In addition to Live CSamantha Torres often shows up at a production shoot to find that she’s the only woman on the crew. It’s something she’s grown used to over the years. But Samantha never has a problem finding a new gig. She’s one of the most in-demand freelance production people on the east coast of the United States. She’s booked solid, months ahead of time, and rarely gets a week off. I caught up to her coming off a twoweek sweep down the eastern seaboard, from her native New York as far south as Raleigh, North Carolina. And despite being fresh off the road, Samantha was already making plans to head back out again, bound for the southwest U.S. this time, for gigs in Tucson and Las Vegas. Oh, and throw a side trip to Miami in there as well. For the only woman on the crew, Samantha sure keeps busy. Even at the height of the pandemic, when productions all over the world were shut down, Samantha says she still worked at least 40 weeks a year.
The reason for Samantha’s popularity is simple. She’s a TriCaster master, a specialist in the use of NewTek’s latest video production platform, the TriCaster 2 Elite, the company’s top-of-the-line device that offers users groundbreaking functionalities and uncompromising flexibility. The 2 Elite is packed with innovative features that clients need to produce todays post-pandemic hybrid productions, and Samantha knows how to make a 2 Elite dance and sing.
At 30 years of age, Samantha is part of a new generation of broadcast professionals who’ve never known a world without TriCasters and NDI. It’s made her a very popular woman in the production world, but even though her reputation usually precedes her, Samantha says she still gets the occasional look of surprise when she walks into the control room.
“We typically find women in Producer roles and handling the front-of-house, and taking care of stage things, so when I roll in, lugging the 2 Elite with me, people are a little shocked. They say things to me like. ‘Oh, you’re lifting that? You’re running the TriCaster? You’re switching the show?’ But when I sit down in the chair to do my job, there’s no more questions.”
Samantha’s company, Solis Digital, has been combatting those tired misconceptions about women in the control room since the company launched in 2019. Three years later, Solis Digital has so much work that Samantha is looking to bring additional staff on-board to meet her client’s needs. So, why do Samantha’s clients love her so much?
“I have a really well-rounded knowledge of all-things TriCaster,” Samantha explains. “I know NDI and I have a lot of different types of production experience under my belt, so, whether it’s a small project or a major production, whether it’s an entertainment program, a corporate project, a production for a broadcaster, or a sports production, I’m ready for anything you can throw at me.”
Samantha and her company specialize in live productions, and she works exclusively with TriCasters. She tells me that the immediacy of live events and the adrenaline rush she experiences during every production is a big part of what makes her job so enjoyable. “I really love live productions,” she says. “I get excited to be on a set. That adrenaline rush I get right before we go live is something that I live for. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I couldn’t even imagine working a nine-to-five job.
“Live events are a beast of their own. Since it’s live, everything that happens, has to be dealt with. You can prepare, but you can’t predict what will happen. It’s super nerve- wracking. You get to be really interactive with your audience, but you can’t make any mistakes, because there’s no fixing them. You want to get every cue right. You want everybody who’s watching to feel like they’re sitting at the event.
“You’re always a little nervous. You have everything planned out, but you want to be sure the show goes according to plan. At the same time, you have to be ready for anything. If the microphone fails or a camera goes down, you have to be ready to jump in and find a way to get around the problem, so the program remains completely seamless for your viewers.”
With her company’s focus on producing live events, Samantha was thrilled when NewTek came out with its latest generation of TriCaster systems, the top-of-the-line, 2 Elite, loaded with features that allow her to conquer the most complicated live productions. She says the 2 Elite is the perfect tool for producing great video content and she uses the groundbreaking NewTek technology integrated into the 2 Elite to incorporate a host of livestream options into her broadcasts with minimum effort and maximum reliability.
“The 2 Elite is perfect for all the hybrid productions we’re doing these days,” Samantha says. “With other switchers, all you get is a switcher, but with the 2 Elite you can make that full hybrid world work with one machine. “With Live Call Connect, I can bring in remote guests, remote call-ins, and easily incorporate those people into any in-person production. It allows everyone to interact with one another, and it doesn’t require a lot of time and effort to make it happen. The results are always spectacular.
