Soul Kitchen Creative: The Experts Behind the Facebook Livestream

Wed, Mar 15, 2017
Soul Kitchen Creative's Mike Scalere with Heisman Trophy

When Facebook approached Soul Kitchen Creative (SKC) to help produce a livestream show in September, they knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task. It was their first time live streaming, Facebook Live was still in its infancy, and every live show sponsored by Facebook was to demonstrate the reliability of this new feature - including this show. Any hiccups in the broadcast could tarnish Facebook Live’s reputation. Talk about pressure!

“The COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, wanted to do a live show with her interviewing 2 guests: CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, and CMO of Procter & Gamble, Marc Pritchard. We had never done that before, but we didn’t want to miss out on such a big opportunity,” said co-founder Mike Scalere.

Sheryl Sandberg interviews Mary Barra and Marc Pritchard

Knowing there were going to be high-profile individuals on the livestream, Scalere and his partner Adam Rosante took no chances when it came to producing the show. They used a Sony A7S digital camera to send a 1080p video feed to a mounted VidiU Pro streaming encoder. This feed was then compressed to 720p (Facebook Live’s max resolution) by the VidiU Pro and transmitted directly to Sheryl Sandberg’s personal Facebook account.

To ensure there would be no stream interruptions, they used VidiU Pro’s Sharelink feature which combined Ethernet, a USB modem and 4 iPhone LTE connections into a single bandwidth pipe. With over 128k views in the 8 minute duration of the show, the livestream was an immense success.

For just a 2-man production company, Soul Kitchen Creative , based in Brooklyn, New York, has worked on some incredible projects with big-name broadcasters. Just last year, they produced several commercials for cable TV shows including History Channel’s Houdini, American Pickers, A&E’s The First 48 and many more. Recently SKC has been working on a bunch of livestreams commissioned by Facebook, including a Q&A with the cast of HBO’s newest series Westworld.

Westworld members with Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy feat. Christopher Orr

Facebook and HBO collaborated to bring publicity to the show and promote the use of Facebook Live. They brought in Scalere and Rosante to produce the technical side of the production.

“They wanted the show to look a bit low quality so they can portray Facebook Live as a feature everyone can use. But the point was that the show had to stay up the entire time,” Scalere explained.

Knowing how popular Westworld was and how many viewers there would potentially be, Scalere and Rosante wanted to make sure the livestream had zero issues for the entire duration. To get that assurance, they decided to use Teradek’s Bond II encoder to stream the production. The Bond II is a cellular bonding device capable of linking Ethernet, WiFi and up to 6 cellular modems into one connection for maximum bandwidth redundancy. In the circumstance that one connection fell through, the other connections would automatically fill in, ensuring the video stream never dropped out.

Bond II used to stream Westworld livestream
Teradek's Bond II encoder

To shoot the show, Scalere and Rosante used 4 Canon EOS 5D DSLR cameras connected to a Blackmagic Atem 2 M/E switcher for switching between cameras views. The switcher then sent the video feed to the Bond II - equipped with an Ethernet line and 6 USB modem connections (2 AT&T, 2 Verizon and 2 T-Mobile) - which was streamed directly to Westworld’s Facebook Page. In the 34 minutes that the show lasted, the stream received close to 325k views and over 800 comments.

“What Facebook has been trying to do with these sponsored live videos is to sell their live platform. That’s why when we did the Westworld live show, we knew if the stream dropped it would be a disaster for everyone. Luckily, we had those extra connections from the Bond II to make sure the stream stayed up,” said Scalere.

On set in Facebook's Manhattan headquarters
On set in Facebook's Manhattan building. Source: Soul Kitchen Creative

Facebook Live is now one of the biggest livestream platforms around, with organizations big and small streaming events ranging from news to sports to celebrations (NYE ball drop in Times Square was streamed to multiple FB Pages using Teradek products). Supporting this new direction of multimedia is Soul Kitchen Creative and, by extension, Teradek - an effort we are proud of supporting.

“Everything we do is with Teradek now. We’re at the forefront of making content for Facebook Live and we need products that are more reliable than the rest.”