Theater Tech with Live-Streaming?

Kristi R-C

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Joined
Jan 21, 2016
Location
Wisconsin
Set up your Zoom room invite to mute everyone as they join in. Your actors can unmute themselves by pressing the space bar when it's their turn to speak. Let your audience know they should keep their hands in their pockets and when it's time to "clap" do with the ASL sign which is "jazz hands shaking by their ears."

Have friends who did a lovely Shakespeare reading this way and it was a treat!

Also know - Zoom limits attendees, so if you sell "tickets" that may help.
 
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spiwak2005

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Nov 21, 2004
Location
Utica, NY
Thank you all for the replies! I realized a clarification should be made from my initial post: for live-streaming the show, as of now we're planning to have actors in their homes broadcasting through Zoom so as not to endanger them and the audience and ignore social distancing guidelines. There's some talk of moving the show to a podcast format, but for now we're thinking of having actors in their homes and the audience somehow brought in, muted.
There is a setting in Zoom to "Allow live streaming meetings" (under In Meeting Advanced) that might work for the audience. Zoom meeting for all the remote actors, then start the Facebook or YouTube Live stream.
 

MRW Lights

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Jan 4, 2017
Location
NYC
Do be aware that millions of users are reported as being active on Zoom simultaneously which has been seen to cause some significant lag. Keep that in mind in your pursuit of live performance with an audience. I would definitely suggest the live stream option so that you're taking advantage of an external encoder rather than having your audience take up bandwidth within your zoom session.
 

LesWilson

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Mar 2, 2012
Location
South Florida, USA
It's a creative idea. I'd think you would run into some timing issues depending on the type of performance. You'd have to get creative with lighting effects and sets. We cancelled our school musical. TRW extended the license terms to include next year at no charge. It was difficult but eased a little because we did not have too many Seniors. It's a play. Not the end of the world. It's a teaching moment for dealing with disappointment that will serve them well in the future.

If I HAD to do it, I'd use the rehearsal time rehearsing on Zoom so actors get used to it and you shake out technical problems. You could run sound effects in your Zoom session but I'm concerned about anything requiring tight timing. Once you are satisfied, perform it and record it. You could switch between Gallery and Normal modes for chorus and solo performance. Recording it gives you a video file (a large one) that you can upload to a true livestream service such as livestream.com where they broadcast it to your audience. One advantage is your cast could watch. But of course you have to check if that satisfies the publisher's contract.
 

MNicolai

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darinlwebb

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Sep 24, 2009
Location
Des Moines, IA
ComedySportz San Jose did a show with Zoom. They streamed to Facebook live, but had a small audience on the zoom call to participate via chat. They appear to have had a person designated to picking which players appeared on the screen at a time.


Tech wise, I'm guessing they used OBS to stream to Facebook, and the 'produced' or a different designated computer was streaming their screen or the Zoom window.

I produced a show last week where we had performers (circus and burlesque) submit videos that they shot of themselves performing at home. We had someone emcee by recording intros/outros for each performer as well. I edited all the files into one video, normalized resolution and audio, etc, and streamed that video using OBS. We started with Facebook Live, but the stream got shut down because it detected the copyrighted music in the performer's pieces. We redirected our audience to Zoom, muted everyone but me, and resumed the show.

Audio & Video quality is terrible on Zoom (especially if it's pre-recorded), so I'm currently exploring ways to self-host a streaming site. I got a POC working with OBS, AWS MediaLive and MediaPackage, and I'll probably create a simple web page in AWS S3 or Github pages to host the site itself.
 

Malabaristo

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Jul 11, 2008
Location
Wisconsin
Audio & Video quality is terrible on Zoom (especially if it's pre-recorded), so I'm currently exploring ways to self-host a streaming site. I got a POC working with OBS, AWS MediaLive and MediaPackage, and I'll probably create a simple web page in AWS S3 or Github pages to host the site itself.
A local club has been having DJs stream via Twitch pretty regularly, and so far that hasn't been shut down... not sure if that's something reliable, or just that they haven't been caught yet? From their rules it looks like Twitch explicitly says not to do this, but it also sounds like they're not proactive about policing it--just that they respond to DMCA notifications from rights holders and terminate accounts for repeat offenders.

Self-hosting is tricky with streaming video because the bandwidth and processing requirements can add up very quickly. For x viewers and video with y bitrate you need x * y total bandwidth. It's more complicated if you want to be able to offer different resolutions and quality to adapt to different viewer devices and connections. This blog from AWS goes into some detail on how to estimate costs. The main takeaway is that the inputs and processing are fairly cheap, but distribution via CloudFront can get pretty pricey. This is one case where having a smaller audience is an advantage (assuming this is offered for free).

