Digital Works

Episode 019 - Simon Baker

April 21, 2021 Digital Works / Simon Baker Season 1 Episode 19
Digital Works
Episode 019 - Simon Baker
Show Notes Transcript

A lovely chat with Wise Children's Technical Director, Simon Baker. We talk about Simon's career, the DIY approach that Wise Children have taken to their digital activity, why the "bodge it" skills you learn doing audio are useful in a digital context, the potential of audio experiences for storytelling, understanding signal flow, and loads more. 

Speaker 1:

Hello, and welcome to the digital works podcast. The podcast about digital stuff in the cultural sector. My name is Ash. And in today's episode, episode, number 19, I'm talking with Simon Baker. Simon is the technical director at Emma rices wise children fit company. Uh , he's also an award-winning sound designer and has worked on shows all over the world. We talk about a lot of things Simon's career , uh, but we mostly focus on the DIY approach that Simon has taken to wise children's digital activity over the past year or so , uh, which has seen them live streaming digital versions of their shows to thousands of people around the world. Uh, I think it's a really interesting approach that Simon's taken. I think there's lots to learn. I find his thinking about digital really refreshing, and his enthusiasm is really infectious enjoy. Maybe if we start with waste children, which is as , as people might be aware, it's Emma Rice's new company that she founded after leaving the globe. Um, how did you get involved? What's your role? How was, how has it been being involved in a , in a totally new thing? Well, it's , um,

Speaker 2:

It doesn't feel like a new company anymore. It feels like we've been going forever, but you're right. It's I think we have, we hit our third birthday. I'm not sure we have, I think we may only still be too . Um, I mean, my, my involvement I'll come clean. Me and Emma are , um, uh, uh, together we're partners. So we lived together and have been together for 10, 12 years now, I think. Um, so, and that relationship started as a , as a professional relationship and then became unprofessional , uh, as, as the years went on. So we've been sort of partners both in life, but in work for quite some time. So of course I was with her all the way through the globe years, which , um , w w they weren't, they weren't very long. We actually knew Emma was leaving the globe , um, a lot earlier. And of course it was announced. So , um, we'd been living with the fact that that journey was coming to an end pretty quickly, really by the end of the first season. Certainly. And that's when, for me wise children started because we started to think about, well, what is the next chapter for, for Emma? Um, and also what's the next chapter for , um, that method of work and that mode of work and that, and that sense of company. And a lot of your notice, if you have look through any of the programs there, there's a, there's a, there's a core group of people that are part of Emma's team that have worked with her from knee-high going through the globe and , and, and through , into wise children. And some go even further back than that. Um, when you look at, you know, the relationship that she has with , um, M has people like , uh, Vic Mortimer , the scenic designer, costume designer , um, so a lot of those relationships are, which is why by children never quite feels like a new company to us. It feels like the current iteration of , of that, of that team of people. Um, so why is children's starting whilst we were planning, leaving the globe really . Um, and we started thinking about what new company would look like , um, what , what Emma wanted to do within that. Um, and I suppose, because it was near, we got to start from scratch. We got to, we weren't, you know, the globe, any building that you go into the , or working in usually has some kind of history. And of course the globe, it, it doesn't have a huge long history, but what history has is very , um, rigid and very inflexible, which is unusual for him because he , it feels like it must be 200 years old as an institution because it's not, it's sort of, it's not very old at all. Um, so when his children really was a chance to, to start from absolute scratch , um, and it was bumpy getting going, you know, there was a lot of , um, we formed a small team and formed a small team and, you know, a bid when in an NPO application went end, right? I mean, and it was a proper rush because in order that the way the timing of the MPO funding round by the tout meant that we had a very small window from concept through to application in order to make the funding deadline. Um, so an awful lot was happening over, particularly over one Christmas. Um, and we were sort of when that funding was announced, which you know, is sort of the , I think it was in the April , um, there was a bit of pushback and we had to manage how to deal with that. And we decided then the company was going to be transparent. That was going to be the key thing we were going to bring to the arts. We were going to say, no, we'll just be transparent. We'll just, we'll publish the NPO . People want to see the MPI , we'll just publish it. I mean, you know, we had to take out certain bits, like, you know, you know, titles that we were chasing for, for rights reasons, but pretty much the NPO is exactly what we, you know, what, em , and Alegra Gavin who Brittany with her submitted. Um, but that was a core turning point in the company was, was discovering because it led us to understanding how we were going to communicate. We're always going to say, well, we're, we're just going to let people in. We're going to be, people can always , um, rather I find , sorry, I find a lot of arts organizations dictates and just say, this is who we are. This is what we do. And we quite like you to turn up every now and again to buy a ticket. Um, but that's the input we want from you. Um, and we, I suppose we just didn't want that kind of transaction. We wanted it to be much more, there's a group of people, and sometimes you're going to come and hang out with us and see what story we're telling. Um, and transparency is very much at the sort of heart of that, I suppose, that feeling of belonging rather than that feeling of being dictated to.

