Comms Best Practices for Remote Live Production
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Steve Nathans-Kelly: Comms are a big part of any production, and they're obviously more complicated when we're in different places. So how are you handling comms? What's what's working, what isn't? Jeff let's, let's start with you.
Jef Kethley: Sure. Comms, we approach on a per-project basis. We have been using VCOM, which is by Intracom Systems, for years over 10 years actually. They're a more advanced system. It's more like a traditional comms matrix. And so it ties in with an RTS frame or a higher-end ClearComm eclipse frame, or the newer multi-matrix type of multi-input/output type of frame. Unity, we've definitely used, we've also have been using them for years. But for simpler shows, whenever we just need one, two, three, or six PLs (party lines) to work with, we found that Unity was somewhat easier for some people to get into, but VCOM is just more flexible for us. And especially whenever-- it always comes up, and I I'm sure everybody here that does live events knows--at some point, somebody's going to ask you, "Can I get program audio in my ear?" And unless you have your production with Unity Server onsite--for us, we're moving all over the country, all over the world--you have to have that server there, or you have to do a lot of other things to make that program audio come back into your system where, with VCOM it's just a little piece of software. You load on a local system, pump Dante into it, or now even NDI audio, and it's just there. We've used Agent-IC for those that have that investment in Clear-Com already, and it's worked very well. Also for some events, whenever we came into them, the virtual meeting events, they were using things like Discord and Mumble. So the gaming audio side, they didn't quite understand. They're like, "Hey, this is free. We'll just use that." But then they see the limitations. Once you have a bunch of people talking on top of each other, or you don't have that capability of injecting program audio, or having multiple PLs that are easily accessible and monitorable, that is definitely the things we look for--that flexibility. And I just keep coming back to VCOM for our solutions.
Marty Jenoff: So we do use Unity for a lot of our shows. Having the multiple channels and being able to get all the users in is pretty quick and easy. It's been great. So we use Unity. We also use WhatsApp if we want to get a text chat going between the producers, and then maybe one with the client. We'll maybe have two different WhatsApp groups. We also do a backend Zoom Meeting where it's not for broadcast, not for the audience, but for the producers, the client to be able to see in real time what's happening. And we can all chat on the backend, through our control room, several on the same page, because, as you said communication is very important. So between us, it's Zoom, Unity, and WhatsApp.
Anna Cowdery: We have a comms matrix in New York and that's been clutch and we use Agent-IC, which ties into that really nicely. We'll use Unity because it'll run in tandem with Ribbit on a laptop, which has been nice for talent talk-back, low-latency. Now that we're moving to hybrid events where you've got a rack onsite, we'll bring in an LQ system that we can tie our FreeSpeak into. So it's like we're all in one control room, even though we're decentralized in two different spaces or three different spaces.
Ben Ratner: Sometimes you can't always trust the internet. So we like to use Dixie brand paper cups with extremely long pieces of string. And we find that no matter what happens, that'll always be a solid backup.
Jef Kethley: You kid about that. We did something like that here. The two people that needed the comms were literally sitting next to each other and I'm like, "Can't they just talk to each other? They're right there. They're literally within five feet of each other." They said, "Oh no, we have to have our own PL channel." I'm like, "Okay, we'll make it happen." And we had to do that for three different places, three different production courts. But one of my guys is like, "I've got two cups and a string. We're about to set it up."
It's been the eighteen months since most streaming pros began pivoting to remote production, and the challenges producers face have evolved along with changes in working conditions, workflows, and client expectations. In this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2021, remote production experts discuss the current state of the art.