Novatech, RACS, and ANZCA at the ICC How to survive a major conference!
By Jason Allen.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) run a major conference annually. In May 2018, they merged their conferences and just about filled the ICC at Darling Harbour. Novatech Creative Event Technology were on deck to record every word of every presentation, fuelled by caffeine and good vibes…
“This was our fifth year doing AV for the conference for our client KOJO Events” said Novatech’s managing director Leko Novakovic. “This year, the combined conferences meant there were 4,000 delegates, and 1,600 presentations over five days. At its peak, the conferences hit 30 concurrent sessions in 30 different rooms. There were around 2,500 presenters delivering six hours of presentations each. All the presentations are captured for webcast, and uploaded to an online portal.”
To cover lecture-capture on this scale, Novatech have designed and built their own self-contained, racked and roadcased system. “OneSystem is what we call it,” continued Leko. “It was designed with three criteria – it had to be reliable, easy to use for our operators, and easy to use for the presenters.
“We’ve built 30 identical systems. We created a 19 RU rack that lives at FOH which houses two computers with an input at the operator end, and a custom recorder that we found overseas that we want to keep a secret!
“It takes full HD audio and video and can upload to the network. There’s a button to switch KVM, network switching to integrate all the rooms together, and a stage input which lets you put an operator at the lectern. And then distribution, audio isolation, and audio input and output come out of that rack.”
This makes rolling into the venue as straightforward as possible. “We just ask the house techs for a trestle for keyboard and mouse, power, internet connection, a couple of XLRs for audio output, a couple of XLRs for audio return, and that’s it. It just plugs in. There’s a loom that we’ve made with power, Cat5, XLR, DVI, and fibre. That runs from the rack to our own lectern that houses the monitor for the presenter, laser pointer, and a wired presenter remote with an input for local laptop and alarm capability.”
OneSystem records the slide deck and presenter audio, but occasionally video of the speaker is also required. “In some rooms, especially the larger training rooms, they sometimes want a speaker image,” explained Leko. “The recorder can take a camera input, so we record the presentation slides PiPd with a live camera and audio. But in most cases they are just interested in the actual deck of slides and the content.”
With that many recordings to cover, Novatech have a lot of boots on the ground. “There was a total of 12 Novatech staff,” outlined Leko. “We had two in speaker support. At peak there were 16 speaker support operators, most of which were local crew.
“We always have a few Novatech crew in support because they know the system and the conference well. Speaker support involves checking in the speakers, checking and loading their PowerPoint, and getting sign-off for permission to webcast. Then we know the presentation’s there, and it’s been checked on an identical computer. That’s how we guarantee the quality.”
“We then we have five crew working on webcasting,” continued Leko. “At the end of each session, they get the recording off the recorder over the network. They scrub to find the title slide, check audio levels, make some adjustments, and output it and name it in the format needed for the server, where it’s uploaded for webcast.
“Additionally, there’s five floor managers, senior technical directors, who take care of five to eight rooms in an area. Our job is to work with and support the operators and convenors in each room. We’re the Mr Fix-It, go-to types. It’s all about providing everyone in the whole organisation real comfort.”
With 2018 done, Leko and the team are already prepping for 2019. “In 2019, the conferences split again,” Leko elaborated. “The RACS Conference will be in Bangkok in a large hotel, and the ANZCA Conference will take place in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. “It’s great for us, as it gives our crew an opportunity to travel internationally, and us a chance to demonstrate this technology in another market.”
Leko’s Tips for Surviving a major conference
- Planning, planning and more planning. We started planning for this conference months and months out. The better your plan, the better your outcome.
- Coffee! We’re talking 5:00 AM starts, daily. So Coffee’s a big one.
- Rest is important. As tempting as it is to finish a 12 hour day, go to dinner and have a few drinks, rest is really important.
- Working as a team. A conference relies on teamwork. There were 12 Novatech staff, 12 KOJO people, the college’s internal staff, and the in-house team of techs. That’s a lot of people working together, and teamwork’s important.
- Have fun! We try to keep the vibe good and keep everyone comfortable. If we don’t look stressed then the client doesn’t feel stressed.
This article first appeared in the print edition of CX Magazine June 2018, pp.18-20. CX Magazine is Australia and New Zealand’s only publication dedicated to entertainment technology news and issues. Read all editions for free or search our archive www.cxnetwork.com.au
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