I love live production, always have. It’s how I got started in this industry. There’s nothing like saying “Fade Up” with millions of people watching to truly focus your attention.
My love of live production is one of the two reasons our podcast – Digital Production Buzz – is live every week. (The other is that if we allowed ourselves to record and edit, it would never get done. Deadlines for recorded programs have a natural tendency to slip; live shows don’t give you that option.)
So, when we decided to do live streaming for The Buzz during our 2013 NAB Show coverage, I knew that we needed gear that would allow us to do this. In this blog, I want to share with you the gear that we used, and how we hooked it together.
NOTE: Click here to view a video I recorded at the NAB Show, illustrating how all this gear worked in our booth.
THE PROGRAMS WE CREATED
At our booth, we created three different program elements:
The sole reason we did not stream video live was the exorbitant, one could almost say extortionate, cost of Internet access at the show. For this reason, we chose to record video segments and post them which allowed us to reduce our bandwidth costs.
Each of our live shows, which ran 30-minutes, featured four guests from industry-leading companies, interviewed one after the other. The show was also simultaneously recorded, with the recording posted shortly thereafter. (Recording gave us the ability to correct mistakes, if necessary, before posting.) We also exported each of the four interviews in each show and posted them separately as part of the interview archives for the show.
When we weren’t airing live shows, we were recording individual interviews with other industry leaders. These recorded interviews were designed to allow us a bit more depth, or to interview guests who may not have been comfortable in a live environment. These recorded interviews were built into a one-hour show that aired every night, as well as posted to our interview archives.
Over the course of three and a half days, we produced six live shows, six recorded shows, 27 video segments, and 71 industry interviews.
You can see all of our 2013 NAB Show coverage here — www.nabshowbuzz.com
All our team used either owned or rented non-Retina Display MacBook Pro laptops with 8 GB of RAM running OS X 10.8.x, with the exception of a lone iMac which we brought from the office because it was easier to move the Mac than copy all the files that were on it. (We got the rental gear from Rentex.)
We had 12 computers in the booth during the show, all connected to a 16-port NetGear Gigabit switch feeding into a brand-new MacMini server. I bought the server a few days before the show. It is the high-end, dual-hard drive unit that I upgraded to 16GB of RAM. After MUCH thought, I left the two internal drives separate, and did not RAID them together.
The Mac Mini was running OS X 10.8 Server.
I purchased our video gear late last year for the purpose of creating occasional videos. We don’t shoot video on a regular basis, or for clients, so I didn’t need something extremely rugged or with interchangeable lenses. My basic requirements were for something with very good image quality, XLR audio inputs, and easily portable.
High-quality audio is critical to me, so microphones and audio quality are even more important to me than the camera. While I liked the audio this gear produced, we are continuing to tweak it for next year.
Here is the kit:
I have a 15-year old tripod and head. The tripod I like a lot, but the head needs to be replaced. It isn’t designed for really light cameras. Replacing this is on my list for next year.
All video editing was done using Final Cut Pro X.
At its heart, The Buzz is an audio podcast. My goal is to make it sound like NPR. We aren’t there yet, but each year we get closer.
All our interviews start with Audio-Techica BPHS-1 headsets. These integrated headphones with mics are designed to provide a clean, tight sound in a very noisy environment. (Think sports broadcasting.)
Each mic connects into an Aphex Channel, which provides high-quality mic preamps, sound shaping, and limiting. I’ve used Aphex for years both at NAB, for my training videos, and in our studios. I really like the sound they can create.
For our live shows, we bundled all music and commercials into a timed QuickTime movie, which played off the Mac Mini server. This worked flawlessly – both as a file server and for live audio play-out.. It had all the power we needed, with plenty to spare.
All audio was mixed using an Alesis Multimix 8 Firebox. The benefit to using this now-discontinued mixer is that the FireWire connection will send eight discrete audio channels for recording, as well as support all the analog outputs that we needed. All audio remained analog until the final step before streaming.
Audio coming out of the mixer was sent:
Headset audio coming out of the mixer went first to a dBX 215S graphic equalizer so I could boost the mid-range highs; this improves diction and hearing on the booth headsets in a noisy environment.
From there, headset audio went into an Alesis Multimix 6 Cue, which provided up to 18 headset connections, with up to 6 different headset mixes.
For our live shows, main audio out of the mixer went to an Alesis 3630 Compressor to smooth out signal levels and provide basic limiting to prevent distortion.
From the compressor/limiter, the analog signal traveled to an Edirol UA-25A A/D converter. This two-channel box converted the analog audio into a digital signal, which traveled via USB to Telestream Wirecast running on a MacBook Pro.
All live shows were streamed as a mono signal at 64 kbps. Our streaming service was provided by WeHostMacs.com, who has supported all The Buzz live feeds for years. They are great folks to work with.
All live shows and interviews were recorded using Adobe Audition CS6, which proved to be bullet-proof during the production. All systems were configured the week before. Once we got to the booth, the editing systems were turned on and ran flawlessly for the entire show.
While there are always things we could do better – for example, next year, we will bring lights for the portable camera and I’m still not totally happy with our live sound – this whole system worked perfectly for the entire show.
And its taken a lot of experimentation and teeth-grinding over the years to finally be able to say that.
As always, I’m interested in your comments.