Coachella 2011

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly



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The Coachella YouTube stream allowed fans to choose from three different channels.

The Coachella YouTube stream allowed fans to choose from three different channels.

With all systems go the day of show, the real test comes once the band takes the stage. “We always get as a safety the front-of-house [mix] and we make sure we grab that at their feed to the drive lines so that no band can accidentally interrupt it,” Neuberger explains. “Rarely but occasionally for a headliner’s mix, they have a reference they’d like for us to use because they have a lot of audio production in their set. So on occasion, we’ll use the front-of-house mix and add audience, but 90 percent of the shows we’re capturing the multitrack audio and our mixers are creating a custom mix with audience for the broadcast. Everybody’s mixing on the fly. We get a good mix quickly; we might get a line check if we’re lucky, and then the band walks out and they start to play.”

Lauryn Hill’s involvement included a live performance and exclusive interview.

Lauryn Hill’s involvement included a live performance and exclusive interview.

Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes

Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes

Taking a hybrid approach to the mix—part broadcast mixing, part live sound mixing—Neuberger’s main focus as soon as the band hits the first note is how quickly the engineers can get an excellent balance dialed in, especially with bands those engineers are not intimately familiar with.

As soon as the mix is up and running, the feed is sent to Master Control. All performances are recorded with the video line cut in the live mix and EVS in the Trio Video trucks. “We recorded on their Elvis, which is the nickname for the EVS. We are extensively using EVS in this truck and this production, but my Webcast director then calls up the band I’ve scheduled and either puts it on the line for one of those channels: live live or if it’s been slightly time-shifted, he can call it up. Audio is already married to the line cut at that time; there’s no sweetening at that point.”

The next link in the chain is tech services partner AEG-Digital Media, which Neuberger says did an incredible job of encoding. AEG-Digital Media’s video player was embedded in the YouTube channel and easily supported the three-channel experience.

“And then the final link is this year, for the first year, we were able to have a platform partner of YouTube,” Neuberger says. “YouTube is the expert in full-motion video; that’s where people come for full-motion video. They were great partners and they were right there in my truck all weekend so we could work interactively as things changed, schedules needed to be modified; they were a great partner.”

Also important is the technology advances both companies have contributed to this emerging trend. While Neuberger may be sending out high-res audio, some viewers may be hearing it in less-than-ideal situations. Fortunately, YouTube and AEG-Digital Media have solutions to ensure that each stream is heard in its most pristine shape. “These things are all doing a dynamic adaptive screening and they’re able now to diagnostically check the end-user’s broadband, pipeline speed and speed of their computer processor. The video player dynamically adapts to what the end-user can accommodate. So if you’ve got a great broadband piped into your house and a top-tier computer, you’re going to get the highest quality. If you’re on a dial-up with a 9-year-old laptop, it automatically throttles down. Unlike a year or two ago, the end-user doesn’t have to do anything.

“The technology has changed and I think finally, with Coachella 2011, we have been able to deliver a rich, musically rewarding experience that we could all envision in 2006, but the signal path wasn’t there,” he continues. “It’s been improving. We received this year a number of compliments about the audio quality. So we know the audio and video was received by the end-user in a high-quality fashion. The number of viewers plus the engagement time tells me that people found it rewarding, and I think we’ve finally crossed a major bridge in being able to deliver a technically satisfying experience.

“I’ve been increasingly pleased with the quality and fidelity that comes out online when I’m working with such top-tiered encoding partners and platform partners. I’ve been really pleased with the final audio. I specifically sat in the truck when Guy was mixing Kings of Leon and it sounded great. We’ve finally got ourselves into a space with strategic partners. My Springboard Productions company, which has done more than 20 festivals, we understand how to make this work in a festival context, which moves so quickly. There’s no soundcheck; there’s barely a line check. For video and audio, this is moving incredibly quickly.”

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