WAO Spotlight with Jurgen van Pletsen
Welcome back to our WAO Spotlight Series!
From the stunning Supreme Court Gardens to screens around the world, we want to shine a spotlight on our creatives working tirelessly to bring the magic of opera to you. Connect with your state opera company on an intimate level and glimpse the skill, momentum and forward-thinking required to share this artform with all corners of the community.
Join us with Jurgen van Pletsen, Founder and Managing Director of Perth Video and our City of Perth Opera in the Park Livestream provider, as he discusses how numerous moving parts combine for a seamless livestream experience, the empathetic depth of film as a medium, and his early memories of music that changed his life forever.
1. Tell us about livestreaming City of Perth Opera in the Park – what is your role and what work is involved?
Opera in the Park is such a fantastic event and it’s a great honour to be involved. My role is to produce the livestream and allow anyone that can’t be there in person to enjoy this amazing event with us from anywhere in the world.
The goal is to ensure the people watching online have a seamless experience with the whole thing, as if they were there in person. A lot of moving parts need to work together to achieve this, and it requires special networks, hardware and software to pull it off.
And this year the pressure is on! With all the restrictions and precautions surrounding COVID, the in-person attendance figures had to be capped, which means we are relying on the livestream more than ever to share the magic of the evening.
I’m expecting that the online viewership this year will triple over last year, and there will also be multiple satellite events around the city, each of which will be streaming the performance to their local audiences. It’s very exciting!
2. This year is a special 30th anniversary celebration. Looking back on your previous two years livestreaming the event, what have been some highlights for you?
La Traviata was one of the first projects Perth Video worked on with WAO, and it was then I saw how many people were involved to create such a special event. When I heard the opening strings in Act 1, I got goosebumps - this moment was the point where you saw everything come together. It was special.
Another highlight was the Hansel and Gretel performance. WAO had the ability to take a classic tale that most people grow up with and turn it into something completely unique, which was impressive. From the orchestra to the performers and right down to the amazing artwork, the entire event was magical.
When COVID-19 hit and events were cancelled, we helped WAO to produce the Ghost Light Opera Series. Usually with live events I sit far away from the action, but when filming Ghost Light Opera I was just a few metres in front of amazing artists as they did some of their best work. This was a fantastic initiative to be a part of.
3. You have also worked on WAO’s Opera in the Regions in the past. Do you have a favourite location in the state to film? Or visit?
Anyone who has spent time in Australia knows that it has some of the most phenomenal and remote locations in the world, making it tough to choose just one favourite.
When I moved to Australia from South Africa with my family in 2004, we travelled the entire West Coast and ended up in Exmouth. From the wildlife to the flora, the pristine beaches to the friendly town, every bit of this place was incredible. It’s safe to say this special destination left a lasting impression!
I’ve always wanted to go back there and working with WAO for Opera in the Regions has meant I have been fortunate enough to visit Exmouth for the second time through Opera in Ningaloo.
4. What draws you to film as a medium for sharing stories?
Reading words on a page, listening to a voice or looking at a picture are ways we can understand someone’s story - feel their joy, understand their pain…feel connected.
But when a story is shared through video you can share so much more about life in a short period of time, because you engage multiple senses at once. That's why I am drawn to film, because its magnitude of empathy doesn’t quite compare to any other medium as we know it today.
5. In what ways does your creative voice shine through your work?
This is a tough question to answer because creativity in my work is not your textbook definition of the word. One of the challenges that my team and I experience is the need to captivate an audience. What this means is we seek out special moments on the spot and simultaneously stream these moments live, creating a story that people will connect with.
When producing videos we often watch hours and hours of captured footage just to create a two or three minute video. It’s crazy when you think about it. Creativity at this point is important because picking the right words, the right camera angle and putting the shots in the right order is vital to produce a beautiful end result that communicates a message and hits the mark with the audience.
6. Can you share with us a musical moment in your life that ignited your emotions?
Absolutely. If there is any one moment that sticks out, there was a significant one a long time ago that I will never forget.
My dad was a talented musician and growing up we used to sing and play music in the home. But it was when I was seven years old that my dad gave me my very first tape. Of all things, it was Queen’s Greatest Hits I. So while all the other kids in my class were listening to children’s music, there I was smashing Rock ‘n Roll!!!
My favourite line is David Bowie’s section at the end of “Under Pressure”. It’s a good reminder that we all have our troubles and that it’s important to look out for each other.
When I think back, I understand that giving me this gift was a symbol and influenced the attitude I have towards life today - break the mould and don’t be afraid to go against the norm.
7. What other exciting projects do you have on the horizon?
2020 changed the way we all do business. That’s why the most exciting thing about the year ahead for me isn’t about any project in particular, but about how we can help our clients adapt and advance to higher levels in 2021.
The technical challenges which will come as a result of video and live streaming becoming more popular means we have to get creative about solving them. There are currently enormous demands on content distribution networks and data centres around the world, as more and more people transition to online work.
We need to stay a step ahead of this, which means a higher focus on the architecture and work behind the scenes to ensure we always give our clients a seamless experience in all conditions.
Jurgen's work ensures you can enjoy City of Perth Opera in the Park in all its splendour, no matter your location. Don’t miss out – register for the livestream now!
ABOUT JURGEN VAN PLETSEN
Jurgen is the Founder and Managing Director of Perth Video – today one of the top Livestreaming, Virtual Events and Videography providers in Perth. When you see a West Australian Opera video or livestream, there’s a good chance that Jurgen is behind it.
From a young age Jurgen has been involved with opera and musical theatre, having performed in Carmen and the King and I in South Africa where he is from. After migrating to Australia, he completed a Bachelor or Commerce and Postgrad Dip. in Project Management from Curtin University.
Today he spends his time growing Perth Video, helping his clients with business development and developing software. When he has free time, you’ll find him riding motorcycles, at the beach, or in any number of the amazing coffee shops we have around the city.