Moving a festival online tons of work
Meeting the challenge took preparation and testing
June 17, 2020
The process of moving GearFest online involved setting up a temporary video production and broadcast studio in the Performance Theatre.
It was accomplished by “our team that typically works in the theater on performances and meetings and things like that,” said Bob Bailey, GearFest’s executive director.
“We had to test a lot of technology and make sure that we can securely get the content into the building so it can be streamed back out to the rest of the world,” he said.
When it became clear that GearFest was going to shift from live on-campus happenings to live-streamed and geographically scattered happenings, Sweetwater’s Director of Technical Services Jimmy Blankenship told his team, “‘Hey guys. This is something we’re going to have to get really good at.’”
They assessed what equipment they had and what equipment they’d need.
“The question was posed: ‘Hey, what can we do to improve what we can do streaming in this room?’” Blankenship recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, a nice piece of streaming hardware instead of relying on computers would be great.’”
BIg machines for big events
They ended up purchasing something called the Pearl-2.
“It will do six simultaneous broadcasts and multiple locations,” he said. “You know, Facebook, internal feed, YouTube, whatever…across six outlets.
“We’re combining it with our cameras and mixers as well as computers to pump out videos and that sort of thing,” Blankenship said.
Two computers will be devoted to live content, he said, and one to prerecorded video. A fourth will stand by in case a technological snafu requires some emergency interstitial content.
Sweetwater’s editorial director, Mitch Gallagher, will act as host.
It will take 10 people to run everything, Blankenship said.
“I am going to be the main producer,” he said. “Bob Bailey will be giving me information. We’ll have someone from marketing giving me information. And I will funnel information to the team. And, of course, we will have IT on site.”
Excited for the challenge
By the time GearFest rolls around, the team will have done many dress rehearsals.
One might be excused for likening this to a field hospital during a battle, albeit with zero casualties.
Blankenship said he is excited for the challenge. He is also excited about what this means for the future.
“This is a tool set we get to use,” he said. “I think this is a new reality of things we are going to be doing. This is a long-term thing. I am excited to see how this is going to transpire from here.
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