Producer Ben Ratner Leverages LiveU for Live-Streaming Needs
Ben Ratner is a live streaming producer, digital media influencer, novice piano player, and Long Islander. Ratner produces multi-cam live streamed branded content and shows for, according to him, “whoever is willing to work with me!” He has been working in the live video space since middle school, but has been involved on the technical side of live TV broadcasts for almost ten years. Ratner shares more about his tenure and perspective in the live production industry.
“In the last 2-3 years, as web streaming and live streaming to social networks have grown in popularity, I’ve spent significantly more time working on digital live streams,” says Ratner.
Fresh out of college, Ratner helped build up Compound Media, the subscription based live-streamed talk show network created by Anthony Cumia of Opie & Anthony. After that, he spent over a year producing and running tech for Today Show Weatherman Al Roker’s production company, Roker Media.
There, he helped produce the award-winning Facebook Live show “Never Settle Show” with Entrepreneur Magazine. Never Settle broke ground as the first live streamed interactive talk show with a live studio audience, live extensions of TLC’s reality competition show “GirlStarter.” “ChefShock” – a live-streamed fully interactive cooking show hosted by Food Network Star Justin Warner on Twitch.
Most recently, Ratner joined Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio Podcast Network as the video producer where he records video for all episodes, and live streams episodes and events throughout the country. He also helps with distribution and partnerships for the network.
With a mix of TV and digital production experience under his belt, one of the challenges that Ratner faced was the reliability when using a cell phone to stream.
“Cell phones on their own just don’t cut it as far as internet service and video quality go. I also couldn’t incorporate graphics and other video elements into live cell phone video,” explaines Ratner.
Ratner learned of LiveU when he interned at News 12 Long Island. The station wasn’t using it at the time, but he was exposed to cellular bonding technology and knew LiveU was a player in that space.
Over the past year his experience and comfort with LiveU has grown exponentially while at Roker Media producing Facebook Live programs with a LiveU LU600, as well as freelance productions for Alizé and other brands using the plug-and-play LiveU Solo encoder.
“LiveU allows me to reliably go live from anywhere – even if there’s no internet,” says Ratner. “I can also use a NewTek Tricaster and other production systems with LiveU to produce high-quality content for clients.”
LiveU has helped Ratner during many “murphy’s law” moments.
“The most recent time LiveU Solo was a life-saver was when I got a last-minute shoot for Al Roker-produced GirlStarter on TLC. We had to do a live stream for Facebook from a parking lot outside Atlanta. It was a multi-cam shoot and there was no Ethernet or Wi-Fi to be found. I could NOT have done the broadcast without LiveU – and it was my first time using the Solo. As the only tech person on site, I was able to use it easily and get everything running smoothly,” says Ratner.
On StarTalk, the LiveU unit helps the show’s hosts interact with fans in real-time. “We used to ask fans for questions days or weeks in advance of a show, produce the show, and then broadcast it months later. Now, it all happens immediately which makes for a more dynamic and interactive program,” concluded Ratner.
He also uses the LiveU for internal streams where the event may not be streamed out to the public. “We often live-tweet and produce content during our live shows. Many of my co-workers are working remotely from other states. I stream the events to a private Facebook group so they can live-tweet and do their thing from wherever they are.”
What’s next for Ratner? “More with StarTalk at the network’s live events, NY Comic Con, and possibly a rocket launch.”