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Live From J Street, Part 3: Monitoring Webcast Audio

In this final segment of this series on the JStreet Making History convention webcast, we'll examine one aspect of webcast production that too often gets ignored: monitoring and controlling audio volume, which becomes a complex issue as speakers change, audio techs and shooters adjust their own levels, and the webcaster is left to make sure the signal sent over the web remains audible and consistent.

This is the final segment in a multiple-part series on webcasting JStreet.org's national convention. In this segment, I'll focus on monitoring and controlling audio volume. As you'll see, understanding how loud is loud enough is a seemingly simple problem that becomes complex once you start asking a few questions.

Overview

Let's start with your goals.

Monitor for Breaks and Other Problems

During the course of a one-hour webcast, or a series of webcasts throughout the day, your mind is going to wander. You'll check email, check stock prices, check out particularly attractive members of the audience.

If the video stops streaming when you're not staring at the screen, there's only a very small chance that you'll notice it visually. However, if you're wearing headphones, and the audio stops, you'll notice it immediately. So get in the habit of wearing your headphones throughout all sessions.

And remember to bring your headphones; in Figure 1 (below), you can see that I had to resort to my iPod earbuds because I left my headphones in Galax, and couldn't find a set of headphones in any of the truck stops I shopped at on Interstate 81.

Monitoring audio on the JStreet webcast
Figure 1. Always wear your headphones when broadcasting (and remember to bring them).

Ensure Consistent Levels to Your Audience

Your web viewers can and will adjust volume at their end to ensure optimal levels. If they have to do this once, it's not a big deal. However, if they have to do it repeatedly throughout the webcast, it will be perceived as a problem. Since the client undoubtedly has folks watching the webcast online, it's a problem that reflects poorly on your work. So, one key goal is to produce consistent levels throughout the webcast.

Recognize that audio volumes change every time a different speaker approaches the microphone, whether it's on the podium or on the speakers' table. Different presenters talk at different volumes at varying distances from the microphone. So whenever there's a speaker change, you have to be ready to make a volume adjustment.

Complicating this is the possibility that there may be audio technician onsite making similar adjustments, and your shooter may be doing the same thing. So, once a speaker changes, you might adjust your levels, but then the audio tech or shooter makes their adjustments, so you have to adjust again. Bottom line is that anytime there's a change, you've got to be riding the volume sliders.

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