SocialSoundSystem’s #LexusLX Halftime Show Recap
A fews weeks ago I was brought on as tech ambassador and “social media I.T.” support for an interesting and challenging opportunity. Luxury car maker Lexus wanted to host a simulcast walk-thru for the new LX SUV… during Thursday Night Football... LIVE! As soon as the Seahawks vs 49ers game went to halftime they wanted to go live on their Periscope, YouTube, and Meerkat accounts. Can you dig it? We can dig it.
Led by Director Tim Damon, Square Planet Media is a full-service production company specializing in film and commercial media for the automotive industry. Team One USA is the fully integrated advertising agency working with Lexus. My role was to coordinate the social connectivity of the event and deliver the stream to Lexus’ official accounts and act as digital ambassador between the production company, agency, and platforms. The director’s vision was to shoot everything simultaneously on three iPhone 6S thus giving it a more familiar, authentic feel (that and it’s pretty amazing what you can do with an iPhone 6S these days!). One phone for Periscope, one for YouTube Live, and the third for Meerkat. All three of these live streaming platforms are free, simple to use and allow access a more engaged user base.
- (3) iPhone 6S mounted to a custom rig
- (1) Apple Mac Pro Xeon
- (3) Apple Airport Extremes
- Mbox 2 Audio Interface
- Wirecast Pro Encoding Software
Dedicated internet can make or break your event when it comes to live streaming. Of course, fiber internet in Los Angeles is always hit or miss depending on your location coupled with enormous costs and long lead times for installation. Our workaround was to set up a dedicated router for the live stream with each iPhone connected to its own dedicated network via three Apple Airport Extremes. A second dedicated router and ethernet cable was supplied to a Mac Pro Xeon that would handle the A/V encoding the signal to YouTube. We provided separate mobile hot spots for non-production people to use on day of shooting. In doing so we were able to establish dedicated 350+mb download/ 20+ upload per device. NOTE: without fiber this is about as fast as you can get from standard cable internet in LA.
Live Streaming to Social Networks
We created test Twitter accounts to stream production takes to Periscope and Meerkat. They are fairly straight-forward. Periscope is mainly a stream-on-the-fly application however it is also possible to make private P2P streams for testing. The platform also allows users to re-watch the stream for up to 24 hours after the event akin to the semi-permanence gaining popularity in apps like Snapchat. Meerkat is the same but they also give you the option to schedule your event. It will sit on your app home screen and you can just hit STREAM. Easy enough.
YouTube Live requires a bit more technical expertise because you need to setup encoding for your live stream. This allows you to a.) capture content via your desktop, camera, microphone, audio inputs, and more, and b.) send it direct to your channel live or to a specific event you’ve scheduled.There are several third party encoding options depending on the type of stream you’re trying to run (eg live broadcasts, multi-cameras, or screen sharing for gaming on PCs or consoles). For our live event, Wirecast made the most sense because of their Wirecast Cam iOS 8 app. What’s great about YouTube Live is that it has built-in DVR features so viewers can jump to earlier parts of the stream as well as automatically save a copy to your account once you end the live stream. YouTube Live also allows you to setup “unlisted” private takes so that you can run test streams and share with others on your team for viewing and feedback.
Audio / Video
The next item to address was optimizing the stream to deliver 1080p. After some tinkering and tiling/artifacts, I was thoroughly impressed by how well the 6S was able to deliver live HD video over wifi to the Mac Pro. During the final shoot, the video had minimal issues with everyone off their computers, phones, and wifi networks.
The host and car interior were hooked up with wireless lav mics, the left/right audio signal was mixed and sent to Wirecast’s encoding software via the Mbox 2 interface. We initially hoped we could get away with audio with using RODE i-XY condenser mics connected via the thunderbolt ports of each streaming phone. It would have been amazing to have A/V centralized in a single, handheld device. Unfortunately these mics interfered with the iPhone 6S’ ability to stream HD video. The RODE has it’s own app and I don’t think it’s setup to play nice while capturing audio and video simultaneously. It made the audio in the live streams sound like garbage. Literally. It sounded like someone was dragging the phone through a trash dump. As soon as we removed them, audio returned to normal on the streams.
NOTE: Wirecast’s iPhone app’s lowest keyframe bit rate is 1-second so the audio/video will have a delay if you’re using separate sources. For $547 Wirecast Pro’s advanced audio controls will fix this issue after some simple tweaks. DOH! on the pricing but you really can run professional live broadcasts with it (including multiple iPhone feeds if you are so inclined).
The #LexusLX Halftime show was promoted across Lexus’ social media platforms for the week leading up to the event using a variety of creatives and posts. Once the YouTube Live event is scheduled you are provided with a countdown video page and URL for sharing. You can also feature it as the channel’s featured content and add an Upcoming Live playlist on your channel. Lexus LX site takeovers also occurred on NFL.com and CBSsports.com. YouTube, Periscope and Meerkat will auto-promote on their respective networks to your followers once a stream goes live.
The #LexusLX Halftime Show went off without a hitch. Periscope received the most engagement and viewers while the YouTube view count continues to grow. It was an exciting opportunity to simulcast three separate live streams on three separate iPhones to three separate social networks. It was the 1st event of its kind for Lexus and I really hope they do more of these. From a digital media perspective I found the whole concept to be rather interesting considering the state of online advertising. With so much click-fraud, shrinking engagement and the recent announcement that Apple would allow ad blocker apps into their ecosystem, I believe more brands and advertisers will have to opt for these types of live events to reach their core audience and drive brand engagement.