When it comes to producing livestreams for the world’s biggest music names and labels, Béla Molnar of TwentyFourSeven Films is one of the very best. Working with artists including Biffy Clyro, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and most recently, Tinie Tempah at an exclusive concert at Les Étoiles theatre in Paris, Béla has a wealth of experience on what makes a great livestream, and the inevitable challenges that a live producer will need to navigate. (Thanks to Blackmagic Design for their help in making this article)
What advice does Bela give to anyone looking to stream an event?
1. Think big, stay small
At many live events, adding a livestream can be a last minute decision, so when you arrive most of the venue space will have been claimed by other teams. Being able to shoehorn yourself and your kit into the smallest of spaces is often a necessity, so make sure your kit is compact and flexible, but still capable of producing top quality, multicam content. For the gig with Tinie Tempah I had my rack system, which is built round an ATEM Television Studio HD, which takes up 2/3 of a rack unit, but is able to handle full multicam setups as well as prerecorded stills and graphics.
2. Connection, connection, connection
You could have the best system that money can buy to deliver the most creative and visually stunning stream ever, but without a robust and reliable internet connection, it will only be for show and you will risk your reputation for reliability. If you don’t have a dedicated connection with a minimum of 6Mbs upload speed, don’t say yes to the project.
3. A sound relationship
Audio is a critical factor that, unbelievably, can be neglected by many filmmakers. Simply getting a left and right is not going to cut it, as you have to be able to monitor and adjust during the event, even between songs and sets. For the Paris event, we patched the audio into one of our Blackmagic Studio Cameras that was stationed front of house next to the switcher. This meant I could hear the audio without having to move from the mixing position and work closely with the sound engineer next to me to make sure everything was balanced.
Whether you decide to have your own sound engineer or simply station yourself next to the main sound desk, make sure you are friends with the audio guys! It can instantly elevate your production levels and they can jump in to assist if things do prove problematic during the event.
Be prepared for every eventuality
4. Record everything!
Paradoxically, having a comprehensive recording of not only your final program mix, but also of all of your camera streams, can be the most beneficial part of a livestreaming project. Clients can often make last minute requests for additional footage such as highlights videos or promo material after the event - particularly if a livestream is very successful! So if you make sure that you’re recording in-camera, or to a dedicated external deck, as well as recording the final program mix, you will have a much bigger pool to choose from in post. Each of my cameras at the Tinie Tempah event - an URSA Mini Pro, two Studio Cameras and a Micro Studio Camera - had their own HyperDeck Mini capturing their feeds.
5. Expect the unexpected
Even after all these years of live production, I still have a very healthy paranoia before and during every livestream. Literally anything can happen, and whilst no system is 100% infallible, preparing as much as you can, and accepting that you will often need to find solutions on the fly will mean that you don’t freeze at the critical moment. My advice would be to double up and back up your system as much as you can within your space. Have stills and videos preloaded and ready to go, if there’s a break in feed, and think about having a secondary streaming channel available. I always carry a second laptop, and I’ve even been known to have a spare switcher - the ATEM Television Studio HD, Web Presenter and HyperDeck Minis can all fit into a small rucksack, so now I can have spares of everything to hand, without having to lug a huge amount of gear to each project!