Vidcom, who operate across a number of major New Zealand venues including Eden Park in Auckland, Claudelands in Hamilton and the Intercontinental in Wellington, are currently navigating the switch to the new way of doing business.
The Dark Side
During the first New Zealand lockdown about ninety-five percent of Vidcom’s business disappeared. The bulk of the events on Vidcom’s books, typically over one hundred attendees at multi-room, multi-day conferences and award ceremonies, were either postponed or cancelled.
A few streaming jobs continued. Vidcom fortuitously won the contract to stream the one o’clock government briefings from the Beehive, alongside the TV channels.
Post-lockdown, things had begun to pick up but the most recent shift to Level 3 in Auckland saw another round of cancellations across the business.
The Bright Side
Although currently working with reduced staff and definitely under the pump, Vidcom do see opportunities out there.
Vidcom are in the fortunate position of having offered a streaming service for a number of years and are successfully capturing a share of the virtual and hybrid event market.
Even so, they have found that the sheer scale of the streaming workload is having an impact on their normal way of doing business.
Jason Monk, Business Development Manager, describes how they are adapting, “There is a lot more work involved in the pre-production of a streamed event. We are working longer days and obviously spending a lot more time on phone calls.
“Although we have been streaming events or parts of events for a number of years, the event organisers themselves haven’t necessarily been involved in one before and require a lot of support and reassurance.”
Vidcom are leading event organisers through decisions on the streaming platform itself, on screen layouts for full, picture-in-picture and split screen, testing internet connections, choosing voting platforms as well as overseeing a full dry run.
“MCs and speakers can’t just turn up with their presentation on a pen drive and we flick through it and are good to go. Streaming live involves a lot more planning.”
Jason describes a typical event, “We worked with the New Zealand Security Association on their awards night, where people gathered in face-to-face groups around the country, to watch the live stream from the Vidcom recording studio on the NZSA website, with MC Te Radar and DJ Lo Key.
“Firstly, we discussed reducing the event duration from its original form to one and a half hours of awards and thirty minutes of the live DJ. Secondly, we kept a level of interactivity by encouraging people to text in comments which we moderated and overlaid on the live stream and people did engage constantly throughout the night.
“Finally, we kept the element of surprise and used headshots of the award nominees before announcing the winner.”
There was a number of hours put into pre-production from both the client and Vidcom to get the desired look and outcome for the event. On the night, two technicians from Vidcom and two of the client’s staff managed the event and moderated the comments coming in.
Jason agrees with the widely held industry prediction that sees a virtual element to future events even post-Covid, “The vibe traditionally was that you wouldn’t sell tickets if you offered the event online but organisers are realising that people are still attending the events, and the online presence is vastly larger than anticipated .”
He sees potential in the academic world, “We have streamed surgical operations of global interest for some time but over the last few months where surgeons would have travelled to deliver training, they are now doing it online and are seeing many benefits. I think we will see a growth in this type of work.”
Another growth market is remotely recording presentations, “Those speakers who travel around the globe are now pre-recording their presentation with us – at an hour that suits them – and then joining the event online for the Q&A or panel discussion.
“We have a medical event in October that has a large number of presenters pre-recording.”
The Far Side
Having had the streaming arm prior to the pandemic has stood Vidcom in good stead, “We had staff with the expertise and they have quickly brought everyone up to speed so we are all on the same page, and we had the streaming platforms.
“Luckily we had invested in an Internet bonding unit which uses three other networks for internet, as well as the venues, to spread the load and deal with any drop-out issues.”
The problem facing Vidcom, as with many in the industry, is not knowing what is around the corner, “We are working flat out and doing everything we can to maintain the business and not lose money.
“We would really like to be able to bring all our staff back on board, but we don’t know what might happen next, especially around the venues.”
The Client’s Perspective: The New Zealand Security Association (NZSA) Awards
Grant Waterhouse, a corporate event organiser for Skeme with over twenty years’ experience, navigated the production side of this virtual awards event alongside Vidcom, “I’d produced events with a virtual element, but for the streaming to be the main focus was a first for me.”
He had organised the NZSA Awards the previous year and knew it had to be live, “The security industry is made up of some really special people, and this is their night. It was especially important this year with all the additional pressures that COVID has added to their role.”
Working with the NZSA, he set up watch parties around the country from five to six-thirty on a Friday evening, with employers providing drinks and nibbles. The event was a roaring success.
Grant identified five contributing factors: Stability of the feed: “It was super stable and ran like a dream. It didn’t matter how many people connected. We had five to six major companies and thirty to forty minor agencies involved.”
The interactivity: “Te Radar was the perfect MC because essentially it is TV and that is his environment. The text messaging was an unexpected success and Te Radar could see them onscreen and would make reference to them. We got over one hundred messages during the show.”
The music: “We weren’t sure whether to use piped clapping, or ask one company to make sure they applauded and switch to their feed. In the end we opted for a DJ. DJ Lo Key came to the studio armed with beeps and claps, but actually him just playing his beats in the background was perfect, and his connection with Te Radar was immediate.”
Rest breaks: “We had scheduled a few two-minute breaks to give the audience time to refill their glasses, but it also gave us time to regroup in the control room, to sort the autocue and to touch base with Te Radar.”
The remote cameras: “The NZSA don’t have a huge budget so we didn’t rehearse but the remote cameras were super-easy to operate and Vidcom’s switching was perfect. Essentially we pulled off the event without needing to direct.”
So successful was the live stream that it is set to be a part of the physical event next year in Christchurch, “For the winners’ parents, children, friends and colleagues to be able to see them be rewarded for their achievements was fantastic.
“Alarm Watch in Wanganui had a security camera set up in the roof and captured their member of staff finding out he had won the major prize of the night and shared it on social media.
“It just made it so much more accessible. Next year we would like to be able to show these moments too as part of the main event.”
Other elements that he would tweak, “I’d like for people to be able to send photos in as well as text messages so that we see people in their own environments, and I would spend more time styling my PowerPoint template! Otherwise, I think it went amazingly well.”
And as to how he’s enjoying this new world, “I feel like I am a TV producer as well as an event organiser and it is fascinating. I would definitely recommend going with a proven tech company.
“There is a fear factor to these events, and you want to know that you have solid support in place.”
CX Magazine – October 2020
LIGHTING | AUDIO | VIDEO | STAGING | INTEGRATION
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