The “Should I?,” “How I?” and “Where I?” About Broadcasting Live Events
By Greg Jennings, VP Transportables & Production Services, Encompass Digital Media
Just because you have an event coming up does not necessarily mean it needs to be live. A lot goes into planning a live event broadcast. To ensure your live event broadcasts successfully, there are key questions to ask.
Let’s start out with the most basic, yet very important.
Does your event NEED to be live?
What value add does a live event have over a pre-recorded program or VOD solution?
Let’s assume you’ve made the decision that your announcement or product launch will really benefit from a live event. Next, who is your audience? How will they consume your message – mobile, traditional, both? Knowing this information drives design and frames how your intended message transmits from the event site to your viewers.
Our primary recommendation to all of our clients is:
Never devalue the importance of quality.
Even a predominantly mobile audience demands, even expects, broadcast-quality video. Just because the screen is small doesn’t make it any less important. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked, “Can’t we use web cameras to capture the footage or use an iPhone for the camera?” My answer is always, “Yes, you can do that, but if you want to make a lasting impression, use the highest quality capture devices.” You want your message to be remembered for the right reason, not because of its poor production value.
Once you know your target audience and you understand the importance of using high-quality production gear, now you have to figure out how to get your signal from the camera lens to your audience wherever they may be.
Can you get there from here?
Today, there are numerous methods to efficiently move content around the world. Newer technologies such as IP (internet protocol) and fiber services are becoming more and more commonplace to transmit large volumes of high-value video content. With different types of distribution, there are always advantages and limitations.
For live events, clients may select one method as the primary service and another as the backup. For the purposes of our discussion, let’s highlight the most tried and true live event solution – satellite transmission services.
Satellite offers a simple consumer choice, because:
- The client is not required to have existing infrastructure in place or a need to build infrastructure.
- It’s extremely portable and flexible.
- If your event is on a remote island in the Pacific or, better yet, floating on a ship in the Caribbean, satellite is the way to go. You need a portable antenna in the form of a fly pack or a satellite truck, some hardware that can communicate with the satellite, satellite space segment (like a radio station channel for your transmission) and a place to land your signal.
There are some nuances that need to be considered that affect transmission quality but are easily managed by professionals that have been doing this kind of service for over 30 years. For example, the position or location on the Earth. Are you near the equator, in the southern hemisphere, near a metropolitan area or in a densely wooded area? Will your transmission require a spot beam, turn arounds, etc.?
Let’s assume all of that has been resolved and your locations have no restrictions with getting a satellite truck parked and a direct view of the southern sky. We now have a plan to get your message from the site.
Capturing the Content.
Next, it is time to focus on capturing the content. For the production element, the goal is to be as discreet as possible. Have you ever noticed when a camera is in the room or put in front of someone, people act differently? It’s important for presenters to act naturally and be comfortable. The production element should be nothing more than an extension of the presenter. There is an entire world behind the lens dedicated to creating great content. For professional actors, this environment is second nature. They are accustomed to all of the bright lights, audio devices, cameras and moving set pieces.
This is not the case in the corporate/professional arena. Many people are not accustomed to having bright lights in their face or a producer possibly in their ear giving cues. Additionally, they may be intimidated by the fact that the event is live. Some individuals may require more coaching, learning how to address the camera for their audience tuning in off-site, and really to remind them to be relaxed.
I can never emphasize it enough to rehearse the presentation and production over and over again. It is key to nailing down the timing and delivery. Not many people can “wing it” and make it look good in the process. Before going live, ask a focus audience to provide feedback as to what works and what doesn’t.
Where in the world?
Live events happen daily, from boardrooms to beaches in the tropics and being prepared for every situation is a must in this business. When planning for an outdoor event, always have a weather contingency. Even in areas that never get rain or bad weather eventually get rain or bad weather. Live audiences are unpredictable but can make the event both fun and challenging.
One thing you need to ask yourself is, “What am I trying to show by being live?” With the right backdrop, any room can look like a live studio location. Natural settings, however, are harder to simulate. If the natural landscape enhances your message, then, by all means, embrace and leverage it. If your team is spending a bulk of your budget and manpower to have your remote on a beach in the tropics, showcase your surroundings. Don’t just have a palm tree in the backdrop. Make your audience want to be there. You can tease them and showcase your surroundings in a staged-type format, but there is a lot to be said when your viewers are talking about enhancements you presented to reinforce your message.
Once you select a venue, you can now focus on the number of cameras needed to capture and communicate your message. That naturally ties to the number of crew members needed. When you are on location in Fiji, it’s hard to just fly someone else in to relieve crew members. You should ensure there is enough bench strength at the outset. Over the years, I have participated on many different crew setups from fully staffed to a skeleton crew. My big take away is, that while you may be saving on a few staff members, in the long run, you wind up paying for it with a more tired crew which could also yield costly mistakes. I have also learned that keeping your crew fed and hydrated throughout the day will keep them running all day long.
The last thing that I leave you with is the beauty/curse of a live event is it is LIVE. There are no do overs and a majority of the time, your audience has no idea someone missed a cue or something didn’t go off exactly as planned. Let it go. Have fun, and enjoy all the efforts of planning that brought you to where you are. Don’t let it ruin the rest of your event, and by all means, learn from it, move on and don’t let it happen again.
Encompass Digital Media is an industry-leader in live event solutions. Learn more or contact us today to find the right product or service for your next live event!