Spectacular Secrets from Story Crossroads Spectacular – Part 5 of 5

This is the fifth 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 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 – REVEALED
  • Part 5 – Multi-Streaming and “Scenes” – TODAY

Cords, cords, cords! And fun boxes and such to stick those cords into…thus the reason that multi-streaming with two or more cameras (in our case, three) that you hire amazing people to work this out.

Multi-streaming by itself is easy for me to do alone—only using my laptop with the built-in camera. “Easy” is relative but I purposely stream every Monday night from 9:00pm-9:45pm MDT on Twitch to practice AND share behind-the-scenes of running Story Crossroads. Even if no one tunes in, this keeps a nice record of takeaways or learning moments. If people do tune in, then there can be more of a conversation.

Anyway, I would go bonkers if I was multi-streaming AND running multiple cameras. Yet, I have seen it possible with the amazing in-home studio of Baba the Storyteller. Can I say–WOW! Check out his specific virtual storytelling page for an idea.

Though, the longer I see the streaming equipment, the more comfortable I become. Not to be head honcho over it…but more comfortable. Think of what it took for you to get used to a microphone as a performing artist. You were not a natural right away unless you constantly held toilet paper tubes to your mouth to practice.

You must have the right equipment. In part one, you learned that we had an intensity shuttle and splitter but did not accomplish all that we needed it to do with the number of camera feeds. In the collage picture above, you see an ATEM Pro that was lent to us by Joshua Halverston of Experience Event Center, Provo, UT. Joshua knew we wanted to get one for our inventory at some point (costs $1,000+ so looking for grant), and he recommended an ATEM Pro Mini instead of ATEM Pro. It’s more portable. Plus, even as technology changes, this would still be a great investment that would last 10 years+ if not longer.

To multi-stream for live-stream, you will want to open OBS or any other broadcasting software. OBS is free to download and runs beautifully. You will note above that the black screen with “Coming Saturday…” is the regular OBS part while the far left is my “Multistreaming” Dock. You must know that word: dock. I think of it as a fancy way to say “little box thingys” much like how you can have a chat box, control box, etc. But in the streaming world, think “dock.”

You have other “docks” if you go on the far top left of the OBS screen and click “View” then “Docks” then “Restream Channels.”

When new, start clicking around and find out what happens. Not every button. But I feel “safe” clicking things under “Docks.” If they are checkmarked, then they are already showing on your screen. You can click them off and on. I don’t like having all the docks on the screen. It gets crowded. Though, DON’T click “reset UI” or “lock UI” or “Custom Browser Docks…”. Be comfortable before you even delve there, if you would need it.

You will need a multi-stream service, and that will range in price depending on how many places you want to multi-stream. We chose to stream to: Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube. You could stream to 30+ platforms, but many are video game related and won’t make sense for storytelling. I LOVE how all the comments from these three places feeds into one chat box. There are even icons of those platforms so you can address that viewer in-the-moment or study further.

We narrowed down our multi-stream services to two companies: Restream and Streamyard. Either way, you are looking at about $40/month. If you search, you can usually find 20-30% off discount codes through Facebook or other ways for Restream. I consulted with our head videographer, Sterling Elliott, and both of us agreed that Restream was more “friendly” in our needs. Though, I know that Streamyard has been used by storyteller Simon Brooks. Go with your gut. Restream has a happy squid and Streamyard has a crazy duck…no, that was not what it came down to though–seriously, the squid is cuter. We loved that Restream had a specific listing of Zoom. Not that Streamyard cannot do Zoom multi-streaming, but Restream had a relationship with Zoom first.

When multi-streaming in Zoom, you need to be sure your settings are what they need to be. Jim Brule’ has a wonderful video on checking on your settings for Zoom. Of course, things are always changing, but this will give a wonderful visual checklist. Enabling to stream/multi-stream from Zoom is there. We commissioned him to do a 1-hour training with our Story Crossroads Board on Zoom as well as a 5-minute Zoom Basics video with our branding. So…highly recommend his expertise. Our attendees need as much training as the producers/hosts.

Now returning to OBS and live-streaming–let’s talk “scenes.” You will notice that the lower left side has possible places to upload scenes, which can be a picture or video that you click on either before, during, or at the end of a stream. There is also “sources,” which are possible images, text, your logos, music–many options–that feed into and/paint each scene. The “Coming Saturday…” is a text source in connection with my “Behind-the-Scenes Monday Night Streaming.” I can change and update that text and be as simple or as decadent as I wish.

We did not use any scenes in the middle because that was reserved for the main event–the performance! We did use a scene at the beginning to say the name of the session and who was performing. We used several scenes at the end to thank funders, thank American Sign Language interpreters, thank our videographers, etc. It is also smart to have a scene saying when you will stream next.

This was a SUPER IMPORTANT scene at the end of each stream–thanking our funders:

Note that this is a picture that fits the size of the streaming screen. You don’t have to keep to that size. You may want to have a small box to the side while streaming. For ideas on playing with scenes, check out this video by Tech Guides.

We “shut off” after a stream to give an actual break rather than leaving the cameras on with a sign saying “Break.” Certain platforms–like YouTube, Facebook, etc.–only allow a certain length of streaming. They vary from two hours to eight hours, but why not give everyone a break including the videographers? Be smart and courteous!

So, this is the “end scene” of this 5-part Blog Series, though more posts will be made in the future of tips as well as celebrating people who use storytelling. Until we tell again!

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. There will be pay-per-view options of the recording afterwards.

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 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.

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.

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.