The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) is one of the largest - and no doubt the most stylish - fashion associations in the world, with over 500 renowned American designers as members. Founded in 1962, the organization is involved in a number of important things from connecting budding and established fashion designers together to supporting charitable causes such as breast cancer, HIV and disaster relief.
But perhaps the most notable event the organization is known for is the annual CFDA Fashion Awards. Held in New York City, this event brings in every year’s most influential and successful designers from all over America, with many famous names in attendance like Nicole Kidman, Kenneth Cole and Seth Myers. The event is so popular, it’s often referred to as “the Oscars of fashion.”
While the awards show has been typically well-covered by print media outlets, the event has never been televised nor broadcasted despite its popularity. This year though, president of the CFDA Diane von Fürstenberg decided to change that. Instead of keeping the show low-profile, she wanted to broadcast directly to Facebook Live, where 3 different Facebook Pages would receive the stream. After reaching out to Facebook to organize the setup, the CFDA was in the reliable hands of New York-based live production company Soul Kitchen Creative (SKC), who we’ve covered in the past.
“Since we’re a preferred vendor for Facebook, they always recommend us for projects that need to go live on Facebook,” said Michael Scalere, co-founder of and producer for Soul Kitchen Creative. “More and more people are starting to realize how important Facebook Live is, and those people come to us for big live stream projects that need a professional touch.”
Producing a live stream show for Facebook and the CFDA wasn’t going to be easy though. The CFDA wanted a traditional broadcast-level production, which would include a multi-camera setup, a host with a mic, pre-recorded footage and much more. In addition, if everything was to be streamed to Facebook, they needed to be absolutely certain the connection wouldn’t drop for the duration of the show.
With Facebook Live and the CFDA’s reputation on the line, the pressure was on for Scalere and his team to design a workflow that could deliver consistent, high-quality video without risk of a dropped feed. As seasoned live producers for events like this, they knew the Teradek Bond II was perfect for their needs.
Designing A Live Stream
The CFDA’s organizers wanted to split the show into 2 live streams, starting with a live stream for the red carpet segment and another for the awards ceremony. This meant having a massive setup to accommodate both shows.
Scalere employed 3 Canon C100s outside the venue for the red carpet event, which captured arriving celebrity designers, the host’s interviews, and general outdoor footage. These cameras were hardwired using extensive SDI cables directly to their Blackmagic ATEM 4K professional switcher located inside the venue and on the upper-balcony floor.
The Bond II supports bonding of up to 6 USB cellular modems, Ethernet and WiFi.
Once in the ATEM, an operator switched between the cameras and sent the feed to their Teradek Bond II streaming encoder. The Bond II is a cellular bonding device which combines up to 6 USB cellular modems, Ethernet and WiFi to give users as much bandwidth redundancy as possible. Equipped within the Bond II was the Hammerstein Ballroom’s in-house Ethernet line as well as 2 AT&T, 2 Verizon and 1 T-Mobile USB cellular modems. This helped ensure that, in the event of a dropped connection, multiple sources would automatically fill in to keep the stream flawless.
The Bond II sent the stream directly to their Teradek Core account, which is a cloud-based management platform that enables users to simulcast to multiple destinations, remotely monitor streams, archive and much more. Using Core, Scalere streamed the video to the CFDA’s Facebook Page, Swarovski’s (sponsors of the event) North America Page, and Swarovski World’s Page simultaneously at 720p, the maximum resolution allowed on Facebook Live.
As the award ceremony began, 5 Canon C100s inside the ballroom also sent hardwired feeds to the ATEM production switcher up on the balcony level. These feeds followed the same route, and streamed to the same Facebook Pages but as a second, separate live video. The streams totaled near 800k viewers.
The Show Must Go On
The live show encountered an issue right before the beginning of the awards ceremony. 5 minutes before they needed to begin streaming, the Ethernet’s Internet connection died out. This would normally be a technical nightmare for a live production, as no Internet translates into no live stream. However, a possible connection drop was precisely the reason why Scalere employed the Bond.
“The house gave us a dedicated Ethernet line for streaming, but 5 minutes before the show began, that connection went down,” said Scalere. “Luckily, we were using the Bond for streaming. As soon as the show started, we were able to go live just as we had originally planned using Internet from the 5 combined cellular modems, not needing the Ethernet line at all.”
With extra layers of redundant cellular connections, Scalere and his team were able to start the live stream despite not having a working hardwired connection. The bonded connections provided more than enough bandwidth to keep the stream working flawlessly, delivering the content to viewers without any difficulties. If the stream was to fail during the show, both the CFDA and Facebook would not enjoy the hit to their reputations. With the Bond II, Scalere was completely confident it would never come to that.
“I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by the best team in the business. In a crisis, I know I can rely on them to focus, maintain their cool, diagnose and fix the problem. They were able to quickly and efficiently get the Bond up and running with the hotspots and we were live within seconds.”