Boiler Room: Where streams can come true9 February 2016
Nestled somewhere between TV and radio, Boiler Room is an online global phenomenon in the music world. At just five years old it has become the number one platform for streaming live DJ sets and music performances. With millions of people tuning in for both the live streams and the recorded archive, the concept has made a huge impact in a relatively short time.
Currently, Boiler Room has offices in London, New York and Berlin, it is expanding and creating events all over the world, often in places where reliable internet connections aren’t easy to come by. With live streaming such a core element of Boiler Room’s growing success, there has to be some robust and reliable technology behind the scenes. So what keeps Boiler Room bubbling?
Over to Larry Gale, Boiler Room’s head of broadcast: “When we started Boiler Room, we just relied on the venue to provide the audio mix, then send that feed from the front of house and use it for broadcast. This was fine for just a straight up DJ set but now we have two engineers on site; one to take care of the sound in the room at the venue and then another engineer in charge of the broadcast mix.”
Beyond this feed, ambient mics and a roaming camera are part of the Boiler Room’s appeal, putting the online audience directly in touch with the venue’s atmosphere. “The person in charge of our mix for broadcast will have those ambient room mics feeding into the mix,” explains Gale, “and that engineer will be in charge of riding those levels to blend the atmosphere of the venue when appropriate. It’s not an easy skill to be able to read the crowd and the DJs performance to know when to bring in the ambient sounds.”
Recently Boiler Room has partnered with LiveU, a company who provides IP-based live video services. The newly delivered LU500 backpacks connected to a LiveU Central hub means Boiler Room can deliver high quality audio and video streams from much more ambitious locations. The units enable Boiler Room to broadcast from locations with any type of connectivity and bond those connections together into one robust stream. So, 3G/4G, Wi-Fi and Ethernet can be used all at the same time. “A new version 5.1 firmware for the LiveU system has meant we can now stream audio at a higher 192kbps bit-rate than previously,” says Gale. “Workflow generally stays the same but the mix engineers and gear choices will be hired in depending on the act.”
He references a more complicated situation: “We were recently in the London Barbican for a Kamasi Washington performance and we were given a MADI split via BNC. This meant our engineer had to mix down in analogue from this feed, before giving us that mix as two XLRs that can go into our production switcher, where the video and audio gets embedded together before going into our LiveU LU500 via HDSDI and transmitted back to our master control room back in Wapping London.”
Gale continues, “One thing we always make sure of with the audio, is that we try and use a desk that can do multi-track audio recording. Our streaming live productions go though a fairly rigorous remix and mastering process before they are uploaded to our archive, where the majority of our audience experience Boiler Room. But for the streaming this new LiveU system had enabled us to transmit far more securely than before and given us the opportunity to add in a master control room in between the broadcast site and the end user. This allows us to ensure a much higher overall quality.”