Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Producing video for playback at a live event

I spend most of my waking hours providing audio visual support for classes and events at the university I work for.  Since I'm often the projection technician for many events on campus, as well as someone who produces video, I have some suggestions for those times when you're asked to produce video for playback at a live event.  Much of this might sound obvious, but you'd be surprised by the amount of poorly produced video we're handed. 

Live events can be pretty hectic, so keeping it simple is essential.  Typically our clients will come to us an hour or two before the event with a DVD created by their "video guy" and the majority of the time there's an issue with it.  Hopefully these suggestions will help you avoid some of those issues:
  • Go easy on your DVD encoding bit rate.  Squeezing out that slightly higher bit rate will just add a higher probability of our DVD player hating your disc.
  • Don't put menus on your DVDs.  There's no need for them, and they just add another layer of annoyance to a projection tech cueing up your DVD.
  • Skip the color bars, tone, countdown, etc. at the beginning.
  • Place one second of black and no audio at the beginning of your video.  It's much easier for us to cue up and pause on a black screen, rather than when the first frame contains video or audio.
  • Tack on 10 seconds of black video and no audio at the end of your track, so the end doesn't catch us by surprise and we see the DVD player's splash screen or DVD's menu (no menus!) pop up.
  • Don't place a looping command at the end of your DVD track.  I've experienced this...it wasn't fun.
  • Label your DVD case with total run time, aspect radio, framerate (NTSC, PAL, etc.) and progressive/interlaced.  The more info the better, since we rarely have adequate test time before the show.
  • Giving us a Blu-ray disc or a H.264 encoded file on a USB stick is fine, but please always include a standard def DVD as backup.  If you're anal, like me, then throwing a copy of your video on YouTube or Vimeo as an extreme backup is a good idea.
Following these easy steps will result in a very happy projection tech, as well as a happy client.  I hope these tips are helpful.

Image:  I was the projection tech when Bill Gates spoke at Harvard's Sanders Theater in April 2010

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