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Taking ABBA on a Voyage around the world

oXyFire Media's Jay Rozanski tells TVBEurope about the technology behind ABBA's recent livestream announcement

Fans around the world were delighted at the start of September when ABBA announced new music for the first time in 35 years. The event was livstreamed to millions of fans from the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Queen Elizabeth Park.

Jay Rozanski from live streaming company oXyFire Media was the technical director for the UK studio Q&A session with Benny and Björn from the band, and oversaw the design, build and management of the job including cameras, live-link, and communications to the company’s Master Control Room (MCR) in Sweden. “The MCR was run by Fernando Munoz and his team from Telepathic. They organised several remote IP-based link-ups from the USA, UK, Iceland and other countries,” Rozanski tells TVBEurope.

Rozanski was joined by the oXyFire Media colleague Chris Burton at the event, where they were tasked with supporting producer Melly Cook from Chrome Productions and her team. One of the key challenges was the livestream’s location: “Our main challenge was competing with daylight as we were shooting out of the windows at the ArcelorMittal Orbit, and the sunset direction was not in our favour,” explains Rozanski. “The creative decision was to ensure we could see London as the backdrop to help set the scene and ensure the broadcast as a whole had a global feel. But the challenge was to source lighting while so many dramas are in production. Melly and her team somehow managed to find two Skypanel S 360-C’s which were absolutely perfect for our needs.”

The production used the new Blackmagic Design Studio Camera 4K Pro with a Panasonic Lumix 12-60mm lens as the master wide. “The challenge of the space and its layout meant we needed something quite wide as the distance from the front of the stage to the camera was very short. The camera was great, it was set up within minutes and the picture quality was crisp. We teamed this up with two Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro (G2 4.6k) with HJ22 B4 lenses. Using the return HD-SDI feed, we were able to colour shade each camera to help match.

Rozanski continues: “The main reason for using the Blackmagic cameras was the easy functionality to colour shade live. We could preset the LUTs and top up via software/hardware to match as close as possible. I chose the HJ22’s as they’re a great all-round lens, nice and wide but can get super close too.”

The team used IP technology to send both the audio and video back to the MCR via vMix at 10mbps VBR. “We also ran external comms via a vMix Call so our director Phil and producer Melly could talk to Sweden. We used Canford Audio Tecpro comms in the venue for camera ops, floor manager and gallery crew.”

Of course, with so many fans tuning in around the worldwide it was imperative that the stream didn’t fall over. “I’m a redundancy ‘freak’, and despite recceing and testing the internet lines earlier in the week we planned for every eventuality,” says Rozanski.

“Backups of backups are so important as things do and regularly go wrong in live broadcasts no matter how much you plan. The main protocols were extra camera bodies and lenses, a cellular bonded router to support in an internet outage, option to mix in vMix if master vision mixer failed, a spare PC box with second vMix, a massive 3000w UPS and enough battery juice to power everything for 90 minutes (including the lighting) as well as flight cases full of cables, kit and extras (just in case). Our main redundancy for the live link included a bonded Aviwest BeOnAir which could have sent an SRT, HLS or RTMP feed to Sweden if needed – coupled with two-way comms via a WhatsApp or GSM call.”

Rozanski describes his involvement in the event as a “true honour” not least because he got to meet Benny, Björn and event host Zoe Ball. “ABBA, and Zoe Ball, have been a part of my life since as early as I can remember. Benny and Björn were fantastic to work with and they came around to each crew member to thank us and chat with us after the show,” he adds.

 “I need to extend a huge thank you from our entire team to Universal Music Group, Polydor Records, Side of Stage, Chrome Productions and of course Telepathic (Sweden).”