Los Angeles-based BC Live Productions helps bring the wow factor to live events, from star studded Hollywood film premieres and concerts to esports tournaments, experiential displays, and reality and talk shows. With only one shot to get each production right, preparation is key for the BC Live team, as is having the right technology for each project. We sat down with CEO Brett Collins to chat about the company, the importance of being a well-rounded professional, and how to stay ahead of the curve, even when unexpected challenges like the pandemic arise.
I moved to the US from Australia 13 years ago to pursue a career in music. After working with rental companies as a side gig, I immediately loved live directing and the ‘anything can happen’ element of production, so I founded my own live production outfit, BC Live, right out of my apartment living room. We shortly expanded into an office, and now have four locations around Los Angeles, including studio and warehouse space. We double as an on-site/remote live production service provider, and gear rental house. We source a lot of our equipment inventory from our friends at Key Code Media.
What does an average day look like for you and what do you like most about your job?
My role runs the gamut, from leading productions to cleaning up after them. It all depends on the day, but most often I helm the larger projects, including pre-production and on-site support. Every day is a whirlwind, but I love how each production is different. Live production spans so many genres, styles, and industries, so there’s never a dull moment. That variety is exciting to me, and it’s rewarding to be able to execute the vision of the show.
How have the last two years impacted BC Live’s approach to production?
Production values have continued to trend upwards in recent years. Companies and brands want their content to stand out, in a good way. If you put out garbage on the internet, everyone sees it and it reflects poorly. At the same time, the pandemic crystallized the demand for high quality content, introducing new challenges for many productions, as a lot of in-person on-site shows had to cease work. Over the years, we had developed ‘best practices’ remote workflows for our international corporate clients, so we were able to pivot quickly. Building on that work, we developed remote kits that could be sent directly to talent for use on productions, like “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Our solutions helped productions get back on the air safely and attracted the attention of the NBA and NFL. The pandemic challenged many, BC Live included, to embrace distributed production, and now that people have realized everyone doesn’t have to be in the same place to create content, it’s becoming easier to keep pace with consumer demand for content.
How do you elevate a production you’re working on?
Traditional production sensibilities such as having good lighting, camera sensors, graphics, and audio quality go a long way. HDR and 4K productions can stand out, but most audiences – outside of esports – aren’t equipped to receive streams at those specs. The most ubiquitous formats are still H.264 over RTMP, H.265 / HEVC and SRT, and ProRes for archiving.
We rely on a lot of AJA products, both in production and in our rental pool. FiDO converters have been great for video transport over fiber; the four-channel throw down is super convenient. We own KUMO SDI routers; Ki Pro Ultra Plus units, which are great for high quality recording, and the Ki Pro GO multi-channel H.264 HD recorders, which are fantastic for when clients want files right away; they can just grab the USB drive and go as soon as the program wraps. There are also endless instances where we need to spit out different flavors of video, which is easy to navigate with our AJA gear, even as we move into 4K. The openGear range is a great option for compact engineering, and I’m excited to see AJA filling out the product range in IP video. In general, using AJA gives me comfort because I know they take their engineering seriously, and their tools hit the trifecta of metrics: price point, reliability, and elegance.
Describe the major challenges that you face in production.
As clients become more aware of new possibilities, the requests become a little more adventurous. We try to anticipate their needs so that we’re always providing the best solutions possible. This means we’re constantly evaluating new technologies and implementing them where it makes sense. For example, video over IP is now widely used. Plugging in BNC is great for reliability, but with IP video, you can also include ancillary data, and it’s scalable. Fortunately, we have exceptional network engineers so adding IP capabilities has been quite smooth. Subsequently, we’ve been able to thrive in the remote world. Each new venue or OB truck we interface with, has their set of protocols, so we need to be nimble and make sure we’re able to work with all kinds of formats. We use a lot of NDI and Dante gear in addition to baseband and analog, so we’re also looking at emerging solutions that can help us bridge between protocols, platforms, and codecs.
What advice would you offer to other live production professionals?
From my own experience, live video production is a lot like making music; it has a rhythm. Even a conversation has natural beats. Getting a feel for that helps with knowing when to switch angles, go in close, pull out wide, etc. Also, this may seem obvious, but I think it’s important to make sure that you’re true to your word and a good person. You’re only as good as the team around you, so it’s important to treat them well. Excellence is expected, but it takes more than operational skills to succeed. My formula for success has always involved being a team player, prioritizing kindness, and investing in the success of those around you. Taking this approach, along with solid tech, allows us to run well-oiled live productions.