Photo by Stem List for Unsplash

Have you heard the new buzzword? It’s Hybrid events. And yet, hybrid experiences have been around for more than 100 years.   Now we have new tools to add impact and engagement.

So no need to panic. Let’s break it down into what works.

What’s Old is New Again

My grandfather was a great lover of baseball. In his youth, if he was very lucky and could get away from work, he would attend a game or two at the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Then, in 1947, the transistor radio was born. Now, he could listen from work or home—I can just picture him with the one earbud and a fist pump on a great play–while he packed boxes at his day job at the American Bible Society.  So baseball became a “hybrid” event—one that people could experience both live in the stadium and somewhere far away, hearing the play-by-play.  In fact, many people began bringing their transistor radios to the games, because they liked both watching the game live and hearing the lively commentary from the radio. Today we call this “second screen engagement” during live events—see next paragraph for details!

Help Remote Audiences to Stay Tuned In

The biggest challenge of both remote and live audience engagement is distraction. Remote audiences aren’t in the room or stadium. They have dogs barking, kids needing attention, emails to write. So for a remote audience experience to equal that of a live audience, you must work harder to keep them focused. But live audiences also have mobile phones to distract them. So why not use them? Some of the best ways to engage are with live-polling—tools like Sli.do and Mentimeter let speakers take the pulse of audiences both in the room and those joining remotely.

But not every speaker knows how to use these tools. So added speaker training and prep is incumbent upon hybrid event planners to be sure their presenters have a plan for engaging both live and remote audiences effectively.

Another strategy for better audience engagement is to keep speeches short and instead use Q&A opportunities with a host moderating. Having an experienced host interview a major headliner, rather than having that person deliver a keynote, keeps the audience engaged and feeling like they are participating. Pro hosts can also integrate questions from both your live and remote audiences (who can submit via your event platform app). Both sets of questions can be fed to a monitor on stage, thus putting the remote and live audience on equal footing.

Anchor Your Event in the Live Experience

The primary impact of any in-person event, whether it is a conference, a concert or a sports event, is that live in-the-moment experience. Even from the nosebleed seats, live participants feel that vibe of sharing with other humans in a common space. Very few online events were able to capture this energy during the pandemic because there was no live audience. The ones that did focused on these key areas: presenters who were lively, video content that was brief, and opportunities to acknowledge audience members through live chat, live polling, and post-event networking. So whatever you design, be sure that home audiences feel energized by your in-the-room experience.

Use New Ways to Engage

Sports continues to be a groundbreaking area for hybrid events and fan engagement. The NBA has embraced VR as a way for fans to be right inside the game, experiencing plays from new angles. And if you don’t have the budget of the NBA, you can host your event on 3D platforms like All Seated or Moot Up. These virtual spaces allow remote users to “walk through” spaces and meet with people, just as they would at a live event. They can join others who are connecting live.

Ask One Key Question

When building a hybrid event, there is really just one question you need to ask: what story are we telling? Whether your audience is live or remote, they will need to connect with that story.  So before you book speakers or start worrying about live-polling, consider these storytelling questions:

  • What is the story we want our audience to know after they’ve attended our event?
  • Who is the best at telling our story?
  • Are there any communities we are leaving out of our story? If so, how can we be sure they feel included?

This last question is critical. Today, AI-enabled captioning via companies like Rev.com offer live captioning for Zoom, for example, so that virtual audiences with hearing challenges can still engage with your content. But you may also want to engage a sign language interpreter to be live on screen during your event.

Whatever you do, be sure that you are creating a cohesive story that gives all audiences—whether at home or in the room–a reason to learn and connect with your brand story.

For more ideas on how to generate exciting hybrid events, check out my webinar on July 27 at 2pm ET: Hybrid Events People Actually Want to Attend: How to Craft a Compelling Experience that Engages Live and Virtual Audiences’ with Michael Hoffman, CEO of Gather Voices. Attendees are eligible for 1 CAE credit! Get your seat today!

 

 

A few days ago a colleague asked me for my origin story—namely, how did I get into nonfiction video production? I told him this story, and he said “I can’t believe I never knew that about you! You should share that.” OK, here goes.

