For the past eleven years, the Pinecrest Gardens has been home to one of south Florida’s premier jazz concert series: JazzAid Live at the Banyan Bowl. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the series was in serious danger of cancellation for the 2020-21 season.
“I can’t describe the panic, the disappointment, the disillusionment, the sheer terror of living through a pandemic,” said Alana Perez, Director of Pinecrest Gardens, the botanical park that contains Miami’s famed Banyan Bowl. “I knew our concerts, our park, our recreation programs, our festivals; everything, was going to be affected.”
Thankfully, video producer and director Daniel Sell, also a musician who’s performed at the Banyan Bowl, had a solution.
“Daniel Sell, a long-time friend of Pinecrest Gardens who has performed many times on our stage, came to us and said, ‘I can help pull this together for you,” Perez said.
Key to Sell’s solution: the NewTek TriCaster® and NDI®.
The NewTek TriCaster puts an entire suite of media production capabilities at a creator’s fingertips. The TriCaster Mini – which Sell initially used in his production – is also easy to transport wherever needed and powerful enough to handle even complex productions.
Meanwhile, NDI is a revolutionary software standard developed by NewTek that enables video-compatible products to communicate, deliver, and receive high-definition video and audio over standard IP networks in a high-quality manner suitable for switching in a live production environment.
The combination of TriCaster’s impressive price point with NDI’s free-to-use – and costly cable reducing – infrastructure allowed Sell to quote the venue a price that would enable them to test the waters on how many patrons would pay for remote viewing.
Further helping the cause was Jesse Miller, General Manager of Midtown Video in Miami, who offered a deal on the rental of PTZ cameras in return for a sponsorship. Midtown Video is one of the largest resellers of NewTek equipment in the southeast, and Miller is more than familiar with the advantages of NewTek products and TriCaster in particular. He agrees with Sell that it was the perfect tool to produce the concert series’ live streams. And, according to Miller, the decision to offer a sponsorship was an easy one.
“The Banyan Bowl is a cherished local monument,” Miller said. “TriCaster is the perfect tool to produce any streaming event. When you’re fitting your gear into a small footprint for a control space, TriCaster, in its do-everything role, is a solid choice.”
According to Miller, the fact that TriCaster allows users to switch multi-camera feeds, record, livestream, incorporate additional cameras, and external computers for graphics and monitors, all in one box is a huge advantage.
“If you need to get all those different components and functions into your productions and you’re working with a constrained budget, TriCaster really gets it done for much less than it costs to add all those components individually,” Miller said. “TriCaster is great for any production, but particularly multi-camera virtual events. That’s where it really shines.”
Meanwhile, NDI allows for seamless connection of all cameras over the local IP network. It also allows for video inputs of all types to be quickly brought into the production. In Sell’s case, this included a computer he uses to create graphics and titling using NewBlue FX Titler 4 software.
“I started the series using a TriCaster Mini with HDMI inputs, so I only had four hardwired inputs. The four manned cameras are all SDI, but I needed more,” Sell said. “So when I wanted to add some PTZ point-of-view cameras, those had to be incorporated into the TriCaster through NDI. When I look at all the things that are being done as livestream events in the era of COVID, the large-scale productions that are the most polished are all being done with NDI and TriCasters, they’re using different cameras and different streaming devices and software, but the guts of those systems all seem to be the same. They’re all built around NDI and TriCasters.”
The result, according to the venue, has been impressive – and it’s in no small part thanks to the professional grade quality offered by Sell and his skill with the TriCaster.
“We have a 500-seat theater and we used to fill those seats for every concert,” Perez said. “Our base is very loyal. But my litmus test for the success of the livestream was the additional single tickets that seem to be coming in. We’re getting more and more with every show. We have zip codes in California, in New England, in Canada. We’ve had viewers in Europe. We’ve had Italy, we’ve had Germany, we’ve had England, we’ve had Portugal. We’re down in Brazil. It’s the Banyan Bowl’s roll-out to the world. I can’t be more excited about anything than having people beyond our next-door neighbors knowing who we are. It’s been our coming-out party. I am just blown away by the quality of the production. It’s as good as any concert I’ve seen on television. It’s Broadway. It’s Hollywood.”