Speaker 1:

So that was something that you spoke about in your digital work session last week, you know, your , uh, I'm going to use the word epiphany. It might be too strong, but your opinion around digital, you know, you went with your son to a concert and he sort of had direct interaction with some of the musicians that you were waiting to see, and you certainly, yeah , you got the feeling that you suddenly realized that digital communications can be extremely open. It's strict , extremely transparent, extremely non-hierarchical sort of boundary or raising. Um, and it feels like that was a natural set of tools perhaps for an organization, lightweight children who are already shifting, shifting their way of operation towards that much more open way of doing things.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I found, I found, I mean, we, we sort of knew that digital was going to be, I think when we were talking about what the new company would do and what it would embrace, and w we tripped up a little bit over digital in that I find drawing the distinction between what is digital to what isn't digital quite difficult in this age. I find that tricky, I came from , um, sounds , uh , the sound world and still do that still my main , um, living or used to be. Um, and we've slowly been moving away from analog technology to digital, to a point where we don't really think of it as digital. We just think of it as the thing we're using the tool we're using. So it was very hard at the beginning, looking from an , uh , an arts organization perspective of somebody saying, well, what is digital? You think , well , digital is everything. That's how we're going to communicate whether that's email or whether that's on social media or that's. So what you're really saying is, are we going to do anything in print? Because that was the only if it's not digital, then it really what what's left print and turning up, you know, there's, there's, there's very little else left. So I found that was, that was, it was difficult for me to get my head around the terminology of it all. And it really was that that taking my son to see the band and how they were using social media and digital, if we like as a catch-all phrase to communicate. And that suddenly made me think, actually I do kind of get not just how we can use it, but how we can communicate what we're going to do to, to those, to , to the rest of the world. And that when we do, how are you going to use digital? We can say, well, this is what we think it might be. But until that point, I, and I still do struggle a little bit with it in terms of the phrase digital, I think, I don't know what a digital agency, I think people often say, Oh, you should start a digital agency . And he said, well , I well great, but I don't really know what that, what that is. It's just, do you know what , I don't know that maybe that's a bit odd.

Speaker 1:

I agree, because it is, it's sort of helpful sometimes because it's shorthand for so many things, but also it's so nonspecific that it's , it doesn't mean any one thing. And you could be having a conversation with somebody that you could be using the word digital to me, two very, very different sets of skills, competencies, tools, whatever. Um, but it's , I think it's interesting in the case of wise children, because certainly if we look at the work that you did last year in 2020, a lot of that existed in a digital context, you know, it was sort of distributed digitally , um, you know, for people to consume on devices in their homes , um, rather than in venues in the same spaces as the performers, and certainly from the conversations that we've had and the things that I've read about, about that work, it feels, or it seems like you didn't say right, we need to go and get some digital people and get them to help us do digital stuff. Actually, you, you sort of broke down the skills and perspectives that were needed to work in that way. And you realized that, Oh, actually, we've, we've got all of those skills or with a little bit of, of reading and trying, we can gain those skills. Could you talk a bit about that process? I guess

Speaker 2:

I sort of love , um, the notion of doing as much as we can ourselves, which , um, I suppose feels odd, but th there's a necessity to it as well in that we, you know, once children's are very small, MPO is not a massive company. Um, there are only really three full-time members of stuff and lots of sort of part-time staff or flexible working, or, but it's a tiny outfit. Um, and therefore the budgets aren't massive. So the more we can do with us or the more I can do, then the more money we have to spend another other things, you know, so that there was always an imperative to try and work out what we could do in house before we had to get outside help in . And I suppose I've just always been ambitious. If I, if I'm honest, I thought, well, and I'm skipping around a bit, but I think also coming from a production background rather than an administrative background meant that you could apply those production skills in, in a way which , um, uh, skills, which aren't usually available in, in big administrations within companies. So we had practical skills as well as , um, skills that you could use on the ground as well as administrative skills. And I think that made us quite powerful because we could production people tend to be quite good at taking a chance or saying, well, let's just try something or let's do it, or let's see what, what let's see what goes wrong or let's experiment with something. And I think that allows us , um, between me and the rest of our technical team that worked with wise children , um, that allows us to be quite flexible and very adventurous and push the boundaries because what we're not doing is saying, we've got a great idea to live stream romantics anonymous, let's go and find a film company to come and help us do that. And then let's go find a video distribution company or sign a deal with , um, where collectively as a production team going, well , how, how might we do that? How might we get our show on air? Is that, and then really it was just , uh , uh , a series of , of hurdles that you, you know, you just see in front of you and think, well, at some point we won't be able to clear it and we'll either need to stop this crazy idea or get external help in, or just keep going. And when romantics, we just managed to keep going, we just kept, you know, at every turn we sort of, I was expecting the wheels to come off at any moment. I thought at some point, this is going to not happen surely. Um, but then you just kind of keep going and momentum kicks in. And, and, but I think it does help coming from that production end of things, or thinking what we have to do, something we have to, there'll be a solution. We just, we might, we might not know what it is yet, but we'll will probably know what it is tomorrow. Um,