At first, I was in the location department, here pictured with director Oliver Stone and location manager Peggy Pridemore on the set of JFK. Soon, I moved into art department research, and worked with him on “Nixon”.[/

Back when I was a young production assistant, I was working in the location department for various feature films and commercials that would shoot in Washington, D.C., where I lived. In case you think that might be glamorous, I fondly called it “permits and porta-potties” as securing different filming permits, and figuring out logistics such as where a hundred-person crew could park, eat, and yes go to the bathroom, were just some of our jobs in the location department. Through those contacts, I got myself hired as an art department PA on another Hollywood movie. That meant helping the art director source images to propel the vision of the Production Designer and Director. These images and research documents would then be used to fabricate sets, rent or create wardrobe and props, and figure out the action in some scenes. Some of the images and film clips would be used in actual scenes of the movie.

images and film clips would be used in actual scenes of the movie.

All night long, the list of requests spooled out over the parquet floor of my modest apartment (are you old enough to remember rolling fax paper?).  Ping pong tournaments in China. Running shoes in the 1970’s. Helicopters used in the Vietnam War. One requests was particularly challenging: find a clip of President Richard Nixon, who was six feet tall, shaking hands and smiling with someone also six feet tall. The background had to be fairly simple, such as one of the white shelved niches in the Oval Office, because this was to be swapped out by the team at Industrial Light and Magic.  This was back in the early days of digital compositing when we didn’t have the latitude and sophistication we have today with digital backgrounds.

After a long day of shooting Vietnam protest scenes, Tom asked me if I wanted a photo! He was gracious to everyone on set no matter our rank.

I went through dozens of silent film reels of President Nixon shaking hands with people. The White House film office didn’t record sync sound unless it was a high level meeting. The meetings gave me an entirely new perspective on the role of the President. He met graciously with ladies from the garden club. With children visiting with their school class. With spouses of visiting dignitaries. And then I found it! Pelton Stewart, Boys Club Boy of the Year award winner. He was a young African American guy about the right height and build for Tom Hanks, who I later learned was the star of this movie.  Throughout this months-long project, I was mesmerized by all the hidden stories in these film archives, old magazines and news reels. The seed was planted for me to pursue more “real people stories” in my career.

Working on Forrest Gump was a life-changing project in other ways, too. (And no, I don’t have a credit—that was back in the day when babies born on set didn’t get credits, let alone Art Department PA’s!). I discovered how much I loved a business where every single person on the team had a skill and a craft that they loved and refined daily. I worked under the watchful eye of art director Linda Berger, who started every one of our long days at the warehouse-turned-art-department during DC area filming in this way: with a slew of sticky notes on different piles of photos, storyboards, and papers with the words “ASK ME ABOUT THIS”. I did and learned so much! I was in awe of producer Wendy Finerman–at the time she was one of the only women producers working on major films—who came to the set looking incredibly cool in a beat up black leather jacket. (The seed was also planted here for my activism for more women on set, particularly in technical fields, through my leadership of Women in Film and Video and later, my #GALSNGEAR initiative.)

During filming in DC, I got to watch up close how Bob Zemeckis operated as a director—firm in his vision, but collaborating closely with many department heads and engaging their input.  He was a great role model. One day, I was working fairly close to his position on set during the filming of the Vietnam War protest scene at the Lincoln Memorial. He waved me over to his video assist monitor. I looked around to be sure it was me he was pointing to. “Come on over, kid, take a look.” Later that day, I was invited to join the team watching the dailies from scenes we had just shot, and I heard him discussing the different reasons he liked or didn’t like a particular take, and how it would propel the story arc of the film. It was one of many moments in my real world film school education. And one reason I always reach out to the next “kid” to help her propel her film career.

I worked on art department research for many other feature films after that project. But the thing that really stuck with me was my curiosity about the stories of real people – the lives and moments I unearthed from archives and film reels and newspaper accounts along the way. I’ve been lucky to document nonfiction stories throughout my career as a director and producer for many organizations. But I’ve never forgotten the journey that Forrest and I both took that year.

