Spectacular Secrets from Story Crossroads Spectacular – Part 4 of 5

This is the fourth 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 – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Involving More Than One Language – TODAY
  • Part 5 – Multi-Streaming and “Scenes”

With so many languages in the world, why would we limit ourselves to only one at a festival? When I attended the largest family history conference in the world, there was a woman who spoke with me about storytelling. She had her Spanish interpreter. I admitted to the woman that I was surprised that this conference did not budget any kind of interpretation services. She vigorously nodded her head.

I was re-committed that having more than one language was and is always part of the Story Crossroads mission. We state this in our by-laws as well.

Since the inaugural Story Crossroads Festival, we have always had Spanish and American Sign Language. By the third year, we added Audio Descriptions for the Blind. We have more plans to add languages with Chinese being the most likely one as there are over 8,800 people in Salt Lake County who speak it. We will some day own translation devices/headsets as part of the Story Crossroads inventory. In the meantime, we have received these as in-kind donations every year…until this year of 2020.

Arranging interpretation services is simple for a live event. What of a virtual one?

That big day came when the Story Crossroads Board decided to transform the live festival to a virtual one. My head swirled with the intense workload with less than a month and a half (closer to one month) to find answers. Normally, we have a year to plan each festival. Sometimes longer.

From watching live-streaming of the National Storytelling Festival and the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, I saw a small rectangle for American Sign Language. Live-streaming is more involved than a pure live performance. Then adding a screen? That meant “tech power.”

However, I wanted a split screen instead of a small rectangle. Depending on the device, the rectangle could be too small for anyone needing ASL. Sterling Elliott, head videographer, created the split screen that matched the look of Story Crossroads Spectacular. It was an “image” that could be added into OBS. Remember we delved a little into OBS with part one of this series?

We dedicated two cameras to the story artist(s) and one camera solely for the American Sign Language. We had two big rugs (normal ones to put near a door/entryway) to cover the cords so that the American Sign Language interpreters would not trip when trading and giving each other breaks.

What was harder than working out live-stream and ASL? Zoom and ASL! At least, it was harder because Story Crossroads pays for a Zoom Pro Account and not the Zoom Webinar package. We had the two 90-minute virtual workshops on Zoom as exclusive events with a sliding scale fee. We could live-stream AND multi-stream out from Zoom, but we did not do this for Spectacular. We will for our June 20th event with “The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities.”

If we were with the Webinar package (expensive, close to $1,500+/year compared to our $112/year plan), then we could assign a presenter/interpreter. With the Zoom Pro, we are allowed up to 100 people at a time. We felt safe in having that for the workshops. A paid account, no matter what level, still offers much more than the limited free version of Zoom.

Despite interpretation services/features not part of the Zoom Pro default settings, you can request without extra cost for the Webinar/interpretation services. BUT, Zoom is majorly backlogged–understandably–and it will be a while before that happens for us. We simply did not have enough time to pursue it.

Here is what I wrote to Zoom:

When reading the Zoom overview on interpretation services, it said to send you a message here to enable this feature. We are registered with Zoom through storycrossroads@gmail.com. Let us know if you need anything else. You can also call/text me at (801) 870-5799.

I sent that request over a month before the Story Crossroads Spectacular. I get automated messages every week reminding of my case number. They apologized for the delay. I am not mad. I love Zoom and am quite loyal.

I have experienced other virtual conferencing and nothing is as user-friendly or has enough features like Zoom. Google wants to compete? Neh. I love their Google Docs and other features, but they are too far behind to catch up to Zoom. And Facebook with rooms? Neh. Cisco Webex? Nightmare. And if someone complains about security with Zoom because of Zoombombers? If you don’t share passwords on social media, then most of the time it will not be a problem. The host can enable features such as the waiting room. Admit into Zoom who you expect. Zoom has been amazing at fixing any issues. Zoom had to build a plane in flight, and they have flown above and beyond what was ever imagined.

We had two options:

  1. Encourage people to “pin” the video of the American Sign Language interpreters. See our Zoom Basics 5-minute video to understand how this works.
  2. Have a breakout room for those needing American Sign Language, but then you don’t see the presenter.

The first option was much easier.

AND, be sure that your American Sign Language interpreters, when possible, can sign from the same place. Even if not in your own home or venue, we had the signing from one of the interpreter’s homes and the second interpreter met her there. They kept proper distancing and made things so much smoother logistically.

Be sure that this one ASL box/screen in Zoom is renamed as “ASL Interpreters.” When someone clicks “Participants” on the lower bar in Zoom, these names tend to list alphabetically and allows for people to find the interpreters faster to pin the video. “Pinning” is what individual attendees can do and does not affect how the other attendees see the Zoom screen. Once pinned, you can even make that person’s box/screen larger by dragging at the lower left corner of that same box/screen.

We had wished to still offer Spanish. It would have been back and forth with the speaker of English to the interpreter of Spanish. The flow would not have been as smooth virtually as what you can do live. Possible, yes. They would both need to be unmuted, which the host/co-host could oversee. Though, with this being our first virtual kick-off—and a big one at that—we wanted to ease on some of the complexity.

Instead of a person interpreting, much like we do for American Sign Language, we considered Spanish closed captioning. You then pay for a third party person to type those closed captioning in the moment. It can cost per minute. Automatic English closed captioning is possible, but it is about 30 seconds behind. That gets frustrating for anyone needing it.

Obviously, any spoken or sign language can work through virtual means. Never even thought about it? Well, now is the time.

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

Big thank you to the following:

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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