New York, NY (September 22, 2020)—When the year’s concert tours went up in smoke with the arrival of the pandemic, artists and their production teams were suddenly left adrift without a paddle, facing an extended touring pause with no end in sight. Artists quickly turned to livestreaming as a way to stay visible and bring in some revenue—and those streams often inadvertently highlighted the valuable skills that audio experts bring to the table. It didn’t take long, however, for some production pros to seize the day and pivot to livestream production, forming companies like Hellooo TV and ChileStream.
Within weeks of the pandemic kicking in, Erik Rogers—a 15-year veteran FOH engineer, tour manager and production manager—had teamed with friend Paris Visone, a professional photographer and videographer, to found Hellooo TV in Nashville. Aiming to make the most of their skills and do something positive for a struggling industry, Hellooo TV shoots high-end, weekly online concerts, and all proceeds from advertising, viewer donations and YouTube streams benefit the event production community through charitable donations to MusiCares and the National Independent Venue Association.
“Paris and I had both worked on the road for Godsmack,” said Rogers. “When the pandemic hit, she had just gotten a job doing photography for the New England Patriots and I had just signed up for a whole year as front of house and tour manager for Saint Asonia. We started seeing these really [bad] cell phone videos of artists that we love and respect in their basements playing an acoustic guitar. One night, we’re playing Call of Duty at three in the morning and one of us said, ‘Man, did you see that last night?’ and the other said, ‘Yeah, we could do better.’ And that’s how it started.”
The logistics of bringing together a studio, crew, gear, IT, artists and the rest on short notice and an even shorter budget was simpler than one might expect, according to Rogers. “Calling all of my vendors and friends I’ve made over the years to get production was easy, especially because we’re donating all of our profits back to charities that benefit our own industry,” he said. “Clair Global, Special Event Services (SES), DiGiCo, Gallagher Staging, Audio-Technica, you name it—they wouldn’t let me finish the sentence before they said, ‘We’re in; what do you need?’ It was slightly less easy to call other friends, like Mike Babcock, our monitor engineer; Brandon Quisberg, our LD; and Scott Huber, our stage manager, and say, ‘Hey, we’re doing this thing in Nashville, and you may or may not get paid, but this is what we’re trying to do.’ They were all ‘Yeah, we’ll work out the money later.’”
Hellooo TV took off immediately, shooting its first season of 10 weekly concerts in Special Event Services’ Nashville warehouse over June and July. “They have been so cool; they basically let us take over,” said Rogers. “We stole a couple of their offices; we remade the kitchen into my mix studio.”
DiGiCo VP of Pro Audio, Matt Larson, got a Clair-provided Quantum SD7 console into the project for mixing and Clair itself provided a DiGiCo SD10 for monitor mixing; the rest of the monitor set-up—d&b audiotechnik wedges, a Martin Audio drum sub and eight Shure PSM 1000 in-ear systems—is provided by SES. Also on-hand is a full Audio-Technica mic package, including a half-dozen RF mics with AE6100 and AE5400 capsules; redundant Waves SuperRack plug-in processors; a Klang:Fabrik immersive audio processor; and more.
The project began producing its second season in late August and will continue shooting an average of three shows a week through mid-November, by which point it will have enough content to stream a new show every week through mid-March, 2021. Visone leads a team of six videographers and edits each episode later in Final Cut Pro X. “I’m the center shooter and I’m also editing it, so I can’t to be in two places at once,” she joked. “I know how I shoot and how the rest of my team works, so now I’m able to anticipate during shooting what I’ll need in editing.” Capturing the prerecorded shows takes time; taping a 45-minute acoustic set by Shinedown lead singer Brent Smith and guitarist Zach Myers that will debut October 23 took three hours.
Hellooo TV isn’t alone when it comes to live sound engineers who’ve started their own livestreaming production services. After the pandemic shut down concerts in Chile earlier this year, FOH engineer Carlos Hormazabal founded ChileStream, aiming to improve the sound of artists’ livestreams as they went online to reconnect with their audiences.
Much like the origin of Hellooo TV, the veteran engineer, who’s worked and toured internationally with acts like Franco el Gorila, Frank’s White Canvas, Max Zegers and Paloma Mami, opted to team with a lighting designer, videographer and producer to produce virtual live shows under the ChileStream banner.
“I think it is fair to say that we are pioneers of these high-quality streaming shows here in Chile,” he said. “The response has been amazing; through our platform, fans can not only see the artist live but also enjoy interaction through chat, something that has proved very popular. Audio quality is absolutely vital to the success of the streams.”
Hormazabal already had a Waves’ LV1 digital mixing system in his studio and had often used it in a live setting, so it became his go-to mixer for the livestreams, teamed with two DiGiGrid IOX expansion audio interfaces and a DiGiGrid D desktop ethernet recording interface.
Using that setup, ChileStream has staged more than 20 livestreamed shows by Chilean artists such as Luis Jara, DrefQuila, Franco Figueroa and Carolina Soto, and Hormazabal is already working on improving the streams’ audio even further, noting, “My next ambition is to acquire another LV1 system where I can incorporate three more IOX, so I’ll have independent preamp stages for both front of house and monitors.”
Hellooo TV • www.helloootv.com
ChileStream • www.chilestream.cl