 

Amy DeLouise writes, produces and directs nonfiction videos for nonprofits, associations and companies with great stories to tell. Book a meeting with her here to discuss a project.

What is “B-roll?”
B-roll is the footage essential to visually accompany the story that may be told through audio on the “A-roll,” which is traditionally interviews. If you want a good laugh, this ancient YouTube video “We Got That B-roll” still resonates throughout the industry. (You gotta get all the way to the famous section at :55 where he explains what is NOT b-roll. And he makes a great point. If your shot list is “too specific” or a historical moment, you might need to turn to archival stock footage. More on that in another post.) All laughs aside, there’s nothing worse than getting into the edit room and realizing you don’t have enough b-roll.

How Do You Plan for Great B-roll?
B-roll doesn’t just “happen,” especially if you are shooting on a particularly time-table. My rule of thumb is to shoot three to four scenes of supporting material for every one to three minutes of finished minutes of story. This general works out to a day of shooting b-roll for every day of shooting interviews. By pre-interviewing subjects so you know what they might be referencing during an interview, you can plan to gather relevant b-roll to cover the story.  This is called a Shot List, and should identify each scene you need to include in your video. One scene generally requires multiple angles of coverage, such as a wide shot, medium shot, and various tight shots.  In addition, on-camera subject(s) also need breaks. So to expect that immediately after wrapping an interview someone will want you and your camera following them around to get b-roll may be unrealistic and stress-inducing.

Scheduling Well for B-roll
Build your budget and schedule so that you give your on camera subject(s) time to decompress—perhaps while the team is picking up an establishing shot that doesn’t require your “talent”. Plan key scenes well in advance: “we’d like to get Sarah hanging out with her school friends—can you invite them all to come to the house at 4PM on the day of our shoot?” And try to work around existing opportunities—“Since you told us you have full office team meetings every Monday at 11AM, can we be a fly on the wall this Monday? And can we get into the room a little in advance to put up a few lights?”

By strategizing in advance, you can ensure you have the optimal footage to tell your video story.  For more detailed approaches, check out my courses on LinkedIn Learning. Or feel free to book a meeting with me to discuss your next video project!

 

Here’s me, taking some scouting footage and photos before a recent shoot

Location production is back! With vaccination rates rising and locations opening up, the need for ample preparation for your next on-location video is critical. As a producer, I spend much more of my time in pre-production than in production. And if I’ve done my job right, post-production (editing, music, graphics) will also go smoothly. Here are some of my go-to strategies to ensure a successful project before we step out onto location.

1. Location scout for audio, not just video
Often when we scout locations, we are looking. Looking for the best lighting, looking for a relevant background for an interview, looking for a great establishing shot to capture the story. These are essential. But we often forget to listen. How loud is the location? Will it be louder at a particular time of day? How will that affect any interview we conduct here? Google maps is helpful to us in many ways, even when scouting remotely for sound. By using satellite view and street view, for example, we can identify high traffic roadways, nearby firehouses, and other potential audio issues like RF interference which is common in tall, urban office buildings (and requires a wired rather than wireless lavalier setup for interviews).

2. Plan ahead to move fast
With more content creation than ever, we video producers need to move fast when on location. But we also need to be smart. Adding just a single person to the shoot—like a production assistant who can refill parking meters or a grip who can set up the lighting for the next shot while the previous one wraps—can allow your team to gather twice as much quality footage in a day. The added expense is more than offset by less frustration in post and less need to turn to stock images or do a reshoot to fill gaps.

3. Make an acquisition and distribution format plan
Decide before you shoot what metadata you want included on files. “Day 1” is not a great tag, FYI. You can also avoid problematic reworking of files if you know from the start what kind of distribution platform you will be using. This might be multiple platforms—like pushing a video to YouTube but also cropping parts of the video to a different aspect ratio for social shares on Instagram. Up-scaling always introduces quality issues, so if you’re not sure about delivery at the start, better to shoot at a higher resolution (aka 4K) and downscale afterwards. It’s also important to consider frame rate (24fps and 30fps are standard, but the latter creates more frames to compress). And, you’ll also want to consider whether to shoot in LOG or RAW and color grade afterwards in post, or to “bake in the look” with a setting like Rec 709. These are all important conversations to have well before the shoot, as they may affect equipment decisions for camera and lighting. And camera equipment dictates audio configurations in many cases.

