive, complicated, only offer some useful components or need a special infrastructure. This is where digital-stage.org comes in, developing an open-source solution optimised for cultural activities, with the possibility of gathering 10 to 30 people from different places together online (depending on the version) for common rehearsals or live performances for an online audience. The prototype of the software has been in testing internally since November 2020 and the European Choral Association – Europa Cantat has also started first internal tests.
The version digital-stage-web can be used through an internet browser with the normal devices people usually have at home. It will still have a latency of up to 100 ms, which is more than what you have on a 15 m wide stage in real life (about 45 ms), but it will allow theatre and dance rehearsals and also musical rehearsals up to a certain point (for example for choirs) with some loss of quality. While the web solution will not be the ideal solution for choirs and ensembles, it will allow them at least to unmute a part of the singers during rehearsals and thus also offer a better experience for those whose latency is too big. The best solution for choirs, however, will be digital-stage-pc with only up to 50 ms of latency if you install the app or software on your computer. If the singers upgrade their technology a bit, using wired internet connections and wired headsets, this will allow you to rehearse and perform as if you were standing on a big stage or in a big church. Our aim is to offer digital-stage-web and digitals-stage-pc for free to members of the European Choral Association – Europa Cantat. They should be available for first ensembles in early 2021 if all goes well. The top solution is digital-stage-box, which is based on the technology of project partner ORLANDOviols, a mini-computer with the pre-installed software. The box will have to be bought, and singers will need an audio-interface with a good microphone and headphones to ensure the best quality, but the investment is modest, and the result can be stunning – the box is a solution especially interesting for vocal ensembles and top-level choirs as well as those singing vocal pop and vocal jazz where the latency has to be reduced as much as possible.
If you want to contribute to the further development of this tool that can make a change for millions of artists, including singers in choirs and ensembles, please support digital-stage.org by donating right here.
The software can also be the basis for artistic innovation and can lead to new listening and viewing experiences for the audience, new performance formats including hybrid formats, or new solutions for rehearsals and teaching. The development is supported by the inter-disciplinary community which has come together in the project digtal-stage.org and which also open doors for cross-sectoral inclusive cultural projects. The community includes artists, ensembles and cultural organisations of different arts sectors, educational institutions, commercial competency partners as well as volunteers donating their time to the project.
Digtal-stage.org is an initiative of !KF – Institut für Künstlerische Forschung Berlin supported by the German centre of ITI – International Theatre Institute. The project evolved from the Hackathon #WirVsVirus of the German government. You will find further information on the Website digital-stage.org as well as in their monthly newsletter: https://digital-stage.org/newsletter/.