Arlene's Grocery and FirstLive Capture the Magic of Live Performance With ATEM Television Studio
Ever since it first opened its doors in the mid 1990s as a bar and live music venue, Arlene's Grocery has become an institution in the New York City rock scene. Behind its bright red and yellow awning and unusual name (yes, it started as a grocery store), Arlene's has hosted some of the most talented up and coming bands to visit the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Danny Garcia has always had a passion for live music. He spent four years as the owner of a live music venue in Texas, but after visiting New York City in 1998, he knew he needed to relocate and put himself in the center of it all.
"I went to this tiny jazz club in the west village," said Danny. "Tiny, as in the size of a living room. There was a band playing jazz music with no amplification, just acoustics. And the vibe, the magic in that room was just incredible. I knew I wanted to somehow capture and share that magic."
Today, Arlene's Grocery books over 100 bands each month, and they play seven days per week, almost 365 days per year. Every performance is recorded, and bands are given samples with the option to purchase video or audio recordings.
At Arlene's, Danny started out as a sound engineer, but today he wears many more hats. His production company, FirstLive, offers live Internet broadcasts and a variety of in house recording options for bands at Arlene's Grocery. He is also the author of the FirstLive Guide to Live Music Venues, currently offering New York City and Austin editions that put hundreds of live music venues at readers' fingertips.
One thing Danny has noticed throughout his years as a sound engineer is the increasing role that video plays in the live music experience. To help him provide quality video of these performances, Danny relies on Blackmagic Design's ATEM Television Studio.
Making Video a Forethought
For a long time, Danny focused on the audio aspect of live music. Then in 2001, he was asked to record performances for a new company called Digital Club Network. According to Danny, they were pioneers of setting up video in live performance venues.
"They were ahead of their time," Danny said. "For most people at that time, streaming was very expensive, transmission rates were slow, and things were constantly crashing. Digital Club Network had a video crew, and even though I was their audio guy, I started to see how video fit in, and I thought it was awesome. That's what I began asking questions about video."
Danny then spent a lot of time exploring various video solutions. Many were out of his budget, but he experimented with security cameras, video mixers, analog mixers, etc. He bought products off of EBay, looking for something that would provide good signal quality.
He was most impressed with the new cameras coming out, and was eventually able to purchase a used camera, and then a second, third and fourth, which he used for several years with an analog signal. When HD video switchers emerged, Danny jumped at the chance to further improve his video quality, but in the beginning, they were quite expensive. Then, Danny discovered Blackmagic Design's ATEM Television Studio.
Finding the Missing Link
"When Blackmagic made the announcement that they would be coming out with an HD video switcher, I was very excited," said Danny. "I am always looking for ways to improve our recordings, and I knew that once the HD video upgrade was out, the ATEM Television Studio would be that last piece of the puzzle that I was missing."
The ATEM Television Studio is a full broadcast quality production switcher with real time H.264 encoding, so users can capture live events directly to files for Internet distribution. ATEM Television Studio includes six video inputs with both broadcast SDI and consumer HDMI inputs for cameras and computers. With the ATEM Television Studio, users also get a software control panel, chroma keyer, two media player frame stores, downstream keyers, transitions and more useful features.
Connected to the ATEM Studio are four HD cameras, with HDMI running out of the camera to the HD SDI inputs on the ATEM. The runs are 50 feet, 75 feet and 100 feet long.
Danny has also implemented four Blackmagic Mini Converters HDMI to SDI, which run signals out of the cameras and into the ATEM Television Studio.
Danny connects all of this video equipment to his audio setup, which includes TC Electronic outboard processing and, currently, a PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 digital mixing console. For audio, all of the inputs on stage are split and sent to the studio mixing console where a studio engineer crafts a mix. The mix is sent digitally via the SPDIF output of the console to the AES/EBU digital input (BNC connector) of the ATEM Television Studio. On a typical night, four or five bands perform for 40 to 50 minutes at Arlene's Grocery. Within minutes of the last note, the H.264 MP4 multi camera video file is ready to share with the band.
Simplifying the Process
According to Danny, the ATEM's simplicity and streamlined design make it very easy to learn and navigate.
"When the ATEM is up and running, producing a basic video doesn't get any easier," said Danny. "The design of the switchers is simple and not over the top, but it is still very powerful and gets the job done. I'm excited to get into some of the additional features of the product, such as watermark videos."
Danny's near term goals include opening a FirstLive Café, which will be a hybrid café and venue with multimedia recording capabilities. For this he plans to implement even more ATEM Television Studios. He also plans to take the ATEM mobile to provide sound systems for musicians who hire him to record outside of the studio.
"Within a few short years, video technology has come such a long way," said Danny. "Today, consumers can get high quality video footage that outperforms the professional equipment that was available ten years ago. Blackmagic Design's products are no exception. With Blackmagic Design I am able to create high quality videos in a very affordable way."