Inside the If I Can Dream House: 5 Aspiring Dreamers, 3 CDNs, 56 H.264 Cameras

Exterior of the house, with product placement by Ford.

Behind a tall, white gate on a quiet Beverly Hills cul-de-sac, a private mansion is about to become anything but. Starting tomorrow, when the live-streaming of 19 Entertainment’s If I Can Dream begins on Hulu, 56 cameras will be broadcasting the adventures of five attractive young people living together and pursuing their dreams of fame and fortune, 24/7.

Not only is the house itself is an interior decorator’s fantasy, it’s a camera-ready one. During today’s press event, I was shown around the house by cast member Giglianne, who’s joining the show to pursue her goal of becoming a high-fashion model. She’s a little shorter than the typical high-fashion model, but her dreams make up for that.

While the cameras are prominent and everywhere, according to Giglianne there are areas of the house that aren’t visible to the public eye. However, they can’t take advantage of those areas unless at least two other cast members are still on camera in the house. This also means that they all can’t leave the house at the same time to attend events or meetings, which might lead to some interesting conflict down the line. In addition, when they leave the house to attend a class or workshop or event, they’ll be accompanied by a camera crew — footage from which may be included in the half-hour weekly episodes (though it will not be live-streamed).

Tour guide/aspiring model Giglianne, along with one of the nicest foosball tables I've ever seen.

The cast will also wear lavalier microphones while inside the house, so as to get the best sound quality possible for the weekly wrap-up series (for the 24-hour video feed, stationary mikes near the cameras will be the source of the audio).

The idea for If I Can Dream, according to producer Michael Herwick, has been floating around in 19 Entertainment founder Simon Fuller’s head since the early 2000s, but the technology only just caught up with it. The idea has gone through two years of development, and 19 Entertainment has been in possession of the house since November 2008.

Of course, it needed that long to get the place ready for the broadcast requirements — 19 Entertainment President of Digital and Business Development David Ellner broke down the tech specs on the house for me.

The 56 H.264 cameras, which are located in plain sight all around the property (including, yes, the bathrooms) are recording at 500 kbps and 1 mbps to allow for differences in user connections. The entire filming process is strictly digital, flowing directly from the cameras to the estimated 13-15 servers in place to store up to 40 terabytes of footage; Ellner anticipates that they’ll record 20 TB of footage every 10 days.

A look at the pool, as well as two of the 56 cameras around the house.

Three CDNs drive data delivery through a 150 MB pipe out of the house, and there’s also a wireless microwave backup system. The data is backed up every day, and in case power is lost, there is a battery-powered backup system that will kick in. “We have redundancies for everything,” Ellner said.

If I Can Dream is also notable for being the first series on Hulu available internationally — in fact prior to their arrival in Los Angeles, the cast was taken on a worldwide press junket to build interest in foreign markets. (When Giglianne showed me the laundry room, she mentioned that she had dibs on using the washer and dryer first tomorrow, as she had a ton of laundry after all that traveling.)

Before I left, I asked Giglianne what she planned to do before the cameras started rolling; her last act of real privacy, so to speak. Her answer: a pedicure. “My feet are a mess,” she said. But mess is what’s going to make this series interesting. Personally, l’m looking forward to checking in on If I Can Dream a few weeks down the line, when the house is a little less tidy.

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