The lockdown hits the cultural industry particularly hard. In the evenings, even in big cities like Hamburg, the stages and clubs are in the dark. Pianists and actors have almost forgotten what it feels like to rehearse with colleagues and perform in front of an audience. But there are more and more places like the Elbphilharmonie where lights are on because there is a live stream. Smaller clubs in the city also try to keep in touch with the audience with live broadcasts. This will also shape the scene after Corona.
Bands like Derya Yildirim & Grup Simek appear online on dringeblieben.de, for example. The Cologne CodeKarussel UG platform streams concerts as well as readings and plays. The prices are usually around 5 euros per appearance. However, some are also free of charge, with others the viewers can decide for themselves whether they only pay 1 euro or sponsor the artist and cultural scene with up to 100 euros. After the live broadcast, the broadcasts are usually available for a few more months in the organizer’s media library.
In the area of state-sponsored art, opera fans can enjoy free of charge when they receive a concert stream from the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie in the ARD media libraries or on arte, on Facebook or YouTube. In addition to short portraits, Elphi has also been putting entire concerts online since August. Around a dozen such appearances have already appeared in the media library at elbphilharmonie.de.
However, many organizers still have to develop the know-how for such live streams. Because until recently, clubs and theaters were not at all prepared for real-time broadcasts. When they first tried to walk, some organizers only used smartphones and action camcorders. Only a few specialists who had to be booked separately for a concert recording knew which camera is suitable for a stream or how a picture is well illuminated.
Live or Recorded?
Mats Wollny, member of the board at Clubkombinat Hamburg eV, reports that in the first few months of the corona crisis it was difficult to acquire the right technology in view of closed specialist shops and high demand. In the meantime, a few clubs have at least ordered 4K cameras thanks to municipal funding. Some organizers initially wanted to avoid the complex task of real-time processing of image and sound. They rediscovered the internal memory of their digital sound console and first recorded images and sound, then processed them and sent them half an hour later.
However, this almost meant they were no longer eligible for funding, as the financial resources had only been granted for the live stream. The Hamburg cultural authority did not recognize a broadcast delayed by thirty minutes as a live stream. Namely, substitute performance opportunities for closed live stages and no music video productions should be funded.
That is why small subculture clubs like the Stellwerk in Hamburg started wiring a couple of cameras with a live video mixer. In the computer, the images come together with the stereo mix from the mixer and are sent online with the Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). The open source software is available free of charge for Windows, macOS and Linux and can not only broadcast a show live, but also record it.
Such computer solutions are inexpensive, but have the potential for errors and require trained personnel. Other live stages therefore rely on leaner systems. Manufacturers now offer video mixers that directly spit out a broadcast-ready stream. For example, Blackmagic Design’s Atem Pro ISO sends complete concerts online without a PC from some clubs. If the in-house Internet connection fails during the stream, the manufacturer Blackmagic also offers the Webpresenter HD the option of continuing to stream via a smartphone if necessary. The cost of such a combination is around 1400 euros.