A 10-minute chat about skateboarding like the one we had when we visited HIVE’s Horsham HQ is an unusual way to start an interview; but then again, HIVE is not a usual company. When we met the team at ISE earlier in 2023, they pitched the idea that HIVE’s media server offering could open the world of video to a wider market with a more competitive price point and ease of use. Since then, the company has been making waves within the entertainment sphere, being used on numerous immersive events and exhibitions around the world, as well as partnering with several musical acts including Eric Prydz and Bicep. To find out more, TPi spent some time with Co-Founder Mark Calvert, who explained the philosophy of HIVE and shared his ambitions for the company.
This is not Calvert’s first rodeo when it comes to starting companies. In fact, we lost track when he gave a brief highlight reel of some of the ventures he and fellow Co-Founders Dave Green and Trey Harrison had been involved in – one notable example being the creators of the eventual AI media server, which was then sold onto Avolites.
“HIVE was not our first foray into the media server world and we learned a lot during that time,” stated Calvert, reflecting on the AI years. “One of the key lessons we learned was that 80% of media projects don’t need all the bells and whistles that come with most other products. For example, most of our users do not need virtual production tools within the media server that are not only complicated but raise the price point of a product.”
Price was a key topic that Calvert was keen to highlight. The fact that HIVE’s offering is cheaper does not mean that the company has scrimped and saved on core function, production and presentation. In fact, while walking around the office, we got to see the effort the team made in their product delivery, right down to the packaging.
HIVE’s new product offering includes the BeeBlade and BeeBox, with its flagship, the BeeHive, coming to market later this year. “The name HIVE comes from the basic concept of how our products work,” outlined Calvert.
“Our boxes exist on a network and any of them can be the ‘queen’ with the others being ‘workers’. Distributing the workload as bees do, appeals very much to the HIVE ecosystem of products. We have developed our proprietary BeeSync software to keep all of our products working tirelessly with each other, on a network, perfectly in sync – similar to how Genlock works on other products, but with the added features of working on HDMI clock sync – which we believe is a world’s first.”
All HIVE products are currently manufactured at the company’s Horsham HQ. “It’s a fairly lean operation,” stated Calvert, alluding to the fact that he predicts the company will soon outgrow its current facility and need to increase its manufacturing, sales and support departments.
Getting into the specifics, Calvert explained how the small BeeBlade media server can integrate seamlessly into display hardware. “The HIVE BeeBlade is designed to connect directly to any product that includes an Intel SDM slot, making it compatible with products such as Panasonic DLP Projectors and SMD compatible displays. This innovative solution makes it efficient and convenient, eliminating the need for complex signal distribution networks or a large control room footprint that poses heat management challenges,” he described, adding that the smaller footprint boosts HIVE’s green credentials.
HIVE’s products have found a natural home at several museums and art exhibitions, with their small size ideal for keeping the technology hidden from view. However, with both Calvert, Green and Harrison having a background working with the music industry, it is only natural that some HIVE servers would make their way out on the road. The two most notable acts that HIVE has already worked with are Bicep LIVE and Eric Prydz HOLO.
“HIVE has proved to be a flexible, portable and bulletproof control unit for our live shows,” commented Zak Norman, Show Designer for Bicep. “By stripping away the complexity of a media server to its essential components, you are left with a product that is simple to use and easy to master yet powerful enough to run some of the biggest shows out there.”
“HIVE solves a problem that has plagued the AV industry for the longest time,” added Punkette, Eric Prydz Video Director. “Perfect playback under immensely demanding conditions, without the need for huge, heavy media servers. It’s a total game changer.”
Another fan of the company’s work is Óscar Sáez, General Manager for Empty, which was involved in the National Museum of Qatar and the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. “The hardware and software that Mark, Dave, Trey and the team have designed and remote support they gave us was faultless,” enthused Sáez. “HIVE has demonstrated a high level of professionalism and technical qualification. The company always offers original, reliable, and cost-effective solutions, alongside a can-do attitude to solving any difficulties.”
HIVE’s growth has been exponential. “Originally there was just me, Dave, and Software Director, Trey Harrison, who is based in the United States,” Calvert revealed. “Since then, we have added four members of staff with a new Sales Director due to be announced.” A key milestone for the company was also recently announced with HIVE’s strategic partnership with Production Park.
“Production Park is where the industry comes together, and we’re thrilled that our technology has a place there,” remarked Calvert when the announcement was made to the industry. “It’s also important to us that the people around us are aligned on our core values, such as innovation, education and sustainability, and the expertise and experience at Production Park is rooted solidly in these foundations.”
“HIVE stands for all we believe in here at Production Park; innovation, sustainability and a dedication to transferring the tools and the knowledge to the next generation of live experience professionals,” commented Lee Brooks, CEO at Production Park. “We’re delighted to be able to support their exciting growth story.”
The use of video within the live events environment has clearly moved on leaps and bounds in the past few decades, with lighter and even smaller LED pixel pitches opening more possibilities for designers across multiple sectors – and with HIVE’s latest offerings, these options are now becoming available for a far greater range of end users.
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: HIVE and Luke Dyson