On Friday 15 November, Ravensbourne hosted a milestone in online video distribution. A Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) performance of Richard II, starring the increasingly ubiquitous David Tennant, was streamed to more than 30,000 schoolchildren around the UK, with some in Australia, the US and elsewhere in the world as well.
Our web media subject leader, James Morris was project managing the student teams that put the event together. Four students from our BA (Hons) Web Media course had designed and created the website in line with the RSC brief. The result was a beautiful, full-width single page site sprinkled with inspiration from the parallax, scrolling genre that is currently becoming very fashionable. The face of this project was a star actor to help boost interest.
The performance had been broadcast live to cinemas around the world two days earlier, and reportedly made the Royal Shakespeare Company over £1 million in income. Ravensbourne took a recording of that performance and embedded it within a live studio event, all delivered via the web.
The other student team was responsible for running both the studio event and the internet video stream. Hundreds of terminals were watching this stream, each serving a classroom of up to 50 schoolchildren, or maybe even more in some cases. The estimate was over 30,000 in total. Most stayed through the whole four hours of the event.
After the play, David Tennant and RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, joined us in Ravensbourne's TV studio for a live question and answer session, chaired by TV presenter Konnie Huq. The questions were sent to us via a web-based system which had been custom built by one of our students. Over 1,400 questions were asked by school children. The number and geographical range of the questions were illustrated using a ticker system which ran along the bottom of the live video, showing in real time where questions were coming from around the UK as they streamed in.
According to the RSC this single event had reached more schoolchildren than those who had come to Stratford-upon-Avon to watch Shakespeare in an entire year. As a way to bring the 450-year-old works of the illustrious Bard to life for a new generation, this project has been an unmitigated success. Just as streaming live performances into cinemas has proven to be a lucrative way to expand the audience for the big brands of theatre and music, such as the Metropolitan Opera, streaming over the internet into schools has great potential to bring theatrical performance alive for pupils. Participation from pupils is also an essential part of the mix to allow students to engage with the performance and feel it is an event for them as opposed to something they feel expected to watch for school.
We are very proud of our Web Media staff and students for pulling off a hugely successful and smooth running operation.