4. Logistics
Logistical planning ahead of time is part of what allows the creative to happen on a video shoot. Everything from ensuring the crew has a location to park and load-in safely to organizing the lunch order ahead of time ensure your shoot goes smoothly. If you have a whole series of interviews scheduled, be sure to plan a little turn-around time in between so the crew can reset the shot, and stagger your schedule so each person has time for makeup and/or for you to review their wardrobe without a rush.

I’m thrilled to get back out “into the wild” for video creation. It’s going to be a great rest of the year!

 

Feel free to reach out to me about your next video production (see sidebar). 

We creatives have unique challenges for public speaking. We must continually present and pitch our work as part of the production process. In addition, freelance and small business creatives need to increase visibility to promote our work, which means grabbing thought leadership opportunities to speak on stages and present at conferences and events.  I don’t know about you, but for me, public speaking is a skill I’ve had to develop over many years. I’m lucky enough to have some musical theater in my background (jazz hands!), but that’s not entirely like keynoting in a room filled with hundreds of strangers. Or presenting a creative concept to a group of clients. And these days I’m also teaching video courses on LinkedIn Learning, hosting livestreamed webinars, and “presenting” to camera on Zoom almost every day. So if you are like me and your focus is on your creative work, and if you happen to be an introvert, all of this public speaking can be a challenge. So I’ve pulled together a few tips that I hope can be helpful.

A Few Speaking Best Practices
This might seem obvious, but wear something that gives you confidence. Stand (or sit) up straight. Speak with conviction–not too loud, but not too softly. If presenting online, invest in a good microphone. (See my blog post on web audio for suggestions.) Smile! Try to enjoy yourself, even if public speaking isn’t your thing. Because the audience can sense when you are miserable, and that can affect how they hear–or don’t–what you have to say. Try not to be thrown off by questions. If someone really throws you a curveball, be willing to say “I can’t answer that right now but I’ll be happy to email you after this event.”

Pitching Creative Concepts
When presenting to clients or prospective clients, I try to be sure to spend plenty of time listening. That can be hard, since I’m usually very excited about the ideas my team and I are presenting. But don’t fill every pause. Let your audience absorb your ideas and visual concepts at their own pace. Let them ask questions. Don’t get defensive (this one is SO hard). Take copious notes instead and offer to revert back with additional ideas if needed. One thing I like to do when pitching creative is to ask these two questions: “What about this idea is really exciting to you?” and also “What about this idea makes you nervous?” That last question can put people at ease that you are willing to problem-solve when getting to a shared decision about the creative direction for this project.

Presenting at Conferences, Webinars and Live Events
I’ve made literally hundreds of presentations at live and virtual events, and I can say there are just two really big takeaways to remember. First, know your audience. It’s not enough to know your subject. You want to understand where the audience is coming from, what they are likely to want to learn, and what level of detail might be best reserved for additional materials they can find from you later. The second tip is give examples. Theoretical information is fine, but real world examples always make an impression on an audience. If you can back those up with behind-the-scenes video or photos, even better.

Being Interviewed: Strategies for Panels and Podcasts
As someone who interviews people for a living for video productions, I always do my homework. I need to learn about the person and their interests as well as the stories they are likely to tell. However, being on the flip side, interviewers don’t always take their time to do background research. So you need to come prepared with several different stories and examples, and have a good sense of the audience for this panel or podcast. If you’re on a panel, hopefully your host has already had a preliminary call with you and the other panelists to map out who will talk about what. If not, take it upon yourself to do this, or at least cover the possible topics in an email. You don’t want someone to steal your thunder, nor do you want to do the same. So it’s best to have some sense of the flow in advance.

I hope these tips are helpful, and that you get a chance to do more public speaking, and better yet, to enjoy it!

