Spectacular Secrets from Story Crossroads Spectacular – Part 3 of 5

This is the third 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 – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Trial & Error – Test Runs – TODAY
  • Part 4 – Involving More Than One Language
  • Part 5 – Multi-Streaming and “Scenes”

May Day! May Day! Yes, we felt it was appropriate that our first round of test runs happened on May 1, 2020. In Utah, May 1 was also the first day that we were allowed to gather outside our household. Considering that we had four videographers and two performers (husband and wife – so counts as one entity/household), then I was relieved to still be following that state health mandate. I did require everyone to wear masks.

That actually caused our first test run–at least the live-streaming portion–to be “late.” Although communicated, it was forgotten to be emphasized with the videographers. Two of the four needed masks. Thankfully, Sterling Elliott, our head videographer, had a Mom that knew how to sew and did this regularly. He picked those masks up. Meanwhile, we had the videographers wait in their cars until all was “safe.”

We had announced on social media that somewhere in the zone of 7:00pm-7:30pm, there would be a live signal multi-streamed to our YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch. We did have three Story Crossroads Board Members assigned to each of those platforms.

Thank you to Joanne Cuka on YouTube, Laurie Allen on Facebook, and Jim Luter on Twitch.

As Sterling was at the computer screens with laptop AND desktop (notice plural – more on that in part five), I only had my phone to coordinate the Test Run. Yet, texting is an amazing gift, and I had a group text with Joanne, Laurie, and Jim. In the picture below, you can see me in the picture with my phone. This was me texting, reading, and then calling out to Sterling and the other videographers of the “interesting” issues to fix.

We are grateful to our videographers: Sterling Elliott, Alex Aguila, Luis Puente, Tyler Andrew – and special equipment/training from Josh Halverston from Experience Event Center, Provo, UT.

For the first Test Day on May 1, we had issues with equipment. Sterling, who has filmed since our inaugural year in 2016, had never live-streamed before. Though, I had–and still–have confidence in him. I was willing for us to learn together with him being the ultimate expert with videography.

We had a splitter as well as an intensity shuttle to put cords galore between video cameras, desktop, and laptop. I am not a “Techie.” I do not understand the science of all these tools. I only know these tools are needed. These items worked a little. BUT, we were more complicated with three cameras and not just one PLUS a split screen for American Sign Language. We learned and had equipment GIVEN TO US/BORROWED including an ATEM Pro. This was worth over $1,000. Josh Halverston, who was the kind one to do this for us, entrusted it to stay at my home so we had it for the Story Crossroads Spectacular itself.

My first thought was, “You know I have three kids. Three active kids!”

You can bet that I locked that away safely so no curious hands could do anything.

Sterling was apologetic that our Test Run was a little rough and made it necessary to do a second Test Run. I was grateful to his extra study and commitment afterwards and receiving training from Josh Halverston, who did many live-streams. I told Sterling that we still had time to do a second Test Run. One week later, on May 8, 2020, we were able to be smooth and feel ready.

Keep in mind you need to budget for Test Runs. We paid for videography. I took the place of the American Sign Language interpreter spot. We wanted to pay the interpreters the day of the event, but I could “stand in” for test runs. Thus, it cost a little less than the official event on May 13. We had budgeted for one Test Run as well as for the Story Crossroads Spectacular. We knew a second Test Run had to happen. We shifted and made it work.

Here are those video links of what was the difference between Test Day 1 as well as Test Day 2 – first one and second one.

We had two test runs for Zoom the same as we had two test runs for the Live-streaming. Some people are fine with one test run. I am boggled by anyone who do NO test runs. Even if you have presenters arrive extra early the day of, there would be no time to run and get whatever was necessary. For example, do you have a long enough Ethernet cord to avoid wi-fi?

Plus, having a second Test Run before the actual “big day” makes it possible to see if all that was discussed was solved. There could then be time to fix remaining issues. Our Story Crossroads Spectacular would not have gone as smoothly had we had a follow-up test run.

Although I had the option, I did not record the test runs with Zoom. It was the standard checking on backgrounds, lighting, and sound. Csenge Zalka from Hungary had issues with Internet connection while Bruce Walker from Alabama had issues with sound. Everyone will be different in what is more pressing to fix. They each had plans to work this out.

We also discussed about sharing screens. Csenge Zalka and Bruce Walker wanted slides shown. You can have the presenter/storyteller do that though we opted for me to do it. This frees their hands and, as my computer was linked to the Ethernet and NOT the wi-fi, a better chance that all would go well. It also made it easier to take down the slides at the right time and less stress for the presenters. Note to presenters/tellers–please do not say a page number in connection to your slides. Have your slides in order of how you mean to present. When in full-screen mode, your host will not see page numbers. Saying “next” or “back one” works. No numbers.

While coordinating slides and moderating simultaneously seem hard, this is why you always have co-hosts. For Csenge’s workshop, I had two other co-hosts. One person was in charge of admitting people into Zoom – usually the late ones. Another person was in charge of following the chat and recognizing questions to then be brought up later during appropriate question and answer times.

Now, there will always be late ones. We encouraged attendees to arrive 15 minutes before start time. We showed/screen-shared the 5-minute Zoom Basics video that we had commissioned by Jim Brule’–which is a link anyone can share if this helps teach attendees of your own events if you happen to use Zoom. Prior to this, we gave clear instructions with that Zoom Basics video link in case attendees truly could not make it 15 minutes early.

After the Zoom Basics video, we allowed people to mingle the remaining 8 minutes or so. Due to the number of Zoom attendees, we only allowed mingling by chat though we had gallery view so people could wave. You may think this mean, but we had 60+ people and things can get out-of-hand. The moderator and host need to be in control so things can be smooth. People were courteous to the rules and all turned out wonderful.

We let people know that we would end without mingling due to being ready for the next virtual event. Once again, people were kind and understanding.

Test Runs and discussions with clear instructions make it all work out in the end.

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.

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