By Zev Savetsky
Triple S and V-Social Studios
Offering Broadcast, Webcast, Interactive, Sound, Video, and Production
Livestreaming, also called webcasting, are words very much on everybody’s lips today when the subject of smachot and events come up, whether weddings, bar/bat mitzvah celebrations, organization dinners, or musical galas. A few years ago, event webcasts were directed to guests or participants living in faraway places like Israel and Australia, or loved ones who were unwell and unable to travel. Today, as a result of corona restrictions, almost every event must be staged for a mixed audience, for guests or participants who are at the event, and for larger numbers participating from a distance. Webcasting has become an integral part of many smachot and events.
By livestreaming a simcha, the host can select cherished portions of a wedding or bar/bat mitzvah celebration, and share the milieu and the ruach of the event with distant guests. Many webcasting platforms enable recording by host and viewer. Most recently, a newer interactive technology enables conversation between the event site and faraway guests. Often referred to as “zooming,” it allows hosts to bring faraway guests “live” into the simcha hall.
How Do You Go About Webcasting?
Awareness that COVID-19 and the coronavirus will be with us for a while should put webcasting on our list of party production tools. But webcasting is not always perfect, and there are often glitches in the midst of what should have been a memorable moment. Let’s take a look at the steps to take so that our distant guests avoid missing the key points in the rav’s speech or seeing the wood floor or the blue sky for several minutes as they take center stage from the bride.
Multiple platforms are out there for livestreaming, including Facebook Live, FaceTime (Apple,) Instagram TV, YouTube Live, Livestream from Vimeo, and Zoom. They vary in cost, features, and benefits to the user. They are designed so that in theory, non-technically educated users can manage with them without too great a time investment. When these webcasting platforms first appeared, they were used to a great extent by event hosts. This past spring, they were used by school AV managers at outdoor school graduations. But using these platforms without a specialist, the hosts often ran into some common challenges, not necessarily caused by flaws in the platforms themselves.
The Host’s Internet Connection. The most difficult challenge is the host’s internet or Wi-Fi connection. Video requires significant bandwidth and a stable internet connection. Frequently, the host’s Wi-Fi or a 4G cell phone connection is unstable and crashes during the event. Without an on-call technical specialist, the webcast can terminate, causing inconvenience and embarrassment to all. In the case of a graduation, a school’s Wi-Fi signal may have been more than adequate for its indoor uses, but once COVID pushed the party outside into the parking lot, the signal was simply too weak, and grandparents at home missed the graduation.
The Audio. Audio can be lost or transformed into odd tones, background noises can dominate, and echoes may persist. This is especially so at outside events, such as graduations, where noise from even a light breeze, or soft guest chatter, can cause distractions.
The Video. Video can lag for several minutes at a time, freeze, shake, or focus on uninteresting subjects. Lagging video is difficult to watch and bores viewers.
How to Improve the Broadcast on Your Own
Do-it-yourselfers can take some steps to reduce the risk of these problems.
Internet. Eliminate competing uses of the connection for the duration of the event. Install Wi-Fi where the host has none or upgrade the Wi-Fi connection. Short of hiring a specialist, there is little that will assure completely smooth performance.
Audio. To improve audio outdoors, eliminate as much external sound as possible and invest in or rent specialized microphones.
Video. Buy, rent, or borrow a specialized camcorder, or enlist an experienced friend or relative to shoot the video. Video is also very much improved by advance staging, and eliminating periods when the screen goes blank for several minutes.
What Professional Webcasting Offers
Because of the popularity of webcasting, companies like Triple S and its V-Social affiliate specialize in webcasting and real-time virtual experiences. They offer solutions that can resolve most of these challenges. They add some cost to the event, but cut risk and add key benefits.
What to Look For in a Webcasting or Virtual Event Company
An Independent Internet Connection. While the internet connection can be a crucial determinant of the quality of the webcast, only a few webcasters offer their own internet connection. With it, the webcaster can blend their own Wi-Fi to a client’s bandwidth, and blend it as needed. If the client’s connection is insufficient or their signal is weak, the webcaster can plug directly into their own router, and independently supply the appropriate bandwidth and signal strength. Note that webcasters can usually webcast on any of the major platforms.
The Audio. Specialized microphones. The microphone is the critical driver of the listener’s audio experience. Basic cell phone and computer mikes are omni-directional and wide-field. They pick up and amplify all sounds in the vicinity of the microphone, including all background sounds. Professionals use specialized microphones. A directional microphone has better reception than a cell phone, and picks up the voice of the speaker a few feet away. Even from a distance, it broadcasts only that speaker’s voice, and does not pick up surrounding noise. The lavalier (lav) or personal mike, is attached to a person and broadcasts the speech of a specific host or guest.
The Video. A high-end broadcast quality camera. Such a camera enables the photographer to zoom in and out smoothly and pan around a room. It has specialized features, including adjustable exposure, longer zoom range, variety of focus options, and creative filters. Experienced webcasting videographers will be proficient at integrating the broadcast quality camera’s advantages with the webcasting platform’s features. A solid webcasting company will have professional operators with years of videography experience, who can use the camera’s features to produce a high-quality, integrated video broadcast.
Experienced webcasters provide a full range of event audio and video services, usually by putting together crews of experienced specialists. All seek to provide the services of skilled photographers and videographers, and the specialized equipment noted above. Some of the value-adds that are provided by the leaders in the field, like Triple S and V-Social, include:
- Years of experience in all aspects of webcasting, including providing appropriate lighting and sound for the occasion.
- A dedicated qualified technician, trained in internet webcasting, at the event, who will troubleshoot issues on site throughout the event.
- Preparation of the scene and on-site direction. These services are varied, and can include framing images; positioning bride, groom, or panel speakers to appear in the appropriate position on the far away relative’s computer screen; or assistance choosing and setting up backgrounds where required.
- Access to a professional studio, useful for organizers of panel discussions or speeches at events. The speaker is positioned and rehearsed in the ideal conditions of a studio, and the speech is either broadcast live or pre-recorded to be broadcast later. Where coming in to the studio is not possible, the most experienced webcasting companies can set up a mini-studio on the client’s site.
I am very excited to be in webcasting just now, when so much is happening in the field and there are so many services we can offer our clients. I am proud to be part of a Teaneck family enterprise that boasts one of the few truly advanced capabilities in the region, and that is bringing its unique set of skills and equipment to the South Shore communities. At Triple S and V-Social, we’d like to hear from you, and answer any questions you might have. You can reach me at 973-869-9232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.