WGBH Logs in to Facebook Live

BOSTON—During the spring and summer of 2016, WGBH’s social media team realized that Facebook Live was an opportunity we wanted to start leveraging. Facebook Live events were getting more hits than program streams available on our traditional program websites. To take advantage of the trend, I put together a package of equipment options to enable live streaming productions. We held a meeting with all the major production teams, which yielded an variety of production ideas.

It became clear we needed a variety of different means to produce streaming content. Our goal was to encourage as many Facebook Live productions as we could by having low-to-zero cost and by making the process as easy as possible for any user to implement themselves. So we put together four tiers of Facebook Live production tools to simplify things—from the most basic to the most sophisticated.

Tier one is basically an iPhone, adding in some microphones to improve audio and a gimbal to keep things steady. For tier two we have a Mevo, a little 4K camera that allows users on a smartphone or tablet to crop shots and dissolve/cut between them for a multicam output. Tier three is basically our “studio-in-a-box, and the fourth tier is what we call a “full studio production,” running it through our control room like a full-scale broadcast production.

I looked at a variety of different products to cover all these needs and settled on Telestream’s Wirecast Gear. We really like the Wirecast software product, and Wirecast Gear is a turnkey version that includes the software, computer and I/O hardware for simple setup. Wirecast Gear allows our team to output a professional production from multiple cameras with titles/graphics/logos, roll-ins, multiple layers, music, etc.

When starting a Facebook live project, we ask two things: 1) What is the “vibe”? And 2) What is your tolerance for risk? “Rough and ready” generally dictates a simpler set of equipment (tier 1 or 2). For risk, is it OK for the stream to be interrupted or to go down or does it need to feel like a full-on broadcast production of WGBH? If it’s the latter, we assign tier 3 or 4 and add technicians to ensure success.

Wirecast Gear allows viewers to interact with WGBH broadcasts.

Wirecast Gear has enabled WGBH to deliver a simple-to-produce yet polished program that encourages audience engagement. When “Antiques Roadshow” uses Wirecast, it typically plays roll-ins from the previous night’s show—roll an opening scene, have its logo and lower thirds, and it’ll have live Skype feeds from appraisers calling in from other cities. Facebook fans submit questions through the app to be addressed during the show. It’s quite an advanced production coming from a small digital studio in an old converted office.

We recently streamed a live concert featuring the Dropkick Murphys for Front Row Boston, another WGBH organization. Using Wirecast with multiple cameras allowed Facebook viewers to hang out with the band before the show and then follow them onto the stage. Facebook viewers were then prompted on-screen to vote for the last song in real-time. In this way, our online viewers are not just watching TV, they’re involved in the event in a very real way.

Tim Mangini is WGBH senior director of production technology. He can be contacted at 671-300-5370.

For more information, please visitwww.telestream.netor call 530-470-1300.

 Tim Mangini, Senior Director of Production Technology, is an acclaimed film and television producer who has worked as a director, producer, cinematographer, editor, multimedia producer, and motion picture sound editor. Prior to joining the GBH Production Group, he spent 18 years supervising the production and post-production of more than 350 “Frontline” documentaries. Tim began his career at Hannah Barbera as a cartoon-character voice editor. His film credits include “Star Trek IV,” “48 Hours,” “Poltergeist,”and the IMAX film “Behold Hawaii.” He can be reached at tim_mangini@wgbh.org.