Amy DeLouise is a video producer, trainer, author and speaker. You can find out where she’s speaking next here: https://www.amydelouise.com/speaking/

Photo by Sophie Keen for Unsplash

Navigating career transitions is always a challenge, especially in an evolving business climate. But it’s possible to put your best brand forward in a way that allows you to pivot to a new area of work as a creative professional. In this blog post, I’ll cover four key areas for ensuring you have the ability to pivot quickly and effectively.

  1. Define Core Values for Your Brand

As Jendi Coursey discussed in her guest blog post here last month, customers are embracing values as a focal point in decision-making. Businesses and individuals who offer a values-first focus are more likely to get repeat business. And, I’d suggest, when you embrace a mission connected to values, you are able to develop a different pricing structure, because you are building a long-term relationship with that client or customer, not just a quick deal. When pivoting to a new market vertical, or to an entirely new business model (aka, virtual workflow, etc.), you are better positioned to move fast if that mission focus is still driving your decision-making. So, for example, in my business we pivoted from creating content for live events to helping our clients produce virtual experiences. While the end product was different, our core values of quality, a focus on authentic storytelling, and audience impact were still at the heart of our work.

  1. Conduct a Personal SWOT Analysis

Now is a great time to do a personal SWOT assessment—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. If you need more information on how to get started, check out this article from SCORE—the Service Corps of Retired Executives, a volunteer organization that allows experienced retired executives mentor younger business owners. You can use this SCORE Checklist to help you narrow down the questions to get at your SWOT analysis. The benefit of conducting a periodic SWOT is to help you define your brand, create marketing tools that position your business or service appropriately, or help you define a new business angle, product or service.

  1. Develop Big Hairy Audacious Goals

One of my favorite takeaways from the book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by James Collins and Jerry Porras is the “BHAG”—which stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Every entrepreneur needs these goals to ensure we are looking past the day-to-day to some significant long-term objectives. And even if you work on staff inside a company, it’s worth targeting your BHAG to be sure you have a life-changing target that can drive your professional development plan. I keep my BHAGs on a white board over my desk, which also contains all my company’s ongoing projects and proposals. By having my BHAG there–both business and personal–I’m mindful of not losing sight of my long-term goals and strategies in the flurry of daily work.

  1. Tips for Transition Marketing

As the market transitions from virtual to hybrid and then to frankly who knows what, it’s important to be mindful of how your portfolio, your social media, and your resume position you for what’s next. Be sure your social channels are aligned with where you want to go. (So often I see headshots with sexy poses or pictures of beloved animals, which don’t really help me know who this person is professionally.) If you are job-hunting as a gig worker, be sure to highlight your soft skills when posting on platforms like LinkedIn. These include your ability to work with a team, your ability to use new tools or software to get the job done efficiently; and your willingness to manage your own time to deliver quality outcomes. Software and hardware tools and certifications are great, but these change constantly. It’s your work ethic and ability to be function as part of a team that makes you hire-able again and again.

The future of work post-Covid is still evolving. The best we can do is be ready for it.

Amy DeLouise is an entrepreneur, digital storyteller, and trainer. Check out her panel of creatives who pivoted their careers during the Post|Production Online conference April 10-13.

Photo by Unsplash

If you’ve been creating content for virtual meetings and events this year, then you know that you need to maximize the impact and longevity of your content, even after the meeting. In this blog post, I’ll talk about how to plan engaging content that helps you maximize impact, amp up your next virtual or live event, and ensures audiences engage with your brand even after your event is over.

  1. Ensure Video Content Fits into a (Virtual) Event Story Arc

So many times we create content for the wrong reasons. Maybe “Cherie needs to be in the video” because she’s an important stakeholder in the organization. Or a particular sponsor needs to be featured. But how do you connect these stories to the story you are telling in your event? Each event needs its own story arc, a narrative that you want attendees to come away with once the video cameras are off. So as you build your virtual content, ask these questions:

How do the various videos we want to share fit into our overall story?

Is there a way we can make them fit better?

Can we break longer videos up into smaller portions –“snackables” — to tell our story on social before and after our event?

