Sven grew up in Cologne, Germany, where he lit small-scale theatre shows after high school, complemented with lighting for movies, advertisements, and music videos. His subsequent studies of theatrical lighting design in London led him to develop a keen interest in digital technologies and their potential for the live arts
In 2001 he joined up with Dick Straker and his company mesmer to explore and further the use of imagery and projection in the live arts. For the National Theatre, London mesmer provided realization and design services for over 20 productions and established a video department which introduced technologies and techniques that have become de-facto standard today. Together with Straker he also conceived the video system and process that realized the technologically groundbreaking musical The Woman in White in the west end and Broadway in 2004.
In the last 17 years Ortel's work has been seen all over the world. His range of collaborators comprises some of the most established and celebrated artists ranging from directors Michael Blakemore, Simon McBurney, Gregory Boyd, Matthias Hartman, Jonathan Kent, David Leveaux, Trevor Nunn, Deborah Warner, Bart Sher, Julie Taymor and Francesca Zambello to choreographer Helgi Tomasson, conductor Valery Gergiev and set designer George Tsypin.
With the UK company complicite, namely 2005‘s Measure For Measure and 2008‘s A Disappearing Number he achieved new degrees of integration between lighting, imagery, live video and physical sets. Both shows also toured world wide to universal acclaim. Other notable projects include Swan Lake for San Francisco Ballet, the re-staging of the Kirov Ring Cycle under maestro Valerie Gergiev in St.Petersburg, Russia and the Royal Opera House as well as the musical Rebecca in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, Disney's Newsies at the Papermill Playhouse and Broadway, the off-Broadway production of Carrie and Julie Taymor’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at TFANA’s new home in downtown Brooklyn.
Other Broadway design credits include Jumpers, Faith Healer, Deuce, Disney's The Little Mermaid, Woman On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown and Wonderland .
Recent projects include Svadba at the Opera Festival in Aix En Provence, the world premiere of A Confederacy Of Dunces at Boston’s Huntington Theatre, Mary Page Marlow at Steppenwolf, Party People at the Public and Roman Holiday at Golden Gate theater in San Francisco.
In 2012 he was nominated for a TONY award for his work on Newsies and for a drama desk award in 2014 for Midsummer.
To foster the future of his profession, Sven mentors young projection designers, gives master classes and has created an online resource for projection design (www.projctn.com). Sven lives in Austin, TX where he leads the MFA program in Integrated Media for live performance at the University of Texas at Austin and continues to push the boundaries media integration and visual storytelling.