Live Streaming and the 30′ Jib

The miracle of live streaming evolved out of an infancy much like that of an adult human being – live streaming had to crawl before it could walk, babble and drool before it could talk.   Before it cut its teeth on solid food, live streaming consisted of back lit talking heads plopped in front of laptops, their disproportionate fish-eyed noses bi-nostriled serpents consuming the bulk of the center of the screen with semi-focused eyes, mouth and ears bringing up the rear of the face parade, all wrapped in nearly comprehensible, sub orbital audio and echo chamber reverb.        

Much in the same way airports failed to recognize until the early nineties they could turn their terminals into high end shopping malls by bringing in quality retail franchises, live streaming had to stop and take a breath and realize “hey, there isn’t any reason we can’t have high end production value just because this show is going out live at 2mbps on the Internet.”  Enter evolution, and the 30 foot jib.

I was recently invited to a five camera live stream with a 30 foot jib produced by Absolute Live Productions and the quality of the imaging, camera work, and audio capture was stunning.    HD cameras with cinematic lensing are already the norm at Absolute, but then throw the 30 foot long sweeping tentacle of a masterfully operated jib into the mix and your live streaming baby is suddenly out of diapers and fully decked in an Armani suit and tie.

CEO of Absolute Live Productions, Dave Rosen, nudged me out of ogling the video village broadcast monitor and said, “The jib looks great, doesn’t it.”   Understatement of the year.   “Live streaming technology,” Rosen continued, “has reached the level now where you can have the highest quality available on the production side,” something Rosen and Absolute Live Productions are obviously providing their clients.   I asked what made him decide on owning a jib.   “A production company is only as good as the personnel and the tools they use,” said Rosen, pointing at the monitor.  “When you see the value a jib brings to a production, making it one of your production tools is really a no brainer.”

The conversation continued about the jib and Rosen made the point about different operators and how important it is they understand the show and have a good feel for the show’s style.    “The style of a concert, for example, is going to be totally different from the style of a reality show, and it’s important the operator is able to differentiate between the two,” said Rosen.

“We’ve been fortunate to work with some of great operators,” Rosen continued.    We met Mike Brown a.k.a. The Human Jib on a gig in Austin Texas and we immediately knew we wanted to contract with him on a number of future projects because of his amazing intuition how to use a jib to its greatest effect in different circumstances.  I’m sure that’s something that can be taught, but it’s so great when someone ‘just gets it,’” said Rosen of The Human Jib.

Absolute Live Productions’ in house jib tech and operator, Zak Applegate, is another highly skilled whiz kid at the helm of a jib.   I asked Zak how he got started with jibs.  “I started out as a specialty camera operator doing dolly cam, Steadicam, and handheld for some shows,” said Applegate.   “I did well, but I always felt like I couldn’t get the really cool shots that I wanted to get.   I was attending San Diego State University at the time, and discovered they had a 12 ft. Jimmy Jib no one was using.   I spent weeks training on the jib, learning how to build it from scratch and operate it safely.   I underwent a rigorous test on my operating and passed with flying colors.”

Applegate has built an impressive resume, operating jibs for KPBS concerts, ESPN, musical theater, Formula Drift races and more.   Zak gave me a quick tour of Absolute’s 30 foot jib and I have to admit – standing next to it – it’s a daunting steel behemoth interlaced with a network of cable, pulleys and controls.   “The jib takes a colossal amount of coordination and focus,” said Applegate.  “It’s special because it can cover 100% of a live show without missing any of the action.   A typical camera can only cover about 60%-70% of a show without missing shots.  A jib can completely cover a whole show.”

The live streaming baby has definitely grown up, and Absolute Live Productions has been at the forefront of helping to push it to higher and higher heights with the help of their 30 foot jib.   “We can include the jib in any production where it will enhance the overall look and feel of the show,” said Rosen.   “And we do rent it out to other productions,” Rosen reminded.   “We’re able to produce the entire show for a client, or we can connect a show with one of our great operators and a jib, or we can rent out the jib solo.”   However it is you get a jib on your production, it’s worth it.   The value it brings is unparalleled by any other single piece of equipment.

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” said Rosen, reflecting on the fever pitched evolution of live streaming.   “I’m just glad to be along for the ride.”

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