A live, interactive movie premiere

In the fall of 2015, STX Entertainment approached Phase 3 Studios about an interactive movie premiere for a horror film they were distributing called “The Boy”. With social media influencers broadcasting from 15 cities, the goal was to create a live experience to introduce viewers to this film. But to be successful, Phase 3 needed to go beyond webcasting. They needed to have individual crews in each location, transmitting to a central hub. This was a high-stakes production – there was a start time, an end time, and no do-overs.

Traditionally, one would accomplish this task with a series of satellite uplinks. A crew would station a satellite truck capable of an uplink and a downlink at each venue. Then, each link would sequentially transmit across the country as the event proceeded. But for fifteen locations, this kind of setup would be exorbitantly expensive. Considering STX’s budget, satellite was out of the question.

Alternatives to satellite

Phase 3 needed a modestly priced solution that they could station in each venue, which could broadcast bidirectionally. Comrex LiveShot operates over IP networks, so Phase 3 leapt at the prospect of taking advantage of IP networks rather than coordinating satellite. And LiveShot fit in their budget, which made the deal even sweeter.

However, when they began coordinating the events, Phase 3 realized that most of the movie theatres they were working with did not have Wi-Fi or Ethernet networks they could tap into. To solve this problem, Phase 3 decided to use USB 3G/4G modems to take advantage of cellular networks in theatres where they couldn’t access Wi-Fi. They discovered that LiveShot’s transmission quality over cellular networks, even with mediocre connectivity, was very high.

Taking advantage of IP

Ultimately, Phase 3 arrived at an elegant configuration of equipment. At the main control room in Los Angeles, six cameras fed into a switcher. Fourteen LiveShot rack units were also connected to the switcher. A program feed was then fed from the L.A. headquarters to the fourteen other locations, and  projected on their screens. Each venue possessed its own mix-minus feed, so that they wouldn’t hear their own audio while presenting. Then, in each theatre, a crew connected a camera to the return feed for the LiveShot. The entire show was 30 minutes. Phase 3 began the show in L.A., then transferred to each of the 14 markets before circling back to L.A.

LiveShot’s web interface enabled Phase 3 to monitor all of LiveShot’s statistics remotely, to ensure there were no issues with connectivity. If there was anything, Phase 3 was able to resolve the problem from the central location. The web interface also enabled Comrex tech support to access the LiveShots during the testing process, making configuration a breeze.

STX was delighted with the result. Because of the rarity of this configuration, other studios took interest, and stopped by to observe. The movie made back more than its gross production budget in the first weekend, marking the film a success. LiveShot enabled Phase 3 to produce this event under budget, which wouldn’t have been possible with more traditional means of technology.

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