I was lucky to be in a team of organisers of Audio & Video live broadcasting of The Prosthetics Event 2014 in Birmingham at Aston Conference on the Sunday the 16th of November 2014.
The planning started almost 2 months ago by the team leader Hasan Bitirim who was working on a collaborative projects for Gorton Studios in Falmouth.
Neil Gorton of Gorton Studios have put together this event full of makeup wonders produced by great artists from different backgrounds. Hasan Bitirim who is also a fashion photographer, put together a team of creative and enthusiastic people from film, music and photography fields to take on a job of providing Live Audio & Video broadcasting services at a venue which can have capacity for 600 people seated.
On the 11th of October Hasan Bitirim who was leading the team, took us on the trip to the venue for inspecting and measurements, to prepare the floor plan. This would give us very good idea of what equipment we will need and also we could prepare our risk assessment forms carefully.
Our main job was to cover the big live makeup on stage event in the main lecture theatre. The live feed then be to be projected on the big projector screen to show two different angles of close-ups of live makeup being done on the models on stage.
The Fun Begins – 13/11/2014
We hired all of our equipment from our university stores. For every equipment we hired we had backup to cover it if anything were to go wrong.
The Preparations before the Event
The real preparation stress hit us on the day we left for Birmingham on the 13th of November 2014, to test out the equipment we hired. It was surely a very good idea to do so as this would give us ample time to sort out any problems that may arise i.e. cable problems, lighting, projector.
And yes we did find out a lot of problems, the main problem started from the mixer we hired from university media stores, i.e. we did not have the correct connectors to connect laptop/mac to the mixer without hiring an adapter device called SCAN CONVERTER. A scan converter basically converts the signals coming out of the laptop/mac into a mixer compatible signals so that mixer can process them.
As I said earlier that it was thing that we had the opportunity to test out the equipment 3 days prior to the live event. this gave us enough time to sort out other options.
So let me briefly introduce you to the team members of this project. All of us come from different backgrounds and have different set of skills.
Hasan Bitirim – Team Leader (Fashion Photography student at Falmouth University)
Damian Malicki (Fashion Photography student at Falmouth University)
Kay Choudri (myself, Fashion Photography student at Falmouth University)
Zala Opara (Film Student at Falmouth Univeristy)
Sam White (Film Student at Falmouth Univeristy)
William Beven Fielding (Film student at Falmouth Uinveristy)
Arthur Cunnington (Music student at Falmouth Univeristy)
The real test of our work and quick workarounds started from the day we found out we don’t have correct equipment and cables with us.
After packing up we head back to Wales where we were staying for next 2 days. Arthur in our team is the tech guy, his background from sound technician and general interest in technology gave us advantage as a team. He spent a lot of his time using his skills to figure out other ways we could use the Visual mixer which we hired from the university.
Next morning, Friday the 14th, November 2014, most of us spent few hours to ring different companies to see if we could hire or buy a Scan Converter which was becoming a nightmare to find. We tried several companies in Wales, Cardiff and newport and surrounding areas, then we also tried some birmingham companies.
We could not find any positive response from companies, then we decided to head out on the road and look for appropropriate cables which might help us to get the mixer working with our cameras and laptop.
After spending couple of hours not being lucky with any cables, we decided to head to Birmingham.
At this point l would like to mention that before we left from Cornwall on Thursday the 13th, I emailed few companies in Birmingham to ask if they have any Video Mixer kits for hiring. The very first company to reply from many I contacted, was The Birmingham Film Studios, based near Fazeley studios and Custard Factory. I received a very positive response from Ben from Birmingham Film Studios, with rates of the two mixer units they have for rentals.
I messaged Ben before we left for Birmingham to confirm that what we were looking for and what he had is going to work for our broadcasting work with multiple cameras and multiple laptop inputs.
Ben ensured the setup is going to work. So we agreed the time to meet up at his Studios in Birmingham around 5:30pm. I drove from Bargoed in Wales to Birmingham in 2 hours as we were running out of time.
Upon getting in Birmingham, we met Ben outside his studios as he was leaving to buy some cables, which was needed for the mixer to work. As he went to get the cables, Me Damian and Hasan went to get some food from nearby.
When we returned back to studios, Shortly after Ben came back with the new adapter which was going to connec the laptop/mac to the video mixer via hdmi input.
Ben quickly showed us the setup in working condition. Now before we could hire the equipment, we came across another hurdle. luckily Ben helped us and we got the hire insurance sorted on the spot and booked out the Video mixer by Blackmagic, ATEM Production Studio 4K @ £80/day
We hired this for 2 days plus VAT which came to £192, plus Hire equipment insurance £27.68.
Around 9pm we returned back to Wales where we were staying. before we got to the place we rang our film crew who were already finding other solutions and working on show schedules etc, we asked them to setup the cameras, so when we get back we just hook up the mixer and test it out.
As we arrived at our place in Wales, we wasted no time, Arthur, Damian & Hasan helped us hookup everything, we all were waiting anxiously to see the setup work,…
But after 15 minutes of trying, there was no signals coming through from camera or laptop, it all did not felt good. But Arthur our genius tech kid, who was constantly trying to figure out what was going on. He flashed the Mixer as the app indicated new firmware was available. After updating we were trying to establish a connection between the computer interface app with the mixer via the Ethernet (RJ45) cable.
Again it was not going right until I noticed that IP address was not inputted correctly, after fixing the IP addresses, we managed to get the interface settings changed. And after few tweaks and bumps, we got everything working. It was a moment of joy to see the live feed coming through the Panasonic P2 cameras live on the projector.
But we were still facing issues with macbook, then after sometime we figured out that the output frequency of 60Hz from laptops mismatched with the input frequency of 50Hz of the visual mixer. We also tweaked the frequency settings on the cameras to match with the mixer.
After all the frequency adjustments we got all the inputs from camera and laptop/mac working. It was a great moment of joy after all that effort and stress we went through all day.
It was time to test everything once again to make sure we are ready to setup everything for next day at the venue. After final testing and familiarising with the mixer computer interface we packed up the equipment as it was already getting really late at night. Next morning was a very early start. 3am I went to sleep to wake up at 6am.
SETTING UP DAY: 15th November, 2014
It was the big day for all of us as we had to setup the equipment at the venue and test run the whole schedule for once to make sure everything runs smoothly. We left from Wales around 8am, arrived in Birmingham, Regency Hyatt around 10:30am to drop the film crew off where they were staying for next 2 nights.
Unfortunately I could not be at the setting up of the equipment at the venue as I had to go to a family gathering in another city, which would take half of the my day.
After my family commitments I got back to Birmingham around 7:45pm. I was feeling very tired after lack of sleep a lot of driving around so thought it would be best to have rest as next day was a big day. The day of the event.
The Prosthetics Event Day : 16th November, 2014
I have learnt a lot of things from this live project, it was the process, which taught us all the most, especially the 4 days before the event, when everyone really felt the heat and put their heads together and started talking solutions and discussing problems and possible back plans.
Also the finding of new contacts in the industry and how to communicate and be diplomatic about things in the industry. Its all part of the learning process, which makes us better person at the end of the day.
From this adventurous project, we will be able to better understand how to calculate a quotation for a job like this or similar. This job also gave me good understanding of how to stay confident with our presentation which makes a big difference in how we conduct our jobs responsibly.