Get It Live Over the Web

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

SXSW SHOWS STREAMED LIVE IN HD

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A selection of screen grabs from the SXSW 2011 live stream

A selection of screen grabs from the SXSW 2011 live stream

True, many mid-level bands find themselves on 200-plus-dates-a-year tours, finding that ticket sales and merch provide the majority of their income. But with ever-increasing ticket prices—not to mention the soaring cost of fuel—is this traditional touring model really able to keep the cash flow coming in? Factor in that an artist just can’t hit all of the spots across the map on their tour; it’s just not feasible. So why not tackle both issues with one fell swoop—stream your concert, online, in high-resolution audio and video to a much larger, global audience.

This trend is in no way going to replace the physical tour; fans still want to experience that live feel, that excitement that only comes from waiting in line, checking out the opening act and then—finally—their favorite band hits the stage. But, especially in a festival situation, streaming a concert online sure does make financial sense.

We recently spoke with XI Media’s (Austin) owner/producer Dusty Kraatz and audio director John Riddle about their massive undertaking of live audio and video streaming from six different stages—Fader Fort tent, streams for NPR and those for Rolling Stone—at the recent four-day SXSW. The Fader Fort stream alone saw 1.6 million views managed through MySpace, which has a relationship with content delivery network Akamai to handle any bandwidth issues.

THE SETUP
While Kraatz and Riddle would prefer to have a clean view of the stage or front-of-house to craft the live mix, at SXSW they found themselves in less-than-ideal locales. “We were always set up away from the stages,” Riddle says. “At the Fader Fort, we were in a production trailer behind the stage. At the Rolling Stone shows, we were in a separate hallway with partitions. For the NPR shows, we were located with all of the NPR staff, where we actually had a view from front of house.”

And while close proximity to FOH is optimum, they are quick to point out that they are relatively “invisible” to the show’s live sound engineers. To ensure that they are getting everything they need to put out a high-quality stream, the team works closely with the location house crew, particularly when they are charged with multitracking the shows. “We would have to interface with their patch engineer and their monitor engineer to make sure that we were getting the correct patching,” explains Riddle.

For the Fader Fort shows, they received separate stems from the FOH Avid console so that Riddle’s engineer could mix the stereo drums, stereo guitars, stereo instruments, bass, mono vocal and stereo audience or house mics for the live stream. “Then those would also be processed in the box on our end,” Riddle says. “We were using Metric Halo ULN-2 and 2882 interfaces to take those stems and the house mics, and then mix them all together and do some post-processing that would be used to tailor it to the broadcast feed. Then we would send a stereo feed to the Tricaster broadcast switcher and we’d also be recording all of the individual stems and the broadcast stereo feed to hard disk.” Monitoring was via ADAM A5X and Etymotic in-ears so they could do some sound separation.

“At the Rolling Stone shows, we were running a full split with multitracking. We took the split [from the stage] into PreSonus Digimax LT pre’s and then ADAT out of those into an Alesis HD24XR recorder. We then ran analog out of the HD24 into a Midas Verona 24-channel console for mixing and sent the stereo out to broadcast. We also backed up that stereo mix with a Zoom H4 recorder.” Monitoring was via Sony 7506 and Etymotic headphones.






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