Spectacular Secrets from Story Crossroads Spectacular – Part 2 of 5

This is the second of five parts on tech skills needed to transform the live 5th Annual Story Crossroads Festival into a virtual one called Story Crossroads Spectacular.

Secrets to be Revealed:

  • Part 1 – OBS…Software Worth the Struggle – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Sound and Lighting – TODAY
  • Part 3 – Trial & Error – Test Runs
  • Part 4 – Involving More Than One Language
  • Part 5 – Multi-Streaming and “Scenes”

Sound and lighting are so much easier when doing a live storytelling festival. When–er–if–sound is a problem at a live event, the storyteller can still project and make sure the people in the back can hear even if you lose connection, have feedback, or any other microphone problems. If this happens while live-streaming, then you are in trouble.

You may not even know it is a problem until you playback that video that is already out on the Internet forever.

I have always been annoyed when professional storytellers do not use a microphone for live performances…and irritates me still with virtual performances. Some tellers rely on developed (or imaginary) theater voice called “projecting.” As an audience member and story producer of events, I don’t want to be yelled at or feel concerned that the storyteller will lose their voice mid-way through a performance.

Now, if a professional storyteller does not research and look at sound options for online performances, then I have to wonder how serious they are about their craft. I do pause a little here because perhaps the storyteller is low on funds. When performing at live events, the sound is usually provided by the host/venue.

BUT…storytelling is a craft. This craft can be a livelihood and business. This means “sound” must be your business (though technically – not as important for American Sign Language – will get to that in part four). A business is expected to have certain supplies and inventory to get by.

We live in a time when “to get by” practically means an in-home studio.

Being that Story Crossroads is a Festival, we need sound to be part of our inventory or at least have access to sound. We have been thrilled to have Diamond Rental as well as professional storytellers provide the sound for free and counts as “in-kind donations” on our final reports to funders, donors, and IRS. Thank you to those who have helped in the past: Annie and Dan Eastmond, Sam Payne, and–for this virtual year–Dave and Carol Sharp.

While many virtual storytelling festivals are having storytellers broadcast into their event from their own homes, we decided to feature mainly local talent from Salt Lake and Utah counties. This way, we could control the sound and lighting. Regular microphones and speakers would still be needed for performers–live or live-stream. We needed a USB microphone, however, for the Zoom workshop portions of the Story Crossroads Spectacular.

Amazing options are out there for sound. What to choose? Instead of providing a long list, you can search “podcasting microphone” rather than simply a USB microphone. You can get something decent for $20 and on up to $200+. We did the middle of that for about $112. This is what we went with: Podcasting Microphone with Studio Headphone Kit, Au-A04H – Professional Audio Innovation.

Not everyone will need a headphone like us. The head videographer over the two computers (plus an extra screen) had his own headphones during the actual streaming though it was nice to have ours on hand–just in case. The reason for those headphones is to make sure that the video and the sound are syncing. You never have to worry about that at a live event! Yet, it was the hardest thing to conquer in all of this venture.

When I moderated the Zoom 90-minute virtual workshops, I used the microphone but no headphones as live-streaming is much more involved than an exclusive Zoom event for those who have paid and registered.

I loved that this microphone had an arm and desk mount and can be viced/screwed to any table we happened to use. Plus, we have a pop filter, which is that super big flat circle. Then, when I use words with letter “p” or other “naughty” letters, I can be heard more clearly. Strangely, sometimes my built-in microphone of my laptop is louder than this USB microphone. On OBS (we covered a little in part one), you can record and listen to that recording before streaming. You must do this before any streaming!

As for lighting, I have done it two different ways. When awaiting our order of “nice” ones, I used what was around the house. Thankfully, I had at least two bendable office desk lights (back from newlywed time in 2001!).

You know how the power of three is important in the structure of a story? Lighting is also best in the power of three. Now, I have seen storytellers use a ring light with wonderful results. See this article on five best ones. They are considered more “selfie” than performance.

However, if you are a festival or want a level-up, then you need trio box lights. You will have the low-end to the high-end. We wanted ones that would be able to take a beating – inside or outside. We opted for quality. Thus, GVM is one of the best – as recommended to us by Baba the Storyteller. Another amazing company for quality items would be B & H Photo Video. If those costs are tricky, then Baba said there is Cowboy Studio. Be warned that the quality is not as good but will get you by.

Baba the Storyteller happens to be teaching a workshop on evolving storytelling practices through virtual means at the National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Storytelling Conference & Festival on Thursday, June 4, 2020 from 3:00pm-4:30pm CDT (2:00pm-3:30pm MDT). YOU WILL WANT TO ATTEND! If you read this after the fact, there will be a digital library through the National Storytelling Network with pay-per-view options. That will not be up right away, but keep this in mind.

And…if you happen to buy the wrong item or not what you expected, B & H is one of the most amazing and smooth ones. I also respect that they are closed on Saturday – even online shopping – for religious beliefs.

As for the lights themselves, the trio box lights we chose: GVM 560AS Bi-Color LED 3-Panel Kit.

They are one of the smartest purchases we made for Story Crossroads and worth every bit of the $296 and then some. They are light-weight, extremely portable, come with a case that was smaller than I would have imagined for three–count it–THREE–box lights. How do you place those lights? Think usually triangles, this will vary. Here is a lovely video on learning placement–and some more fun phrases to add to your lexicon. As we had test runs and the festival filmed at my home, we used masking tape for each of the three legs of each light so I could pack away the lights and not have my kids trip on them.

I’ve seen other people use honking big ones that remind me of jellyfish or strange inside-out umbrellas. Our box lights are so nice for spacing as we had to have proper distancing and follow health and safety mandates. We had no more than 10 people at one time (4 videographers–1 over the computers, 3 over cameras; 2 ASL interpreters to rotate; 1-4 performers; me). We could not have jellyfish lights.

And, while many virtual storytelling festivals are having storytellers broadcast into their event from their own homes, we decided to feature mainly local talent from Salt Lake and Utah counties. This way, we could control the sound and lighting.

Plenty of adventures await me–and you–on these spectacular secrets.

Want to discover more secrets beyond this 5-part Blog Series? Rachel Hedman will represent Story Crossroads at the National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Storytelling Conference & Festival on Saturday, June 6, 2020 from 3:00pm-4:30pm CDT (2:00pm-3:30pm MDT). You can register for this session only or a conference package.

Check out the the next adventure on Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 9:00am-10:30am MDT from your computer- The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities.

See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Published by storycrossroads

Story Crossroads fosters creative and compassionate communities through the art of storytelling. 501(c)(3)

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