Behind the Scenes at the Austin City Limits Music Festival With Dell

I just love this video of Lotus Carroll and I above. It’s four seconds stretched out into one minute and was from one of the backstage stations managed by Dell at this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. Watch here also as my pal Robert Scoble takes a water balloon to the face and the band Delta Spirit does a band video here. These were made with a Phantom Camera that shoots 1,200-2,500 frames per second which can stretch 2 seconds of real time video into as much as 2.5 to 3 minutes of footage.

Dell sponsored this station to record interesting content to be broadcasted by C3 at this year’s festival. C3 is the company that produces the Austin City Limits Music Festival as well as Lollapalooza. Dell was very involved behind the scenes at this year’s festival and all of the the live streaming of the festival (and Lollapalooza) was done with Dell hardware for the first time this year.

Dell had invited Scoble and I along with other members of the media/blogosphere to take a look at their behind the scenes work. [Disclosure: Dell covered my travel/festival expenses associated with this visit].

As part of our behind the scenes tour we were taken to the live mobile studio where the live streaming of the festival was being done. Here, a team of creative professionals, managed by Arts + Labor Creative Director Erik Horn, in real time pushed out live feeds of the performances to ACL’s YouTube channel. They also produced clips and video content to be shown onstage live at ACL between acts.

Editing Video Behind the Scenes at ACL This YearThe Video Switcher to the Various Stages at This Years Austin City Limits FestivalACL Live Streaming WorkstationOne of the Dell Towers Used to Livestream the ACL Festival This Year on YouTubeBehind the Scenes Mobile Video Production for This year's Austin City Limits Music Festival
Photos clockwise starting top: one of Arts + Labor video editors edits video live during ACL, one of the workstations used to produce event video, video editors working on editing live ACL video streams, one of the Dell workstations used to produce the live video., one of the switchers used to switch stages for live video.

Last year the production team used Macs and Final Cut Pro to do their video work, but that didn’t work as well as it could have and so they went searching for better alternatives. With live streaming and live video editing, things have to be done very, very fast. Last year’s set up was also very hard drive intensive with laptops and drives daisy chained in the production studio.

Horn described last year’s Mac set up as “laptop firewired dangerous daisy chain nonsense.” Horn did an audio interview on their production set up this year that Scoble recorded here.

This year Dell and the Festival worked together to collaboratively come up with a Dell centralized file system setup using Adobe Premiere that would work for Arts + Labor.

Arts + Labor Creative Director, Erik Horn
Arts + Labor Creative Director Erik Horn

In addition to simplifying the production hardware (no more daisy chained hard drives), according to Dell they were able to work with Arts + Labor to put together a studio that was 40% faster at producing video as well. Dell also said that customizing this set up for Arts + Labor was part of a renewed focus by Dell to really begin targeting high end professional workstation use and helping customers come up with more custom solutions that could be tailored specifically to their needs rather than simply leaving them to out of the box type hardware setups that might not be as customized for them.

With the new setup, Arts + Labor used two Dell Precision 4600 workstations to stream live stage video feeds into. These work stations relied on onstage video cameras which sent fiber optic feeds into these workstations. These feeds then each went to a Dell Precision 7500 workstation which acted as a central server. Dell Precision 5500 workstations were then used to do the actual video editing and production.

I thought it was interesting to see a very powerful creative team make a switch from Macs to Dells. Having highly visible teams like Arts + Labor switch makes me wonder if Apple isn’t so focused on iPhones and iPads that they aren’t asleep at the switch with regards to higher end production like what Arts + Labor did at ACL this year.

In addition to putting this together for C3 Dell is now out marketing their desire to do more of these sorts of custom set ups for higher-end businesses in the media and other businesses.

While I was at ACL I was able to take photos of a number of great bands there in addition to these behind the scenes photos. You can see a set I’ve started of my photos from ACL here.

Coldplay -- Austin, TX
Coldplay Performing Live at this year’s Austin City Limits Festival

Slow Motion Video Station Behind the Scenes at ACL
The Phantom camera used to make slow motion video clips (and the video of Lotus and I above) backstage at ACL.

Thanks again to Dell for having us out to show us the work that they were doing and thanks especially to Richard Binhammer who is Dell’s main social media tour de force for showing us such great hospitality while we were out there. I’ve known Richard for years online, but it was great to finally meet him and hang out in person in real life. If anyone ever embodies Dell’s slogan “The Power to Do More,” it’s Richard. 🙂

Update: Check out Lotus Carroll’s post on the Austin City Limits Music Festival this year here.

Dude! I’m Coming to Austin (Thank You Dell)

Dude I'm Coming to Austin!

I’m super excited to be heading out to Austin on Thursday to shoot Austin City Limits’ Music Festival going on this coming weekend.

In addition to ACL we are going to do a fun photowalk on Saturday. There are already 91 people signed up for Saturday morning’s walk! Wow! If you live in the Austin area or will be in town for ACL definitely come on out and join us for a morning walk. We’re going to shoot some of the great Austin bridges over the Colorado River and some of the great scenes along Zilker Park.

Check out this photo of the Stevie Ray Vaughn sculpture in Zilker Park taken by Peter Tsai. Peter did a coffee table photo book on Austin and is one of the photographers helping us lead this walk.

This photowalk will be an official Dell / Google+ Photowalk and joining me in leading it will be my pal Robert Scoble; Richard Binhammer (aka RichardatDell) from Dell; Chris Chabot, Natalie Villalobos, Vincent Mo, and Dave Cohen (all from Google); local Austin photographers Lotus Carroll and Jack Hollingsworth; Alvin Toro is also flying in from L.A. to help run the walk.

What a great group of photographers! If you are on Google+ already I’d recommend circling all of the folks linked above. If you’re not on Google+ yet you are missing one of the best parties on the web right now — what are you waiting for? GET ON THERE! — oh and you can find me on Google+ here 🙂

By way of disclosure, Dell (the power to do more!!!) is flying both myself and Robert Scoble out to the Festival for the weekend — they’re paying for our airfare, hotel and have arranged the weekend media passes for us to shoot ACL. Thank much to Dell and their generosity.

Part of the reason why Dell wants us out there is that they are showing us a lot of the cutting edge tech that they are using to run a lot of the behind the scenes at ACL. I’ll get lots of photos of this cool tech stuff too. Dell is responsible for live streaming the two biggest stages at the festival this year on YouTube using their Dell workstations and AMD FirePro Graphics.

Dell also did all the streaming for Lollapalooza earlier this year as well as U2’s most recent tour.

Previously the video production for ACL used Macs and Final Cut Pro but this solution didn’t work so well for actually streaming it live to the web. ACL’s new setup is using this Dell workstation, editing with Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, and then streaming it back out live to YouTube with another of the same model workstations. It will be interesting to watch them do this in real time.

Dell also will have a “video village” where roaming videographers out in the field doing interviews with bands and musicians and capturing other video will return with their memory cards to have the edited video clips quickly converted into more YouTube content.

I’m also going to be working with the Google+ and Google Photos team over at the Google+ stage at the festival. They are going to be signing up people for Google+ right there at the Festival and taking portraits of people who sign up for a live photo feed / slide show there at the Festival.

I’ll post more about what I’m doing in Austin once I fly into town, but I’m super excited to be hanging out with the cool folks from Dell and Google and getting to spend a weekend shooting some AWESOME musical acts at Austin City Limits’ Festival.