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Moving A Conference Online - ReCloaking the Whenua

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

How Rāngai helped "ReCloaking the Whenua" become an online event in just five days

On 17th August 2021, New Zealand returned to full lockdown. A single case of the Delta variant of Covid 19 was found in the community and with an elimination strategy in place, all plans were thrown out the window.

Prior to this Rāngai had been approached to live stream an event for a new client, a sold out conference discussing the challenges and opportunities of native revegetation. With guest speakers from around the country, due to be hosted at the Lawson Field Theatre in Turanga - Gisborne, we were a minor part of a well organised day, this was about to change drastically.

Rāngai in the hot seat

Fast forward to August 18th and Rāngai are in the hot seat of a zoom call with the event organisers. It’s less than three weeks to the event date, could we deliver their full schedule of 20+ speakers, Q&A panel discussions and an MC, in lockdown?

We agreed and began planning for both Level 4 and Level 3 scenarios, with the format predetermined we knew what needed to be achieved. A 30 person zoom, feeding an 8 camera live switched event including:

  • Up to 5 speakers available full screen, zooming in for Q&A,

  • Presentation (screen share) view as a separate input,

  • In studio or remote MC camera, &

  • Pre recorded content via a media player.

To quickly grow an online presence we chose to simulcast to Zoom Webinar, YouTube and Facebook, with the greatest number of viewers joining via YouTube. It's worth noting here that Facebook suffered from spam in the comments, not something we had anticipated for this type of event but fortunately this was monitored.

So did we pull it off?

Te Tairāwhiti came out of level 4 lockdown on Wednesday the 1st of September with the majority of New Zealand, we had studio access for 5 days which included a weekend and fathers day. For the 1st and 2nd of September we installed 6 new Zoom Drones, some additional networking equipment and created a control room workspace that could manage the various streaming outputs.

On the 3rd and 4th we prerecorded the majority of speakers, this removed many concerns for the organisers. Possibly the most important was eliminating the risk of technical failure, losing speakers who lived in remote locations with unstable connections, but it also provided accurate show timing and consistency.

On Sunday the 5th Studio Manager Tom enjoyed fathers day lunch, while I edited the videos, and then I had the evening with my family while Tom did a dry run, streamlining our workflow for an early start the next day.

Show Day

Due to a conflict in my timetable I was unable to attend the morning sessions so Tom had the reins with support from Jared Johnstone, a super sub we secured from Trust Tairāwhiti for the day. Unfortunately we immediately faced teething problems. We hadn't had an MC to test with, nor an audience or participants. We had a hardware conflict with our zoom call, a quick fix but no MC audio for the opening of the show, this only affected the Zoom webinar though, so our audience was largely unaware.

Then we got in the swing of things but found another annoyance, we hadn’t tested with live zoom participation, therefore didn't think to test chat notifications on our zoom drones. An oversight that caused controls to pop up in our live view, not terrible and not frequent, but something that won't occur in the future.

Now we're flying, the MC is great and the content of the day interesting and well structured. Tom uses several different video transitions throughout the day, full screen, presentation, picture in picture and supersource. This allows our speakers to connect throughout presentations, avoiding death by powerpoint, Q&A sessions to be focused on the designated presenters instead of a large grid of zoom attendees, and branded backgrounds most noticeably for the MC in the greenscreen studio and supersource.

We wrap the day at 4pm, a seven and a half hour live stream complete. It’s gone extremely well considering that we had to order and assemble a host of new equipment while the country was locked down. We produced and delivered 60GB of branded content, and reached a much larger audience than the live event could have, gaining incredible feedback from the viewers.

On Reflection

We took on a mammoth task, leveling up our studio and simultaneously planning and producing, it really went down to the wire. The project was in our ability but not totally in our control, with the unknown lockdown level we would face. In reflection the reason that this event was a success was due to the organisational team, they embraced the platform and supported Rāngai to achieve what we needed. A less well managed event would have tried to shift this burden to the production team and it would have been the straw that broke the camel's back

Was it perfect - no, were we happy - yes.

There is no better feeling than a job well done and we all left on a high that day, the client, the presenters, the viewers and our team. We’re excited to be able to offer this new service and can work with clients nationally and internationally. We’ve had a week to reflect, we know our platforms are stable and have corrected the issues faced and we look forward to the next one.

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