Royal Opera House CTO Joe McFadden interview - Digital opening at Covent Garden

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McFadden said that the possibilities around the visualisation of productions were vast with opera productions particularly being very expensive to mount with the time on stage to work through technical problems being extremely costly. Being able to use visualisations and "virtual techs" of shows to work on sight lines, lighting cues, transitions and scene changes was an exciting opportunity for production teams, he said.

Ballet fitness

With a professional background working in the arts and cultural sectors, there is still plenty to learn and take in at such a rich and diverse organisation and McFadden explained an experience of an innovation in the ballet space where technology is being used to help the health of their performers.

"Coming here I didn't have an expert knowledge about ballet in all its forms, but I've very quickly come to appreciate that as well as being fantastic creative artists, the ballet dancers in the company are absolutely at the peak of fitness and athleticism and pushing their bodies every night they are performing," he explains.

"Therefore we need to make sure we are making the best use of the kinds of sports science technology, which are now very common in professional sports, and making use of those tools so that we can provide the best care and support for the ballet dancers.

"As I understand it, we're the first ballet company in the world to invest in a sports science solution for a healthcare facility, covering everything from back-office support for the healthcare team and our facility on the top floor of the opera house. We have very modern gym, and recovery and recuperation facilities for the dancers within the ballet company, and also increasingly it means putting that information in their hands and into their smartphones."

From Shadow IT to innovation from below

Fundamentally, McFadden suggests that while a core team of IT and digital experts can create technology platforms, digitise processes and build apps, the cultural side of the adoption of digital and technology and focusing on the end-user, like what's in the best interests of ballet dancers, which is where the real strides will be made in innovation at the Royal Opera House.

"One thing I'm thinking quite a lot about is how we create the right opportunities for innovation in the rest of the organisation," he says. "That can sometimes be labelled 'Shadow IT', although in my view that's probably an unhelpful label since we can all be creative technologists.

"The role of a centralised service is yes, to think about things and how they move to the core of the business, how they become operationalised, how they can be made more efficient, and how they can be secured.

"But actually the real innovation is going to come from the lighting designers, the sound and video designers, people trying to solve problems - it's about enabling those people around the organisation. Putting the right tools in their hands and giving them the right advice to be pioneers in the right field with technology.

"I think you've got to be led by the artistic practitioners; maybe the people that will really crack it are still going through their training now?"

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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