How to assure good quality of video recordings
This article is a broadstroke overview of the requirements for achieving great quality for video recordings at events like conferences etc. Both OOoCons at Barcelona 2007 and Beijing 2008 showed significant quality issues for the results of the video recordings, that could have been prevented by better preparation.
Good quality video is the result of good preparation by the three critical groups
For the most part these groups are separate entities in the lead up to the conference. The better that each group prepares, the better the result. Articles that deal with the content below in much greater detail specific to each of the groups can be reached by following the links above and the titles of the sections.
- 1 Organizational Team
- 2 Speakers
- 3 The Media Team
The Organisational team's work should end with the start of the conference. Their attentions must needs turn to the attendees and speakers once the conference has started. For that reason they must be ready two days before opening to hand off to the person I will call the Venue Manager.
The Venue manager
will be liaison between the organisational team and the Media team. He should not be Speaker liaison. His responsibility will be purely technical, looking after rooms, making sure they're unlocked at the right time, equipment is in place and working, ensuring each room's media team are onsite and ready to go at the right times, heating, lighting and the guy who has direct contact with the venue's maintenance staff. Ideally he would be a professional at this and even more ideally an AV professional.
Timetable in the lead-up to the conference
An inventory of equipment at the earliest possible stage is very important. Too often this is left to the last minute which results in the Media team having to "Make Do" with what is in place already or what can be cobbled together. Do not make the assumption that the equipment will be in place. Again forward planning, budgeting and inventory will always create the better product in the end.
Establish the type of presentation: ie Workshop, Panel Discussion, Instructional Presentation or Argumentative Presentation. Each has different technical and venue requirements. This should be finalised a month out from the conference so that the team is ready for.........
Besides the type of event/presentation other factors come into play. If I were to do a presentation on "OOo in year 1 to 5 classroom activities", I would require a much smaller venue than say Simon Phipps debating the future of SUN in OOo with Mike Meeks. Panel discussions need for instance, more than one camera: one wide shot, one close up and an Audience rover and so a bigger mixing desk and more crew.
These should be established well out so that the Venue manager can make adjustments to inventory well before the event.
Conferences often happen in University settings. Large lecture theatres are usually designed well and have facilities for video, however often small sessions are held in classrooms which are designed for different needs and are often not ideal facilities for presentations. Invariably therefore the smaller the room the greater the preparation needed to turn it into a good presentation venue.
Organisational team section In more detail
Practice and know your material. Confidence translates into better more consistent sound levels and visuals. Lack of preparation leads to the Camera taking shots of the top of head (as speaker looks down at notes or laptop) or back of head (as speaker reads off the screen). Practice using a remote slide changer.
Make the following available to the Organisational team as early as possible:
- type of session (see above),
- likely audience
Be available for a sound and lighting check before the session. Besides making it easier for the crew it also gives you time to get comfortable in the room and with the equipment. It is best to check the venue out before the day starts. If, through circumstance there is a possibility that you won't be able to make it to a sound/equipment check, make sure that your presentation, in it's final format, is made available to the Venue manager beforehand. This enables the crew to set your presentation up on the local equipment and know it will work for you from the outset.
Even if you do make it to a sound/equipment check having your presentation available on other standard Media such as CD or flash drive preempts difficulties with hardware compatibility.
Keep in contact with the Venue Manager and/or Speaker Liaison especially on the day, a simple nod to say that you are present and ready and to confirm you know which venue you are presenting in, takes a surprising amount of load off the Venue manager. Sometimes a ridiculous amount of time is wasted just trying to confirm speakers availability. However if speaker liaison is doing their job this should not be necessary.
Trust the Media team
- They know where the mike is best positioned, remember the mike is not there for the speaker, it's for the audience, both on site and on video.
- Don't second guess the sound levels, the Media team can hear and see you better than you can and they are after all, amongst the audience.
- If you're not sure about anything; ask!
The art in any presentation is in retaining the audience's focus. If the presentation is designed well then the Video production is easy, because the point of focus is easily discernible, however if the Video crew are having problems trying to figure out where the focus should be, then your audience is probably having difficulty as well.
Familiarise yourself with the equipment
Microphones are not created equal. Each is designed for a particular function and there are many different functions. To demonstrate this, take a look at the Shure website Shure is arguably the No.1 manufacturer of microphones to the high end audio industry and their range is vast, each designed for a particular situation. In older venues especially, varying purchasing decisions over time can result in a venue having multiple brands and types, so don't expect the Mike you are going to use today is the same as the one you used at the last venue, even if that venue is at the same facility.
Many speakers consider the sound check an annoyance rather than the essential that it is. To be fair to your crew and audience, both onsite and watching the video, make an effort to do the sound check. The result will be worth it.
If you have any questions please ask them in the Questions and Answers section on the detail page and I'll answer as best I can.
Speakers section in more detail
In the best possible world the media team would be a professional team, however the costs would often be prohibitive. A team of enthusiastic amateurs under professional guidance and training, would in most cases achieve excellent results as long as there was time set aside in the leadup to bring these people up to speed. Again it's about preparation
- AV team for each venue
- Best Possible Camera equipment
- Wireless Lapel Microphones for the speakers
- Handheld microphones for the audience (questions)
- Mixing desk to suit the venue
- Lighting (strongly depending on the overall environment)
- Spares for microphones, cables, light bulbs, consumables etc.
The size and make up for the team varies depending on the venue and presentation.
In the ideal world this would be a full professional AV team, in the real world only MS and Apple could afford the outlay that would require.
However there are sources for tech crew in a local community. The local community theatre group, High School Drama departments and College Media Departments are just some. Depending on the number of venues, a small crew of AV Pros with a team of skilled amateurs or students can give you a high quality and enthusiastic Media team.
Best possible Camera equipment
Again this will depend on the venue. For a large Auditorium, camera requirements are different to small venues.
The standard minmum equipment should be:
- A broadcast quality Digital Camera with remote audio input capability
- A good quality heavy tripod
Good quality sound equipment is important. The equipment needs to be able to supply good audio to both the audience and the Video
The minimum for any venue should be:
- Wireless lapel microphone for the speaker.
- One handheld wireless microphone for Audience questions.
A four channel mixing desk is probably the minimum requirement. This should have multiple outputs with independent level control. Minimum requirement would be one output for the PA and one for the video. Most mixing desks at least have an extra monitor output, use this for the video if there are no others.
Inventory of equipment
The Venue Manager should have an inventory of each venue's equipment well before conference start. Part of the media teams job should be to set up a check sheet for the venue's requirements and then match it to inventory and add equipment as needed. Go over the check sheet each day before start and test all the equipment.
Test and calibrate equipment and environment
Do this before the conference and label each piece of equipment and assign it to a specific venue. Test the venue equipment together and ensure that it isn't mixed up later on with other venues. If equipment is to be shared between several venues, make sure that it all stays together as a kit: Desk, Camera, Mikes and Receivers. This minimises sound check problems that happen when unmatched are used.
Five minutes check for every speaker
It's important to allow sound check time for speakers. A time set aside in the mornings before the start of the days events and five minutes before the presentation.
Spares and consumables
Establish a regime for changing batteries in mikes. Keep an inventory of spares and backup mikes. Make sure that the minmum level of stocks are maintained. Holding a stock of spares, such as cables, non rechargeable batteries and even a spare camera or two should be the responsibility of the Venue manager.
Media team section in more detail