Embracing Media Disruption: Delivering a Virtual Chattanooga Film Festival

August 10, 2020

By Erik Ramberg, VP, Head of Global Business Development, MediaKind

Today’s cloud-based OTT services are empowering providers to meet the needs of today’s consumers, providing scalable, cost-effective deployments of video infrastructures that meet a variety of needs. This can include full scale operator deployments, to smaller scale, time-sensitive events on a pay-as-you-go basis. By utilizing only what is needed, when it is needed, compute cycles can be minimized, and costs reduced.

By bringing video services to the cloud, providers can pick any combination of services to meet their growing needs – be it pure VOD, advertising-based models for VOD or live, subscription or transactional, or any combination of these – with the flexibility required to ramp up any part of the service to meet customer demands. The cloud also enables broadcasters and service providers to leverage on-demand microservices solutions and access to fast, flexible, high performance file transcoding solutions which are specifically tuned for compelling premium services such as VOD and catch-up TV, delivered to a full range of devices.

Additionally, a live headend in the cloud can deliver efficient, high availability live streaming while enabling the latest technologies for Constant Video Quality (CVQ) to reduce bandwidth and storage usage, without impacting video quality. This is particularly key for time sensitive programming such as breaking news, sports or esports, where social commentary alongside the live event is key.

Cloud-based OTT models – a new source of revenue

As consumers continue to embrace OTT services, content providers and service providers are eager to provide engaging viewing experiences and monetize their advertising inventory while simultaneously meeting contractual and legal obligations. Dynamic ad insertion solutions can help here, providing a targeted ad experience for users while also increasing the revenue associated with the given ad. Deploying media delivery in the cloud offers service providers a reliable solution to cost-effectively manage on-demand and live encoding, packaging, and origin needs along with the flexibility to deliver a quality experience at any service level.

This disruption has opened up some major opportunities within the media and entertainment industry, as new technologies come to the fore. With the efficiencies of the cloud, pay-as-you-go resources and launching niche services, broadcasters are becoming increasingly able to deliver more events to more audiences, in increasingly efficient formats.

Chattanooga Film Festival 2020: a unique collaboration

If you want the perfect example of such a use case – look no further than our recent collaboration to support the Chattanooga Film Festival (CFF)! The CFF has become known as a staple within the independent filmmaking community’s calendar of events, acting as a haven for indie content creators to showcase their work and engage with fans and industry friends. The festival organizers were forced to cancel the event, set to take place in May 2020, due to the COVID-19 health crisis, in turn jeopardizing the significant investments made by filmmakers, festival organizers and local sponsors.

Working alongside Microsoft, Evergent, VisualOn and Slalom, we transformed the event into a highly interactive, low-latency Direct-to-Consumer digital experience, enabling the four-day festival to playout live and on-demand content to an expanded virtual audience. The event combined live streams of feature-length and short movies, on-demand assets, as well as interactive Q&A’s, live script reads, interviews and podcasts.

The cloud-based solution leveraged MediaKind’s MediaFirst TV Platform at the heart of the deployment, supported by MediaKind Encoding On-Demand and MediaKind Packaging, as well as Microsoft Teams. The end result was a highly flexible, content-rich OTT platform that elevated the event to a digital audience, while carefully maintaining the event’s intimacy, culture and intent.

The turnkey solution can scale to any number of registered badge holders, however, to replicate the intimate attendance figures of this particular event, badge sales for CFF were limited to 30,000 attendees. By tailoring the digital event in this way, filmmakers were able to retain greater control over their content, maintain the value of premium rights and preserve the opportunity for future distribution deals.

MediaKind Explore Webinar: Delivering the Chattanooga Film Festival

The video above includes further reflections on this case study from a brilliant MediaKind-hosted webinar panel, featuring Chris Dortch II, CFF Assistant Director; Chris Dortch Sr, CFF Founder and President; Marco Rota, Director Technical Strategy, Microsoft; and Vijay Sajja, CEO, Evergent..

This project was truly the first of its kind, and far exceeded simply putting content online. We enabled the organizers to set themselves apart from other film festivals – and even their own traditional on-the-ground event. For example, CFF overcame the usual hurdle of content scheduling. Attendees were free to watch whatever content they wanted, without the limitations of the physical movie screens showing different movies at the same time. As a result, they could watch more films, enjoy more content and engage with more people than they ever could have done on the ground. The films showcased during the event were watched more times over one weekend than they had been in one year.

Our primary concern in taking the CFF to a virtual setting was to ensure the festival’s attendees remained in front of their core consumer base and that the organizers could provide the same value to their community of filmmakers and film lovers. It was also an opportunity to broaden the reach and spotlight on the festival itself, supporting people who may have typically been unable to attend the festival to have access to it, such as parents looking after children, people with disabilities or those who would have otherwise been unable to travel to Chattanooga.

The strength of unity was so strong during this period that it “shrunk the world for four days”, according to CFF founder and President, Chris Dortch Sr. Attendees felt like they had experienced the joy of a physical film festival, and filmmakers were able to showcase their work to an expanded global audience. Hopefully, we have now provided new opportunities for the film festival team to think about how they could envision next year’s event, when the global situation is likely to allow for live events to take place with on-the-ground audiences once more.

You can learn more about how this unique technology partnership brought the Chattanooga Film Festival to life in MediaKind’s new application paper.