Speaker 1:

And I , and I wonder, you know, cause I, you know, I've worked in arts organizations, you've worked in arts organizations and there is a line, you know , a hard line or a slightly fuzzier line, but aligned nonetheless between the administrative parts of an organization and the sort of production parts of an organization. And historically in performing arts organizations, digital stuff has normally sat in the administrative parts of the organization and has helped with things like marketing and selling tickets. And I wonder whether that's one of the reasons that perhaps artistic leadership has been slow to engage with the possibilities of digital stuff. And, you know, your background in production means that you can just grab it and get on with it. And you've got that direct line into the artists. You know, you're not, you're not the marketing manager saying, Oh, I think we should try and do some work online. Um, you're coming at it from a production perspective. And I wonder whether the past 12 months has sort of shifted where digital lives in organizations in a helpful way, because suddenly it was the only way to reach audiences. So everyone had to engage with it.

Speaker 2:

I certainly think that's true. I think having spent , um, quite a lot of the last sort of six, eight months talking to other organizations and particularly Bristol based organizations and at first being quite shocked at where digital sat in their organization and thinking, Oh wow, we're, we're really we're there. Are we okay where we're um, and then of course you saw that a lot of people have been furloughed. So anybody with any actual practical skills that might be able to send a mass email out or publish a tweet or something quite simple that had all gone, you thought , Oh my, Oh my goodness, there's an awful lot of organizations that are so have so marginalized, additional output that they really, they didn't realize what it was before they then put it on furlough . I think they're the only people that can do anything for you right now. They need to come back. Um, so I think, I think that has made us look at , um, what that sort of umbrella term of distillates within organizations, I think, and I hope , um, because I've also been guilty of this in the past, in that production and administration does keep a bit of a line between each other. Um, when you work in a theater show, you turn up at the first day of a meet and greet and there are 250 people in the room and you think, I don't know anybody in here. I know some of the casting and the director, but there's all these other people and all these other departments, which I never have to interact with. I never have to get to know the development team. I never have to get to know the it department yet. Um , placing digital at the center of the operation. And particularly in those live streams means suddenly all those departments have to interact with each other. It becomes, and I was talking at something the other day where actually the it people and marketing people absolutely now need to know each other, which has never happened before, because we need to know how quickly we can stream something in order to know what our frame rate is and our frame sizes and all of those things. Um, and we need to work with the it department on that, but we also need to be working with the marketing department to say, what this thing is. What's the quality going to be? Can people watch it do to people? Uh , you know, if we broadcast into a rural community with slightly rubbish, 4g broadband, there's no point in trying to send out an HD stream. What's, what's the best thing we can do. So suddenly all those departments have to work together in a way in which they probably haven't had to in the past. And I think that's, what's been, that's, what's been quite exciting in our very small, you know, the, the sort of microcosmic wise children's relationship with Bristol old Vic that suddenly working with their marketing team box office, or suddenly in the auditorium with us , um, it's a much more collective way of working. And if you place digital at the center, rather than sort of it being a ring off shoot , as a , as you say, quite often, marketing or misunderstood bit of cons , or, you know, the everybody's a bit like, Oh , do we really have to do that for, they really want to come into rehearsal? It's all of that stuff you have to get rid of, you know?

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I , I, it's interesting because you know, arts organizations, particularly bigger arts organizations, I think those departmental silos are quite entrenched and actually for good digital stuff to happen that slices across so many different like business functions in inverted commas that as you say, you need it and development and marketing and artistic and production all in the room like mucking in because that's the only way it's going to be a success.

