Royal Opera House testimonial


The Royal Opera House in Londons Covent Garden is a world famous centre for the performing arts and home to the UKs prestigious Royal Opera and Royal Ballet companies. The greatest names in ballet and opera have performed on its stage, but behind the scenes an equally talented army of technicians, designers and producers are responsible for bringing each production to life.

The theatre may be steeped in tradition, but the Royal Opera Houses Victorian facade hides a unique and thoroughly modern innovation. With the help of NVIDIAs technology, it has become the first opera house in the world to make virtual reality (VR) a key part of its production design process.


A theatre was first built on the Covent Garden site in 1728, although the Royal Opera House of today dates back to 1858. Throughout its history the theatre has evolved to survive, taking advantage of artistic and technological developments to maintain its high standards in the face of changing audience tastes and financial demands.

The Royal Opera Houses most recent transformation has been the result of an extensive programme of refurbishment which took place between 1997 and 2000. The projects brief was primarily to achieve a more accessible theatre, not only in terms of its physical structure and public appeal, but also in its production capabilities.

One challenge in achieving this was the modernisation of key production processes, including lighting design. In the past this required a full crew and hours of intricate work on-stage to programme the 200 moving lights over the stage. However, as productions became more complex and the schedule grew tighter, the theatres technicians needed a new way of working.


Their solution was innovative: a virtual version of the Royal Opera House, powered by NVIDIA Quadro technology, in which lighting and set changes can be designed and animated at the click of a mouse.

The opera houses team, led by David Harvey and George Panait, invested two years in producing a highly accurate model of the Royal Opera Houses auditorium. This has allowed them to clone the main stage within their VR facility, creating a dedicated environment in which production designers are able to focus on perfecting the look of their show.

Once the sequence of lighting movements has been finalised, it is used to programme the lighting console which controls the lights in the main auditorium and so replicate the design created on the virtual stage for real.

Originally devised as a lighting design tool, the VR facility has also proved ideal for co-ordinating scenery changes and moving set pieces. The virtual stage can be viewed from the perspective of any seat in the house, allowing designers to evaluate their work from the audiences perspective before it goes live.

Lighting manager David Harvey explains: Our system uses two NVIDIA Quadro XP4500 graphics processing units (GPUs) within an Asustek motherboard configuration running under ESP Systems software, which means we can take advantage of NVIDIAs SLI technology. Were constantly pushing to achieve more fluid animations and more detailed models, so the increased speed that SLI gives us is very important.


This is not technology for its own sake it would literally not be possible for the Opera House to function as it does now without our VR facility, continues David Harvey.

The power of NVIDIAs technology means our virtual stage has all the properties of its real counterpart. We can move lights, create special effects and see shadows, all in real time, and this high level of realism means the design process is still very intuitive.

Where the lighting and set movements for a complex production like The Sleeping Beauty would once have been hugely time-consuming, the design team can now come to the VR room and realise their vision for the show in just a few hours.

This technology doesnt just save time and money it has actually improved the artistic content of our productions. Our relationship with NVIDIA is helping us to cement the Royal Opera Houses position at the cutting edge of theatre technology.