“You have been fantastic throughout the entire planning process. Onsite delivery was simply spectacular - really world class and I mean that. The team were - as always - first class, professional, amazing at what they do and in general, really good craic and easy to work with - which as you know is just as important sometimes.”
- Aimee Welsh, Project Director, The Good Business Festival
COVID-19 has forced a sudden transformation of live events.
While many events have been cancelled, postponed, or turned into Zoom calls, The Good Business Festival turned to Adlib to design, produce, and broadcast a virtual alternative to their physical event – without compromising on audience engagement and production values.
Bringing people together will always result in a better event.
Our Head of Lighting & Video, Tom Edwards, commented: “The trend of everyone being remote - the audience, the presenters, the producers, the technicians - means you lose out on the tactile stuff where you can get into the nitty gritty and collaborate. So it was important that the core team were on site, talking face-to-face with the hosts in a safe way, and that facilities for presenter interaction off camera was provided even though they were remote.”
The ambition was always to bring together as many people as possible and present something engaging and exciting for both participants and online delegates.
The ambition was always to bring together as many people as possible, physically.
We began by designing two versions of a hybrid event that would have incorporated small audiences of different sizes, a live stream, and the majority of presenters being physically present. But as government guidance changed, we were forced to rethink, and the whole event was adjusted to be delivered as a live stream.
And whilst the hosts would still be based in the main studio at O2 Academy Brixton, restrictions meant that the majority of presenters would have to be remote.
Encouraging Collaboration in a Hybrid Environment
This led us to design develop new ways of bringing the presenters, hosts, producers, and panellists together safely – enabling the type of collaboration you’d find at a physical event.
This came in two parts: a virtual Green Room, and a digital comms network.
Virtual Green Room
From ironing out technical issues to chatting through content and enabling panellists to get to know each other, the collaboration in physical Green Rooms is critical to producing engaging events.
By delivering a virtual Green Room using two vMix systems in an A/B flip/flop style configuration we were able to re-create much of this environment virtually.
A Green Room for the next session’s presenters was run on one vMix system, with another group of presenters live on the other. A technician and a curator were available in the Green Room to brief the presenters and give them a chance to talk through the session before going live, keeping a similar feeling to an event in ‘normal times.’
Digital Comms Network
Comms is a key part of working in a Covid-secure environment enabling the crew to be physically separated on site, and enabling communication with team members in remote locations. We designed and supplied a digital comms system for the event based around a Riedel Artist and Bolero wireless intercom system.
Choosing a Studio Location
In choosing a location for the studio, we had to balance local restrictions and cost.
At the time of filming there were fewer restrictions in London than in other areas of the country, and our collaboration with MelodyVR on their series of virtual live music events that are hosted out of Brixton Academy meant we could access the significant infrastructure that is in place already including internet connectivity, LED screens, and a substantial high-CRI key-lighting system.
In addition to producing the event, all aspects of audio, lighting, and video were designed and supplied by our in-house team and from our own rental stock.
Redundancy was designed into every aspect of the system. From additional engineers being available - in case someone fell ill and was required to quarantine – to live and backup audio consoles, lighting consoles, and playback systems, nothing was left to chance.
Remote presenters were handled via two vMix servers with studio filming covered by Sony HDC-4300 channels. The system was controlled via Ross Carbonite vision mixers and Ultrix routers, and a Barco E2 screen management system routing to four live TVs on stage, three LED screens, four confidence monitors, and over 20 backstage multiviews.
The LED displays forming the backdrop to the studio comprised three 9m x 5m video wall, fed by our Disguise gx2c media servers.
Our custom-designed PPUs included redundant paths with automated failover – so if a router or vision mixer failed, then it would fall over to an input that’s working automatically. The show can still go on, even if there’s a catastrophic failure in a router or vision mixer.
Audio was mixed on two DiGiCo SD12 consoles with redundant SD racks and mini racks on stage. Dugan Automix running via redundant Waves systems automated the priority of presenters output over vMix.
Audio and video playback was handled by redundant QLab systems with studio hosts being double mic’d for redundancy.
With any broadcast event, key light is a number one priority. The main key-light was provided by a fleet of Chauvet MK3 supported by Ayrton Bora Wash fixtures.
“We easily achieved a constant field with enough punch to cope with the large amounts of video wall providing the backdrop” commented Tom Kaye.
Another key lighting element was the use of vintage lighting fixtures to give an old studio look to the stage. A range of rare fixtures tied the stage design together and gave significant mid-ground interest on camera.
The broadcast was transmitted via four live streams across two internet connections – the main 1GB line coming into Brixton and the backup microwave link that MelodyVR are using for their shows. This included live and backup main encoders (the first company in the UK to be using the new Teradec Prism encoders) direct to Vimeo and, live and backup subtitle encoders that were streamed via live captioning and on to Vimeo.
Live and backup TX records, camera ISO records, and ISO records of the vMix systems – all recorded via Aja Ultra 12G units - meant that the whole show can be reedited and made square safe for social posts.
The event received rave reviews from attendees, presenters, and organisers. Huge thanks to the event partners for being so supportive throughout the planning and delivery of this event – Liverpool City Region, Liverpool Metro Mayor, and Culture Liverpool.
Feedback from delegates included:
Really good delivery of this event! It’s the best example of a virtual conferencing style event that I have been to during this pandemic.
This should be on mainstream TV/available to the general public.
The GBF is outstanding – incredibly well produced, excellent speakers, thought provoking content. It’s one of the best examples I’ve experienced of a digitally delivered event. Superbly put together and lots of messages that we all need to hear.
This is far and away the best online event I have attended.