Behind-the-Scenes of Opera at the Ballpark

Over 28,000 spectators flooded AT&T Park on Saturday, July 2nd to enjoy the free San Francisco Opera performance of Bizet’s Carmen simulcast live from the War Memorial Opera House. A chilly night didn’t scare away Opera enthusiasts, many of whom stayed put through the last note of a scintillating 3+ hour spectacle.

For even the die-hard Opera at the Ballpark fan, it might seem like this annual, philanthropic event co-produced by Giants Enterprises and the San Francisco Opera is relatively easy to execute. The first-ever Opera at the Ballpark simulcast at AT&T Park – a performance of Samson & Delilah – took place back in 2007. This year’s performance of Carmen was the 10th simulcast held at AT&T Park and while some of the process and personnel involved have remained the same, together we’ve made constant improvements to deliver an entertaining, seamless and captivating event.

Our in-house team, SFG Productions, who are responsible for producing commercials, promotional videos and in-game and event entertainment fully integrates with San Francisco Opera’s Electronic Media Department to put on the simulcast event. Led by Video Board Production Manager, Colby Frank, our talented and dedicated team ensures all content is programmed correctly, tested in advance and that the feed sent from San Francisco Opera is maintained at a high quality throughout the evening.

In addition to assisting with large-scale public events at AT&T Park, Colby and his team orchestrate all technical aspects for the 150+ private events we host each year, including but not limited to creating digital content, crewing events and directing live video feeds throughout the entire ballpark.

We are excited to highlight the individuals who work tirelessly behind-the-scenes to make this event such a huge success. Take a look at our photo gallery below, which helps to explain everything that goes on during the San Francisco Opera simulcast. In addition, we’ve provided an insightful Q&A  interview with some of the key players behind Opera at the Ballpark. Enjoy!

Opera at the Ballpark 2016 - Behind-the-scenes- Scoreboard Control Room
Inside the Video Board Control Room at AT&T Park. Colby Frank – Video Board Production Manager  for SFG Productions (left) works with Jessica Koplos – Director, Electronic Media (middle) and Francis Crossman – Senior Video Editor (right) from San Francisco Opera.


Opera at the Ballpark 2016 - Behind-the-scenes at San Francisco Opera House during simulcast
Taken from the Koret/Taube Media Suite located on the 5th floor of the War Memorial Opera House, Frank Zamacona – Video Director (middle) and Jess Shown-Morgan – Assistant Video Director (back) work closely with Doug Mitchell – Master Audio/Video Engineer (not pictured) to synchronize operations with Colby Frank at AT&T Park.


Opera at the Ballpark 2016 - Behind-the-scenes- Field A/V setup
Directly in front of the Giants’ Dugout on the Field at AT&T Park, Alva Thompson (middle, standing) and Uwe Willenbacher (right), both San Francisco Opera Sound Engineers, receive a multi-channel audio feed from the Media Suite at the Opera House and mix it live for the ballpark speaker array. In addition, Alva and Uwe switch the sound source for different segments between performance feed, taped content, live singing on the field and KDFC announcements.


Opera at the Ballpark 2016 - Behind-the-scenes- Announcers
Opera at the Ballpark simulcast announcers and the on-air personalities of Classical KDFC, Dianne Nicolini and Hoyt Smith. Dianne and Hoyt deliver information, conduct interviews and provide entertainment to the crowd at AT&T Park prior to the simulcast and during the intermission.


Additional staff inside the Video Board Control Room at AT&T Park keep a watchful eye on all the controls, constantly monitoring feeds and switches to ensure a seamless simulcast.


Q&A With Francis Crossman (Senior Video Editor, SF Opera), Frank Zamacona (Director, HD Video, SF Opera) and Colby Frank (Video Board Production Manager for SFG Productions). 

Q: How much preparation goes into the simulcast and what is your specific role on the day of the event?

Francis: “I am the Senior Video Editor in the Electronic Media Department here at the San Francisco Opera. My role in the simulcast is to coordinate and create all of the pre-produced content that plays pre-show and during the intermission.  On the day of the event I am out at the ballpark working with the incredible AT&T Park team to make sure all the content gets played on time and help adapt to the flexible timings of the live show.  With help from my Electronic Media Department colleague, Josh Lubensky, we create specific video messaging for almost every department in our large organization; Development thanks our sponsors, Marketing promotes our upcoming season and other events and we in the Electronic Media Department shoot and edit behind the scenes interviews with artists and other interesting production related material – to name a few.   We start producing this content about 2 months before the event. This is my 9th simulcast at AT&T Park.”

Frank: “My preparation starts when the opera is in rehearsal a month or so before the simulcast performance.  Jess Shown-Morgan, Assistant Video Director and I block shots and reblock all the way up to simulcast day. I also look at scenes that are too dark for the ballpark and adjust the lighting levels with the Lighting Director the afternoon of the simulcast.  I also work with the Production Department (makeup, costumes and wigs, set design and props) to make sure everything looks as best it can on camera.”

Colby: “Lots of preparation. There is an entire day set aside to get the feed from the opera to the video board. My specific role on the day of the event is to maintain the feed coming from the opera house, provide backup feeds in the event we lose the feed from the opera, provide recordings for the opera, crew/manage a full broadcast crew and produce/direct the board show during the event.”

Q: What is your favorite part about the simulcast and partnering with the Giants to produce this unique and memorable event every year?

Francis: “My favorite part of the process is being out at the park on the day of the event and working with Colby Frank and his incredible team. The team and system are so versatile that we can pretty much do whatever creative thing we come up with.”

Frank: “My favorite part is the team effort and the pride we take in our coverage of each opera that is simulcast to AT&T Park.  It’s no secret that our SF Opera HD crew enjoys the garlic fries and hot dogs that are sent over to the Opera House at intermission.  I personally enjoy having the partnership with the Giants because I am a Giants fan, born and raised in SF.”

Colby: “The level of involvement. This is an incredibly technical event that requires a lot of preparation and setup.  It is very gratifying to pull off an event of this magnitude.”

Q: What’s the one thing (factoid, process, etc.) that the general public or casual Opera at the Ballpark guest probably doesn’t know about the event?

Francis: “The HD video signal is sent by fiber optic cable directly from San Francisco Opera to AT&T Park and the signal takes less than 1 second to arrive.  Embedded with the video signal are 8 channels of uncompressed audio: stereo pairs for vocals, orchestra, auditorium ambience and announcements.  Since the scoreboard is a very wide aspect ratio, almost as wide as two 16×9 monitors side by side, our camera operators have masking guides set on their monitors to aid in framing.  The image is then cropped top and bottom out at the park.”

Frank: “We shoot everything at SF Opera in 16 x 9 (high definition) and the AT&T screen is 29 x 9.  A lot longer and shorter from top to bottom than 16×9.  So what works for 16×9 sometimes does not work in 29 x 9. While this gives us more area to camera and template it shortens the height coverage.  I have included a photo with the 29 x 9 template.”

29x9 behind the scenes at sf opera29×9 Camera monitor Template over 16×9 shot

Colby: “The video delay. We have to delay the video at AT&T Park (because video travels faster than audio) from the opera to match the audio also coming from the opera.  This requires a special piece of equipment we use once a year.”