Speaker 2:

And I think that was, that was certainly key to the success of, and , and the thing which was most fun was, was working on those, those live events, you know, suddenly the engineering team are working with the box office team. We've probably just said a load to them as we've tried to sneak in through front of house before. And that's probably the extent of our relationship with, with box office normally, but now, you know, we need them at a desk at the back of the auditorium because seven 30 happens and there's an awful lot of people that struggling to get online and we need to know whether we're ready so that, that communication line has to be direct. And we need to be able to look at each other and see where we're at at any one point. So that I found that really exciting, but I can see , um, why it's not like that in many organizations . And I, and I I've been guilty of that. I've been guilty of, of being a bit grumpy because digital, when I come in and film a bit rehearsal, or he need a feed, no one told us and we'd like it at six o'clock, they need a feed for something or the educator. It's a little bit like the relationship she used to have with education departments and that you think, Oh, do we need to, okay, we have to do that bit, but suddenly if you , um, make it the thing, if you make it the center of what you're doing, then everybody having to work together is , is actually quite exciting. And it's suddenly all makes sense.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And we sort of, we left him at the deep end there, and I just want to rewind a bit in the story of Simon. And, you know, you, you mentioned already that you come very much from a , an audio background as, as do I, once upon a time, you know, I studied music technology at universities to spend a lot of time engineering, life gigs and doing bits and pieces in recording studios. But you know, what is, what is your career journey looked like? You know, where did you start out? How did you get to where you are?

Speaker 2:

Well, I , I started , um, I went to the guilt or scoring music and drama, which is kind of where my professional life started. Um, and at the time drama scores were diploma courses. They weren't the degree courses they are now. So the training was very broad and I really enjoyed it. I mean, I , I probably everything better when you look back, doesn't it. But my time at guilt all was that sort of classic time where you try to work in each department on, you know, you , you did , uh , the first year was sort of teaching you stuff. And we did classes on, you know, marking out rehearsal rooms through to making props or maybe spending time in wardrobe or in carpentry or in stage management. And then on the sort of second year, you're there to very much be part of the production team that enables the acting courses shows to go on. That was the model of the school . And it was great, you know, you get to work in every department and it's kind of like a foundation in each technical discipline. Um, so you're not particularly now you would do your third. You need absolutely specialize in something, but at the time that specialism , um, it sort of was allowed to evolve much more naturally than I think it is now. I think when you, when you go to university, now you think, well, I'm going to be a sound designer. I'm going to work in lighting. And I think that you follow that trajectory. Whereas back then, I think it was very different. We all turned up and people's interests would shift around. I've always loved sound as a primary , um, thing. You know, I was addicted to doctor who, as a kid, I grew up in the era of star Wars. I'm sort of surrounded by books and star Wars. Now I so sound from movies and from TV and science fiction was always a huge thing. So I've always loved sound effects and I always love radio. Um, and I, my youth was spent , um, running pirate radio stations. That's what I did, you know, during my summer holidays and , um, and always very excited by, by sort of technology. So then , uh , so when leaving Gilt , what I, I worked my way up through , you know, in the sound industry, I started as an assistant sound operator out in turf Bogdan office , English, Shakespeare company. And then I, you know, I worked at the Royal court for a long time. Um, with Paula ditty , I've worked for the RSC . Then I was at the national for quite a while. And , uh , during sort of Richard as tenure , um, and a little bit when Trevor took over and I, but I left before Nick and Nick started. So that's my era of the national , um, which was so that the sort of directors I was growing up with where , um, Sam Mendez, Richard was doing stuff. Nick Hytner was directing at the time there, how a Davis was directing a lot there, Patrick marble , I did the original closer. It was that era of, of making shows. Um, and I was largely in the , what was then called the Cottesloe is now the Dorfman. Um, and I did that for awhile , uh, quite a while . And then I, I was approached by a company called autograph sound recording, who are the big rental and design , uh, sound Jetta company in London, asked me if I wanted a job. And I was just at that point where I kind of felt I'd done as much as I could at the national. It was, you know, big organizations start to get tiring or they start to become very familiar and you can find yourself, or they can become quite comfortable. You can get stuck in a big organization because they're quiet . There there's nothing to dislike in lots of ways. Um, and I, but it was becoming less of a challenge or frustrating. I can't quite work out which one it was, but I decided to make a change and went and worked for a commercial outfit for 10 years. But , um , kind of with all the same people, you know, I'm still doing shows for , for , you know, Sam and his and Mattie Watchers. And , and I was working with other producers, David Pugh , which is, I then did a show called brief encounter with MRIs and then everything tumbled from there. Um, so, and I think sound at the time was an interesting transition is interesting because we were very much moving from , um, sounds sort of, has always been analog. And then, and your notice was then the sort of digital control of analog through to digital bit in its, in its pure sense. And I very much started in sound as we started as analog engineers, through that digital control into what digital was. Um, and autograph was very good at teaching , um, looking at other technology and or other industries and borrowing technology from them. It's regular teaching you to, to keep looking outwards to other industries. Um, I mean, it's kind of dull, but you know, we, we did a show years ago that I was the associate on fringy , Bruce, who was the, you know, the chairman owner of autograph. Um, we did, Cameron Mackintosh is witches of Eastwick that the, you know, the big one that was , um, uh , come in, was it a Drury lane? Um, and we had this thing which Andrew had seen in a medical supply arena. I mean, and it was a tablet of Fujitsu Simmons tablet. I mean, it was about three inches thick with a tiny screen, about five and a half inch screen. And it was connected wirelessly by what we thought at the time was voodoo , which was something called eight Oh two 11 B. Um, and this, you know , there's area on those co-ax and channel numbers. And it was, but we managed to get one computer to talk wirelessly to this other tiny tablet. So we could then control our IQ is Andrew wandered round building . Um, but of course, now you can go and buy a wifi router in August for 20 quid, and no one thinks twice about it, but back then, you know, we'd have to import this thing. We'd have to, I think we'd have to PR and I remember there was some connection with, it was only really available to sort of the medical supply chain at the time. It was sort of everything was so specialist, you know, so it was that sense of taking technology from other industries and seeing how you could apply them. Um, and that, I think that sort of still carries on now. I mean, that's certainly all our live stream work has been looking at everybody else and seeing how do we, what bits can we borrow ?

