There’s a new way to watch live music in Johannesburg and this time you don’t even need to be there. In fact, you don’t even need to be in the country, writes Greg Bester. Skyroomlive.com is a website where you can view live webcast
performances of popular South African bands and artists that go out in real time across the world.
This is actually quite a leap forward in web-based content
streaming for this not-so-little country of ours; its creators claiming it’s a
well-timed foray into the future and I’d have to agree. Accessibility is
not the issue on the table at the moment either, but rather to show
South Africa and the world that it can be done and that we can do it.
And they have done it!
Skyroomlive takes place at an intimate venue on the rooftop of a
skyscraper in the middle of the Joburg CBD with the city-scape as a
perfect backdrop to the performances. As I patiently waited for the
evening’s artist, HHP, to perform, I was given a tour of the venue, the
technology behind the project and introduced to all the parties
Skyroomlive has been put together by the concept’s creators, Mark
Daubeney and Eban Olivier of Mushroom Productions, supported by
Gearhouse SA, Mastermax Productions, SA Backline Co and other
non-technical sponsors. My tour guide for the evening was audio
engineer Johan van der Colff from Mastermax who graciously gave
me the technical run-down of the show.
All FOH mixing and stage monitoring is handled by Gearhouse and
their house engineer; simply introduced as Frikkie. Overall the
Soundcraft GB8 / JBL PRX system is more than sufficient to handle
whatever the music throws at them, and later on, the quality of the
mix proved to be excellent. They have a good selection of
microphones up there too and it really comes through because the
quality of the live music was of a high standard. But the FOH mix is not
what you’re hearing when you log on to Skyroomlive.com and that is
where Mastermax Productions comes in.
Mastermax Productions handles not one, but TWO multitrack
recordings of the performance and the actual webcast mix,
which is handled by Johan from a small room, tucked away one
storey down. However, upstairs next to the FOH console is a Pro
Tools HD system, which is where the backup recording takes
place, fed from the direct outs of the FOH console. An active mic
splitter is used for the system to accommodate the sending of
each discrete channel into a Soundcraft stagebox with the MADI
protocol, which is then sent down to the Vi1 console in Johan’s
room. Here, a single MADI optical cable is connected to a SADiE
LRX2 system for the main multi-track recording.
The mix is then sent via a stereo analogue signal to another
room next door, which is Mushroom Broadcast and Eban’s
domain. Here all video cutting and direction of the show’s four HD
cameras take place in real time on a state-of-the-art Blackmagic
system, encoded on a high-spec Mac Pro with Flash 5 for
streaming on the spot, and fed directly to the web. I was not given
too much background information on the nature of the
connection and the where’s and how’s for security reasons but
suffice it to say that the signal was fed via a high speed router to a
couple of local stops in between and finally on to Montecasino,
where it is plugged into the high bandwidth internet pipeline and sent
off to the world.
Skyroomlive.com is a new leap forward in digital content streaming
and live music in general for South Africa. Granted, not everyone has
high speed Internet yet, but I was able to get the concert to stream
steadily on my phone via regular 3G, which makes the situation
hopeful for the future. The more and more Internet access grows in
this country, the more we will see concepts like this present themselves
and quite frankly I find it exciting.
Just remember who did it first. Skyroomlive.com!