When Internet bandwidth became robust enough to stream live video over the web about ten years ago, it ushered in the Internet broadcasting age. The potential of this new medium captured the imaginations of two forward-thinking, tech-savvy people, Cali Lewis and John Pozadzides (John P), the co-founders of Livid Lobster—the parent company of Geek Beat TV.
What began nearly a decade ago as a tech news podcast produced and uploaded by Cali Lewis from her spare bedroom has evolved into the popular online weekly Geek Beat LIVE tech news show. The show now boasts 2.5 million social media followers, millions of downloads, more than a billion videos viewed and a large, loyal live audience.
With their casual, accessible style, the co-hosts deliver more than just their signature insights about the latest tech news and products—they connect a world of like-minded viewers who are now part of an online community sharing the Geek Beat experience.
Dave Curlee at TriCaster, on location at CES
Besides the live webcast, there’s the GeekBeat.TV web site, which is rich with blogs of tech news sent in by their global contributor network. Fans can also join the 24/7 chat room and watch the Geek Beat crew at work thanks to the 24/7 video Dropcams installed throughout their building.
Lewis and Pozadzides draw millions of viewers to a video program they broadcast over broadband Internet. Instead of building a multi-million dollar TV production studio, they discovered that the all the studio functionality they need is packed inside NewTek’s TriCaster. “Of all the technology we use to produce Geek Beat, the two things we cannot live without are our Internet connection and our TriCaster,” says Pozadzides. “Everything else is replaceable.”
“Before TriCaster, having a broadcast-quality HDTV studio required millions of dollars of investment in a big production control room full of gear, studio cameras on pedestals and all the bells and whistles typical of broadcast stations and networks,” Pozadzides says. “But we’re able to have that level of multicamera HDTV production capability very cost-effectively.”
Cali Lewis and John Pozadzides during Geek Beat LIVE
Ustream, Justin TV and YouTube—three top content delivery networks—simultaneously stream the signals sent from Geek Beat’s TriCaster. This innovative multistream strategy ensures that the hundreds of thousands of Geek Beaters who tune in live each week can access the webcast from their preferred online platform. This audience figure swells into the millions when you factor in those accessing the content on-demand or downloading it to services like Roku.
The live show is produced every Friday at 3 p.m. Central time and webcast to fans in time zones around the world. The pair occasionally deviates from the show notes to address viewers’ chat room comments on the air, making the viewing experience extremely interactive.
“We’re always trying to give our viewers what they want,” Lewis says. “A few years ago, the show was entirely pre-recorded, but occasionally the opportunity arose to do special live broadcasts from major events like trade shows. When our viewers found out we had the capability to do live content, they demanded more. We knew producing a live weekly show would be challenging, but our guiding principle has always been to listen to our community. So if live is what they wanted, live is what they would get.”
When cameras roll on any webcast, the TriCaster operator switches between multiple HD cameras located throughout the building and pulls together the show’s video, audio and graphical elements. Standing next to a video monitor, Lewis usually delivers a fast-paced rundown of the latest tech news and gadgets while joking around with Pozadzides, who is often heard off-camera.
In some cases, these two best friends sit at a table (sometimes with guests) and exchange casual banter. Occasionally, they speak with one or more Skype video callers, who appear on screen along with the real-time chat room feed. These disparate source elements feed into TriCaster, where they’re mixed in real time, resulting in a fully composited video program. Regarding the Skype capability, the pair often jokingly refer to “SkypeZilla,” a rack of servers custom-built to grab multiple Skype video callers and feed them to the TriCaster.
Compared to traditional broadcast studio facilities, TriCaster has many competitive and logistical advantages. Lewis says, “Since everything we need for our show is all in one compact box, including the switching, keying, roll-ins, graphics and audio, this makes it easy to take our equipment on the road for live remotes.” She adds that the system is easy for new crew members to learn and operate, and it performs reliably.
“While we’re really geeky and can certainly figure out how to get electronics up and running, we often find ourselves in a time crunch, having to set up everything we need for a flawless live remote broadcast,” Pozadzides adds. “One of our TriCasters is so compact that we can pack it into a 22-inch Pelican case and carry it on a plane. And when we get to the location, this one unit has all the essential multicamera production capabilities we need to pull off a live show.”
NewTek TriCaster 860 in travel case
Taking the show on the road has become increasingly important, since Lewis and Pozadzides are often asked to webcast live from major tech trade shows, including CES, CE Week and Photo Plus.
When a live production calls for more than a few cameras and lights, they’ve got it covered. They’ve built two production trailers—one medium and one large—to secure and transport all their gear. A typical load includes TriCaster(s), HD cameras and tripods, the teleprompter, audio outboard mixers, lights, and even a 15 x 30 foot custom aluminum lighting truss that goes with the physical set—all of which is packed up to roll on and off the trailer and set up quickly at the remote site.
As the heart of their live webcasts, TriCaster is integral to every production they do, often running for days to capture live events, interviews, hot tech news or chats with fans.
“TriCaster does for us what the Internet did for information: allowing it to stream in real time around the world,” Pozadzides says. “What TriCaster means to us is that a little company like Livid Lobster can put on productions as good or better than major broadcast networks.”
Touring the Geek House
Crew on set at Geek House
As the Geek Beat business expanded, the pair realized they’d need to upgrade their home-based business with a dedicated production studio and support staff. In 2011, they moved to a 4,000 square foot commercial office location. While it offered room for preproduction and sales offices, and somewhere to put the set and cameras, they had to contend with the low ceilings, lack of acoustical isolation for production and continuing space constraints for their growing business.
They searched for more than a year until they found the Geek House, a stately, 8,500 square foot brownstone in North Dallas. They spent six months gutting and renovating the space, including converting the large adjacent warehouse into a TV studio.
During the open house for the new digs—streamed live on Aug. 1, 2014—Lewis and Pozadzides showed off their studio set, with its 25 x 25 x 12 white The centerpiece of the production control room is a top-of-the-line TriCaster.