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Articles Sept-Oct 2020

IRAA 2020 Recording Arts Awards a Huge Success

Winners across 42 categories at India’s only technical excellence award for the sound recording industry represent the future of the industry setting new standards in sound engineering..... read more

Bose Professional Gives Befitting Tribute to War Heroes

The National War Memorial stands as a stellar tribute to the Indian Armed Forces who served our country in times of conflict. The scale and significance of the memorial..... read more

Ray of LIGHT in Conversation with Becket Tundatil

The Coronavirus has disrupted industries from all sectors including Lighting. The outbreak has left a significant impact on the events industry with shows being postponed or cancelled..... read more

NJSM-BNA Set the Ball Rolling for Virtual Live Entertainment Events in India

The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic mandated the cancellation of most concerts, music festivals, performances and other live entertainment events, but what emerged from this adversity..... read more

Acoustic and Audio System Design for Small Rooms - Part 3

In Part 2 of the series, Sarma elucidated about the importance of sound isolation and how background noise can adversely impact the dynamic range of the audio playback..... read more


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Virtual Events

NJSM-BNA Set the Ball Rolling for Virtual Live Entertainment Events in India




The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic mandated the cancellation of most concerts, music festivals, performances and other live entertainment events, but what emerged from this adversity was a ‘new virtual reality’ with performers and musicians across the world taking to social media platforms to stream live for the audience.

Smooth-running, suave virtual content merged with cutting-edge tech and traversing with interesting raw live music and performances had the potential to shape something completely new, innovative and surprisingly engaging. It’s clear that virtual events, tailor-made to best fit the audience requirement are the ‘new normal’ in the present scenario.

PT recently caught up with the trailblazers in the Virtual Entertainment Events space in India – NJSM and BNA Talents, who have also spearheaded the Concept and Production of the IRAA 2020 virtual awards ceremony organised by PALM expo.

Nixon Johny - Director, NJSM, Betson Carvalho - Director, BNA Talent and Sancheth Suvarna of NJSM discuss how they took on the challenge of entering a relatively new domain and have till date embraced it with great success.


From (left to right) Rahul More, Sancheth Suvarna, Nixon Johny and Betson Carvalho


The Need of the Hour

Since the past six to seven months, the live event industry has all but come to a complete standstill. Understandably, content providers are doing what they can to stay afloat and have turned to the larger-than-life virtual sets to fill the big stage live events space which the pandemic has brought to a near complete standstill. Going with the flow of adjusting to the ‘new normal’ is NJSM in association with BNA Talent.

While NJSM have been in the event and entertainment industry for the past 16 years and who are regarded as one of the foremost players in the sound rental market, BNA Talent has been promoting Indian artists globally and dealing with all aspects of entertainment.

Nixon Johny, Director, NJSM, hit the nail on the head when he said, “In periods of adversity, a strong person digs into his mind’s deepest to realize his greatest strengths.” Questioning the conceptualization of the NJSM-BNA studio, he went on to say, “During the Lockdown Phase of Covid-19, it was apparent that live shows were going to have to change and for us and the business to survive, we were going to have to pivot along with the current social and market conditions. After much brain storming, we realized we had all the ingredients ready with us, we just had to join the dots which ended up in one of the strongest collaborations between NJSM and BNA Talent giving us the first mover advantage with this virtual studio.”

Seeing religion being streamed and watched online successfully, this gave them the idea of trying out a virtual studio. Nixon from NJSM and Betson from BNA Talent who are both well experienced in the industry and have worked together over the years, quickly realized that this must be the way forward for entertainment as well. A couple of phone calls, some late late-night extended conversations, a quick evaluation of inventory and requirements, and the NJSM-BNA partnership was born for virtual events.

“Covid-19 changed life as we know it, especially for the event and entertainment industry. As live entertainment was still in demand, clients approached us about the requirement being present, however the ability to introduce it to the audience, while maintaining safety, hygiene and social distancing as per Govt rules was a challenge. We at NJSM-BNA felt the need to overcome these challenges and fulfil the market requirement,” explains Sancheth Suvarna, Audio Engineer, NJSM.

Creating a Virtual Event

While it may not be possible to do live and in-person events and shows, there is actually no reason to cancel them completely. Though temporary, the virtual event platform could be the answer to the question of where and how to host a live event?


