Broadcasting The Pickathon Music Festival
180 Crew Members, 6 Stages and a Little Blackmagic Design
Held just outside of Portland, Oregon each August, Pickathon is not your typical music festival. The founder's goal was simply to create the best weekend festival of the year for music lovers.
A pretty lofty goal, as many people think of Glastonbury, Coachella or Bonnaroo when they think of music festivals. Those are some big names to compare to. So what makes the Pickathon producers think they can offer more? It's because they keep innovating and keep the community growing and participating.
Innovation for Pickathon means creating and refining separate, unique performance stages. Bringing different music lineups and styles together each year. Being the world's only large music festival to eliminate plastic and single use items. Opening up festival planning to the public.
While innovation is essential, community is the backbone of the festival. Pickathon brings together a community of music lovers; whether they are sitting in front of the Galaxy Barn stage or sitting in font of their computer in Iceland live streaming Feist's set. A huge part of building the community is based on live broadcasts and live streaming the festival to viewers around the globe. And that is where Ryan Stiles, Pickathon's producer, comes in.
What It Takes to Pickathon
Ryan Stiles, a production veteran who has worked live events for the NHL, NBA and NFL, as well as owning his own Portland area production company, definitely was not thinking small.
For the 2013 festival, Ryan had a fairly staggering amount of area to cover and 50 plus acts to capture. Six stages ran musical acts from the start of the day until well past midnight. Each minute of Pickathon was recorded, shown on festival monitors and live streamed. Live footage was constantly sent to the various projectors, b-roll had to be shot and artist and festival attendee interviews had to be shot and edited. The streaming site (KEXP.com and Pickathon.com) had to be maintained, which also included dedicating crew to build an interactive online community and maintain it before, during and after the show. And finally, DVDs had to be created after the last act was finished.
To handle this, Ryan had 180 crew members (three times as many crew members as acts), 60 cameras, miles of optical fiber cable connecting every stage with a 57 foot master control truck located at the main stage, numerous monitors on every stage, meeting area and musician area, and in the middle of it all were a Blackmagic Design ATEM Production Studio 4K, a ATEM 1ME, four ATEM Television Studios and a number of ATEM Camera and Studio Converters.
ATEM Production Studio 4K and ATEM Television Studio are part of Blackmagic Design's family of broadcast quality live production switchers. With ATEM Production Studio 4K, Pickathon can connect up to eight SD, HD or Ultra HD 4K video cameras, disk recorders and computers, while having all of the features of a professional switcher, including chroma key, transitions, media pool, downstream keyers, audio mixer, multi view and the world's first 6G-SDI and HDMI 4K video connections. ATEM Television Studio provides full broadcast quality production switching with real time H.264 encoding, so Pickathon can capture live events directly to files for Internet distribution, which Ryan used for live streaming the festival.
"We needed switchers that were powerful and absolutely reliable. Not a minute of the festival could be lost. There was no way we could have managed all of this without ATEM and Blackmagic Design," said Ryan.
A Different Look For Each Stage
The festival was broken into six main stage areas, along with smaller areas for workshops and arts. The main Mt. View stage, used for for the festival's top acts and included more than five football fields of fabric to make up the structure; the Galaxy Barn, dedicated to rock music; the Workshop Barn for acoustic acts; the Starlight stage for after hour performances in the open air; the Fir Meadows stage for alternative acts; and the Woods stage, a unique stage made entirely out of branches and tree limbs nestled right in the middle of the forest.
According to Ryan: "We were very spread out, and the stages ran from large venues to small, intimate gatherings. We needed to capture not only the artists performing, but also really give a feel for what it was like to be in each place. You had to have the feel of the closeness and emotion of the Galaxy Barn as being different than the acoustic vibe of the Workshop Barn. And that is where the 180 crew and almost 30 stage cameras came into play.
"Each of the stages had its own camera setups, and crew members had roving cameras to capture the feeling of being right there. All of these feeds were constantly coming into the master control truck, and there were at least two stages running at the same time, all the time," Ryan said.
In Ryan's master control truck, simultaneous feeds were coming in over an optical fiber network from each of the stages, with one ATEM Television Studio networking those feeds. Feeds were then sent from the trucks to the various stage projectors and monitors, a 60 inch screen in the musicians' trailer area and encoded using ATEM Television Studios.
Switching for the main stage was done by ATEM Production Studio 4K, which switched streams from eight different cameras, including four roving SDI cameras and four robotic cameras. Feeds from the main stage were controlled with a laptop using the ATEM's Software Control Panel, with a switched master feed of the main stage streamed using ATEM Production Studio 4K in conjunction with Livestream.
"The main stage was active from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm every day of the festival. There really was no downtime for the ATEMs, and they handled it perfectly," said Ryan.
"Spread throughout the grounds, we also had the ATEM Studio and Camera Converters. These were invaluable, and are built really tough. It was very important that distance not tie us down, and the ATEM converters let us spread out and get cameras in all sorts of out of the way places," continued Ryan.
By the end of the weekend, tens of thousands of people took part live, whether at the event itself or watching the live streams on the festival's website and YouTube channel. Hundreds of hours of performances, interviews and crowd interaction were captured.
"People can only dream about the amount of content and stories that happened. The community is still active and growing months after the event, and we have plans for growing in 2014, adding set lists to things like ITunes and even starting a TV show. With affordable and easy to use broadcast quality equipment like the ATEM production switchers, we can offer something unique and still keep the do it yourself drive that lets us innovate," concluded Ryan.