Tomb Raider 20th Anniversary Challenge
Twenty years after Lara Croft burst onto the gaming scene as a daring English archaeologist in pursuit of rare antiquities in the first Tomb Raider video game for PCs, Playstation, and Sega Saturn consoles, a live action Tomb Raider game show has emerged. Originally conceived as an escape room concept, the Tomb Raider game show morphed into a competition using YouTube Influencers as contestants on three teams. Team one of episode 1, the Crystal Bears, featured YT Influencers Jessica Villarreal and Nick Gregorio, the Silver Wolves featured Malik Forte and Peter Paras, and the Jade Jaguars featured Atomic Mari and Pamela Horton.
It’s been a busy year for Absolute Live Productions streaming YouTube Influencers, everything from traveling to Cancun for a TBS production, to live streaming the Givit Wednesday episode “Puppies and Tattoos” starring Marlon Wayans, Shawn Binder, Elijah Daniel, Alison Eastwood, Zane Hijazi, Hannah Kat Jones, and Christine Sydelko. So it’s not a surprise the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration Challenge Executive Producers reached out to Absolute Live Productions to handle the live recording, switching, audio recording and archiving components of their production.
“Having a chance to work on the iconic Tomb Raider project was pretty awesome ,” said Dave Rosen, CEO of Absolute Live Productions. Absolute was tapped as the physical production team for a live game show version of the Tomb Raider video game, and it was a production experience Rosen will long remember.
“When Executive Producer, Yaniv Fituci, the head of content at Attack Media contacted me about the show, I was thrilled,” recalls Rosen. “Tomb Raider was a game I played every day twenty years ago, and now it’s back in a big way, with major revisions and upgrades, so it was really an honor for me to be able to be a part of this show. Just spectacular.”
Filmed at the Hayvenhurst Studio in Van Nuys California, Rosen and his team were excited about the challenges posed by filming the live action Tomb Raider game show. The Absolute team opted for the NewTek Tricaster 860 to handle recording of the 8 camera line cut and to insert graphics and titles. Absolute’s production team also utilized the versatile Tricaster to establish a remote “Preview Monitoring” station for director, sending a switchable preview feed of all 8 cameras to the director. The director of photography wanted an independent station with a broadcast monitor with some separation from video village where he could toggle through all the cameras in preview mode. The Tricaster made setting up the DPs station easy, and the station simplified calling the show for the director and made the live line cut cleaner.
Absolute Live Productions has been a major proponent of Tricasters over the last 5 years
Absolute Live Productions has been a major proponent of Tricasters over the last 5 years not only for their live streaming productions but also for recording large, multi-camera recording projects like the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration Challenge.
To ease the back end workflow for the post-production team, Absolute sourced rack mounted AJA Kipros for recording camera isos, routing the eight main cameras through Black Magic’s Smart VideoHub 20×20. Knowing the post team would be using AVID to cut, was the reason for choosing the KiPros to record because KiPros can record in AVID’s native DNx HD codec. Having the footage already in DNx HD expedited the import into AVID and saved hours of transcoding time.
Running the cameras through the BlackMagic Smart VideoHub allowed Absolute’s team to route each camera individually to it’s own KiPro recorder as well as to the Tricaster for switching and recording the line cut. Creating the line cut in the 860 enabled the Technical Director to drop in any graphics, lower thirds, or other titling during the live switch, so the line cut that was created was very close to final version, thereby cutting hours off of editorial. Absolute’s production team frequently relies on this Tricaster workflow for multi-camera recording as a way to reduce costs without compromising the final product.
Audio posed it’s own challenges because of the high activity level of the contestants and contest stations that included being hoisted in the air in harnesses. The Absolute audio team had to be sure wireless microphone packs were positioned correctly on the contestants. Another consideration was perspiration, so the team opted for Lectrasonic MM packs on the contestants because they’re waterproof and sweat proof, and Countryman B6 lavalier microphones allowed their mics to be out of the way and clear of the physical activity.
The Absolute team built a streamlined, audio capture system utilizing the Beringer X32 mixer, focusing on digital signal versus analog
The Audio department wasn’t immune to the ever present budget challenge. Mindful of walking the fence between quality and cost, the Absolute team built a streamlined, audio capture system utilizing the Beringer X32 mixer, focusing on digital signal versus analog, reducing the total number of analog inputs on the Beringer to only three. Host Jessica Chobot’s mic was a Shure ULXD2 microphone and receiver pack which is digital RF. The digital transmission originates at the microphone and it never reverts to analog anywhere in the chain. After arriving at the console, every input passing through the console was converted to Dante. (Dante is Audinate’s scalable audio for Ethernet that allows over 500 channels of audio on a single gigabit network.) The AES 50 signals were also converted to Dante, then the mix was sent to two separate Pro Tools rigs on two separate computers simultaneously for recording. Four or five years ago, the streamlined system implemented by the Absolute Live Productions team – which is rock solid – would have cost ten times what it cost them to implement it today.
Working without a jib is a thing of the past for Absolute
When asked about the jib choice brought into the production mix, Absolute Live Productions CEO answered, “Although we’ve sourced jibs through other rental houses, we didn’t always have the budget to work with a jib.” Working without a jib is a thing of the past for Absolute since they recently opened up a jib department. Rosen is thrilled with the jibs, and so are Absolute’s clients. “We’ve been wanting to be in the jib business for a while,” said Rosen. “Our goal is to have a jib on all of our shows in the future, no matter what the budget, because it just makes the end product look amazing. What this show proved to us is, we don’t ever want to work without bringing one of our jibs with us. Sometimes we have to make concessions on our price to get a jib onto a show, but I’d rather compromise on the price than compromise the product, show or end result.”
Of course, we couldn’t be creating at this level if it wasn’t for our great crew!
“Of course, we couldn’t be creating at this level if it wasn’t for our great crew,” said Rosen, who had only high praise for his crew’s performance on the Tomb Raider game show production. “We brought on our crew through Absolute Live Productions, and utilized many of the same people on our team for countless other shows,” said Rosen, “through Attack Media, other departments of the production hired their own crew so we got the opportunity to work with a lot of new people and had the best of both worlds. What’s exciting about that for me, and for Absolute as a production company, is the new folks we met were great and, with the blessing of Yaniv and Attack Media we’ve since been able to bring them on to other shows as part of our team. They’ve been a welcome addition to the crew community we’ve already established at Absolute and we look forward to working with them again and again.“ Absolute is known not only as a live streaming production company, but also as a full service equipment rental company as well as a crewing company for productions needing technical directors, camera operators, audio techs, DITs, editors, and production assistants.
The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration Challenge was a very gratifying experience for the Absolute Live Productions team, and a concept that Rosen feels we will be seeing more and more of. “This concept really takes advantage of the vacuum that’s been created in the “Geek TV” community with the demise of G4tv,” said Rosen. “What the executive producers decided was to have a master cut of the competition, and also have individual cuts of the Temple Run done by each of the YouTube Influencers, the idea being for each of the Influencers to post their Temple Run on their own YouTube channel.” Doing this effectively created 12 streams of content along with a master version. “You get a lot of bang for your production dollar when you do that,” said Rosen, “and you also ensure you’re reaching your ideal customers.”
The Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration Challenge can be seen on www.thechive.com