By: Brian Leopold
The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills is a shimmering diamond at the epicenter of the entertainment world. It’s the place Hollywood celebrities go to be seen and to publicize their latest movies, TV shows, musical projects or celebrity events. Almost every day, some notable from the world of entertainment talks to the press from inside the Four Seasons, most days more than one notable. And that’s why Young Hollywood wants to be there.
According to Young Hollywood’s CEO RJ Williams, “At one time, we had to send crews to locations all over town. They’d take all day setting up, shooting an interview, and bringing it back for editing.” But no more. Instead of dispatching multiple video crews to cover celebrity press opportunities, or asking those same celebrities to make the arduous trek to some dusty studio space on the other side of L.A., Williams and the folks at Young Hollywood asked themselves a revolutionary question. “If celebrities can’t come to the studio, why don’t we bring the studio to them?” It was the jumping-off place for Young Hollywood’s new studio space, which is housed inside a hotel suite on the upper floors of the famed hotel.
“Now,” Williams tells me, “we can have celebrities come by our set for a half-hour to do an interview. It’s convenient for them, and we’re able to do up to five interviews a day since the celebrities are already here. It’s maximized our content output without having to contribute new resources. The new set is like a machine, generating constant content for us.”
And generating constant content about the world of entertainment is at the heart of Young Hollywood’s mission. The digital content provider started back in 2007, and in just a few short years, it’s grown exponentially. Today, they are one of the world’s largest producers and distributors of celebrity and entertainment content in the digital space.Their content can be found on the wide variety of platforms including the YoungHollywood.com website, Roku, Amazon Fire, XBox, Apple TV, Hulu, and Facebook Live, to mention just a few.
Young Hollywood’s content has received 2-billion-plus views, reaching a staggering 3-million unique viewers a month.
Videos produced by the Young Hollywood team cover a wide range of celebrity and entertainment themed topics, including TV, film, music, sports, fashion, food, and celebrity lifestyles. It’s an ever-changing encyclopedia of what’s hot now.
It’s Not About Age, It’s About Attitude
“Our tagline is, ‘it’s not about age, it’s about attitude,” Williams says. “We’re always striving to talk about what’s cool and relevant. At the end of the day, everyone just wants to know about the next great thing.” And Young Hollywood pledges to bring that “next great thing” to a hungry world. A full-time production staff of over twenty is currently generating over ten hours of unique content a week to its wide variety of distribution platforms. And that’s largely thanks to their studio space inside the Four Seasons.
Behind the Velvet Ropes: Young Hollywood’s Incredible Hotel Studio
The Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel is a light brown, 16-story, guitar amplifier of a building, surrounded by impossibly skinny palm trees. From the upper floors of the hotel, a panoramic view of Los Angeles and Century City spreads out as far as the eye can see. Standing on the balcony at Young Hollywood’s suite of rooms at the Four Seasons, you might think you’re relaxing at one of the hotel’s luxurious rooms, but step inside the sliding glass doors and suddenly you find yourself transported to a bustling, full-blown television production studio. Three Panasonic cameras form a semi-circle around Young Hollywood’s iconic white couch, a spot where thousands of celebrities have been interviewed. A state-of-the-art video wall flashes a constant stream of animated graphics, videos, movie clips, and anything else a director could want as support for an interview. In front of the couch area, the set also allows for a music performance area, where many of the hottest stars have dropped by to perform their latest hits. The set exudes a certain “coolness” factor that draws celebrities in and makes them feel at home.
“Where am I?” you might ask yourself since the tight surroundings betray the television set’s former life as a hotel suite. But with the studio lights blaring and the impressive monitor wall pumping out a steady stream of eye-popping graphics, you realize you’re surrounded by all the trappings of a network television production.
“We aim for broadcast-quality content,” Post-Production Supervisor Barry Cohen told me. “We have to adhere to broadcast standards and broadcast quality. It’s not just images. It’s true program content in a competitive environment. Our audience expects that of us.”
“Broadcast television sets the bar,” Young Hollywood Producer Tony Moras says, amplifying on the thought. “It’s the highest form of what entertainment video is, and so, even though we’re an over-the-top television network, we need to look like broadcast television, primetime-eight o’clock-on-a-weekday-evening television; in our content, our technology, and how we produce that content.
The Dream Machine
And that’s why, when it came time to equip their studio in the sky, Young Hollywood chose NewTek’s TriCaster to power their Four Seasons studio. “Our TriCaster allows us to operate at the broadcast level, to do everything the broadcast outlets can do,” Moras says.
“TriCaster is my dream machine,” Cohen tells me. “By creating a device that’s professional quality and affordable, NewTek has allowed us to get top-quality results with a feature set that’s unbounded.” High praise from an Emmy-award winning editor and veteran of network, prime time broadcast television, with decades of experience working in the industry.
