Austin, TX-based production company, Rooster Teeth makes podcasts, animated shows, live action shorts and series, redefining what it means to be a “broadcaster” with its Austin and Los Angeles studios broadcasting content across a multitude of platforms, reaching more than 45 million viewers – its YouTube channel alone has 9.53 million subscribers. Director of Broadcast, Patrick Salazar, talked to ProductionHUB exclusively about how the definition of broadcasting has rapidly changed and how Rooster Teeth is keeping up with the demand.
PH: Can you talk a bit about Rooster Teeth?
Patrick Salazar: Rooster Teeth is a pioneering media and entertainment company responsible for some of the biggest online series in history, such as the award-winning and longest-running web series, Red vs. Blue. They also produce the globally acclaimed animated series RWBY, the first western anime series to be distributed in Japan; the award-winning Rooster Teeth Podcast; and Immersion, a reality format that brings video game theory to the real world. Rooster Teeth has a massive global footprint of more than 45 million subscribers to its YouTube Network, 5 million unique monthly visitors to its RoosterTeeth.com hub and 3 million registered community members. The company was founded in 2003, and is a subsidiary of Otter Media, a WarnerMedia company.
PH: In your time as the Director of Broadcast, what projects have you been able to work on?
Patrick Salazar: Since 2013, my broadcast team has been responsible for a variety of live streamed productions by Rooster Teeth including week-long full day streams at E3 for Google, live audio and video podcasts from SXSW, gaming events for some of gaming’s biggest titles including DOOM and Rock Band. As well as our own lengthy roster of Rooster Teeth video podcasts, game shows and audio podcasts. Plus, we’ve raised millions for Dell Children’s Medical Center with our annual 24-hour charity livestream called Extra Life.
PH: How is the broadcast industry continuously changing?
Patrick Salazar: Broadcast is traditionally known for its roots in television and radio, however the industry is forever adapting to consumer habits. Workflows have become lighter and smart enough to integrate with phones, tablets and laptops. Equipment also evolves and allows broadcasters to move faster and reach more places, people, platforms and budgets. The product line by Blackmagic Design is a great example of production gear that changes with the needs of the industry. As viewers rely on more portable devices for their entertainment, Broadcast has to stay inline with that desire for content on the go.
PH: What role is Rooster Teeth playing to keep up with the demand and pave the way?
Patrick Salazar: One of our company core values is to “keep moving forward” in the way we operate, create and reach our community and new audiences. We always ask ourselves, “how can we do this in our own way?” In Broadcast, we are constantly experimenting with new workflows, streamlining our equipment footprint and challenging industry standards with an innovative spirit. Finding new ways and products to solve problems or enhance the viewer’s experience is a challenge my team and I thoroughly enjoy. In 2013, Rooster Teeth was one of the first live Internet studios to use gear from Blackmagic Design. At that time, to me, Blackmagic was best known for church and school productions, but I appreciated their solid build, flexibility and price point. Today, Blackmagic Design has one of the largest footprints at NAB and their cameras are everywhere. I love to work with other companies that have the same drive to grow and perform like we do at Rooster Teeth.
PH: How are you able to ensure that you're prepared to work efficiently and deliver a quality picture?
Patrick Salazar: Test. Test. Test. And test again. We are constantly challenging our own workflows and gear. Rooster Teeth produces a variety of projects so my broadcast team needs to be flexible and scalable. From a two person podcast and all the way up to a 10-camera, 20-segment, 24-hour live event, our production line needs to be ready for anything that may come our way, and still put out a great picture! Our gear also needs to be up for the job and deliver under any circumstance. By making solid choices on our staff and our equipment, Rooster Teeth continues to deliver on time and with a quality streaming product.
PH: What are some features that Blackmagic provides? How have you been able to use this technology to support your goals?
Patrick Salazar: Blackmagic Design provides some great features in their products. The scalability of Blackmagic Design products is a big feature for me. As Rooster Teeth has developed from two shows a week to almost 10 productions Monday through Friday, Blackmagic Design has kept up with our growth. Their product line is thoughtfully designed so you can purchase only what you need and add new elements as you need them. Take their line of ATEM switchers for example. The software can easily run off your mac or pc laptop. A great, cost-effective solution for smaller groups and on-site productions. For crews that want a more tactile experience, control panels are available in multiple sizes to accommodate any control room. Blackmagic also recently added the ATEM Mini and Mini Pro which are great for online gamers and smaller video podcasts. We have three of the ATEM switchers and use them in different multi-cam operations. The ATEM Mini is perfect for our smaller one-person streaming setup. The ATEM software runs on a laptop during live on-location events while the 1 M/E Advanced Panel is in the main control room.
PH: How do you foresee the broadcast industry continuing to change?
Patrick Salazar: Currently traditional Broadcast runs parallel with what I call ‘Internet Broadcast.’ That is production suited for online platforms like YouTube, Twitch and website content like what we have on RoosterTeeth.com. As media consumers use their phones and laptops more and more for entertainment, there won’t be TV viewers, Internet viewers, Online listeners, or Radio listeners. There will just be people consuming content under the umbrella of Broadcast. Everyone will still have choices of how that content is delivered, but there won’t be this strange gap that currently exists between Internet and traditional operations. We’re seeing it now in this worldwide life of quarantine brought on by COVID-19. Broadcast and Internet streaming have combined to meet the challenge of providing valuable news and entertainment to people everywhere affected by this unprecedented situation. This will change how we look at Broadcast.
PH: What are some projects you're super excited about right now?
Patrick Salazar: Currently our team is developing a number of exciting new projects on top of our weekly roster of live and recorded studio game shows, talk shows and audio podcasts. One of our most innovative projects is a show called “Keeping the Lights On” that was developed and launched while in quarantine. When Austin moved to shelter in place due to COVID-19 concerns, we combined a virtual set and three webcams to create a live talk show streamed on Saturday nights for RoosterTeeth.com. Our community loves it. And it is a perfect example of how Rooster Teeth can adapt, configure and execute to the needs of our audience.