Like most live streaming companies, GlobeStream Media saw an influx of new business in 2020 as organizations transitioned from in-person to virtual events. While this included a wide range of traditional corporate communications - conferences, town halls, award ceremonies and product launch events, it also created new production opportunities for those willing to explore the new business landscape.
In the summer of 2020, the Sonoma Community Center (SCC) in Sonoma, California reached out to GlobeStream Media to produce an on-line version of their annual fundraising telethon.
The variety show, dubbed “aMUSE-athon, The Big Night In”, was hosted by fan favorites Eric Jackson and Ellen Toscano, featured dozens of live and pre-recorded acts from regional artists, and honored SCC’s “Muses” for 2020, Sam and Carol Morphy.
Setting the Stage for Success
The foundation for any successful live production is first understanding client requirements. For this event, SCC wanted to minimize on-site production staff while providing multi-camera coverage of the stage and telephone banks. Additionally, the performances throughout the evening combined pre-recorded and live acts, artfully woven together by our hosts. This, of course, required video playback and on-screen graphics displayed as lower thirds for each act. Lastly, SCC wanted live interaction between Mr. and Mrs. Morphy and the show hosts throughout the evening. To maintain COVID protocols, the Morphy’s needed to engage remotely, while maintaining real-time communication with Jackson and Toscano.
Choosing the Right Cast
To meet SCC’s production requirements, GlobeStream Media leveraged the company’s IP broadcasting facility in Dallas, Texas to engineer a remotely integrated production. First, wireless audio from Eric, Ellen, and other live acts was locally mixed and fed to Sony cameras connected to LiveU field encoders. Using LiveU’s remote production technology, the camera feeds were streamed back to GlobeStream’s master control room in Dallas.
In the control room, the incoming LiveU feeds were switched just as if the program was being switched on-site. Pre-recorded content was queued by Softron’s On the Air Video Express software running on a Mac mini while lower thirds were displayed through Blackmagic Design’s ATEM Constellation video switcher - the heart of Globestream’s IP production facility.
Probably the most challenging aspect of the show was integrating the Morphy’s into the production from their home while allowing them to converse live with the MC’s performing at Sonoma Community Center. GlobeStream leveraged a Newtek Talkshow vs4000 Skype appliance to establish Skype calls between the Morphy’s (via a laptop computer) and show hosts (via an iPad). The Talkshow was configured to enable real-time conversation between both parties while simultaneously routing to the ATEM Constellation for live program integration.
Bringing it all Together
To orchestrate the show, GlobeStream Media implemented a remote communications solution using Unity Intercom. Two com channels were set up:
- Engineering, for communication between the production team in Dallas with camera ops and the audio engineer in California, and
- Production, where our producer in Dallas could communicate with the stage manager in California.
The Unity Intercom solution was deployed via the platform’s smartphone app on iPhone and Android devices for the remote crew and integrated into the Dante-based Studio Technologies coms platform in the master control room.
Delivering A Standing Ovation
Since live streaming was new territory for the Sonoma Community Center, they weren’t sure what to expect. Would people watch? Would they be able to reach their fundraising goal? How would the production go with the program being live switched half-way across the content?
By the end of the evening, Sonoma Community Center’s aMuse-athon delivered more than 4 hours of fun and entertaining programming; the culmination of hundreds of hours of work by the performers, staff, and event organizers. More than one thousand viewers tuned in throughout the evening, and not only did they meet their $300,000 fundraising goal, they exceeded it!
Bravo to Sonoma Community Center for taking the leap into new technologies, embracing the challenges of the new landscape, and turning in a performance truly deserving of a standing ovation.