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And it's, it's interesting too. You talk about your love of sound and star Wars in particular. You know, I, I share that love and that interest and for anyone who's listening, who's interest is peak . There are so many great books and documentaries specifically about the sound designer styles. Um, so seek those out. They are fascinating, but I'm interested in digging into how sort of transferable some of those skills are into it , you know, a digital context, because I think that, you know, we've already talked a bit about the usefulness of like a production mindset when it comes to digital activity, because so much of that sort of just particularly on digital content, you're, you're making stuff, you're producing stuff, you know, you're making audio , uh , visual materials , um, and that I'm interested in exploring the question of, you know, is there something about having an audio background, particularly audio within a live performance environment that sort of teaches you useful, like botching and hacking skills? You know, I had to learn how to make cables cause I was trying to, you know, connect one thing to another thing for which a cable didn't exist and you have to learn how to sell to those. And, you know, you've mentioned they're borrowing tech from other industries because you could see very specifically how it fitted into your set of needs. And have you found yourself sort of, I guess, exercising those muscles when you're unpicking how to do some of this , this digital work that you've done over the past year?

Speaker 2:

I think definitely. I think it's because it, it , um, one of the early things you learn about in sound is signal flow is how you get one thing to , uh , you know, one state to another state. So whether that's a microphone into a console, out of a console, into an amplifier , to a loud speaker , you know, the most basic sound system you can think of , um, that sense of signal flow. And then that sense of being able to troubleshoot that signal flow every step , um, has been invaluable. And I, I, I sort of often wonder whether my analog training, if it's a phrase I've never used before , um, has helped much more than had I have just inhabited a digital world because I mean, I think quite often my kids frustrate me because they're troubleshooting is quite poor in terms of no one ever thinks to check a cable. Do you know what I mean? If somebody doesn't work, it must be a firm . I think, Oh, you have made a massive assumption, but that HTMI cable is working. Um, why don't you swap the cadency ? So I think that, that, that understanding of signal flow, which ultimately in a , you know, in terms of transferable transferable skills becomes about workflow. Doesn't it it's that same thing. I want this, but it has to morph into this end thing. And I think you become quite good. It becomes, it's quite a natural thing to understand that process of thinking, I'm going to start here and I need to end here, and this is how I'm gonna to complete that journey and, and knowing how to troubleshoot every step of the way and understanding you need to troubleshoot every step of the way. I think there's certainly been a help in taking apart an idea you don't quite understand in order to see it's different steps to be able to put it back together for yourself. I think that's been really useful. Um, but I do, I do think that that understanding of analog tech has helped massively in , in my sort of digital work. I think that's been a sort of big, big help to me. I find it really, I actually find teaching really hard these days because , um, if you think about it, our language particularly in sound is kind of all based around analog kit , the word play button or tape head, or all of that stuff. And of course, most people training now won't have ever hit a play , but an actual play button on a piece of tape. Yet , if you look at logic to understanding it now, or pro tools , you still see a transport bar, which of course is directly relatable to what we would have been as tape operators. So I think it's quite hard and I find it quite hard to , um, teach, teach editing, because editing makes sense when it's tangible and you've got one piece of tape and you're going to literally stick it to this piece of tape and you're going to make one whole thing. That's quite a difficult concept to explain in a sort of abstract world of digital. So I think that analog skill set has helped much more. And I, I certainly, I did some teaching on zoom, which I found really hard. And I sort of realized when I get back to let me get back to real life in that having a, Reebok's be 77 next to me, it's going to make teaching pro tools a million times easier.

