Country Music’s Longest Running Festival Produces 4K Video With Blackmagic 8K Switcher

WE Fest, the largest country music festival in the United States and the longest running in the world, held in August, used a Blackmagic Design 8K production switcher as part of a 4K Ultra HD 12G-SDI and fiber live production workflow. Now in its 37th year, the three-day festival took place in Detroit Lakes, Minn. The switcher was used in 4K UHD mode.

The ATEM Constellation 8K switcher was the heart of a flypack system put together by Upstage Video, a Pennsylvania-based full service video production company, which included Blackmagic’s Smart Videohub 12G 40x40 router, an ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel and more. Built specifically for the concert touring and music festival industry, the Ultra HD 12G-SDI and fiber flypack was responsible for switching and video distribution for WE Fest’s two 17’ x 27’ on stage screens and 12’ x 21’ front of house screen, as well as for closed circuit distribution and simulcasts in the VIP campsites and vendor areas.

“What’s unique about this flypack is that its modular design allows it to break into three racks with the director’s rack sitting front of house,” said Greg Brown, Upstage Video’s Project Manager. “In the U.S., most directors are typically set up backstage, while U.K. directors typically sit front of house so they can see lighting, etc. However, in the U.S., we’ve been seeing a trend where more and more directors prefer front of house because they want to have the energy from the show and the audience, which is hard to get backstage. It was important for us to develop a flypack that could easily provide a front of house director position with engineering backstage.”

The ATEM Constellation 8K switcher was the heart of a flypack system that included Blackmagic’s Smart Videohub 12G 40x40 router, an ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel and more.

The ATEM Constellation 8K switcher was the heart of a flypack system that included Blackmagic’s Smart Videohub 12G 40x40 router, an ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel and more.

The director’s rack housed the ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel, SmartView 4K and SmartScope Duo 4K monitors and Teranex Mini SDI to Audio 12G converters, and it’s linked to the CCU rack, which houses the ATEM Constellation 8K, Smart Videohub 12G 40x40 with Videohub Smart Control, Audio Monitor 12G, Mini Converters Optical Fiber 12G and GPI and Tally Interface. The third rack is the engineering rack and has additional Mini Converters Optical Fiber 12G and a media server.

“When we saw the ATEM Constellation 8K, we knew we had to go with it,” said Brown. “The 24 assignable 12G-SDI outputs are huge for us as they help cut back on the amount of routing that we need. We also love the built in Fairlight audio mixer, which was a big help at WE Fest with embedding the analog audio feed from the stage mix into our video feeds for recording, as well as the closed circuit TV feed.”

“In addition, the ATEM Constellation 8K’s ability to receive any resolution or frame rate and convert it is not only fantastic in its own regard, but also helps keep latency to a minimum,” he added. “Being in live entertainment, having the least amount of latency, ideally less than seven lines of processing delay, is critical, even in the multiviews.”

With four to six acts performing daily across the three-day festival, coupled with each act having different video needs and setups, preparedness and peace of mind were key.

“We do our best to connect with acts weeks before an event, but with folks on their own tours this can be difficult to accomplish,” said Brown. “At WE Fest, the ability to have an act’s video director walk in the morning of their show and quickly fulfill their needs helped the director relax and concentrate on switching the show. In this vein, the ATEM Constellation 8K switcher’s ability to receive different resolutions and frame rates and convert them with no outboard gear is ideal. Similarly, with 40 12G-SDI inputs, we were able to patch in every act’s needs in the morning, which eliminated the need to hard patch cables in between acts.”

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