Producing live events is one of the most exciting, yet stress inducing jobs we do. There is no fixing it in post and you have to do your best to account for every contingency that may come up at any moment. Once that red light goes on, there's no turning back.
It can also be an incredibly rewarding experience, when the long hours of preparation and rehearsal turn into a great LIVE show. There is nothing cooler than seeing people react to your live stream event via social media, in real time. And the best part is, when it's done, it's done!
Last summer we produced a 30 minute major live stream for the film Independence Day: Resurgence, which is finally in theaters today! Our client was looking for us to take a standard press event (announcing the official name for the long anticipated sequel) and turn it into a cool live stream that could be watched by fans around the world.
The event took place on the same sound stage the film was being shot on. While this was super cool (airlocks! space ships! hybrid-fighter jets!) it also meant that we'd have to set up our entire live rig in the 30 minutes between the film wrapping for the day and the start of the event. Nothing could be preset or taped down. So that meant we’d be building a whole four camera live stream in under 20 minutes. Less, if that day's filming went long.
In order to nail this all down, we spent the day before rehearsing our setup. We did that on an empty sound stage, two buildings over. No airlock. No spaceship. No fighter jets. We had to replicate the dimensions of the space as best we could. This was a challenge in and of itself, so we really had to lean on our talented crew to imagine how this would all play out on the actual set.
Our setup included a roaming camera, a jib, two head on cameras snagging different shots and about 200 feet of SDI cabling per camera. We had to track the cast and crew as they walked from an airlock in the back of the set, 50 feet to the stage where the jib would pick them up. We practiced our movements, but wouldn't be able to know if our plans worked for sure until it was showtime.
After dialing everything in, we tore down and prepped for our simulated build. To further complicate things, the folks building the stage, setting chairs and doing the house audio all had to build with us simultaneously. If we didn't get everything set up in 20 minutes, we'd have to rethink our strategy, because on shoot day we'd just have those 20 minutes. Not a lot of room for error.
The timer started and we quickly began placing the equipment we built up outside the stage: our video village table, the encoding workstation, and the jib. Just as we were about to place the jib, one of its wheels broke clean off, bringing the full weight of the jib down on the few of us moving it into place. Nobody was injured but we immediately had to figure out how to support the jib's third leg. A few sand bags and some plywood later we had a temporary solution; unbelievably we had the whole set up done with five minutes to spare, hastily fixed jib and all.
The next day everyone was lined up in front of the giant doors of the IDR stage, trying to stay cool, ready to wheel in our gear as soon as the days last take was wrapped. All of the rehearsal time paid off, and we were able to fully set up our production gear and cameras, with time to spare. Before you knew it, the reporters were getting into their seats and it was almost time to go LIVE. In the end, the stream was a success and we were able to pull off a great live event that was viewed by more than 300,000 fans.
More than anything we have to give special thanks to our crew, the folks at 20th Century FOX, and everyone at Albuquerque Studios. This was a real team effort and we couldn't be more excited to finally see the film!