Speaker 1:

So I guess reflecting on some of the work that you've done over the, over the past year, which, you know, to summarize, I guess, has been multi-camera live streams. Um, and you, you know, as, as you, as you explained, you've done almost all of that with the team at wise children or in your sort of close , uh, network of collaborators, what sort of, what did you, what did you discover about that process? What lessons did you learn? You know, which things were harder than you were, which things were far more straightforward, which skills did you find yourself lacking? Maybe

Speaker 2:

I think it was, it was really interesting. Um, I mean, the great thing about , uh, the first one we did is we didn't know anything, so we didn't know what we were going to get wrong. You know, you kind of, I had the idea I had was that if we, if we could get romantics back on stage and we could 0.1 camera at it and live stream it, then that was a show. So the next version of that was, well, if we can put 0.2 cameras at it and we've got a close shot and a mid shot, then that's a show. Um, and we just kept building and building up what it could be. And I think the big , uh , light bulb moment was Emma suggesting we got Steve Tanner involved. Who'd been our production photographer for a long time. So, and there's nobody greater at lining up with the better shot than a production photographer because they just have that eye for it. You know? So now all we're going to do is we're going to make a series of moving, but action shots. Well, that's a great look and feel for a show, isn't it? So that's, that was a sort of big light bulb moment for us. And he in particular enjoyed not working with skilled camera operators because he could very much teach our camera operators who were , you know, at the time of , uh, Helen [inaudible] , who was our participation producer and Natasha, who was one of our office administrators. Um, he could teach exactly what he wanted to happen without any pushback or without any, well, you know, my last job, we didn't have to go through any of that. Um, and I think he found that a bit of a revelation , um, which meant that now his, his voice in what his shootings is very, very pure. Um , and Emma's voice is now very, very pure because there's no TV , et cetera , telling her what the show should look like. So now you've got a very, very pure truthful version of your show because it's been created by the people that made the show in the first place, rather than people being brought in that are going to tell you how your show should look. Um, so that was sort of on the upside or the positive side, the downside of, of, of stuff. We just didn't know. I mean, you know, I look back at it now and thinking, Oh my God, now I look up tables were all over the place, but we didn't know what that was. Then, you know, we didn't know we could have corrected it in a different way, or we just saw on the second one. Um, in fact it was one of the big problems we had is of course, no two monitors when you're working , uh , visual monitors look the same, you buy 10 monitors from Amazon and every single one of them will look different or default to different settings. And we didn't really understand that. And that , that was a challenge, particularly for our lighting team, Malcolm and Vick . And we knew we had to fix that for the next one. And Charlie Simpson is our usual head of sound , um, spent ages working out how to fix it and how to color calibrate the cheap monitors we bought and how to put a lookup table over our black magic cameras. So we didn't have to saturate the stage in light all the time. And, but it still looked like our show. And so there was a sort of natural development and we've always, I've always sort of, if someone's got an idea, you just want them to keep forwarding it. Charlie really wants to work on this idea of how he could manipulate the camera and manipulate the monitors that everybody was looking at the same thing. And you think let's go for a Charlie, let's do it. So it, so I think the first one was, yeah, we were, we were naive. And on the second one, we , we , you know, by the time it was in flying lovers, we really sort of started to understand what we were doing. Um, but I never felt anything at any point , um, at the time, Oh , we don't know what we're doing. We just didn't know. She's quite relieved . Really. He's sort of don't know anything. You don't really understand what, you know, in OBS what bit rate means or key framings for means and all , you know, all of those things. I mean, I'm sort of amazed any of our work ever went out on that first show. So by the time we did the second one, it was, but it's any sending now and you look back and think, Oh my God, that could have gone horribly wrong, but it didn't.

Speaker 1:

And you, you know, the word you used there was, was pure. You know, it's a pure expression of , of Emma's artistic vision. And I guess maybe I'm going to ask you now possibly to speak slightly on her behalf, but what's your sense of, you know, how artistic children as an artistic entity, but I guess specifically Emma, as a, you know, an artistic as an artist found that experience, you know, working in this new way in this new medium, you know, as you say, with a whole load of potentially quite stressful uncertainty against the backdrop of a pandemic, was it a , was it a case of, okay, we'll just knuckle down and do it this way because we have to, or was it a positive experience in an artistic sense?

Speaker 2:

