|Posted on March 30, 2012 at 12:45 AM|
This last semester in my college career has been one of the most challenging I have ever had. It was not hard because of class projects, but because of one production I agreed to assist with earlier in the school year. That production was the live streaming of David O. Belcher being officially inducted as the 11th chancellor of Western Carolina University. This production involved several new challenges, technical and planning, and overall I am extremely proud to have been a part of the event.
Most big productions of this level would typically be handled by a class or a paid faculty member of the university, but WCU's Public Relations department asked myself and TV 62 if we would be the ones to make it happen. (More than likely because of all of the productions we had been doing over the year such as the press conference announcements of Athletics new Athletic Director and head football coach.) I agreed and signed up for the challenge, knowing how much work would be involved, and how much time I would need to designate to make the production come to life.
In the early stages, it was very straight forward, planning out where we would have cameras located, what materials we would need, etc. Basically, a good two months of consistent emails and meetings before the first cable was ever laid down. Still, before we could go live, there was several challenges that had to be solved and worked around.
Before the production all the way up to the very moment we went live, there was a consistent rotation of changes and new challenges that popped up around every aspect of the production. The biggest change was going from using a Sony Anycast switcher, to a Newtek Tricaster 450 Extreme switcher. It was much like switching from a baseball swing to a golf swing right before a tournament. With only the users manuel to help, I spend countless hours playing with the settings, fighting the different features, until finally I understood everything I needed to know to put together an elaborate production. Having the Tricaster switcher gave us the option to roll in video and photo packages before and after the event, key in custom made graphics, and record the video straight to a hard drive. The event could have happened with the Anycast, but the Tricaster allowed us to transform our show into a production.
The next challenge was learning how to convert and send our video signal to the internet site U-Stream, which is what Western choose to host the feed. The site is fairly easy to use, but since it is free it has limited capabilities and options for settings. In many ways this was more challenging than learning the new switcher because I have never learned about streaming in a classroom.The Tricaster has streaming options, but after several tests I was not happy with the signal quality (could have been the internet connection I was testing on, but I am not sure). To solve the quality issue, I sent our signal from the Tricaster to a tape deck (which was our backup recorder) and then through fire wire into a computer to stream the feed. Thankfully, the feed never had a glitch or any issue throughout the entire event and as far as I know, it all worked smoothly.
As the production date neared, things finally started to take shape. Cable for the cameras was laid down a week and a half in advance in order to be out of the way. Then on Wednesday the 28th we set up everything to do a full test and run through. For the show we had 4 cameras, 2 in the back of the arena on the floor, one in the side of the stands near the choir and musicians, and the last was a robotic camera in the bushes in front of the stage. (The robo camera was terrific, it was placed on the same side as Belcher, and when it looked at the audience the entire Belcher family was in the front row.) The remaining equipment (switcher, audio, tape, robo camera operator) was set up in the opposite side of the arena in one of the tunnels towards the locker rooms. (This location was chosen so we would not be heard on the clear-com and so we would be out of the way of the ceremony.)
The morning of the 29th was very nice. Having had the test the previous day, there was nothing left to setup, everything was ready to go, and we were ready to make it happen. There was a final run through with the graphics, a quick camera meeting, and last minute discussions with other crew members to make sure we were ready. Then the slideshow started to play, everything was placed in record, and the stream started broadcasting the feed.
Once the orchestra began playing at 9:45 am, we switched the feed to the cameras, using one of the picture and picture options the Tricaster has. At the end of the first song, we switch to a video package produced by Matson Henderson, a WCU student, with video of the musicians still showing up in the picture in picture. After the package plays we go right into a regular broadcast of the entire ceremony.
There were a few glitches from time to time, mostly at the start of the production. As Director and TD, I know I made a few mistakes here and there, but by the end of the ceremony everyone was doing terrific. Being completely student produced it was great to see everything come together. I am extremely proud of everyone who volunteered and helped with the production in any way. Without their help this never would have come together, or looked half as good as it did.
Since this was the first production TV 62 has ever done with a Tricaster, there was multiple obsticals to overcome. Hopefully, in the years to come students will be better trained with the Tricaster and be able to produce shows that blow this production out of the water. I know it is possible and will be done at some point. Nevertheless, I am proud to say I had a hand in the first step as TV 62 is taking off to new heights.
Jarrett F. 04/09/2012
Categories: Capture the Moment