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Technology for engaging digital events

Digital meetings and streamed conferences are by now something that many of us have become accustomed to and perhaps even participated in. Just as in the case of physical conferences, the level of ambition can be varied in a digital conference production and one of the advantages of the format is scalability. We met Karl Wigenius, production manager at Creative Technology (CT), during a project that CT recently participated in, and found out more about how the technology behind a digital event works.

 

Please tell us about the project

– The client wanted to produce a program that would be broadcast live to about 8,000 employees worldwide. To suit time zones in both North America and Asia, they chose to run two broadcasts, one in the morning, Swedish time, and one in the afternoon. The program were to be set up as a television production including a studio with presenters and guests, as well as a number of speakers and participants linked in from other countries. They also wanted to engage viewers by letting them interact with the program via polls and a live chat.

 

What kind of technology were used?

– We built a studio at the client’s head office. The alternative would have been to use a ready-to-use studio with an associated control room, but in this case it was important with the local connection to the company. In addition to audio, lighting, LED screens and a three-camera production in the studio, we built a control room for controlling the technology, such as camera mixing, video and graphics playback, links and intercom management, and audio and light control. In addition to this, a number of connected remote sites were established to which we sent local teams via CT’s offices in Los Angeles, London and Shanghai for technical support on site. In one location, we chose a solution that involves sending a so-called studio-in-a-box to the speaker’s home. It is a device with a built-in camera, lamp, microphone and screen, which is easy for the user manage and enables him or her be participate in the meeting remotely with significantly better sound and video quality than what you would get from a computer. We were also able to control the device remotely from our control room in Sweden, which meant that the speaker basically only needed to plug it in, start the machine and connect a microphone.

 

What are the challenges in a project like this and how did you solve them?

– When you as a client invest resources in making a production like this, instead of for example a Teams- or Zoom meeting, there is of course high expectations to create a good-looking program where everything works smoothly and safely. Connecting several locations around the world and making everything work together is a challenge, as you naturally want the dialogue between speakers, presenters and viewers to flow without delay. We solved this through an advanced linking technology that ensures a signal with extremely low delay while sound and video are of a high quality. Another challenge nowadays is to have technical staff travel. We solved this issue by having several CT offices collaborating on the project, thus being able to offer local staff in several places around the world. We could also let certain operator functions take place remotely, such as the streaming operator who was located in our control room in Gothenburg. Also the  interactivity was was managed from there, via CT’s IT platform tecViz.

 

What is your top advice to someone planning a digital event?

– Prioritize quality over quantity. A professional digital event is built on a solid chain of high quality. From cameras and links to lighting fixtures and microphones, and of course know-how and experience. If some part does not measure up, the overall impression is lowered immediately. Everything in the chain must work seamlessly, and maintain the highest level.