How to Become a Broadcast Monster

Go Live features made broadcasting accessible and almost trivial. But things are more elaborate that they seem at first glance. Yes, everyone can and should go live from any device, anywhere, from the beauty vlogger to the president of Ukraine, but if you want to go beyond the basic selfie video and some screen sharing, read on.

Actually, there are a few, if you want to create a compelling broadcast:

  • Integrating a video in high quality (sharing your screen will almost never be high quality when it comes to motion video and multi-channel audio).
  • Having a remote guest.
  • Switching between a broadcast (“webinar” — in internet terminology) and a meeting, to increase engagement. Especially useful in workshops, where audience participation is an inherent part.
  • Playing back live video and audio in the best possible quality.

Use instant meeting platforms for all the above is easy but the result will be of low quality.
The issue is not with the platforms’ manufacturers. Zoom, Google Meet, MS Teams, Skype and many others are great. The thing is that the concept behind their architecture is that it sacrifices, knowingly and by design, quality for the sake of immediacy (no delays).
Quality consumes time. That’s the (in)famous “latency’. But that latency rewards you with quality.
In most meetings, where high interactivity is a must (we try to simulate being in the same room), latency is not acceptable. Would you agree to wait 25 seconds until the sentence you just said will reach your counterpart sitting next to you? — most probably not.
And certainly, there’s no reason to have that latency, if you’re just talking to each other. In those cases, where 2 or more people are conversing, it’s perfectly all right to use an instant meeting platform (Zoom, Google Meet etc.). But for the above scenarios, we must find additional solutions.
And this is what this post is abut.

I’ll try to outline here guidelines that I myself use when planning an event:

  • Divide the events into parts (create a detailed lineup).
  • Carefully define the components of each part.
  • Get as much information as possible about the venue/s: The quality and stability of the internet connection, the acoustics, lighting conditions, distance of the camera from speakers (especially important if it’s a theater).
  • Analyze those components in order to find the optimal method for conducting each part of the event (meet / broadcast / screen from a server , share a screen).
  • Choose the gear for each method.
  • Analyze the “cost of switching”. For example, if we switch from a “meeting” to a “broadcast” and vice versa, will the switching time cause users to churn?
  • Create an execution plan and present it to the event organizer, to have their approval. We must take into account that sometimes, an event organizer might want to prioritize engagement over quality, or vice versa. Our task as technology providers is to fully inform the organizers so they can reach an informed decision.

HOW TO

I will present a solution based on Movies Everywhere platform. Firstly, because we created it especially for such cases. Secondly, because I can cite a true event.

Case: Workshop on soundtrack and music for films

Lineup:

  • A short video clip as an opening.
  • Opening remarks by the CEO.
  • Presentation, including video excerpts, given by the workshop hosts.
  • Discussion with the workshop trainees, team by team.
  • Closing remarks by the CEO.

During the workshop, trainees videos are played back. those videos were uploaded in advance to Movies Everywhere server, to ensure the quality.
But that was the easy part… — as the the workshop hosts also wanted to present other videos that they found fit for the workshop. Those video were decided on in real time and therefore could not be uploaded in advance to Movies Everywhere server. They had to to be played in real time.

The dilemmas:
- Given that a broadcast is of higher quality than meeting, should we choose broadcast for the first part (presentation)? — And what if the workshop hosts invite trainees to add comments in that part?
- Should we insist on uploading in advance all possible videos or should we allow the workshop hosts to choose whatever they want as they see fit in real time and compromise on quality?
- Can we require from trainees to be in a room, using a stable internet connection computer and not a phone while on the move?
- Since trainees are seen and heard for a long time (at least 30 minutes), should we make tests with them before the workshop?
- Switching from “broadcast” (of the pre-recorded videos) to a “meeting” (where hosts and trainees speak freely) includes switching between screens, although we stay in the same page. Will it cause confusion and distraction?

Decisions and actual results

  • For the sake of smoothness and free flow, we decided to conduct most of the event in a meeting platform, knowing that will have a price with video quality, when the hosts decide to screen a film excerpt (as it’s integrated through a meeting platform and not through a broadcast).
  • The pre-recorded videos (clips created by the trainees in advance) were screened from Movies Everywhere server in high quality. That did cause a certain delay each time we switched from a “meeting” to a “broadcast” and back.
  • Not insisting on the trainees being in a room, using a computer and not testing them in advance proved disastrous: One trainee was for example on a train and all the participants heard not only the noise around her (along with unstable connection, as she was on the move) but also the train messages coming from the loudspeaker above her head…

Lessons learned

  • Insist on a tight lineup, even on the expense of being spontaneous.
  • Upload to the server in advance 100% of all videos potentially presented.
  • Testing before the event every possible participant.
  • Improve the UX of the switching between a “meeting” and “broadcast” on Movies Everywhere.

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Yoram Schaffer

Yoram Schaffer

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Digital film distributor and founder of Movie Discovery VOD platform, QuickRights and Movies Everywhere . A former documentary filmmaker.