Vienna State Opera

An Immersive Operatic Experience in Ultra High-Definition

The experience of attending a live performance is electric. There is nothing quite like sitting in a crowded venue with thousands of people keenly anticipating the same unforgettable moment. It’s nearly impossible to replicate that feeling in your own living room. But dramatic innovations in video streaming are bringing remote audiences closer to live events than ever before.


Properly implementing the complex technology needed to support high-quality video streaming has proven a challenge for even the most tech-savvy institutions. Until recently, a professional opera had never been live streamed in ultra high-definition video for public viewing online. That is until the Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper), one of the world’s most important opera houses, successfully delivered a live performance of Verdi’s Nabucco, with Plácido Domingo in the title role, in 4K HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) via MPEG-DASH over the Internet. How did the venerable institution accomplish this groundbreaking technological feat?

Background: A Penchant for Innovation

Vienna State Opera maintains the world’s largest repertoire of opera and ballet works, holding 60 titles and mounting more than 300 productions per season – making it a cultural icon and top venue for artistic performances. While revolutionary advances occur every year in the IT and TV industries, opera houses are not often thought of as being at the forefront of those changes. The Vienna State Opera however, is a historic institution with a long history of technological creativity.

Since its construction in 1861, the Vienna State Opera House has positioned itself as a technology pioneer. Ten years ago, it became the first opera house in the world to install state-of-the-art subtitle display monitors on all of the seats in the auditorium, an innovation that has since been coupled with a mobile app, which allows patrons to read subtitles and score sheets in sync with broadcasted performances.

The Vienna State Opera House also prioritizes sustainability. One shining example is its rooftop terrace, a multipurpose venue and the home of its Children’s Opera Tent, a place where special operas, directed for children, are preformed each year. Over the years, sustainable innovations like this have helped to both broaden its audience and physical space of its 150-year-old building.

Challenge: Providing a Window to the Stage

Due to the popularity of its productions and sold-out performances, as well as mobility restrictions, cost, distance and a host of other circumstances, many who want to see world-famous events at this historic venue simply cannot. But while Vienna State Opera identified streaming live video as one of the best ways to further grow its national and global accessibility, recreating the experience of attending a live event on screen presented a significant challenge. In order to achieve this impressive goal, Vienna State Opera set out to offer live video streaming in pristine ultra highdefinition (UHD). To pull this off, the picture quality and overall video processing of the broadcast needed to be extremely high caliber.

Recognizing it needed to harness the latest in video technology to continue to grow its audience beyond the walls of its historic building, Vienna State Opera turned to products from Elemental Technologies, the leading supplier of software-defined video solutions. This decision allowed the opera house to quickly implement a flexible, scalable and easily upgradable video architecture.

Solution: Streaming Live Performances in UHD Video

Working with ETAS High Tech Hardware Systems, Vienna State Opera selected Elemental as a technical partner to help deliver on its innovative – and aggressive – goals. After receiving a product demonstration, Vienna State Opera requested an Elemental® Live system and was quickly satisfied it had picked the perfect product with which to make history. An infrastructure-agnostic encoding platform, this particular solution from Elemental is powered by graphics processors and able to deliver a 12 Mbps UHD HEVC signal to the viewing audience.

Vienna State Opera Workflow

Using Elemental Live, control room operators at the opera house were also able to continuously create adaptive bitrate files from nine tiny remote-control, full HD cameras strategically positioned within the venue, providing a truly live experience, while also ensuring neither the artists’ nor the public’s experience was compromised. Content from these nine different HD camera sources was then encoded in real time and immediately stored to a local web server.

Because Elemental Live encoders are able to produce multiple sets of adaptive bitrate video streams in addition to UHD HEVC output, it ensures uninterrupted video delivery to end users facing high network traffic or bandwidth constraints. This enables all of Vienna State Opera’s ‘live at home’ viewers to enjoy a performance whether or not they have the specific Smart TV or set-top box needed to decode HEVC content.

  • Stream live video in ultra high-definition
  • Replicate a live performance on any screen
  • Easily deliver content to audiences worldwide
  • Implement a flexible software-based platform
  • Deploy high-density video processing
  • Collaboration with technology innovators
  • Expand national and global accessibility
  • Offer a landmark UHD viewing experience
  • Capitalize on first-to-market product offering

Benefit: Pioneering Cutting-Edge Video Technology

In addition to leveraging technology leadership from Elemental, Vienna State Opera also got a first-hand look at the video processing company’s dedication to customer centrism. Commitment to this core tenet allowed the project managers to rely heavily on Elemental to deliver the development, detailed preparation and critical support needed to successfully pull off the ambitious task of streaming a high quality video signal, delivered for the first time ever, in full UHD HEVC via MPEGDASH over the Internet.

Resulting feedback indicated that the outcome was nothing less than breathtaking. Christopher Widauer, Director of Digital Development for the Vienna State Opera, confirmed, “Up to now, nothing can compare to the real show – there is smell, temperature, the feeling of 2,330 others in the same room… but if you can’t be there, UHD offers a really convincing alternative.”

With assistance from Elemental, Vienna State Opera is once again strongly positioned at the forefront of innovation and on the fast track to building upon the flexible, scalable and future-proof software-defined video solutions provided by Elemental. As more and more viewers adopt UHD TVs, Vienna State Opera will be ready as one of the first providers to offer ultra high-definition live content on a regular basis. Christopher Widauer affirmed, “The importance of full integration is that everybody can access and play live broadcasts comfortably, and – due to our live shift playout – at their respective prime times all over the world.”

"The flexibility, speed and power of solutions from Elemental and the unique ability to stream 4K video using HEVC and MPEG-DASH, are vital for us to broaden the possibilities for opera and ballet viewing experiences."Christopher Widauer
Director of Digital Development, Vienna State Opera