Case Study - live stream

Since COVID-19 came to our lives, companies have had to adapt, change or face going out of business. One of the companies that have adapted and pivoted are McNulty. McNulty are a training, development, coaching and advisory organisation that specialise in leadership, high performance teams, culture and wellbeing. They partner with individuals and organisations around the world in both corporate and pro sport to enable them to unlock their full potential. During the pandemic, more than ever, McNulty have had to pivot and continue to deliver their programmes in an all virtual world.

This is where The Production Company comes in. We were approached to help develop a system to remotely deliver their content to virtual participants . This could not be just a regular live stream, as the team at McNulty had to interact with the participants, so it had to be done through the video conferencing application Webex… Challenge accepted!

Delivering complex multi-day seminars through Webex (or Zoom for that matter) is not as easy as one might think. Although most of us are now very well versed to using Zoom meetings, when you start to introduce a multi-cam live stream with multiple presenters, slide decks, live music, LED wall, etc, things can get complicated.

The main challenge was to deliver the seminar through Webex and allow for live interaction with a group of participants (not just through the chat box). The set-ups were as follows:

  • X2 Studios/stages where the presenters would deliver their programmes
  • X3 Multi-cam set up
  • Over 10 performers
  • Live interaction with the virtual attendees
  • Multiple slide decks
  • Live music
  • Music tracks over dialogue
  • LED wall with its own dedicated switcher (for slide decks mainly)

The McNulty team required two studio spaces to deliver their performances. One dedicated to slide deck presentations and live music, and the other with a relax/calm feel where more than one presenter would have a conversation/discussion.

 

1st challenge – Space limitation in a COVID-19 world

Due to the size of the location we would be operating in, we needed to keep the crew to a minimum. After a number of conversations during pre-production, we decided on a 3 cam set-up with one fixed wide angle camera in each studio and a third wireless camera that would move form studio 1 and studio 2 with ease. With a condensed crew size, some roles needed to be doubled up, for instance the switcher operator also took on the audio responsibilities. This would reduce the amount of crew we had to bring in and allowed us to operate safely.

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2nd challenge – Visual contact

Another challenge was that the presenters had to keep constant visual contact with the virtual participants, thus had to be looking at a large LED screen instead of the camera. This posed a challenge: from the participants perspective, the presenters would not be looking straight to them, i.e they would be looking off-camera. To solve this problem, we placed our ‘A’ cam in each studio directly under a large 60” screen (where the presenter could see their audience) with a wide angle and at a close enough distance that the presenter was able to see the screen clearly, but far enough that it looked as though they were looking straight to camera.

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3rd Challenge – Slide Decks

Originally we thought of feeding the slides directly into the stream, but the programme (and the presenters) were too dynamic and required to have a physical screen behind them to be able to interact with it. The solution, a 12’x8’ LED wall behind the presenters.

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4th Challenge – Audio

There were a variety of audio sources: the presenter, the sound from videos in the slide decks, music tracks played over dialogue and live music. On a live stream or a live event, this doesn’t present much of a problem, but on a Zoom or Webex meeting there are a few challenges. Firstly, these programs use algorithms to cancel sound feedback or loops. They are designed to be used on a computer, laptop or mobile device. The microphone on any of these devices is next to the speaker and the algorithm stops the sound coming from the speaker to filter into the microphone, but when using a more complex system like those on live events (mixers, individual mics, monitors, etc) the algorithm struggles and creates unwanted loops and echoes, both with the audience and with the presenters.

To explain how we work around this challenge it would require a dedicated blog post, but in a nutshell, we made sure the host computer got a feed from all the audio sources mixed and took a feed from the same computer to feed the speakers that the presenters would listen to when any of the participants were speaking.

It is important to note that we had several co-hosts in the meeting that were acting as moderators and also feeding the screens that the presenters looked at, so the designated computer we used for the audio source was crucial.

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Delivery

Despite all of the challenges, we had a very successful event, 5 days without a hiccup. The McNulty team provided the meeting moderators and an extra person at our disposal and whom we trained to use the switcher for the large LED wall. Below is a list of the equipment used for this production:

X3 Panasonic GH5S

X1 wireless video transmission

X1 Feyitech AK4500 3 axis gimbal with ring frame

X6 HDMI to SDI and SDI to HDMI converters

X2 BMD Atem Mini Pro

X6 Laptops

X1 Atomos Sumo

X1 8'x12' LED wall

X1 Sound Devices MixPre6

X6 Sennheiser EW100 G3

X1 Sennheiser 416 + wireless transmission

X2 Aputure Nova P300C + Soft boxes

X2 Kino Flo Diva

X1 Aputure 300d + Dome ii

X2 Ledgo 1x1 LED panels

X3 Aputure LS20

X4 Eartech comms system

A whole lot of grip and support equipment.

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