Salim-Sulaiman during their virtual performance at NJSM Studio


NJSM had a team that believed in the virtual event platform concept. They had the concept of the studio, they put together the inventory, the idea and the space and the team was ready within a week to launch their first ever pilot virtual show. So, what does it take to create a virtual event? Betson Carvalho, Director, BNA Talent, explained, “A winning hand, a team that believed in the concept and idea, coupled with the availability of space, light and sound, inventory, access to the BEST technology and the willingness to learn. That is what is required to put together and launch a great virtual event.”

Setting up a Virtual Platform

For NJSM finding a space to host a virtual event was never a concern. The NJSM-BNA Studio is an 1,800 Sq. ft facility, which is integrated with LED Walls, Trussing, Sound, Lights, Camera, Switchers, Chroma Lighting & Chroma Setup. The studio is also equipped with a Leased Line Internet with 3 redundancy connections and all other technical that is required to flawlessly execute Virtual concerts and events.

Nixon and Betson were the brains behind the entire operation with much needed support from Sancheth, who heads the entire audio division at NJSM and Rahul More who is the Tech Integrator with BNA Talents and leads the content creation, streaming and integration process.

Of course, they had to work within the government norms of social distancing etc., so the team stuck to a 2-person per department system where every department had to be optimized and shrunk down with some team members working remotely.

Technology, Duration, Equipment and Gear

The technology, and software used is an optimum mix to give the best results and output. Some of the software and technology used by NJSM include VMix, Resolume, OBS, Restream to name a few.

Cameras

For a live set-up, some of the cameras used are Sony A7III, Canon 80D, Canon 5D Mark IV, Sony PXW-Z190, gear like the Blackmagic, Hollyland Wireless Transmitters, and Field Monitors Lilliput.

Lights

For lighting the stage up Softies, Sharpies, LED Bars and Blinders were used in different areas for the even spread of light.

Audio

The Audio solution was equipped by AVID Venue S6L -24c/E6L 192 Engine Mixing Consoles, Pro Tools 12 for multitrack recording, Sennheiser EM 6000 Series and Shure ULXD wireless microphones, DPA 4099 Instrument Microphones, Sennheiser MD421, Shure sm58/sm57and CPA Sm8 near field monitors.

The NJSM-BNA Studio is a fully equipped facility. Trussing for light mounting and LED Walls are all available in-house. The range of equipment and setup can be customized and changed as per the artists’ requirement.

The mixing for most of the shows was done by Sancheth. NJSM also had guest engineers like Ashish Saxena, Tanay Gajjar, Saibu Simon, and Clifford D’Costa to create magic in the NJSM-BNA studio.


Virtual stand-up comedy by Atul Khatri


Ashish Saxena, Sound Engineer, who worked with NJSM-BNA on two shows for KK, one with the full band and one as acoustic with the guitar, found working with the team highly professional and appreciates of the whole virtual environment setup. “NJSM is a fantastic company to work with. Sancheth, he knows his job very well. Before I could walk into the studio, he made sure everything was patched in and plugged in accordingly. So working with him has always been a superb experience, not just for these virtual live streams, but also for the live shows we have done before. It’s really been a pleasure working with them,” he said.

For Ashish, working on a virtual event was definitely different, “You had to mix more critically because it was going on a live stream rather than on big speakers or a big PA.”

For NJSM finding a space to host a virtual event was never a concern.
The NJSM-BNA Studio is an 1,800 Sq. ft facility, which is integrated with LED Walls, Trussing, Sound, Lights, Camera, Switchers, Chroma Lighting & Chroma Setup. The studio is also equipped with a Leased Line Internet with 3 redundancy connections and all other technical that is required to flawlessly execute Virtual concerts and events.

Each event is based on the requirement of the client. Performance of Multiple artists can extend up to over six hours, especially when the studio is hosting events like rewards and recognition nights, and dealer meets. Private events like wedding and parties focus on artists performances and can go up to 120 minutes.

Getting Artists on board

On asking if it was easy to convince artists to get on-board the virtual events platform, Nixon replies, “Artists and event companies were all looking for work. The primary concern was safety. Since the NJSM-BNA studios primary focus was safety, and hygiene, we had ample space for social distancing, and we were able to address any kind of concerns artists had. In terms of technology and deliverables, the names NJSM-BNA inspire trust and confidence. Armed with this two-pronged approach, we were able to address any obstacle and artists were more than happy to work with us.”