It’s important to map that out, and find appropriate places for different narratives that feed into your larger story.  If something doesn’t fit, you might need to find an alternative. For example, often sponsors have multiple videos they’ve created about their products or services. Perhaps one fits better than others with your target attendees. Sometimes I’ve even been able to get sponsors to create a more customized version just for us. This way, attendees don’t feel like that content doesn’t fit with our bigger story. And anyone viewing your event afterwards online will also find a cohesive message.

  1. Engage Audiences as Communities Post-Event

Sometimes you need to deliver different content to different communities in different ways. That means planning ahead to create multiple versions of some videos you want to feature at your event. For example, you might share a 1-minute version of a member story for an association event, but then post-event, share the full 4-minute video. And post-event, what opportunities are you offering participants to engage with one another to share the impact and continue important conversations? Perhaps you create an event alumni Facebook group. Or invite attendees to join a monthly Zoom chat which you can kick off with a new impact story, to jumpstart the conversation. Or perhaps you want to engage your community post-event in some important policy action through an email campaign that contains links to several different content strands. Audience members are people, and your event is just one touch point to build a sense of shared purpose and continued connection.

  1. File Formats Best Practices for Video

If you are producing a hybrid or virtual event, you’ll likely have a number of different content elements to bring into your delivery platform, then share again afterwards. Most platforms are still only streaming at fairly low bandwidth depending on your subscription level, so don’t overwhelm the system by trying to play back 4K video. You could end up with audio out of sync and heavy digital drag.  If you have high resolution assets, make lower resolution compressions and test them in advance on your platform. Typically, 1080p mp4 files compressed for Vimeo or YouTube spec will play back just fine.

If you have speakers who will be sharing videos, be sure they play back these sources natively from their presentation computer (and whoever is hosting that session should also have a backup copy on their desktop.)  And don’t wait until your event to find out how they will look. Have speakers who want to share videos practice sharing in a test session. I recently attended a virtual concert where the speaker tried to play back a performance from her YouTube channel, which caused a lot of unnecessary lag and choppiness. She could have shared the source file with no problems directly from her desktop. And be sure any video content you want to play back through your event platform—such as sponsor videos, intro videos, or highlights—are also tested through the platform. You can always share higher resolution versions through your website, YouTube channel or Vimeo channel post-event.

 

Amy DeLouise is a producer/writer/director specializing in branded content for virtual and live events.

Storytelling and technology continue to be intricately entwined. From the very start, the ability to capture images was dependent on evolving tech. Those in the storytelling biz have always been understood that creating great content is a multi-layered, complex process that requires a combination of creativity, artistry and technology. The latest technology to transform content production is 5G.

What is 5G?

5G is the now rapidly emerging next generation mobile network. What makes 5G networks unique the powerful combination of low latency, high network bandwidth and ubiquitous connectivity. Data can be uploaded at speeds up to 10 Gigabits per second and downloaded at peak speeds of 20Gbps. This is 10 times faster than today’s mobile networks. It is the ability to download a 3GB video in 35 seconds. Over today’s 4G networks, that same 3GB file would take 40 minutes to download.

Why is 5G important for production? In short, it removes limitations.

5G and Live Events

When it comes to live events, 5G reduces costs while increasing efficiency and flexibility of remote production. While many stadiums have fixed locations providing the fiber connections needed for TV cameras, broadcasters have had to invest time and money to lay down miles of fiber to connect cameras to OB truck. 5G gives camera crews the freedom to roam wherever they need to get the best shot – and upload high quality 4K in real-time. Sports broadcasters around the world have been testing 5G since 2018. This summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games are expected to display the broadest set of commercial uses yet.

Scripted Content in 5G

So, it’s easy to understand the benefits of 5G for live events but what about scripted content? How can 5G transform Hollywood storytelling? 5G changes the game even before the cast is assembled and shooting begins. Location scouting is now simplified by 5G enabled drone cameras capturing shots and enabling teams to quickly review options. The sky, pun intended, is now the limit as it becomes more cost effective to send crews to check the viability and desirability of locations.

