Video at a Live Event: An A/V Checklist for an Optimal Experience
Cora Palmer, Creative Lead, WestWorks Studios and Eric Newkirk, Vice President, CEAVCO
There are a ton of factors to consider when prepping video to be played at a live event. More than just “making a great video,” a winning video presentation is one that aligns with the needs of the event across the board, from creative ideation to the actual live-audience play. All events are not created equal, of course; so it behooves creators to identify – and champion – a complete plan that keeps everyone reading from the same script. In doing so, you’ll go a long way towards creating a piece that resonates with the audience, with baked-in considerations that ward off many problems in advance.
Below are some ideas to factor into your next checklist:
Creative: Align with the Event
✔ Support the theme: When beginning the project, especially in planning graphics, find out the theme for the event. It’s less about following a theme to a T, and more about keeping your look in the same “family” to help the whole event to feel cohesive. A vector file of the event invitation is a great way to get started.
✔ Factor the audience into your production equation: For example, at a recent awards program, the winner of the award was announced via video. When the winner’s name and photo were shown on screen for the first time, the audience cheered. This wasn’t anticipated during production, so the video launched immediately into interview dialogue. This caused the audience to awkwardly attempt to stop clapping to catch what the speaker was saying. By thinking about the audience first, the mission of the video can be preserved with a little breathing room for transitions, laughter, gasps, and deep breaths.
Go Proactive to Protect Your Brand
No matter how much sweat equity you’ve invested into your video, it’s all for naught if the actual presentation doesn’t go off without a hitch. You can get a lot closer to foolproof with some advance legwork and a dose of good old-fashioned communication.
✔ Meet the team in person: Talk directly with the person(s) who will be playing the videos during the event whenever possible, and as soon as possible. Use the opportunity to capture any specifics that might need to be factored into your production.
✔ Sign off on format: Get concurrence on delivery format—most can use an MP4 sent via download link, but some give the option for ProRes or niche formats like DCP, which may need to be delivered via hard drive.
✔ Ask about the screens: Will the event use LED or projection displays? Resolution and color gamut are not the same across display choices.
- Highly compressed videos will look worse on LED, while projection can be more forgiving.
- 3:1 and portrait screens are now common on live events. If there are blended or overlapped projectors, avoiding solid color frames and thin parallel lines will make you more friends on the AV side.
✔ Transitions: Leave a little space so that the humans involved in the event can do human stuff, like walk off a stage or settle down to watch your video.
- Include at least 1 second of black at the head and 3 seconds at the tail for transitioning.
- Similarly, it’s best to start dialogue or narration after at least five seconds, to further buffer your video from interruption.
✔ Deliver early: Give your videos to the A/V tech as early as possible—but at least two days before the show. If you need to send a test clip before the project is complete, don’t provide the entire piece—just :30-:45 seconds, lest you risk having your test clip used at the actual event.
- If you’re using a download link, it’s also helpful to write over the old file with each new version, so there is only one link to pull from. If someone tries to use an “older” link in error, the file either won’t exist, or it will be the correct (final) file.
✔ Participate in test runs: Be on-site during set up to preview every video. Even if someone from your client organization is present, they don’t know the material as well as you do and might not catch mistakes or oddities.
- Even though you’ve shared the file in advance, bring a copy on a drive with you to the review session. Fees for connecting to Wi-Fi in a hotel ballroom can be ridiculously overpriced.
- Most A/V companies will be using multiple computers in their system. Make sure that the backup computer plays back exactly as well as the primary.
✔ Listen closely: Audio is very different in a ballroom versus a conference room versus an editing suite. Another reason to test the videos in person is to hear how your mix plays in the space. If you plan accordingly, there will be time to make emergency adjustments.
- Pay close attention to lip sync. Due to the size of some rooms and the complexity of video systems, the video may have a greater delay than the audio. A 30-60 millisecond delay can be added to the audio mixer to compensate.
- Sometimes the A/V company will request split audio tracks so that they can adjust the levels of dialogue and music separately. Delivering split track audio will ensure that the intelligibility of the narration can be given priority. Imagine a video with a great music track in a highly reverberant space. What matters more? The message does.
Watch Who’s Watching
✔ Be there for the big day: Finally, if you have the chance to attend the event, it’s highly recommended. When it’s time to play the video, don’t watch the screen – you already know what it looks like – but instead, turn around and watch the audience. This is one of the most honest assessments of your work, and when you’ve done it right, it’s the most rewarding part of the entire experience.