Team NJSM with Amit Trivedi


“We are open to working with all artists from all industries in a variety of formats,” adds Betson. So far, the studio has worked with an extensive list of artists and has covered formats like music, stand-up comedy, and some influencer content. Singer Abhijeet Sawant was the very first artist to experiment with this format, followed by Music Composer Duo Salim-Suleiman, Singers like KK, Hariharan, Shaan, Akriti Kakkar, Mansheel Gujaral, Vishal Kothari, Umber Jafri, and comedians like Atul Khatri, Sunil Grover, etc.

So, what kind of events have NJSM-BNA done so far? Replying to the question Sancheth said, “The question now is, “what kind of event is not possible, virtually?” Tell us what you want, and we’ll make it happen”. This is the kind of spirit and attitude that the team of NJSM-BNA have maintained and encouraged. Putting in endless nights together as a team has helped them reach to this point of conviction.

The studio has covered anything and everything from weddings, sangeets, birthday parties, club nights, and DJ nights. For the corporate sector, they have done dealer meets, rewards & recognition nights, webinars, training sessions and much more.

Challenges

Seeing is believing. To surpass the challenge of believability and the quality of the final product, NJSM-BNA had to showcase the concept via a pilot, create a show reel, and display the technical and technological capacity of the studio.

The biggest challenge the team of NJSM-BNA faced was converting a sound studio into a live setup. “This was no easy feat”, informed Nixon. “We had to build a space for maintaining social distancing, setup SOP’s for hygiene, mask usage and sanitization”, he added further. For NJSM-BNA, creating a safe and hospitable environment for not only artists but the entire team was of paramount importance. “Working with reduced team strength for setups and optimizing per unit deliverables have been some of the challenges that we have surpassed”, he said.


Singer KK at the NJSM Studio


According to Ashish, from the perspective of setting up and doing the prep work, he find virtual events much easier than the live events. “It is a more controlled and cleaner environment,” he says “you just have to concentrate on the mix. Since it is live stream the quality of the sound is not very good,” he added further. To make the sound quality audible and better for a live stream, the team did initial tests to check for delays and latency, the sound and the video sync and made appropriate changes in the mix.

Getting the Audience Involved

Shows are LIVE and INTERACTIVE, with a fancy new term, “Hybrid Events”.  Dedicated Internet connections for personal and corporate shows, hosted on strong platforms keep the audience in-tune with the artists. Artists talk to the audience and respond to their comments and requests.

“Our public concerts have high number of views and engagements and the private concerts consistently deliver on engagement with audience”, says Betson. “The look and feel of the concerts involves 3D stages, with multiple artists and musicians from across the globe, performing together on one stage. For our audiences, this is no less than a LIVE Show, except it’s now playing on your screen at home!”, he further adds.

Marketing Virtual Events

They say, “The proof is in the pudding” and Nixon and Betson had the proof of concept with their very first show reel. Harnessing the power of social media, there were quickly able to spread the message within the industry of the NJSM-BNA Studio range and capabilities. “Word spread like wild-fire and clients and artists reached out to us to execute these events for us”, informs Nixon. Besides, social media, relationship marketing is the key to pushing out new ideas and the credibility that Nixon and Betson bring to the table, gave people the confidence to venture into unchartered territories.

The Current Situation and the Future of Virtual Events

“The pandemic has affected the entertainment industry severely; however, it’s up to us to keep our head above the water, and power through these unprecedented times. To move with changes in the socio-economic situations and provide solutions that meet current requirements. Flexibility and the ability to adapt learn and move quickly will be the industries key strengths”, mentions Nixon.

“We’ve walked a path that was un-treaded. It’s up to us to keep up with the first mover advantage and scale this format to reach more artists and audiences”, says Betson.

NJSM-BNA Studios were one of the first movers in the virtual events space and they have helped artists and agencies experiment with various setups and hybrid formats; but the most motivating words from almost everyone they have worked with has been, “This facility and technology has given HOPE to all the artists and musicians.”

Virtual events will become an additional model within the event industry. This model has the reach, scale and sustainability which is the trifecta for success and will be turned into a source of revenue for clients and artists, added Betson.

Conclusion

The new realm of virtual events, backed by impeccable technologies, has hands down become more prevalent in the year 2020. As more and more businesses, organizations and production houses come to terms with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on live entertainment, event companies like NJSM-BNA are busy hosting virtual events that are keeping the industry alive and bringing the people together.

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