“It’s so much easier to run an Ethernet cable and a switch to all my digital sources than to have to use scan convertors. I can run one app, the NDI app, and all those sources just show up on my TriCaster. I even like to do it with PTZ robotic cameras. I can just run an Ethernet cable to them, and I don’t have to worry about them after that.”
And the latest upgrade to Live Call Connect really has Samantha singing its praises. “NewTek has just added a FaceTime feature that’s great,” she says. “It makes things so easy. You don’t have to explain to people how to use Zoom or how to use Teams. You just tell people to sit in front of their computer or phone and we set up a FaceTime call with them. That’s all they need to do.”
In addition to Live Call Connect, another new feature incorporated into the TriCaster 2 Elite that Samantha finds indispensable is NDI Bridge, a NewTek innovation that allows a TriCaster to share NDI sources between remote sites anywhere in the world using a simple, secure network set-up.
“Video production is moving to a more wireless environment where you don’t have to be in the same room with somebody, or even in the same country, to make a production work. The 2 Elite is built to handle that.”
Solis Digital works with a wide range of clients, ranging from large multinational corporations like Pepsi to simple two camera livestreams. But since the pandemic hit, Samantha’s company has found itself being hired with increasing frequency by traditional broadcasters. A lot of Solis Digital’s work for broadcasters involves producing SMT’s, (Satellite Media Tours) but that’s far from the only work she’s been doing for broadcasters since the outbreak of COVID-19.
“During the pandemic, broadcasters had to make a lot more content,” Samantha says, “which meant they had to have a lot of productions going at once. When their staff is busy, or they’re short-staffed for some reason, they’ll call me in to take on these extra shows. They’re almost always live shows and the TriCaster is perfect for projects like that. The TriCaster allows me to be very flexible and do anything a broadcast client asks. With a little bit of time and prep I can make magic happen.”
Producing projects for traditional broadcasters allows Samantha to introduce clients who have only ever experienced old-school video technology, to the new-world wonder of NDI and cutting-edge equipment like the TriCaster. NewTek bills the 2 Elite as “better than broadcast” and that distinction is no clearer than when Samantha sits down at the TriCaster and shows broadcasters what the 2 Elite can do. Samantha says, for many of those clients, the experience is eye-opening.
“I get to introduce them to NDI which they usually find impressive.,” she says. “I can say to them, ‘Hey did you bring your laptop? Because with an Ethernet cable I can get all that information off your laptop and load it directly into the TriCaster.
“I think what is considered broadcast is changing. With so much content being produced for livestream or for the Internet, many of the programs broadcasters produce these days don’t end up on television anymore. Broadcasters are pulling content from just about anywhere. So, we’re seeing a lot of clients playing around with different kinds of video productions and changing what the production workflow world looks like. The TriCaster is perfect for that.”
If you want to book Samantha for an upcoming production, you probably need to do it weeks in advance, because she’s in constant demand. As one of the top TriCaster operators on the East Coast, Samantha’s phone continues to ring off the hook, and that’s thanks to her knowledge of the TriCaster and technologies like NDI.
“The production world is now seeing the value that the TriCaster brings to productions,” she tells me. “That’s allowing me to travel, to help people install new systems, and to keep pushing the edge of what live production looks like, by producing creative and interesting live shows. With all the changes in social media and OTT, it’s essential that those of us in the video production world keep abreast of every new development and never stop learning. Technology is changing so quickly these days, and the old ways of doing things are gone. I’m just hoping to continue to push the creative edge.”
Samantha is also looking forward to the day when she walks into the control room and sees more women than men on the crew. “I’m definitely seeing more women on productions these days,” she says. “But there are still some productions where I’m the only female. I’m there because no one else on that set can do what I do, and I’m lucky enough to have developed a list of clients who see my experience as a plus, thanks to my knowledge of the TriCaster. They know I can do the job, so they insist on bringing me on-board for their productions. But I think we still have a way to go before people aren’t surprised to see a woman in any role on a production crew. Just because the gear is heavy doesn’t mean I can’t bring it.”
And with that, Samantha is up and moving again, loading up gear up for her next road trip. And in a few days, she’ll be on the road again, introducing a whole new set of clients to the revolutionary production tools that NewTek’s TriCaster 2 Elite brings to the world of production.