Freestyle Productions Adapts With Arvig Fiber
A Minnesota company embraces a ‘virtual’ reality to cope with COVID
When COVID-19 took center stage in early 2020, everything changed for Freestyle Productions, a Minneapolis-based live event design and production company.
The year began much like many others in the company’s 30-plus year history—promising, productive and for the first quarter of the year at least, pretty normal.
As recently as early March, the Freestyle Productions team was weeks into a national tour with high school robotics teams from across the country, producing their events in cities from Grand Forks, N.D, to Cleveland to St. Louis, around the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.
Everything was rolling in the right direction. The team had two semi trucks on the road packed with production gear, leaving the company’s warehouse back in Minnesota—as owner and president Dale Kivimaki puts it—“lovingly empty.”
Beyond the tour, the team had been looking forward to a busy year of event production work, highlighted by the usual gigs: corporate events, festivals, state and county fairs and more.
But then came mid-March, the lockdowns, the closing of venues, social distancing directives and stay at home orders. It was just about lights out for the live event business.
“It’s going to be a long comeback for the event industry,” Kivimaki says. “We’ll be the last people coming back, we’re afraid.”
After an announcement the robotics tour would be cancelled, the Freestyle Productions teams loaded their equipment and inventory and headed back to their Minneapolis headquarters. They needed a plan.
A digital direction
Even with so much uncertainty about the company’s next moves, they never fully lost hope. After all, you can’t keep a good creative team down for long.
Freestyle Productions converted its warehouse into a COVID-safe virtual sound stage. They prepped the space for social distancing, implemented sanitizing procedures, and charged ahead in a new, digital direction.
Virtual events would be the way forward—at least for now.
More than ever, Freestyle Productions on its fiber internet service from Arvig to pull them through. With video and streaming now doing the heavy lifting, Freestyle Productions called Arvig to bump up the bandwidth to 300 Mbps.
“Our Arvig supply coming in, it’s fast and wide, and we love that,” Kivimaki says,
Fiber allows Freestyle Productions to confidently host virtual events without worrying about buffering and signal lag. In the production phase, the team can quickly upload, download and share data-heavy digital video files with internal staff and clients around the country.
“We feel like it’s one of the smartest things we ever did,” Kivimaki says of investing in fiber. “These days, for us to be doing live video back and forth between everywhere from Hawaii to New York, we’ve got the fastest fiber of anybody. We can control all these things coming in and out. It’s one of the smartest investments we ever made.”
So far, it’s paying dividends. Freestyle Productions has been busy hosting virtual fundraising galas for nonprofits, producing drive-through graduations and even a virtual fashion show.
Until live, in-person events can safely return, the business is making due, counting on fiber and anticipating the eventual return of business-as-usual.
“We’re existing, and we’re just trying to get through this like everybody else,” he says. “We can’t wait for things to get back to normal.”