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Rock Band Incubus Creates Multimedia Event to Connect with Fans
Director Marc Scarpa helped Incubus create an event in an L.A. warehouse that let the band interact with fans in-person and around the globe.
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Channel 2, the “Now” channel, used an Apple iPod touch as the interface, strung like a high-tech back- stage laminate around the neck of a different crew member each day, including Scarpa and mascot Duke The Dog, and streamed a different first-person POV on a Wi-Fi signal to the Livestream platform.

Channel 3, titled “When,” was the ambient stream, using video from the surveillance cameras and audio from open microphones set up around the room to provide viewers with the big picture. “You could hear the conversations as they took place around the room,” Scarpa says. “It put you in the room with everyone.”

All three channels were streamed live and discrete on two dedicated channels, www.incubushqlive.com and www.livestream.com/incubus, as well as on www.facebook.com/Incubus and other social media channels.

Scarpa says that the webcast had a crew of 11. They included the typical roles that have migrated from Hollywood to the web, such as himself as director/producer, an assistant producer, a TD, and a DP. But live event streaming calls for some new titles as well. They included a social media producer and a digital media manager, who organized the slew of still and video files constantly coming in from a variety of sources.

“The social media producer was managing the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, the conver- sation in both directions,” says Scarpa. “For instance, Brandon might have been painting on a canvas with a fan who was there with him when ‘Dan1234’ from New York was telling them [via Facebook] about a particular painting he had done, and Brandon can immediately address ‘Dan’ directly via the documentary camera. It was all about having a real conversation but it was taking place across all media and multiple platforms.”

Sounds Good

Understandably for a music-oriented streaming event, there was considerable emphasis on sound. Darren La Groe, the band’s live monitor mixer, pulled triple duty for the event, mixing front-of-house, monitor, and webcast audio through a 96-channel Avid Profile console to the house PA, a QSC WideLine series line array, which was useful for its wide dispersion characteristic in the confined space, with Clair BT218 subwoofers, and to Sennheiser 2000 in-ear monitors for the band. Those in the hall would experience what most Incubus audiences did at live shows — La Groe stayed with the same microphones he used for live shows, such as an Audio-Technica AT4050 on guitar amps — but he adjusted things for the webcast.

“On the webcast’s output buss [from the console] I used some mastering compression plug-ins and a brick-wall limiter,” he says. “I treated the web mix like I was mixing a live album. I tried to keep the stereo image pretty true to their album sound or placement on stage. Drums and keys and guitar were panned accordingly and Brandon’s vocal was right up the middle. Since I had to mix in the same room as the performance I would run outside in the middle of songs with my in-ear monitors to listen to the web-cast. I’d use my iPad with a VNC network to my console and make adjustments to the streaming mix.”

La Groe also recorded the events, using the same MacBook Pro with an RME MADIface express card interface that he uses on tour. “I used the REAPER [Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering, and Recording] software and recorded all 64 channels to a single FireWire 800[GB] drive,” he says.

In fact, all of the video and audio for Incubus HQ Live was recorded and made almost instantly available as video-on-demand to the band’s YouTube channel. This included a 15-second film of the fans’ experience using an Incubus-inspired Viddy pack on their iPhones.

Another key platform was Anvato, which provided its Media Content Platform for Incubus HQ Live that enabled near real-time VOD syndication of the streaming event. This feature allowed for on-the-fly capture and edit features for rapid delivery of clips to broadcast and cable news outlets and provided live transcoding of the event as well.

“Anvato let us do the real-time broadcast of our line cut and syndicate all of that media to the press outlets,” says Scarpa, who noted that while reporters might have had to go back and edit that content before they posted it, the raw footage was already out there for all to see. “Their real-time clipping combined with real-time transfer technology let us do that syndication to YouTube in [a quarter] of the time it usually took doing it the old way, where we had to use one device to capture content, another to edit it and yet another device to upload it. It was a direct connection that let us syndicate the files directly to YouTube. It saved us on manpower and time. Editing in real time and their optimized transfer was the secret sauce for the success.” 

None of this would have been possible on a reasonable budget without wireless connectivity. Scarpa says the crew had tried to get AT&T to run a business line into the event space but were rebuffed when the broadband provider said they couldn’t find the address, despite the fact that an AT&T switching center is within a couple of blocks of the space. Instead, Los Angeles-based Fireline Broadband provided a 10-mbps dedicated two-way digital microwave link for a Wi-Fi signal.

So much wireless signal in a close space — in addition to Wi-Fi, the band was using wireless microphones, the communications links were wireless, and all of the video was running wirelessly as well — could have been a disaster without the good frequency management that staff began well before the event started. “We had given ourselves time to check and adjust frequencies and resolve [any] frequency conflicts well before the show began,” says Scarpa. “Keeping a log of all the wireless frequencies is important.”

Incubus’ next streaming adventure won’t be quite as complex or lengthy — the band members streamed the opening show of their U.S. tour at Red Rocks in Denver on Aug. 17 via a single broadband channel, a walk in the park compared to the weeklong multi-stream event in July. But Steve Rennie says Incubus has a streaming strategy going forward, part of a music industry that’s still trying to figure out how digital can help it as much as it has hurt it.

“[Streaming] takes it to the next level,” says Rennie. “We’re going to take the participatory Incubus HQ Live concept on the road with us,” where they’ll be deploying LiveU’s portable video-over-cellular backpack solution that uses multiple cellular links simultaneously to provide a seamless broadband channel optimized for up to 1080p HD video transmission from the field. “We’ll have that at an Incubus HQ Live tent set up at the venue at concession points for fans to gather at and interact with each other and the band. It’s the future, and it’s great.”

This article first appeared in the October/November 2011 issue of Streaming Media under the title "Incubus Notches Up the Streaming Connection."

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