This year’s Hall of Fame celebration is the biggest one to date. In addition to a schedule brimming with guest lectures, meet and greets, panel discussions, and portfolio reviews, the event also offers online students opportunities to watch and interact in real time.
Of course, with so many items on the itinerary, it’s easy get lost in the excitement – or the crowds – and overlook the impressive talent on display just behind the curtains (and the cameras and sound boards).
In a behind-the-scenes tour, the Sixth Annual Hall of Fame production crew walks us through the many steps required to put on this week’s events – and explains how it all gets broadcasted to Full Sail’s vast online audience.
Production Coordinator Charles Colarusso explains that, in previous years, “we recorded all of the videos onto hard drives. They got streamed live, then taken back to the office for editing before being posted permanently. This year, though, we’re using a streaming service offered by YouTube that archives the videos almost immediately. There’s no editing afterward.”
This method is beneficial for online viewers, who can search for videos just minutes after the sessions wrap up, but it introduces new layers of complexity for the production team.
Because there’s no post-editing this year, says Charles, “we’re essentially producing five live television shows simultaneously. You need to have moderators and talent walk on stage at the right times, you need the students in the audience to applaud at the right times, you have to put up lower thirds (graphics with the guests’ names and titles) at the right times. You have cameras cutting back and forth while people on the panel are talking, and when students ask questions, you’ve got to have cameras cutting over to them.”
The streamed events take place in various locations on campus – in three different classrooms, the EB Auditorium, and the Live Venue. Each location is staffed with audio engineers and three or more camera operators.
The camera operators take instruction from remote crew members like Web Video Producer James Donmoyer, whose responsibility (among others) during the sessions is ‘quality consistency.’ During the sessions, James and his teammates oversee the filming from a classroom-turned-production-facility: a dark room that’s filled with lighted screens. The screens display side-by-side images of each camera’s feed, allowing James and the others to keep a lookout for lighting, audio, and other potential discrepancies.
James’ room oversees filming for sessions located in the three classrooms in Building 3B; separate facilities oversee the filming in the Live Venue and the EB Auditorium.
The video streams are all captured by an EVS, or Enhanced Vision System, or (basically) a machine that can record six streams of video at once – and because the team has three of those systems, they can record a total of 18 video streams simultaneously. Some of those videos include the archived programs on YouTube; others are saved for future use.
Each event utilizes a front-of-house sound mixer, whose job includes adjusting microphone volumes, background music, and any other audio effects that pertain to the session. This person is responsible for making the live presentation sound good for the audience in the room.
At a separate location, audio engineers like Andrew Shalda handle the incoming streams for online audiences. To put it (very) simply, Andrew makes sure that when the video is played on YouTube, it sounds good. “I control the dynamics,” he explains, “so that we always stay at a good level. Then we mix in the room noise from the ambient mics.”
The audio team uses a system called Dante, which is a networking protocol for digital audio. This particular network includes eight audio consoles; each Hall of Fame room has one, and the master is in Andrew’s studio. “I can sit on my computer and take audio from one room and throw it somewhere else,” he explains. The master also provides Andrew with access to the settings on all the other consoles, allowing him to adjust them or even mute an entire room if needed.
The production team also oversees the lighting of each Hall of Fame venue, the proper archiving of all YouTube streams, the setup and breakdown of all equipment, and a million-ish other meticulously considered details.
And if that weren’t impressive enough, the production team is only half-composed of Full Sail staff. The other half? Students. “For every director, for every person saying ‘go to camera one,’” says James, “there’s a technical director who’s also a student, punching the actual switches.”