KMH Integration worked with two landmark theaters in New York City – the Pregones Theater and the Apollo Theater – to upgrade their A/V technology infrastructures and use new production workflows to expand their audiences.
The Brooklyn-based systems integrator provided A/V consulting services, engineering oversight, on-site project management and technical training. KMH also installed a range of new remote technologies across the multiple facilities operated by each organization, including KMH’s new Marquee Pro content streaming solution.
KMH’s relationships with the two theaters resulted from a new initiative conceived by Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2021, the “Digital Accelerator Program.” The theater and live event industries were among the hardest hit by the COVID pandemic. The Digital Accelerator program was developed to support the economic recovery of cultural non-profit and arts organizations in the U.S. and U.K., many of them designated as cultural and historical landmarks. Bloomberg Philanthropies allocated a total fund of $30 million to restore and preserve these venues, help them invest in tools and training, keep their digital technology infrastructures up-to-date, expand their audiences and build toward future growth.
A selection process for systems integrators knowledgeable in live production and performing arts spaces led to KMH working with the Apollo and Pregones teams.
While each theater had unique goals and levels of production capabilities, both also had similar needs that made an online platform like Marquee Pro an ideal fit.
The system is based on an NDI/Dante compliant streaming control center using SRT and WebRTC protocols with QoS monitoring. The service also includes a fully customizable, portable studio set designed by KMH partner Creative Dimensions. These pre-fabricated studio wall panels are built for easy assembly and portability, supporting different graphic overlays as backdrops as well as a chroma-key green screen background.
“It’s an easy-to-use, high-quality option for sending video streams between each theater, or for remote productions to complement their in-theater events,” said Kevin Henneman, president of KMH Integration.
In 2022, KMH began working with New York City’s Apollo Theater. Now celebrating the 88th anniversary of opening its doors, The Apollo is an American cultural treasure and a vibrant non-profit organization that is rooted in the Harlem community but that speaks to, and welcomes, people from around New York, the nation, and the world.
The Apollo currently has three stages: The Apollo’s Historic Theater, The Apollo’s Soundstage, The Apollo Digital Stage and soon, The Apollo’s Victoria which will include two new theaters.
The Marquee Pro system is integrating the Apollo’s Historic Theater and the Apollo Soundstage on the Apollo’s intranet, allowing programming and content to be streamed and shared easily among each area. KMH is also building a centralized control room allowing them to stream programming directly from each theater, supporting multiple independent productions or one large Apollo event.
Significantly, because the Apollo audience is an iconic part of the Apollo experience, KMH consulted over the selection of cameras and placement vantage points to ensure broadcasts in both theater spaces captured an immersive experience of both the stage and the audience.
“KMH has been integral to helping The Apollo achieve its goals,” said Kersten Stevens, The Apollo’s Director of Digital Strategy and Bloomberg Digital Arts Accelerator Tech Fellow. “The greatest benefit of working with KMH has been their ability to focus in on our objectives and deliver a system we could truly trust not only as state-of-the-art, but also as a system that could expand and deliver against our needs as the Theater’s stages, technical needs and streaming opportunities increase.”
“We’re helping them do their own internal TV production with an added external digital distribution platform,” said Henneman.
KMH’s work with the Pregones theaters began with similar goals: connecting multiple venues and reaching larger external audiences using an automated online production workflow – making them another candidate for the Marquee Pro solution as well as new workflow technologies.
The Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater(Pregones/PRTT) is a multi-generational performing ensemble and multi-discipline arts presenter, which operates bilingual arts facilities in The Bronx and Manhattan. PRTT was founded in 1967, led by stage and film icon and National Medal of Ats recipient, Miriam Colón. It was one of the first bilingual theater companies in the United States, and the Pregones theater opened its doors in 1979.
At each of its locations, Pregones/PRTT hosts a range of events, from plays to film festivals to musical acts. Before this current project started, the PRTT main infrastructure was mostly limited to internal use. With the support of KMH’s services and technologies, the Bronx and Manhattan theaters are now able to interoperate with audio, video and control signals. The system allows for acquisition of a performance, which can then be edited and posted on their social media venue platforms.
“Since we started working with the KMH team, I can’t say enough about them,” said Jorge Merced, Associate Artistic Director, Pregones/PRTT. “They have been thorough in understanding the needs of our project and designing solutions that fit our venues and program goals beautifully. The integration has been seamless and very successful. Their project management process and the human caliber/warmth they bring is top of the line and key to ensuring success, especially when dealing with all the technology we set up.”
The systems designed for Pregones and Apollo are built with the flexibility of being either a permanently installed or mobile production solution, depending on each theater’s needs.
“We designed and implemented mobile production packs,” Henneman said. “Instead of anchoring a fixed rack, it's a ‘road case on wheels’ to augment the in-theater performances with outdoor events. We've designed it to operate as a mobile system that uses the internet for delivery and remote connectivity.”
KMH is able to monitor and manage signals from its Brooklyn office to coordinate troubleshooting and provide quality control.
“Upgrading the A/V technology in venues that are decades-old is challenging enough but doing it while maintaining the aesthetic integrity of a landmark institution raises the stakes even higher,” said Henneman. “It’s a delicate balance between maintaining their legacy and helping them build toward a digital future.”