The Soraya, also known as the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, in Los Angeles live streamed a concert by young Grammy award winner Samara Joy and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra in March 2023. Recognised in the Los Angeles area for top-level performances, The Soraya’s live streamed shows have opened the venue to global audiences.
To produce this streaming event and complement the lively concert, The Soraya engaged independent filmmaker Phil Pritchard to create a dynamic production. Performing just after her recent Grammy wins, Joy filled The Soraya’s 1,700 seat theatre located on the campus of California State University, Northridge, and reached a further 1,200 of its subscribers online. The live stream was fed by 12 Blackmagic Design cameras.
Recording for the World
Two Blackmagic Studio Camera 6K Pros were set up on either side of the stage, close to the action. Three Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K digital film cameras were used around the stage by camera operators, and six Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K digital film cameras were used for static shots, focusing on various instrumentalists from the 19 piece orchestra. Another Pocket Cinema Camera 4K was used to film exclusive interviews with Joy before the concert began, which were included for the audience watching at home.
The cameras were fed into two ATEM Mini Extreme ISO live production switchers, and a Blackmagic Web Presenter 4K streaming system delivered the live stream. Two Blackmagic Video Assist 7in 12G HDR monitor/recorders were used to send camera feeds to the camera operators, and a HyperDeck Studio HD Plus broadcast deck was used to add prerecorded video ads and stringers to the live stream.
The live stream was led by Phil Pritchard, a British actor and filmmaker now based in Los Angeles, and his team of independent filmmakers, who have used their experience in front of and behind the camera to not only shift into live streaming but also create cinematic live productions.
Going with the Flow
“Different performances have different flows. If it’s a theatrical performance, there may be some quiet parts, but with music, you always get something, especially with jazz. You want to be able to follow the tempo and flow of the music,” said Phil. “It can look quite filmic, like a movie, and the musicians are always doing something interesting with their facial expressions. Big bands are rare now, so we wanted to make sure we captured their spirit and the interactions between the performers, which the Blackmagic cameras allowed us to do with their dynamic range, colour science and other characteristics.”
Designed for cinematic live production, the Blackmagic Studio Camera 6K Pros’ sensors and Generation 5 Color Science deliver high quality images with a film-like look. For the concert, they were equipped with Blackmagic Zoom Demands and Blackmagic Focus Demands, which helped the team zoom in and out more accurately to find precise, dynamic camera angles and shots.
Phil said, “When an amazing vocalist like Samara is singing, you also want to be very slowly zooming in at the same time to match the focus to a crescendo, for example, or slowly, slowly zooming out to get a beautiful panorama shot of the whole band. We were able to capture some wonderful closeups during the live stream due to the Zoom Demands, as well as the cameras’ built-in 7in monitors, which helped us line up shots.
“The cameras’ dynamic range and dual native ISO also helped us balance the concert’s lighting configuration, which was a bit tricky as the background was very dark, but the highlights were very bright with the musicians under spotlights.
An Independent Approach
“As independent filmmakers and storytellers, we were very familiar with Blackmagic Design and have an arsenal of its cameras from our various filmmaking projects. When the pandemic first hit, we put this knowledge to good use and started working with venues, like The Soraya, that wanted to create high quality live streams for its audiences who were stuck being remote. With Blackmagic Design also introducing live streaming capabilities to its Pocket Cinema Camera line, it was a simple transition, especially since the cameras work directly with the ATEM switchers.”
Phil feels that adding Blackmagic Studio Camera 6K Pros to the kit made the stream look even more professional. Because all gear was part of the same Blackmagic recording system, the team was able to use their equipment without compatibility issues. “Being able to use the same EF lenses was a special advantage,” he said. “Whether you’re filmmaking or live streaming, storytelling always comes first, and Blackmagic Design allows us to continue to move back and forth between those two worlds.” www.blackmagicdesign.com