Catch Up With: Tom Watt, Technical Manager
Meet our Technical Manager, Tom Watt! We caught up with Tom to find out more about IAH’s new high definition, multi-camera broadcast system. We chat through the benefits of live streaming and Tom’s experience of working on livestream shows so far. If you want to find out more about how live streaming works, this blog post is for you!
Can you tell us a bit more about the new broadcast system in IAH and why you chose this equipment in particular?
“We have equipped the venue with a flexible, top quality streaming set-up that can offer very high level results using industry standard equipment, but also has a lot of flexibility in how it can be operated so that there are options to facilitate different budgets.
This allows us to work with bands and artists to make a custom experience and accommodate any ideas they may have within our system to achieve almost anything, and reflect their specific personality and performance alongside the lighting and audio.
Stability was also a key factor; we can’t afford for anything to go wrong during a stream so the equipment is all tried and tested, and there are back-ups in the key areas such as encoding and recording. It would be too nerve-wracking to be relying on one laptop as the heart of the set-up, like other alternative packages opt for.
Our infrastructure has also been improved; we now have a cable installation with SDI cables for cameras and CAT6 for control around the building offering 13 different locations for us to set up our cameras or add additional ones. There is even the option to stream interviews from the dressing rooms before or after the show!
If a promoter chooses to work with their own production company, this cable installation (along with other aspects of our streaming facilities) can also be utilized to work with their own cameras. It makes life a lot easier when the lines are already in place and will save a lot of time and money.”
How have you found the experience of working on livestream shows?
“The results have certainly exceeded our expectations; the equipment has proved that it can deliver streams that compete with high level productions and it’s also been reliable and fun to operate. The ease of use has allowed our team to show off their creative skills and focus on making it look great.
Promoters have been extremely pleased with the results, and especially with what they have been able to achieve within their budget. When we’ve had an extended team in to make use of all the equipment, which is offered in our enhanced package, we can have a lot of movement which captures the exciting atmosphere of a show like Pop Will Eat Itself. With Cosmo Sheldrake, our core team were able to reflect the warm vibe of the live show and create a more intimate livestream.
The robotic cameras mean we can transport viewers to the venue, allowing us to achieve great close ups and crowd shots but without the risk of camera operators intruding on the audience and bands’ experience.”
From your experience, what makes a good livestream?
“Offering something unique to other gigs already available online is a key element, so capturing the atmosphere of being at our beautiful, Grade II listed venue is something special that we can offer.
Audio is also key; we need to make sure that the quality of the sound does the musicians justice so we have a dedicated broadcast desk to handle the mix for the stream. Without this, the mix for the live show itself could sound strange on a stream as you also have the sound from the instruments on stage integrated into what you are hearing. The streaming mix is completely separate, allowing it to achieve a studio-quality mix. We are lucky to have a separate room to mix it in, with studio monitors and other equipment.
It’s important to tailor the stream to the artists’ style; we have made a point of having the streaming and lighting teams work closely. We are lucky to have a great lighting rig at the venue with talented lighting directors so we put a lot of time into testing how it looks in sound check and ensuring we make the artist look great.”
What advice would you give to somebody that is thinking about putting on a livestream event?
“We’ve already learnt a lot and really enjoy helping promoters and bands get the best results from what we’ve experienced already. I’d advise you to get in touch with us if you’re interested to find out more or want to talk through an idea, as we’re happy to guide promoters through the process. It’s really exciting to work on different concepts for each stream, so we are always keen to understand your vision and then work with you to make it happen!
I’d also advise anyone thinking of streaming to not be too intimidated by the licencing aspect. It can feel like a lot to organise and understand, but we have members of the team that can assist with this and are in regular communication with PRS.”
As an artist yourself, what do you think are the benefits of streaming a live show?
“Touring internationally is very time-consuming and, on certain levels, difficult to make a lot of money from. To be able to share a concert from a prestigious venue in a town with a renowned musical reputation is a great opportunity. It’s very unfortunate how difficult it seems to be becoming to arrange shows abroad, especially in the US were the visa fees keep going up, so being able to share a live experience with our fans over there is a good alternative to actually being there.
Making our music more accessible is also a key benefit. Live shows can exclude many fans, be that because they have been priced out of attending a live show in person, because they don’t live near a city on the touring circuit, or because of their accessibility requirements. Streaming opens up the live music experience.”
How have your staff found turning their skills to live streaming?
“They’ve certainly risen to the challenge of mastering the new skills involved in putting together a great stream. It’s been a challenging time for them so it’s been great to have something to focus on. Fortunately, one of our lighting directors already had a lot of experience with film and IT so these were invaluable skills whilst working on the project.”
You can find out more about our multi-camera broadcast system here.