Online viewers submit questions for Octavia Spencer.
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Online viewers submit questions for Octavia Spencer.

While professional video webcasting of live events has existed for some time, the 2016 launch of Facebook Live has brought live streaming to the mainstream (pun intended). We at CRMG saw great potential in this exciting and far-reaching webcast platform for many of our clients including Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding.

Hasty Pudding Theatricals is one of the oldest theatrical organizations in the world. Each year the organization presents the Woman and Man of the Year Awards to celebrities who have made lasting and impressive contributions to the world of entertainment. This high profile, and news-making event takes place in Cambridge, MA and includes day-long events, a roast of the celebrity, interviews, and a press conference.

For over eight years we have been filming the roast, press conference, and other festivities with multiple cameras and editing together highlights. This year, we proposed taking things to the next level with a multi-camera broadcast to Facebook Live. The Hasty Pudding jumped at the idea, and we made their stream come true!

The Pitch:

The client decided to live stream the celebrity press conference and we discussed turning it into more of an “ask me anything” (AMA). While there were multiple benefits to live streaming the press conference, including the video being available to viewers in real time and available for replay immediately after, we agreed that there was great value in adding a level of interactivity to the webcast. Online viewers would be given the chance to submit questions to the celebrity via the Facebook comments or on Twitter. This added perk would create additional social media buzz for the event, and provide new advertising opportunities.

Pre-Production:

When doing any on-location live stream, the technology has to work right the first time, and therefore a great deal of planning and coordinating must happen before show day. This planning includes picking locations for cameras, lights, and the broadcast station, as well as coordinating audio feeds and internet connectivity.

Here’s a look at some of the key pre-production elements for this live stream event.

Internet Connection

Reliable internet connectivity is crucial for a live stream production because this onsite connection is how the video feed makes it to the streaming platform. Weeks before the event, we connected with Harvard IT to arrange for a hardwired internet connection at the venue. Two weeks prior to the event, our streaming engineer visited the venue to perform a stream test. This involves testing internet connectivity with the key pieces of streaming equipment we would use on show day as well as testing available internet bandwidth. We need about 5 mbps up and downstream and were happy to learn that the Harvard network supplied over 800 mbps in each direction!

Internet_Speed_Test
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Since internet connection failure can bring down an entire show, we always have a backup plan. By using sophisticated cellular modem bonding technology, even if the venue’s landline internet connection goes down, the stream can stay up by sending the data out over multiple cell phone data networks.

Graphics

We designed custom on-screen graphics for this live stream. A key graphic element was the pre-show loop – along with music – that would play once the stream went live while we waited for the press conference to start.

Facebook Live Event

Using the Hasty Pudding Theatricals official Facebook Page we publicized a specific video event URL to be shared across various social media. Facebook also provides a feature where potential viewers can schedule a reminder to tune in on show day.

Show Flow and Social Media Moderator

Since this was the organization’s first time streaming the event, we consulted with the client to provide various technical blocking and new creative approaches to the event. We also recommended use of a “social media moderator.” This on screen participant would collect online questions and ask them of the celebrity.

Production Day:

Six hours before the scheduled webcast time, we arrived at Harvard University’s Farkas Hall.

Octavia Press Cameras 1
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Cameras

While cameras and other production gear were set up to capture the celebrity roasts and interviews, we set up 3 cameras for the live stream. Two cameras were positioned in the back alongside those of the press. One camera was wide on the table and the second was a closeup of the celebrity. A third camera was positioned in the front corner of the room to capture reporter questions. One of the cameras also had a wireless link so that the camera operator could roam freely.

Audio

Clean audio is critical for a successful live stream. We coordinated with Harvard Media and Technology Services who supplied the microphones and PA system in the room. To give our crew complete control over what the online audience was hearing, we opted to split the signals from all the mics and run our own broadcast audio mixer. This way, the Harvard crew focused on mixing the audio heard by the press in the room, and we focused on creating a clean broadcast mix.

Lighting

In addition to the room’s standard light fixtures, we set up a pair of high-output LED fixtures to help better light the subjects for the cameras.

Broadcast Table Behind Monitors
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Broadcast Center

Similar to what you would see in a control room at a TV studio, we set up a temporary broadcast control center in the back of the room.

Octavia Multiview 1
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Director

Director Don used the video switcher to cut between cameras and graphics and used his communication headset to direct the camera operators.

Broadcast-Engineer-1-768x670
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Engineer

Jon is the engineer responsible for the overall design, assembly, and operation of all the audio and video systems used for the live stream. He configures all the hardware and software necessary to send the stream to Facebook Live and monitors the systems during the event. He also answers Director Don’s questions such as, “What does this button do?”

Broadcast Mixer 1
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Broadcast Sound Mixer

Jackie mixes all the audio sources together into a single feed for listeners at home and also does a multitrack recording of all the microphones. If we desired any editing or cleaning up of the audio mix following the event, we would use the isolated audio tracks from that recording. Jackie makes sure the audio levels are consistent for the celebrity’s mic and brings other mics up and down for reporter questions.

That’s a wrap!

The Facebook Live stream was a great success. It has racked up thousands of views online and was also enjoyed by a theater-full of people downstairs who had just watched the roast.

Boston.com picked up the feed and embedded the live video player in their website.

Screenshot from Boston.com
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Screenshot from Boston.com

We look forward to working with the Harvard Hasty Pudding Theatricals on more productions as well as expanding our live stream production services to more companies and organizations!

Interested in learning more about live streaming with CRMG? Contact us here!

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