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© 2017 Robert Reinlund

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77 hours Live Stream for new Esperanza Spalding Album

How do you compose and record an entire album from scratch in just 77 hours while simultaneously live streaming the entire process to millions of fans? Grammy-winner jazz musician Esperanza Spalding brought her music-making process to her fans using the Viz Opus compact control room system.

How do you compose and record an entire album from scratch in just 77 hours? And interact with 1.4 people at the same time? This is the question jazz musician Esperanza Spalding wanted to answer for her millions of fans by live streaming the entire process on Facebook Live. The live stream production was organized by the Norway-based music platform and format, Oiid, using a single operator on Vizrt’s “magic box” Viz Opus.

Reaching music fans on Facebook Live

Esperanza Spalding is a Grammy Award-winning American jazz bassist, singer and composer. On top of that, she is also a Harvard professor. In early August 2017, Spalding challenged Oiid to produce a simple Facebook Live production for the composing and recording of her new album, Exposure. She wanted to bring the whole music-making process to her fans so they could be with her every step of the way. The original concept was for a simple live stream, but Oiid is part of Media City Bergen and the Norwegian Media Cluster, as is Vizrt. Six weeks before the Facebook Live stream was scheduled to begin, Oiid personnel approached Vizrt who provided Viz Opus, Vizrt’s compact control room system.

TV 2 Norway documentary filmmaker Robert Reinlund and director Pål S. Schaathun, were the primary production team brought from Norway to organize and execute the live production. “We only had six weeks to build the system in Norway and get it to LA in time for the live stream,” said Robert Reinlund. “I literally carried the hard drive of the system configured in Norway in my pocket on the plane to LA. Once there, Pål put the system together with just hours to spare.”

9am PST, 12 September 2017, Spalding began her live stream and started the process of composing and recording the Exposure album. 77 hours later, the album was finished, champagne was poured, and more than 1.4 million viewers had watched the live production.

The “magic box”

Viz Opus is Vizrt’s answer to the need of media companies to have a very efficient way of producing live content for secondary channels and live streams. The single “magic box” system includes 8 video inputs, a small media asset management system, template-based graphics and an automation system for controlling the entire production. The output is both SDI and any flavor of IP-stream.

Viz Opus ships with a customizable graphics package and a series of templates. For Esperanza Spalding’s live production, those graphics were slightly modified to change the color and add the Oiid and Vizrt logos.

“The set-up was incredibly simple,” said Eduardo Mancz, VP Sales for Vizrt Americas. “A standard Viz Opus system was delivered to the recording studio in Los Angeles. The hardware was a single HP workstation with an NVIDIA M6000 graphics card and Matrox XMIO 3 video card. An identical system was in Norway and our team there made the needed configuration changes, including graphics. The production system was setup with less than a day of work.”

77 hours of live production

The challenge of going live for 77 hours meant that the live productions tools would have to be running continuously with no down-time. Four Panasonic GH4 and GH5s were mounted in the recording studio and control room with (mostly) static shots. During the day, a team of camera operators manned four handheld SDI cameras that were used in the recording studio. A Viz Opus operator live switched between cameras and added graphics, while another operator monitored audio levels coming from the studio, microphones worn by Spalding, guest musicians and the sound engineer.

Nights were a different challenge. The studio was in constant use 24-hours a day and the live stream continued throughout that time. When the Oiid team was not in the recording studio, Viz Opus was set to auto switch between cameras, double-boxes and quad-boxes. The auto feature allowed a continuous live production while other musicians arrived and used the space to rehearse and record.

Success by the numbers

The live production was a success by all metrics including the album selling out all 7777 copies before the recording had finished. On Facebook, the live stream reached 3,273,228 people with 1,422,325 video views. 4,094,608 minutes of the live stream were watched with 397,521 reactions, comments and shares.

Click here to see a behind the scenes video on vimeo

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