Once filming starts, the pace of production can now be accelerated. One of the biggest sources of delay has been transmitting large high-quality video files (aka “dailies”) for review While the adoption of digital has accelerated this process, 5G can provide even greater improvements. 5G’s fast speeds allows filmmakers to transfer massive video files to editors very quickly without the restriction of access to wireline connections.

In the same manner, collaboration between editors in multiple locations and time zones becomes more productive and reliable. Video files can be shared, edited, re-shared and reviewed. 5G also improves the viability of cloud-based workflows thanks to its low latency requirements. Imagine files being uploaded to the cloud while still shooting. Workflows will be accelerated; networking costs will be reduced. Even more importantly, 5G can truly democratize post-production – allowing the best specialist talent to participate in projects without concern for location.

The Future of 5G

The future promises even greater creativity and audience immersion. Thanks to 5G’s ultra-low latency and massive data capacity, storytellers can unleash their AR, VR, 3D Holographic enabled imaginations. South Korea, a longtime leader in adopting advanced mobile network technologies, released this 3D holographic + 5G network enabled dragon in 2019! Live events, visual interactions, and storytelling as we know it will change forever.

We can only imagine how content production will evolve as 5G is deployed globally. 5G enabled smartphones and 5G enabled professional cameras are available today with 1.2 billion connections projected by 2025. Get ready for a new wave of creativity!

Peggy Dau is an independent consultant working with media tech companies to help them connect the dots between technology, market trends and business strategies. Peggy is also a co-founder of Women in Streaming Media, a not-for-profit organization which exists to increase diversity, and provide greater visibility, to women working in any role within the streaming media technology sector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you host a podcast or are creating video content, interviewing is essential. Here are some of my experiences and tips for working with VIPs, Celebrities and Experts.

Some of the most nervous and challenging subjects I’ve worked with on camera are celebrities, CEOs and subject matter experts. These are the very people you’d think are fairly comfortable in front of cameras.  Yet it’s worth remembering that not every celebrity loves cameras. The reasons can vary widely, and it’s useful if you can do your homework to be prepared.

For example, I once interviewed a brilliant scientist who shared in our pre-interview that he had ADHD, a condition which had eventually led him to a career in science to unlock the genetic secrets of the human condition. This scientist admitted that he was unlikely to stay focused for more than five minutes at a time. He was right. I had to let him get up and check on experiments and talk to colleagues in between every question. Flexibility is sometimes the key to a happy interviewee, and thus a better interview.

A brilliant conductor was another fascinating and tricky interview subject. Having worked with her for many years, I was not surprised that she almost directed our production from her seat. Allowing an expert to feel in control is often a key to creating a successful interview dynamic, even though you are always keeping track of the story arc and important points you want and need to draw out for your particular audience.

I once worked with a Very Famous TV Personality whose name shall not be included here. That’s because her on-screen bouncy persona was a far cry from her real approach, which was difficult and anxious. Her assistant was equally challenging. We had to do many takes, some of which I had to carefully cajole out of her, because I realized no one on her team was willing to admit to her that she had made some mistakes. Yet I knew that she would want a perfect take, and wouldn’t approve anything less (and frankly, neither would I). When conducting interviews with experts, VIPs and celebrities, part of your job is also managing feelings, and managing the managers.

As an interviewer, director or producer, you need to be ready for everything.  Your best weapon is knowledge. Your second is patience. And for challenging VIP’s, the crew or tech team needs to be 100% on their toes, with no chit-chat. Everyone needs to exude the confidence that you will make this person look and sound their absolute best.

 

This blog post is partially excerpted from my content creator’s guide The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Routledge Press).

Socially distanced panelists filmed in studio for a virtual event feed – courtesy Interface Media Group 

As part of my continuing series on producing virtual events,  I caught up with Steven Yerman, Vice President of Operations, and Nick Mueller, Studio Manager at Interface Media Group in Washington, D.C. [Full transparency—I’ve hired IMG for their great studios, and they’ve hired me to produce virtual event content.]

Amy: What are some of the pitfalls of planning virtual events?

