All Things Technical: Event support, video production & live streaming of the #Cobalt2018 symposium

By Drew Gauley (Member of the Symposium Planning Committee)

 

The Kobold: Superstitious miners believed these creatures to be expert metal workers who could be heard constantly drilling, hammering and shoveling. Some stories claim that the kobolds live in the rock, just as human beings live in the air. Legends paint them as the mischievously evil creatures blamed for accidents, cave-ins and rockslides. Other tales make them out to be beneficial creatures, at least if they are treated respectfully.

 

I see many parallels regarding the challenges of technical requirements awaiting us at the 2018 SPARC symposium. With the mythology of the Kobolds in mind, we venture forward respectfully working with the modern Digi-Kobold. We hope for their blessings or, at the very least, their indifference towards our activities.

 

As a member of the symposium planning committee for the 2018 SPARC Symposium, I took on the role of both coordinating the event’s audiovisual needs and overseeing the live streaming/video producing of the workshops and presentations. In this blog, I’ll talk a little bit about both of these topics, why they are important, and how we plan to pull it off.

Most performers would agree that the work that happens behind the scenes to prepare a show is as much a part of the production as the performers are. We are keeping this in mind as we coordinate the details for all of the events. The activities during the four day symposium fall under a few main categories, including: live music entertainment, daily plenary sessions, workshops and mobile workshops.

First up on Thursday, May 24, during the evening at the Miner’s Tavern, there will be a performance by guitarist extraordinaire Jamie Dupuis . Jamie grew up in the area prior to pursuing a full seven years of study dedicated to his craft. He is presently based out of Sudbury and performs fairly regularly in the Cobalt area. He has gained some notoriety for his command of the harp guitar, with his YouTube videos regularly surpassing 1 million views (over 1 million EACH that is!). This performance, in a casual local venue, will provide the perfect atmosphere to meet new people, network, enjoy light snacks, and unwind after a presumably long travel day. This is in the realm of a live music venue and the in-house PA system will be more than enough for a sole guitarist with occasional vocals. With Jamie’s permission, we may attempt some live streaming and will also document the performance as we kick off the weekend.

 

Side note: Rumor has it that “back in the day” a mineshaft was dug which strategically exited in close proximity to the Miner’s tavern. Some miners were known to take advantage of a quick drink or two while they were still on shift.

 

 

Friday morning will see us tending to what will become part of a two day routine. (A two day routine…can that be a thing?)

After (if not during) breakfast, there will be one of three plenary sessions in the Cobalt community hall. This is where our major technical coordination will manifest. The plenary sessions will be well attended and will call for an appropriately sized PA system, microphones, and video projection for PowerPoint etc. We are choosing to outfit the room with numerous audio speakers so that all audience members are relatively close to a sound source. This is a trick of the trade that allows audio levels to be lower and more direct, which increases intelligibility while minimizing ear strain during long days.

The plenary sessions may also be recorded using multiple cameras and live streamed to the Internet for those who are not able to attend.

In addition, the video content will be recorded into each camera and transferred into the computer for further editing and refining.

These sessions and any other recorded workshops will be translated into English, French and a First Nations language for their long-term availability on the web. Each finished video will also be “enhanced” with descriptive video – a feature for the visually impaired that describes what is happening during a program. We realize that the information being presented during the symposium will have a “shelf-life”, due to the speed at which information and technology advances. For that reason, we recognize how useful it is to quickly make recorded workshops available to those not in attendance (and to give attendees a taste of other workshops that occurred concurrently). Making these resources available online in numerous languages and accessible for those with visual challenges will hopefully make our resources more helpful throughout our diverse SPARC community.

There are morning and afternoon workshops at various venues in Cobalt on Friday and Saturday morning. These workshops and panel discussions promise to provide various perspectives, insights and opinions from a number of sources, while each session focuses on a singular subject or theme. Throughout the symposium, we will use single cameras with microphone feeds to record many of these workshops.

On Friday night there will be a presentation by Jowi Taylor on the Six String Nation project at the Miner’s Tavern. With Voyageur (the Six String Nation guitar) in hand, Jowi will explain how it was made and the historic significance of where each of the instrument’s pieces came from (it even contains some silver from Cobalt!).

The evening will include video projection and a live performance using the Voyager guitar, followed by some talented local performers and an open mic to finish the day.

Saturday starts bright and early again at the Cobalt Community Hall with breakfast and another plenary session, followed by workshops at various venues in Cobalt. But just when you start thinking that a two day routine can actually be a thing, it all takes a turn…for the better! Our small event’s support and technical crew will be running to keep up with the crowds as we relocate equipment to all new locations for the afternoon workshops. To give attendees a change of scenario, Saturday afternoon workshops will be held at various locations in the Haileybury and Temiskaming Shores locales. (Our lunch will most certainly be “to go” on this day!) Once settled, we will continue to record many of these various offsite workshops.

We have put some feelers out through the Digital Creator North program at our local library, to hopefully connect with youth and employ some assistance. This could be mutually beneficial, as I’m sure we will be run off our feet without them, and this event will supply some very real world experience for the right person. Fingers crossed!

To conclude, we see the importance of ensuring that each and every event is tended to with technical support, a strategically planned setting, and the needs of the live audience and on-line spectator in mind. Our goals include: high-quality presentations that are both easily seen and heard; locations that are comfortable; and thorough coordination with presenters so their information may be received in a positive way. Early set-up and rigorous testing beforehand will hopefully keep the Kobolds at bay. If all goes as planned, perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to impress the Kobolds and share a drink or two with them at the Miner’s one evening…

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