From left, Lynda Thomsen, Chad Hopper and Mark Royce make up the Central California Stream Studio team, allowing businesses and others to take advantage of a professional studio for streaming purposes. Photo by Frank Lopez
Written by Frank Lopez
Adaptation. Association. Alliance.
These notions are what helped bring to fruition Central California Streaming Studio (CCSS) in Fresno.
The newly built studio gives businesses, churches, nonprofits and any other groups or individuals a chance to broadcast their voice with online streaming services during the shelter-in-place restrictions, allowing them to maintain a relationship with customers and the public.
CCSS offers webcam meeting services that include custom set design, professional video production and high-speed streaming connections.
The streaming studio is the result of the CCSS’ executive team: Lynda Thomsen, set designer and event decorator; Chad Hopper, lighting and production designer; and Mark Royce, who handles video and streaming production.
With their backgrounds, experience and existing business relationships, the three joined their services to offer online streaming services at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to gather in person.
Thomsen is the owner of Xpress Yourself Design and Decor, an event service company that specializes in creating custom and theme events for corporate, private, social and nonprofit events including seminars, conferences, trade shows, conventions and weddings.
Thomsen has more than 35 years of experience with event planning and decoration, and over the years has collected enough props and set pieces to fill the company’s 23,000 square foot warehouse.
She has designed and decorated events for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Fresno Convention Center and Sun-Maid Raisins, among others. Thomsen also decorates green rooms to help create a more comfortable space to rest.
In regard to state and local restrictions put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, large indoor gatherings have been banned in the state, which has slowed business down immensely for all of the team’s businesses.
“Our businesses don’t really have a pulse right now,” Thomsen said. “ But collectively, we could bring our time and our talent and create a new service in the new era of what people are looking to do — stay in front of their fans, their customers, their donors. We offer that in a way that is highly professional.”
Thomsen said that the last few years have been the busiest in the company’s history, and this year was turning out to be just as busy until the onset of the pandemic.
Hopper launched CDH Productions LLC in 2007. The full-service production company specializes in lighting, sound and audio/visual support for concerts, corporate events, trade shows and theater productions.
He has set up exhibits at trade shows for companies including Intel, CBS, Fender Guitars, Sigma Lenses and others.
As it was in Thomsen’s case, Hopper also saw a drop in business. Within a week’s time of the lockdown announcements in March, Hopper saw all his clients cancel their events. He was planning to set up some displays at CES, the country’s largest annual consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas in January 2021, but the event was cancelled six months in advance.
Royce has more than 40 years of experience in professional media production with expertise in audio, video, broadcast and live event production services. Today he heads Mill Road Media, headquartered in Clovis.
Royce opened up a recording studio in Fresno in 1978 and worked in studios in Nashville and Los Angeles. He then began getting into video work for churches as the scene was burgeoning in the 1980s. He also worked as the media producer for Fresno Pacific University for 12 years.
The Show Must Go On
With assistance from Paycheck Protection Program loans, Thomsen was able to hire back her staff to clear up space in the warehouse and to help set up the CCSS studio area.
The target audience for these services will be for organizations that engage in webinars and conferences, fundraising, for weddings, anniversaries and other family events, branded marketing companies and performing arts.
The studio has concert level lighting set up by Hopper, a stage, and audio and visual equipment to allow for a professional presentation.
“We’ve got state-level political possibilities,” Royce said. “Several nonprofit organizations are considering this as an alternative to their live banquets. Some musicians and local theater people are in dialogue with us. It is a really broad field of the kind of clientele that could use this place. We’ve had some medical groups hoping to do seminars — we could accommodate anything you want broadcast.”
Royce and Thomsen agree that even when we come to the tail-end of the pandemic, and people feel more comfortable in social settings, streaming services for live events will still remain popular.
Royce said that in his observation of streaming trends, more companies are realizing that they could save a lot of time and money through virtual events, avoiding the cost of travel and other expenses. Companies will also be able to expand their reach and make more money.
When will this end?
“We are all just holding our breath. The rent is still due, the insurance is still due. We try to stay on top of all that and we are hoping that this could be an avenue to help offset those responsibilities,” Thomsen said.
Since there is no end in sight with gathering restrictions in the entertainment industry, Hopper said that the ripple effects of the pandemic shut down is felt through all jobs in the industry.
“Our industry is very broad. Videographers to light production companies to stagehands — we were all first hit. We were the first ones into the pandemic and we are going to be the last ones out,” Hopper said.
The CCSS website, https://cencalstreaming.studio, gives potential clients the ability to get an estimate of what services may cost depending on what they need.
“I’m staying positive. Every day is a new day. We don’t have a ‘normal’ anymore, so you have to be flexible. I believe CCSS is going to be a real treasure in this community. Once we have the word out, and industries can see how to use this to their advantage, I believe it will take off,” Thomsen said.