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Fashion Week Los Angeles Gets a Streaming Video Makeover

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Fashion Week Los Angeles streams its runway shows online, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. Luckily, Streaming Media is here with a streaming video makeover.

A little background: Los Angeles Fashion Week occurs twice per year, in March and October, and was created to bring awareness to the LA fashion industry. One of the groups that organizes Fashion Week events is Fashion Week Los Angeles (FWLA), which puts together runway shows. FWLA was acquired by the production company UCA Media Group, which streams 3 days of runway shows online for each Fashion Week, with about 150 designers showing their work over that time. M. Gio Ferrigno (right), a managing partner at UCA, reached out to Streaming Media for a little advice on how to stream better. We were happy to put him in touch with an expert, but more on that later.

Ferrigno is an experienced commercial and movie producer. He has a staff of about 20 people at UCA who work on the FWLA streams. Before we connected him to a streaming pro, we spoke to him about what UCA does and what it wants to do better.

Prior to this interview, UCA had streamed eight FWLA seasons, each a challenging and expensive project, Ferrigno says. One ongoing challenge is getting enough bandwidth. At each location, Ferrigno needs a 6Mbps upload connection, which simply can’t be had at a reasonable price. That 6Mbps physical line is UCA’s biggest FWLA expense, followed by equipment rental and purchase costs.

Ferrigno has also had trouble choosing a live video platform. UCA has looked at Livestream and Ustream and was one of the first companies to use YouTube’s live streaming. While Ferrigno likes YouTube, its Content ID system creates problems for him. Because designers use copyrighted music in their shows, UCA’s FWLA streams have been automatically discontinued more than once. To get around that, Ferrigno’s team substitutes an audio track of music specially created by its music coordinator.

Once UCA has streamed a three-­day event, the next problem is what to do with all that HD video. Even when UCA could only stream in 720p, it captured content at 1080p. More recently, it’s been capturing 4K ProRes 4444 video to assure a wide color gamut, then streaming 1080p. It moved from a NewTek TriCaster to a Blackmagic ATEM 2 M/E 12G­SDI­capable production switcher. Content is stored on a storage area network (SAN) within the UCA offices using Toshiba hard drives. Last season’s shows resulted in 92TB of footage recorded from eight stationary broadcast cameras and two additional roaming cameras. Besides the burden of archiving all that content, UCA has problems tagging and organizing it so that it can find footage at a later time.

UCA makes some money from its FWLA coverage—such as licensing video to appear as demo content on Microsoft Windows 10 laptops for sale in electronics stores—but would like to do a better job monetizing its work. Each show has a $65,000 budget, which UCA doesn’t come close to recouping.

“We don’t make money from this. This has been a loss for eight seasons,” Ferrigno says.

Streaming LA Fashion Week in Style

To help Ferrigno conquer his many video streaming difficulties, we connected him with Rob Roskin (right), a senior performance advisor with Level 3 Communications and formerly a senior manager for video operations and emerging technologies at MTV Networks. As many who have attended Streaming Media East or West conferences know, Roskin is an expert in live video and an excellent speaker. He was the ideal person to help UCA move past its live video pain points.

The first issue Roskin needed to tackle was the problem Ferrigno didn’t even know he had: getting away from using YouTube as the sole distribution method and starting with an online video platform (OVP).

“There are companies that are designed just to help this specifically,” Roskin says. “ ‘I have a bunch of content that I create. I create both live content and on­demand content. I need a way to catalog these files, so I can figure out what I have where and I never lose things, and then I am going to need somebody to give me a way to play back all of these files.’” He mentions thePlatform, Ooayla, and Brightcove, though he emphasizes he’s not endorsing any one in particular. “What these guys do is basically take you from ‘I have everything on YouTube [to] now I really want to do it myself and I want to run my own ads, and really own my own content and have a good sense of what I have, and have everything in one place.’”

With an OVP running the encoding, distribution, and storage, Ferrigno’s team would be free to focus on other matters: getting the best cameras, lining up shots, and organizing sponsorships. It would also put the team’s workflow in the cloud, where it belongs.

“That would be an inevitable part of moving to an online video platform. My assumption is that they would help you store those videos so that in the worst case there is at least multiple copies. If a hard drive were to die, you don’t lose any data,” Roskin says. And don’t worry about cloud storage costs: “Storage only goes in one direction. The price is only going to get cheaper to store those files. As formats get bigger, it’s going to seem like so little to store something from say, eight years ago. It’s probably going to be a fraction of the file size that you have now.”

Pain Point 1: Connectivity Costs

UCA’s biggest Fashion Week expense is event bandwidth, and it’s a recurring difficulty, no matter the venue. The event space’s sales support person always starts by pitching UCA a 3Mbps upside connection, and it always fails them.

“All of a sudden, we have issues of uploading, and they go, ‘I don’t know, that never happens with three megs,’ and so we have to go to six megs. That is something like clockwork that happens every season,” Ferrigno says.

The solution is to move to a cellular bonding service, something UCA hasn’t tried. Drawing from his history at MTV, Roskin explained how it works.

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