“I came up through the ranks of broadcast television, where it cost a half-million dollars just to put an edit station together,” Cohen says. “Back then, just like today, most hardware manufacturers followed the rule of “one equipment item, one function.” The brilliant deduction of NewTek was consolidating the efforts of a production studio with all the feature sets you need, into one box. With TriCaster, you have the ability to have prerecorded materials roll in, three-dimensional logos spinning, a full audio board, title generation, virtual reality sets, and Chroma key, and it’s all been reduced to one small, affordable unit that emulates a full-sized broadcast facility.”
The TriCaster in the Bathroom
Even if Young Hollywood had decided to plunk down the millions necessary to equip their studio with “one item, one function” broadcast gear, the strategy would have been a dismal failure all for one simple reason; space.
When your studio is housed in a converted hotel suite, where do you locate your control room? For Young Hollywood, the answer was simple, in the bathroom.
In place of a vanity and sink Young Hollywood has installed a TriCaster 460 running Advanced Edition software. Try fitting one of those full-sized video switchers into that tight space!
While Young Hollywood often uses their TriCaster to live stream interviews, they also use the TriCaster’s record functions to record four separate feeds of every segment they produce from their studio. Isolated feeds are recorded from each of the three studio cameras, as well as a produced program feed coming from the output of the TriCaster. This allows the production team to easily fix any technical or content problems with their already-produced program segments. Back in the bad old days, before TriCaster, Young Hollywood would produce many of their pieces by syncing up to three iso camera feeds from individual cameras and editing them together, shot-by-shot, in post-production. Making the jump to TriCaster has allowed the production crew to cut the four-hour task of post-producing an interview or studio performance segment into a half hour or less. This enables Young Hollywood to push out a huge amount of content every day in an effort to satisfy their viewer base’s ravenous appetite for the latest digital celebrity content. And it all comes out of a bathroom. And just as a side note, the TriCaster takes up so little space in the hotel suite’s converted bathroom, that there was room to convert the hotel room’s tub and shower into an audio voiceover booth.
A Tool to “Replace Everything Else That’s Out There”
“TriCaster has brought us an instrument that’s so powerful and so well thought-out, that it should replace everything else that’s out there,” Post-Production Supervisor, Cohen told me. “This device has the power to combine images, to utilize information, to tie in sources from all over the world, into one unique package. That gives the director and talent an ability to show themselves in a whole new way.”
Being able to live stream content is an essential part of Young Hollywood’s game plan, and that’s just one more reason, the digital content provider chose to go with NewTek’s TriCaster. “It’s just another example of NewTek innovation,” Cohen tells me. “We want to be able to do pop-up entertainment, to go live if a celebrity drops by and wants to say hello to their fans. When Facebook announced Facebook Live, we saw the advantage of that and wanted to be able to stream our events and interviews live there to enhance our audience participation.
So, we talked to NewTek, and they responded to our request quickly to produce a feature set that allowed us to stream out to Facebook Live.”
TriCaster is currently the only production switcher that allows users to stream to Facebook Live.
Young Hollywood’s Dazzling Future
Moving into the future, Young Hollywood is looking to NewTek innovation to continue pushing back the boundaries of providing digital content to an audience of millions worldwide. And NewTek’s TalkShow product figures heavily into those plans. “We’d like to be able to allow the audience to interact with celebrities on our set via Skype, and TalkShow will allow us to bring in those Skype calls and put them up on our video display wall,” Cohen says. “Our guests will have the chance to interact with fans, and fans will get the opportunity to have a little one-on-one time with their favorite celebrities,”
Additionally, Cohen is looking forward to utilizing NewTek’s revolutionary NDI technology to tie multiple TriCasters together, at the hotel and beyond.
“Imagine, if we wanted to do an interview on the ground floor patio by the pool, or on the roof of the building,” Cohen muses. “We could locate a separate multi-camera TriCaster in those areas and tie them into our hotel room suite. We could loop TriCasters within TriCasters. It’s mind-blowing.”
As Young Hollywood continues to fight the daily battle to provide the fastest, best quality, and most relevant entertainment information to its millions of viewers, the company will continue to rely on their TriCaster and NewTek’s continued innovations to create more firsts and help them remain ahead of the curve. Or as Barry Cohen puts it, “You’ve really added value to the world when you’ve done something that no one else has ever done before.”
Young Hollywood Fast Facts
Key Equipment & Software Used at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Studio
- NewTek TriCaster 460 production switcher running Advanced Edition 2 software
- (3) Panasonic AG-HPX370 and AJ-HPX3000 P2HD ENG type Cameras used in the Studio. Fujinon zoom lenses on all Panasonic cameras
- An assortment of GoPro mini cameras
- Canon EOS C100 and C100 Mk II cameras equipped with Canon Zoom auto-focus lenses
- AJA GN 10 Sync Generator
- BlackMagic SDI to Fiber Connectors to facilitate intercom, program feed back to camera ext. monitors and connection to TriCaster 460 via SDI
- Samsung UE46D-UE55D Video wall in 6 screen arrangement from Edwards Technology
- ALZO Digital Lighting equipment package
- Shure and Sennheiser wireless microphones
- Zoom R16 8 channel audio mixer recorder fed to TriCaster for 2 channel master recording
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