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.

Spectacular Secrets from Story Crossroads Spectacular – Part 1 of 5

This is the first 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
  • Part 2 – Sound and Lighting
  • Part 3 – Trial & Error – Test Runs
  • Part 4 – Involving More Than One Language
  • Part 5 – Multi-Streaming and “Scenes”

OBS…Software Worth the Struggle

I never heard of “OBS” until we needed to live-stream our storytelling festival. I only knew we had to stream this festival somehow. Facebook Live and YouTube were popular, though the thought of being confined to one platform or another did not sit well. Besides, I needed to look into Twitch due to what I learned from Julie Barnson, Executive Committee Member and a teacher with the Jordan School District. That school district banned Facebook and was not supportive of YouTube. Twitch was allowed for virtual field trips.

So not only did we need to stream a festival, but we needed to multi-stream. Though…shhhh…that is part five of this blog series. Let me tell you about OBS now so we can eventually get to that part five.

Story Crossroads got a free account on Twitch, which is famous for video gamers in showing themselves playing while simultaneously displaying their screens so you can follow along. I used to watch my brother play video games and actually enjoyed it. I never had to play it. His video game character was the hero in the story, and I was always rooting for a “happily ever after.” Nowadays, people stream these experiences. Instead of seeing someone’s back–like I did when my brother played–you can see facial expressions.

I was delighted to find that Twitch expanded to be a platform with thousands of performing artists, mainly musicians. Not many storytellers are on Twitch, though I hope to see that change. To stream on Twitch, I needed some kind of broadcasting software. OBS is not the only choice, but many people choose OBS because, well…it’s free. OBS stands for Open Broadcaster Software.

I decided to download OBS onto the laptop as my laptop was newer than my desktop AND it had a built-in camera. There were many videos on how to download OBS. Yet, some people sometimes mentioned “capture card” or “scenes” or “studio mode.” Those phrases, besides “OBS,” were new. I may be decent with technology, but I do not consider myself technologically-inclined.

If I was going to understand this, I needed to call someone. An expert. A neighbor kid.

This same neighbor kid would babysit our kids – back before COVID-19 – and he is so smart that he could hack into any computer or software. Now, he has this knowledge but does not do anything with ill intentions. He simply is a curious person.

Anyway, I needed his advice.

When I attempted to download OBS, it would not happen. This neighbor kid emailed me different software to upload first so that OBS would be smooth. Nothing. He wondered what was going on, too. I went to the start-up menu of my screen, clicked the Windows symbol on the lower left, clicked on PC Settings then to “System” and finally to “About.” I rattled off that my laptop had Windows 10, 64-bit, up to 8 GB, etc. Although listed in the “About,” it was really the sticker underneath the keyboard that caught my attention. “And,” I continued, “I have intel CORE 17 inside.” I looked at the “About” stuff again and saw that intel was listed there so I could be more specific: Intel (R) Core (TM) i7-6400HQ CPU @ 2.60Hz. My neighbor was impressed with that and knew that my laptop was compatible for OBS.

Then he asked the important question, “Are your drivers updated on your intel?” Instead of responding with, “What?!? Huh?” I calmly stated, “That is a good question.” I did not know what a driver was though I told him that I get updates automatically. He searched around, did his magic, and emailed me a direct link to update. I discovered I had 4 drivers that needed updating. When that was done…THEN I could download OBS. Yes, I did pay my neighbor kid at a higher rate than when he babysits my three kids.

The first time you open OBS, it can be a little scary. Prepare yourself. Here is an image to help get acquainted:

Normally, it is all black in the center and not the split screen and, of course, not with the Story Crossroads logo. I then had to click on “Settings” under “Controls” towards the bottom right. Please learn some important ways to do this at this video. Keep in mind that the video is a couple years old so things will be similar but could vary slightly in how things look.

You will be tempted to touch the “Start Streaming” or the “Start Recording” buttons under “Controls.” Recording is less scary than streaming. When working out OBS, I accidentally recorded myself but thankfully did not stream as my hair was crazy, I had on no make-up, and you could only see my forehead and eyes because…well, I didn’t realize the button was pushed and I was a little overwhelmed by the buttons and settings. I ended up deleting that recording, but now I kind-of miss it. That could have been great when Story Crossroads has a documentary of how we started.

I am not kidding about the documentary. We have videotaped and interviewed people every year during the Festival. This year was different as we live-streamed and recorded.

I will return to OBS in the fifth part of this blog series. 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.