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How Opera Helped Create the Motion Image Media

Original Airdate: 
31 Oct 2019 1:00pm EDT

The first compatible-color TV show seen at home was an opera. The earliest sync-sound movie is of opera music. Thomas Edison's earliest patent filing for movies lists opera as their only purpose. The earliest publication about television describes today's live opera transmissions to theaters worldwide. The composer of the opera "The Barber of Seville" transmitted an image by wire in 1860. The earliest photographic motion-picture patent was issued in 1852 to the person in charge of electrical effects at the Paris Opera. And the earliest projected moving images might have been seen at an opera in Hamburg in 1726! Why? Why has opera played such a strong role in the development of motion-image media, from 18th-century cranked magic-lantern slides to 21st-century digital image warping with depth-plane selection and ultra-high-definition streaming with user-controlled view selection? Join multiple-Emmy-award-winning SMPTE Life Fellow Mark Schubin, engineer-in-charge of The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD for this free National Opera Week event.

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Guest Speaker: 
Mark Schubin

Multiple-Emmy-award-winning SMPTE Fellow Mark Schubin has been working in television since 1967, writing about it since 1972, and chairing the HPA Tech Retreat program since 1998. He has shot for the Rolling Stones, lit Luciano Pavarotti, mixed Stevie Wonder, hooked up the TV in Eric Clapton’s bedroom, and performed forensic analysis for the Woody Allen/Mia Farrow child-custody battle. He worked on Japan’s first regularly scheduled HDTV broadcast, Kazakhstan’s first news network, and Hong Kong’s first cable-TV system. He has also worked on standards ranging from the VU meter to digitally compressed video transmission to the national TV system of Barbados. His clients range from the Metropolitan Opera to Sesame Street, MTV, The News Hour, the AFL-CIO, the U.S. Congress, and the World Book Encyclopedia. His writing has been translated into French, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. His blog, http://www.schubincafe.com, is archived by the Library of Congress.

Schubin has also sung at most of the great opera houses of the world, appeared inside the penguin enclosure of the Central Park Zoo, and piloted a blimp from Coney Island to the Statue of Liberty. He once lent Meg Ryan a dinosaur and another time was sandwiched between Helen Hunt and Kyra Sedgwick. He is a contributor to The Coward’s Almanack and is Minister of Information of the Provisional Government-in-Exile of Redonda. The Flying Karamazov Brothers failed to teach him to juggle. He has been named the official opera archivist of American Way magazine, somehow made it into one of the obituaries for Steve Jobs, and shared a news story with Aretha Franklin.

Marvin Kitman, writing for The Los Angeles Times syndicate, called him “a leading thinker.” In the acknowledgments to his book Fast Forward: Hollywood, the Japanese, and the VCR Wars, James Lardner of The New Yorker wrote of Schubin that “he has the spectacularly rare ability to make technical matters clear to a nontechnical person.” Graham Binns of London’s Rediffusion Group said in the European publication Intermedia, “He has complete mastery of the technical background to the video. He rattles off data and ideas with fluency and with wit.” Director Robert Altman said of him, “We have our quiet fun together.”

In 2014, for their 75th anniversary, the National Baseball Hall of Fame co-sponsored his lecture on “Baseball and Opera.” He sometimes wears pants and shoes.