Known as Music City USA, Nashville attracts artists from nearly every genre of music and from all corners of the globe. The community boasts approximately 200 recording studios as well as the supporting spinoff industries such as booking agencies, publishing companies, trade publications and more.
Housed in a renovated 1930s manor house situated on a 32-acre estate just south of the city, The Castle is the most innovative and successful recording studio in the area. Celebrated recording artists representing country, gospel, rock and pop have recorded tracks here, citing the serenity of the surroundings as creative and inspirational. Many are also reported to have found that the original rock structure and hardwood interiors brought out a warm rich sound in their recordings.
In addition to the high-tech digital recording capabilities, laid-back environment and pleasing acoustics, what sets The Castle apart from other recording studios is its creative and innovative use of video to bring fans around the world closer to their artists and music. The facility has leveraged their installation of Samsung HD quality cameras, typically used for video surveillance applications, for a range of savvy marketing promotions and events.
The cameras are utilized to produce “Live at the Castle,” an inventive program that gives fans a window to view and share artists’ content beyond what has even been available before. The program features Enconcert’s multi-product platform to capture, produce and distribute live event entertainment in real time. Photos, videos, messages, song lyrics, set lists and anything a band’s creativity can provide can all be shared during an event and funneled into a sequenced timeline that can be enjoyed in many playback forms long after the actual show is over. The idea of capturing and sharing live video as a new revenue stream was conceptualized by The Castle’s owner, industry entrepreneur Jozef Nuyens.
He says: “The idea really took form once we started envisioning the possibilities. Through this application we can achieve 360-degree growth as it allows both artists and fans to express their creativity.”
Working alongside Greg Pine, an independent consultant with a broadcast/audio background, they tried out several ideas and products before coming up with the plan to use video surveillance cameras.
“Our first thought was to go with broadcast cameras because we needed the image quality, but it was simply too expensive,” says Pine. “Our next thought was to use camcorders, but when we beta-tested the idea using digital still cameras we realized that being in the studio during the recording session was awkward for both the artists and the photographer. It was important that the set-up be unobtrusive so as to not interfere with the recording session or inhibit the musician in any way – and that led us to the notion of using video surveillance cameras.”
Samsung’s HD cameras were selected for the project, including a fixed dome camera with 2.8x varifocal lenses and a dome camera with 20x zoom lens. The original plan called for only 16 cameras, but when Nuyens and Pine saw the quality of the images produced by the HD cameras, they quickly revised the plan and increased the quantity. In total, 25 cameras are installed in eight rooms at The Castle as well on the exterior of the building.
“The cameras are full HD, so they fulfill all the requirements we needed – and without licensing fees,” says Nuyens. “We have excellent video quality; the light sensitivity is fantastic; there’s a good color consistency and ample presets and functionality. For all intents and purposes, it’s a broadcast-quality production. We can control everything from our control room and I can monitor the cameras from anywhere in the world I happen to be.”
The pan-tilt-zoom cameras are installed on the wall in Studios A and B to provide coverage of the entire room. A PTZ camera is also positioned in the double glass area between the control room and Studio A to allow views into either room. The reflections off the glass add an artistic note, according to Pine. There is also a PTZ camera in the piano room, and the camera’s 20x zoom enables close-ups of the keyboard.
Pine says, “The camera in the piano room is in line with the grand piano’s keyboard so I can get a finger shot of literally two fingers on the piano keys. It is a very amazing camera.”
In addition to the wall-mounted PTZ cameras, two PTZ cameras are mounted to variable height tripods that can be moved around as needed or uniquely positioned to enable more creativity in framing shots. The portable camera configurations are also used for outdoor shoots around the firepit and, as Pine notes, to capture the magic of the experience.
The fixed SNV-6084S dome cameras are installed in the lounges of Studios A and B, affixed to a monitor mount rather than on to a bracket that would ordinarily be fastened to the wall. The mounts extend 22 inches out from the wall and can be moved about 270 degrees left or right or tilted up and down about 13 inches.
“Having a camera in the lounge means we can unobtrusively capture a moment,” says Pine. “The mounting device lets us position the camera or do a quick frame up to get it to look like what we want. It really gives us a lot of ability to frame up a shot.”
He also mentions that the engineers can use their smartphones to bring up the Samsung app that lets them look at any camera and then frame it up so they are ready for the shoot – saving time and money.
Studio Quality Control
In the control room, a PTZ camera is mounted on the back wall and used for over-the-shoulder shots. The 360-degree panning capability gives full coverage of the console, control room window and into the studio as needed. Three Samsung LCD monitors, including a 40-inch display on the side wall and two 32-inch displays on arms above the left and right console, are each with configured with quad splits to allow monitoring of all or any cameras from all or any rooms.
“By just looking at the monitor, the producer can make sure the musicians are sitting there and ready to go,” adds Pine. “Because of the camera presence, they can do visual communication which is really unique. In the past, it’s always been communicating on the talk-back system and hoping things are ready whereas now they have an actual visual cue.”
The system is on a dedicated network with a head-end in-house server for recording and archiving the video. The outstanding full HD quality of the Samsung cameras as well as their capability for simultaneous transmission (i.e. Enconcert and the in-house server) provide added value to the concept of using video surveillance cameras in the system.
Because the cameras and the system are on 24/7, it was a logical next step to incorporate them into a video surveillance application. Pine notes that while they have not had a problem with theft or vandalism, valuable equipment or other items can be picked up by mistake when a crew is packing up to move out. Both models of the Samsung cameras feature a day/night mode, so they automatically switch to black and white in low-light environments.
Cameras Enhance Building Safety and Security
For actual surveillance, Samsung cameras were installed at the front and back entrances, on the roof and facing the building. Sensors in the driveway are integrated with the front positioned PTZ camera so when an alert is detected the camera will pan in that direction and record the action. Similarly, when an individual approaches the front door, the PTZ camera zooms in to capture the image. An accompanying video management application is programmed to then send an email along with the photo image to operations.
Pine adds, “With the quality of these cameras, there is no doubt of who is unlocking the building or who is disarming the alarm. We have undisputable photographic evidence.”
He goes on to say that the PTZ cameras positioned in the back of the building are also used in video production. “There is a fire pit area behind the studio that is used for summer events. The surveillance camera, which is mounted high up on the building, can be tilted down, and we get some very nice shots with that 20x zoom.”
Nuyens’ creative vision for sharing live musical events, along with Samsung’s picture quality, brought new purpose and versatility to their video surveillance solution.