I'd be interested in hearing where you end up going with this. I've been looking into options for doing a live stream of events in our theatre to classrooms around the building. Youtube/Facebook/etc would be super easy, but the copyright detection would likely cause problems eventually. Teachers are bad at following rules... Zoom or any other conferencing solution isn't great for the reasons you mentioned (and just general clumsiness). OBS has some options for multicast streaming to local devices, but the network configuration won't let that work throughout the school. I found some info on setting up your own RTMP server, and that actually turns out to be pretty easy... until you want it to be able to handle the amount of data required for more than a handful of viewers at once. So far I haven't really come up with anything that really fits this particular niche--especially for something we'd probably only actually use a couple of times a year.
 

darinlwebb

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Sep 24, 2009
Location
Des Moines, IA
We had a second show, and while we put the show on Zoom, I ran a backup stream with AWS.

For Zoom, definitely go find the settings to turn off all audio enhancement. Google 'using zoom for music lessons audio quality' and you'll find plenty of guides for that.

For about 2 hours of streaming at 1080p, I spent about $25. That said, I only had one viewer - me. Cloudfront costs are definitely the factor here. My next steps when I have time are going to be to figure out how to get this stood up with Cloudformation, because it's a lot of clicking, and then I can also stand it up and tear it down without worrying about offline channel fees (paltry, but why pay if you don't have to).

I'd like to learn more about this and then see if I can work with some of the videographers in my circles to do some more tests.
 

Dionysus

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Joined
Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
I am the TD for London Fringe (London Ontario Canada) which is a member of CAFF (Canadian Assoc. of Fringe Festivals, however, we have many American Members).
Orlando Fringe has been live streaming their festival over the last two weeks. It's been really informative to see what they've been doing right, and doing wrong, along with the NAC (Canada's National Theatre in Ottawa) has been funding artists to do live streams daily since quarantine started.
Victoria Fringe also has the "UNO Fest" that ran late April where they put their entire festival online (had to cut any shows that were not able to do it).

I am currently looking towards possibly putting London Fringe and Summerfolk (a mid-sized folk festival) online in August/September, so looking to what others have done and their issues/successes will be very informative.

UNO Fest had some live stream components I am told, but also put content behind a paywall using VIMEO. Videos were up for the duration of the festival, plus a week or two to give people who bought "tickets" a chance to watch them. They were then locked down but kept online for the producing companies to be able to view/use.

ZOOM has been by far the most used for live streams that I've seen so far, they are often "cast" to youtube or facebook live, but ZOOM has been used to allow multiple participants to work together at a distance.

Orlando Fringe's Flashlight Cabaret is a great example that I watched earlier. A Live stream from participating companies from all over the world, doing short "skits". The "hosts" were in Australia (where they are in lockdown) but the stream was operated from Orlando. Tomorrow CAFF is having a meeting where we expect Orlando to detail their experiences of the last few weeks and I am looking forward to it.

Another Orlando Fringe live stream I saw had the 3 members of a group streaming via Zoom to FB Live, along with a small "digital audience" of supporters to engage in audience participation required for their show. It worked very well, I've been thinking of incorporating something like that possibly.

The stream tests I've done so far I've utilized ZOOM, and OBS Studio so far. I also have an ATEM Mini to use on my end, that I tried having one input from a QLAB computer for an video and audio feed I could switch to. I hope to use ZOOM to engage outside participants.

So far the real issue I've seen is with the latency. Any HDMI signal adds latency, the ATEM Mini adds latency, then the stream itself adds a lot. I've seen musicians successfully play together over ZOOM but it isn't without problems. The more participants (and the worse the connection) the worse the problem gets. And then there is also an added lag to the audience if you are looking for live chat participation.
 

macsound

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Joined
Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
Most of these type of events are recorded individually and edited together, just like recording a song in the studio.

Starting with a scratch track of someone reading all the lines, or a zoom call or a cd recording, and you listen to that while you create your part of the recording.
Then that recording is passed to the next person who records their part.

Ultimately all those pieces are sent to one person who edits them together and hopefully because you recorded your part while listening to the recording of others, the timing should be good. At the editing time you could also add lighting and sound FX pieces.
Then that recording would be broadcast or uploaded for people to watch.
You can make it feel "live" just like they do for regular TV and broadcast it at a specific time, maybe with a live host, like a preshow, intermission and postshow speech to make it seem live.