From Simulcast to Webcast

January 10, 2017

I began my career in video production way back in 1980 as a Producer/Director for WPTD, a PBS affiliate in Dayton, Ohio. It was an exciting time to be involved in broadcast. With the advent of Sony 3/4″ Umatic gear, portable location videography was possible for the first time, while new 1″ Ampex technology upped the ante on quality and allowed for frame-accurate editing. It was amazing, groundbreaking stuff.

One of the most memorable jobs I had at WPTD was producing and directing a television series that showcased local musicians in our small community. The 13 week series, called HOMEGROWN, was shot on Wednesday evenings at a popular area night club, and then simulcast “live” on WPTD and the area’s leading rock and roll station, WTUE. It’s hard to believe, but way back in the 80’s stereo television didn’t exist, so to hear music in “high fidelity”, you’d turn on the TV, turn down its volume, and then at the same time turn on your FM radio and crank it UP!

THAT, my friends, was a simulcast.

Now as low-tech as it sounds today, back then capturing video and music for a simulcast was cutting edge AND a major undertaking. HOMEGROWN was shot with four cams, all of which were connected to a very quirky, but very functional Remote Truck. The Remote Truck was a technological marvel, and to say the least… EXPENSIVE. It contained complex control units for each cam, housed several 1″ tape machines, utilized a 32 channel audio console, and boasted a Grass Valley Switcher that gave us the capability to cut, dissolve or wipe between multiple video sources. Wow. The truck was also home to a Chief Engineer, Tape Engineer, Audio Engineer, Technical Director, 4 Camera Ops, and one very young, very enthusiastic Director. Total cost when it was all said and done (not including crew)… approximately $700,000.

HOMEGROWN required a full day of set-up, and then several more hours to make sure everything was operating correctly. Lot’s of lights, lots of audio, and lots of cabling for the cams. I specifically remember how painful it was to get the cameras synced so that they would properly connect to the switcher, and how our engineers would labor over “painting” each cam so they all looked the same. There were always issues, always a problem or two to tackle, and if I remember correctly, we ALWAYS barely made it to air on time.

Okay, that’s a great story I know (or maybe just the ramblings of an old geezer… that’s what my young crew tells me anyway), but I mention all of this not just to reminisce, but because MCOMM recently produced a “live” rock and roll broadcast from our studio and, well, it was a much different experience.

This particular “live” broadcast showcased the talents of our long-time collaborator Jeff Friend, and helped introduce to the public his amazing new album TWO. As with HOMEGROWN, the broadcast utilized multiple cams and an arsenal of other video and audio gear. This time, however, the technology was easier to use, much less expensive, and in the end instead of simulcasting our production to local television and FM stations… it was broadcast to a much larger audience with the help of Facebook and YouTube.

Here’s how it was done.

All four cams were plugged into a Roland V-1HD Switcher ($995) via HDMI cables, that signal was then sent to a Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder ($140), converted to Thunderbolt, and ultimately sent to the internet with Open Broadcaster Shareware operated from a Macbook Pro ($2,500). Audio was processed through a Behringer X Air XR18 ($600) and mixed on an Apple iPad Pro ($1,200).

Now, make no mistake about it, setting up for a multi-cam shoot and musical performance STILL takes a bit of time, but I must say in this instance, did not require the expertise of an engineering staff, and syncing cameras was nearly plug and play. As in years past, audio required the ears and talent of an experienced “sound guy”, but like video, was much more accessible and in the end yielded superior results.

Okay kids… let’s compare and contrast.

Back in the 80’s a live music production consisted of… lot’s of expensive gear… a standard definition signal simulcast to a small audience with the help of one local PBS affiliate and one rock and roll FM station… and let’s not forget perhaps the most important element(s)… talented musicians, an awesome crew of 8, and 1 very young, very enthusiastic director.

Fast forward to December 2016 and a similar music production consisted of… high quality, affordable gear that’s now available to just about any video professional… an amazing high-def signal broadcast to a virtually unlimited audience… talented musicians, an small yet awesome crew… and 1 not so young, but still very enthusiastic director.

Thanks to Jeff Friend, John Hughes and Lee Swisher for making our latest production possible. We had a blast.

Please check out TWO LIVE IN CONCERT. You can purchase a CD or download TWO at

Finally, if you have a presentation you’d like to broadcast on the internet, or a webinar that you need to produce, please be sure to call or email Monell Communications.

Thanks for reading. Until next time.

Ray Monell