Steve: Even more planning goes into virtual events than live events.  Typically, a live awards event might take 6 months of planning, but the same group will only allot a few weeks to the same event happening virtually. And yet there are so many more technical components.

What takes the most time in pre-production to make sure the event succeeds?

Nick: Running technical tests takes time – you want that time with all of your “talent” to be sure their connections work right, video and audio look and sound good.

What are audiences expecting, now that we’ve had almost a year to develop virtual content?

Steve: The audience is expecting more than a Zoom meeting.

Nick: You don’t want to have a talking head for 60 minutes. People want dynamic content.

Steve:  You need to think of these events as television productions. The audience wants content that looks tight, like a real broadcast, with higher quality video and graphics.

So how are you taking the risk out of creating that kind of “broadcast look”, especially when most of the people speaking are not on-camera professionals?

Steve: Often we pre-record key segments. Let’s say it’s an awards event. We’ll mail the person the award in advance. We then record them saying their remarks. We’ll edit that nicely, with lower thirds and logo graphics, then bring it into the live event.

There are loads of different platforms for bringing an audience into a virtual event—Zoom, WebEx, Skype, Bizzabo, Hopin, Aventri, etc. (I will cover these in another post). What unique tools do you bring as a broadcast studio?

Nick: We can use Talk Show VS4000 which allows us to bring in four guests via Skype.

That’s a multi-channel video calling system designed to simultaneously connect you with up to 4 remote sources and give you full audio and video control over the signal and what happens next.

Nick: Correct. So this is a great tool for a talk-show type format.  We also use the Tricaster.

You’re talking about the broadcast switcher?

Nick: Right. It can take a signal and push it to YouTube, Facebook, a website, or an external encoder. It will work with Zoom, WebEx, Teams or Skype and can also ISO record audio and video. And it can handle mixed format inputs.

Just to clarify for our readers, ISO means “isolated” audio or video signal—meaning, a separate record that doesn’t mix in the other speakers and visuals.

Nick: Yes. So we have those “clean” sources if we need them to tweak a session after it has been recorded live.

That’s incredibly handy, because mistakes happen and we don’t want the permanent recording to contain any! So how do you bring the client into the picture, so to speak?

Steve: We’ve been using a conference bridge for the client and tech team, so we can communicate offline and not interfere with what is being recorded.

What’s the biggest challenge that gets overlooked when planning for a virtual event that is bringing different speakers and panels to the audience?

Steve: You need to think about the maximum number of feeds and what you will show during the transitions. Another one of the challenges to space out the show correctly to have the pauses to make those technical transitions.

That’s where a show writer like me comes in handy. Just like I do for a live event, I write what’s called a showflow that anticipates those transitions, so we have every segment timed out and also have video content ready to fill any gaps, like prep time for speakers.

Steve: Exactly. You need your speakers on the line 15 minutes to a half hour before they go live, and we keep the connection open while they get ready.

Nick: Because if you wait until 5 minutes before hand and you have technical issues with their connection, you have no time to fix it.

How are you mixing virtual and live, in-studio feeds?

Steve: We’ll often have an on-air “talent” hosting the event from one of our studios, and then we’ll have panelists in the other studio and also coming in remotely from multiple locations. Plus roll-in videos and Skypes from earlier in the day.

And does that work?

Nick: We make it work. The only problem we had once was a guy in his car in a parking lot. He really didn’t have the best connection so I had to go to a different guest.

Steve: But we plan for that. We have a photo of each guest and a name slate ready to go in case we need to switch to audio-only.

What you’re describing is a lot like television, but also it isn’t.

Steve: Yes, guests (panelists) need to understand that once you get going there is no stopping the train. We can’t drop out and go to commercial break.

It’s been an interesting ride so far. What’s next?

Nick: I really see [remote and in-studio production] staying even if we “get back to normal” because of significant cost savings like hotel and travel.

Steve: I think people will still want to get together and give awards in person and see each other face to face. But you’ll see more panel discussions with a remote interview added into the panel. And folks will still want to produce segments in the studio where you have a controlled environment, good branding, and a good looking set. But virtual opens a whole new world to engage people from anywhere in the world.