I think at first , uh , when I first pitched the idea, I think , um, was , uh, curious about it. We we've made the wise choice. We, we, we, our first show was called confusing . It was also called wise children. We should make the old Vic and we, I can't remember how, but somehow we were funded, I think for the space and the project, they were running with the BBC at the time. And we captured , um, wise children, which was then going to be streamed on the IP player as part of , um, well, it was students about culture in quarantine, but it had gone out as part of a Shakespeare celebration early in the year and it had done well and it, and it, we thought it looked , we thought it looked good, but it was quite a stressful experience. Um, I I'd mixed it, but that was quite stressful. Um, the edit bin , because there are so many other players and it was a big show. I don't think, I don't think the company had had a particularly good time doing it. Um, so there were lots of things which hadn't quite landed. So I think that was the experience wise children had had of capturing work, which , which was kind of okay, but it's not really what we do is it we're at the dance company. So this was, was always going to be a big shift. I think the big turning point was I, we were, we were in the middle of lockdown, one V one , and I just been working with Matthew Watchers on live streaming lungs with Claire Foy and Matt Smith at the old Vic. And I made him watch it. I said, well, just look, this is, I said, this is lungs is really rough. They , you know, these camera people, they're , they're our mates, it's a follow spot operator. And one of the stage carpenters it's J my assistant is operating ops . There's very few people around at the old Vic. Um, we've got no set, couldn't afford a set. You know, there's no floor, it's just on the stage, some steel deck. But , um, the exciting thing is Matt Smith and Claire four , you're going to turn up at seven 30 and do a show that's the exciting bit and then watched it. And I think loved it. I think kind of got that idea that during this time where we can all get together , um, we sort of could that there was something happening in London, in a space we knew , and we were watching it at home and there's a direct there's somehow there's a direct connection. And I think that was the moment where I thought, well, why don't we should just give this a go, we should, we should try it. Um, and then I think, as I say, we just went through so many different hurdles. How do we, you know, as well as all the technical hurdles we had , um, we'd sort of challenged ourselves to say, well, we're going to do the whole thing. We're not going to be a socially distanced musical. That's not a thing. How do we , um, create a safe bubble for those people? How do we put them all up in accommodation? How do we feed them? How do we get their Amazon packages cleaned? And COVID secure how to , you know, all of that stuff had to happen, which we had to kind of invent and get signed off by a myriad of, you know, public health or , um, whether it's our own, you know, legal, not legal team, but our, you know, to make sure that we were covered as much as we could be. And we were as responsible as we could be. All of those things had to happen. Um, but then when the cast turnip and Emma's rehearsing with it, suddenly after months of nothing happening , um, life was a little bit back to normal and it was a bit exciting. And because it's like taking a show, but you're going to let the audience watch the tech when we're not going to move out. Normally it's that moment, you all move out the auditorium. And we all got to sit at the back with notebooks and it's never quite the same again, we've, we've sort of, we're all going to keep working on it, but it's never quite the same. Well , now we're not going to do that. We're going to stay in the auditorium and we're going to , we're going to broadcast his show and M on comms talking to Steve or me about pickups or about shots, we should be lining up or frames, or, and it suddenly became a really exciting process of which Emma suddenly is in charge of because it's her story. And she's the best person to say, here's where the story is. And then you've got Steve who can frame it beautifully in a way within Emma's aesthetic, that she's going to want a suddenly it's quite an exciting process. It's gone from being a thing. We were a little bit dreading to actually, this is, this is good, fun. This is, this is quite a good way of working.

Speaker 1:

And given that, you know, it was a positive experience for all involved. And it seems to have certainly been really well received by audiences as well. Do you anticipate that there may be a digital strand to two ways ? Children's way of working once we can gather in venues again, you know, later this year, next year, whenever it might be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And I think that elements of it will always be there. I think , um, certainly I, I don't think we ever want to create a place where you can watch the show or watch it online, but we do know that people often like to come watch the show and then in the same way by the album, we'll want to go and watch it again at home. And there's lots of reasons people do that. We have , we have a lot of students that sort of sit with notebooks and write down, you don't write your note , but watch the show and think about it on the bus home. Um, but if we can capture the show in that way, that means we don't have to worry about that. We can, we, we can say that it's gonna be available later for you. Don't worry. Um , we can get to people that we , we might not be able to get to. There's lots of reasons people don't go to the theater, not just financial, but you know, through, you know, there's a myriad reasons why people might not go. Um, and they're so th th there's lots of reasons why we would continue to stream our work or live, stream the work or record the work and do it. And I think because we've removed the technical barriers to doing it, it's not a big deal, you know, and it , and that has lots of other jump off points. We could stream rehearsals for example, which we did, you know, we've got creative team all over , all over the world and everybody's locked down yet. Everybody's literally watching errors on Vimeo and in the chat box . So there's, there's lots of by owning and understanding that level of technology. There's lots and lots of great ways. We can keep integrating it into the company, whether it's live streaming or enabling all kinds of things. Now work to go to countries. We can't turret it. There's , there's lots of ways we , we, we can keep using it. And as I say, we , we used to it now, it doesn't feel like a big deal. It feels like, Oh yeah, that's what we're doing.

