How to get Digitized Performances

When considering performance, there are many aspects that one might find worth evaluating, including sound, image, and movement in space. Current technology can allow us to capture all of these elements, though there are challenges to doing so. Nothing yet exists that can replace the experience of attending a live performance. However, in some ways this technology can remedy factors that in a live performance might impact an individual’s ability to appreciate a given moment of a performance: an obstructed view of the stage, a cough or other noise from the audience, or the inability to attend the performance live due to timing or location.

For scholars wishing to capture and record future performances, a great deal depends on the artist’s willing participation. Setting up high-quality audio recording and video cameras in a location requires appropriate placement of equipment, often on stage with the artist (or in whatever venue the performance takes place). Though artists often have a considerable amount of lighting onstage, it is possible that additional lighting might be necessary for a video to turn out well. For one-one-one interviews or studio recordings this process may be reasonably simple. For touring artists performing in front of an audience, such recording processes may impact their audience interaction. Some artists may not agree to the process since they may wish to retain copyright on their performance and be compensated for any use or publication of the performance. Even more complicated is the acquisition of data about an artist’s movement in space. To record that kind of information requires even more potentially invasive placement of technology, whether using advanced motion-capture technology or some other method, such as marking lines on a stage and recording from above in a bird’s-eye view shot.

For past performances, we rely on the work of those who have secured recording permissions. Working with these materials requires securing your own permissions, as copyright applies to any performance just as it does to textual and visual media. There are many formats for past performance recordings, and updating these formats to current digital formats is an important step for digital humanities scholars. Many academic libraries possess the equipment for digitizing VHS tapes and other older media, but if you have a special case, you may need to purchase the equipment and software to manage that process or contract out with a professional company to do so.

For performances in the recent past, often digital recordings exist. Access is the main issue for digital humanities scholars wishing to work with these materials. It is easy enough to watch a movie on a digital streaming service, for instance, but having a high-quality digital copy of that performance that you can analyze on your own machine requires securing files and copyright permissions.

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