Sedona International Film Festival Goes Live with Blackmagic Design

Relying on ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K, Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, Micro Studio Camera 4K and more, the film festival brings its content to life

Celebrating 25 years in operation, the Sedona International Film Festival (SIFF) is an annual nine-day festival that celebrates films and filmmakers in Sedona, AZ, a desert town known for its natural beauty. Along with a heavy schedule of screenings, the festival provides an intimate setting for filmmakers and celebrities to discuss their art and what drives their ambitions to create unique stories.

To broaden the audience beyond the festival’s 10,000+ attendees, the SIFF team decided to start live streaming its content across its social channels four years ago, so filmmakers and cinephiles at home could remotely benefit from what was happening at the heart of the festival. SIFF also live streams its content to monitors around the venues during the festival, so attendees can watch while they wait for their next film screening or dine in the VIP dining area.

Photo by John Batinovich

Jeremy J. Hawkes, producer for SIFF Media Productions, explains, “The festival first attempted to live stream interviews with filmmakers four years ago using phones and a simplistic approach. However, it was clear that due to the quality and quantity of the content being captured, we needed a more professional setup. A year later, I stepped in to raise the bar for the large-scale production, live streaming nearly all of our coverage of the festival.

“We knew we needed to invest in equipment that would provide better picture quality, which meant upgrading our cameras and bandwidth. We also wanted a multi-camera setup that streamed a continuous 1080 feed to multiple sites at once. We needed to upgrade our equipment to be more compatible with these requirements.”

To achieve this, SIFF turned to Blackmagic Design. According to Hawkes, “We chose Blackmagic Design gear to stream our live footage because of the products’ simple integration. Blackmagic Design gave us the high-quality production value and flexibility that we needed, and we were able to avoid complications and unnecessary work-arounds that we’d previously been running into. The products all worked together seamlessly, so we could focus on the content, not the process.”

Photo by Larry Kane

Building A More Dynamic Live Stream

The bulk of SIFF’s content is captured from its media room, where filmmakers and celebrities sit down to discuss their latest projects. With nearly 80 interviews occurring during this year’s festival, including sit-downs with notable celebrities such as Billy Zane, Mariel Hemingway, Mackenzie Phillips, Ed Asner and more, the media room is always abuzz. SIFF also live streams Q&As following film screenings in its largest venue, the Sedona Performing Arts Center, and other on-the-go content throughout the festival, such as red carpet interviews and VIP events.

For the media room, SIFF uses a two-camera setup, connecting two Micro Studio Camera 4Ks, each complete with an HDMI cable to a Video Assist 4K for monitoring, recording and configuration, via SDI to two HyperDeck Studio Mini broadcast recorders for backup. The signal is then split out to an ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K live production switcher and a SmartView Duo monitor. A separate laptop outputting video and graphics for a 4K television backdrop is converted to SDI and fed into the switcher. Then the ATEM sends three inputs via a single SDI output to an iMac computer by way of an UltraStudio Mini Recorder capture and playback device.

According to Hawkes, “To make the interviews more dynamic, we use a 75″ LCD screen in the background to show trailers and graphics. This way interviewees can interact with the visuals of their work. We can also switch directly to the trailers and graphics, so they are their own input on the ATEM. As such, we are able to live switch and stream multi-camera and video across multiple platforms.”

In the Sedona Performing Arts Center, SIFF live streams Q&As and events with a four-camera setup using Micro Studio Camera 4Ks, HyperDeck Studio Minis, a SmartView Duo, a ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K and a Blackmagic Web Presenter, which makes any SDI or HDMI video source appear as a USB webcam for higher quality web streaming. The Micro Studio Camera 4Ks connect directly to the ATEM, which in turn splits the signal to the HyperDeck Studio Minis, SmartView Duo, and Blackmagic Web Presenter. From the Blackmagic Web Presenter, SIFF funnels the signal into its MacBook Pro and streams to Facebook Live.

Additionally, while shooting on location at the festival’s various venues, SIFF sets up a small mobile station with a Blackmagic Web Presenter and laptop. Using a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, they feed the signal via HDMI into the Blackmagic Web Presenter to stream on Facebook Live. In addition to live streaming, the team records all content at a high resolution for post production later on, so the content can live beyond the festival and serve SIFF’s ongoing initiatives. 

“We live stream to Facebook in the morning and afternoon with on-location interviews in and around our venues. Our production team works day-in and day-out, shooting interviews and content twelve hours a day,” Hawkes explains. “It’s usually a crew of four setting up at each of the three locations to light and shoot quickly, on the fly, interviewing film goers and filmmakers. The Blackmagic Web Presenter has made it simple to quickly set up and have a quality stream while on the move. Additionally, the crew uses the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K to shoot short interviews and content at the VIP parties every night which is used to promote the festival over social media during the festival and throughout the year.”

Photo by Mark Short

Increasing Quality While Simplifying the Workflow

With the ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K and Micro Studio Camera 4Ks at the heart of SIFF’s workflow, Hawkes discusses how they’ve allowed SIFF to further elevate its content and increase its production quality.

“The ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K has helped us simplify our workflow by creating fewer steps to manage the multi-camera setup. Our workflow has become fluid, and ultimately, the ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K allows us to stream in HD while having the ability to record in 4K, which is exactly what we needed,” Hawkes says. “Using the Micro Studio Camera 4Ks gives us versatility in lenses and picture control, and the ability to record at greater resolutions through the Video Assist 4Ks and HyperDeck Studio Minis is key to our post production and distribution.” 

Hawkes concludes, “Blackmagic Design has been a gem for our live streaming abilities. The equipment is flawless and straightforward, so we don’t have to overthink our production. We’ve been able to overcome the challenges we first faced when we started live streaming and achieve our goals for quality coverage and collaboration. With each festival comes new possibilities, so I can’t wait to see what we do next year.”

About the Sedona International Film Festival

The Sedona International Film Festival is a celebration of the power of independent film and multi-cultural programming to inspire, educate, entertain and enlighten. The world-renowned nine-day event is held annually at the end of February featuring more than 170 independent films from around the world, augmented by Q&A sessions with filmmakers, free workshops, seminars and panel discussions. The goal is turning movies into motivation and art into activism through innovative programming and events that connect community. In addition, the festival is known as the “filmmaker’s festival”, with sold-out attendance, engaging audience and VIP treatment to participating filmmakers. SIFF has gained in popularity and attendance each year and is nationally ranked among the top independent film festivals.

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