CRMG Goes LIVE! with Octavia Spencer and Ryan Reynolds
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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..
Six hours before the scheduled webcast time, we arrived at Harvard University’s Farkas Hall.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Director Don uses the video switcher to cut between cameras and graphics throughout the live stream. He also uses his communication headset to direct the camera operators.
Jon is the engineer responsible for the overall design, assembly, and operation of 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.
Broadcast Sound Mixer
Jackie mixes all the audio sources into a single feed for listeners at home and also does a multitrack recording of all the microphones. She makes sure the audio levels are consistent for the celebrity’s mic and brings other mics up and down for reporter questions.
This thirty-second commercial for Appliance Zone is a “scenario vignette” – highlighting their products and service through an entertaining and memorable story that their consumers can relate to.
CRMG’s creative process consisted of concept and script development, storyboarding, location scouting, casting, special effects, production, post-production, and placement. A full production crew utilized the Arri Alexa camera (an upgraded camera package), which allowed Appliance Zone to effectively market their company as a large and highly competitive brand.
Production was completed in a 12-hour day and included: a Director, Producer, D.P., A.C., Art Director, Gaffer, Grips, PAs, two Actors and a Make-up Artist. One very packed Grip Truck carried everything from a generator and multiple HMI lights, to C-Stands and ladders, tools, a dolly, crane, props, and paint.
Check out our behind-the-scenes video for our Appliance Zone shoot. Shot on location with an Arri Alexa. We had a blast figuring out creative ways to portray “broken” appliances.
CRMG has an ongoing partnership with Advance Care Planning Decisions.
Dr. Angelo Volandes, Co-Founder and President of ACP Decisions, is on faculty at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and recently released his book, “The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care.” CRMG produced the book trailer and works closely with Dr. Volandes and his team on a series of videos.
Dr. Volandes has been featured by numerous media outlets, including The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, TIME, The New York Times, and The Associated Press.
CRMG’s Don Schechter has traveled with Dr. Volandes to Hawaii on multiple occasions to film for ACP Decisions. We have filmed and edited over 100 videos for the foundation in over a dozen languages.
Most videos were shot in our Newton Center, MA studio with our Red Epic camera in 4K resolution. After editing, each video was color corrected using DaVinci Resolve. ACP Decision’s videos have been widely covered in different media outlets including The New York Times.
Charles River Media Group was commissioned to create multiple television spots for FBN Construction. Services included pre-production, production, and post-production. Filming was carried out with an Arri Alexa to provide superior quality and a truckload of equipment arrived on location in Milton, MA. Crew included a Director of Photography, AC, Gaffer, Grips, Hair and Makeup, Audio Engineer, Script Supervisor, and Production Assistants.
Check out this behind-the-scenes video from our FBN shoot.
In February of 2011, Charles River Media Group began collaborating on content and logistics with returning client, ABT Associates. The narrative video project targeted Nursing Home Staff and featured TeamSTEPPS program, a teamwork system developed by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Although the clients were newcomers to the media production process, CRMG was able to communicate with them throughout the planning process by maintaining a master document that detailed all proposals and revisions along the way.
The process included 6 months of pre-production, 3 casting sessions, 2 comprehensive script revisions, 200+ phone calls, 4 storyboards, 4 call sheets, 4 jam-packed shooting days, 86 shot set-ups, 32 full P2 cards, 24 actors, 3 nursing homes, 16 hotel rooms, and 2,000+ travel miles.
The talent and crew made it through a huge amount of content in quite a short time frame for this project. The production value included dolly shots, blocking, costume changes and multiple locations. The final step included an assembly edit for our client, and then enhancing and refining the final product to satisfaction. Our clients were at our side throughout the entire process. By the end, they had a much better understanding of all the details, structure, and flexibility involved in a production like this. It was a pleasure working with our friends through ABT Associates on such an ambitious project as TeamSTEPPS.