Speaker 1:

Um , maybe my last question is, is sort of away from the specifics of, I guess, live streaming and back to our , our shared interest in audio and sound. And because it's always been slightly strange to me that you don't see more theaters producing or making audio content, you know, there's been the explosion in narrative podcasts. Um, you know, there's an explosion in audio books or double is massive, you know, and we have these storytellers who, who don't see interested maybe in, in putting out work in that medium, even though, as we both probably know, it's , it's in many ways going to be much cheaper to produce , uh , an audio version of a player than it is a multicam shoot of it. I just wondered if you had any perspective on that really. I mean, I know there are some examples, Carey Mulligan has done a thing for audible of Dennis Kelly's girls and boys, which was at the Royal court, but again, it was done by audible rather than the rural courts . And I just wondered whether that was a question you had ever asked yourself, or if you have a sense of why we don't see more theaters making their, their stories available in an audio form.

Speaker 2:

I it's a really good question because of course, audio is much more accessible than just, you know, technology-wise , it's much more accessible than watching video and you're right. Why, why don't people do it? I mean, we we've had great fun when we've made, but again, we did wild brides when I was at knee-high , but it was made for radio four . I think it was really a full opportunity . It wasn't ne I didn't think, Oh, we should make a Reggio and you're right. We don't think in that audio way. And we probably should. It's a really good idea. I think we should do something , um, because we don't, we don't do that. And it's a much simpler way. You're right. It's a much simpler way to work. It's a much quicker way to work. Um, and you can certainly do it remotely as well. You don't need to get together. So I do wonder why , um, theaters don't embrace it. I suppose, like, as your know , working in audio is the audio is always the second fiddle to working visually, and that's probably why it just doesn't get the attention. Um, I think that's probably the sad truth of it is that everybody wants to be on TV and not in radio, but , um, but it's a really good point because it's, I, I find , um, as we've seen with the , with, as you're , you're out with the explosion of podcasts and audible this year, you know , um, working in audio only is a really exciting arena and really brilliant. I love working. I love I've always loved radio. I think it's a great way to transport people. It's fantastic.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And do you , you know , you mentioned that the word you used when you've got em to watch lungs was that idea of connection and actually audio can be a super intimate super-connected experience between the storyteller and the listener.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that'd be really good. I'm going to think on about that though. I'm going to come up with some ideas.

Speaker 1:

Brilliant. And I guess maybe just absolute last question is, you know, given all the experiments and things that you've experiments that you've run and things that you've learned over the last year, what, what new, exciting, different things are you interested in dipping your toe into over the next year, 18 months there'll be on ? Or do you not yet have a sense of, of where you're next going to turn your experimentation to?

Speaker 2:

I don't, I don't know what the next thing is. I think the thing that I'm interested in is the sort of general democratization of the technology to get it into other arts organizations. Um, you know, there , there's a , uh, it's funny because me and my friends and colleagues we've talked about, you know, whether it be the success of wise children or the success of, of the old Vic, and nobody's saying , you know, there's a business here, you know, we should, we should, this is what we should do. And he goes , yeah, but that sort of goes against everything we've actually tried to do, which is to put digital in the center of organization and , and teach how by it being in the center, you Kern , um, have a very natural and pure and authentic voice in, in everything you're then putting out. Um, and we should, that's what we should be encouraging. Um, of course that isn't a business, but it is something that I'm interested in. So I have been, so I'm very, very happy to talk to other organizations, not about what wise children have done necessarily, but about that confidence to try something on your own or to bring digital, not necessarily as in house , because I think lots of organizations still need outside help with areas of it or advice or facilitating, but to take it, I suppose, more seriously as the center of their organization , um, and about moving it maybe away from their marketing or comms teams and moving it more, much more into production, gives it a much more central focus. And by looking around at their , uh , their, their own teams and how they could upscale their, their, their existing teams. So I've sort of quite interested in that. And I've been working with , uh , ticket code who, with a company that I manage our livestream box office and how they're , how the user experience of buying a ticket online to watching something works, because I think that's the next big thing to crack. Um, and I think they've done brilliantly and I've sort of worked with them about how organizations might use them and, you know, the pitfalls of setting up and all of that stuff. So I think that, that, bit's quite interesting for me at the moment , um, and big ideas for wise children, it will be a challenge to get back to , to our sort of core activity of putting on a show. And then it will be about how integrate our new digital technology what's the best way to do it. Is it , um, is it live streaming or rehearsal to, to an audience? Is it low streaming T w w what , what is it, how do we open up that process? Do we to open up that process? Um, so that will be the next sort of chapter for wise children is what is, how do we use that technology , um , in a practical way to, to , um, to do something exciting. Um, and it may be who knows that we can't do anything in person for awhile , but we're going to wire and do a show. I mean, my , do we live stream the sort of showing of that R and D, is that something that that's, how do we build a context around that to allow people to understand what they're watching and is that exciting? Is that something we should be doing? Um, does that make, does that keep our transparency going? It's it's that it will be in that territory, we'll be heading for the rest of this year. I think that's really exciting. And I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Speaker 3:

You .