As the old saying goes, ‘anything that can go wrong, will’. It’s an expression that has deep roots in painful lessons learned and it can be especially poignant when it comes to webcast production. There are obviously many things that can happen that are beyond our control – think unforeseen network issues, presenter curveballs, equipment failures, wireless mic glitches, etc. However, there are a number very simple things that we can do that help us hedge against Murphy and which we do have control over.
- Back it up. It’s obviously not possible to have a backup of every piece of equipment involved in your live event or broadcast, but wherever possible, consider building in redundancy. At Qumu, we go to great lengths to build redundancy into all the key components of any live event webcasts we do including:
- video switchers
- recording equipment
- network connectivity
- Secure your cables. While it’s true that wireless technologies continue to improve, the reality remains that the majority of the technology we rely on in a production environment comes down to boxes connected by cables. ‘People tripping’ and ‘stuff coming unplugged’ is a very poor excuse for why someone got hurt or a production failed and yet it remains an area that is all too widely overlooked. The lexicon of production lore is full of stories of live events that failed because someone suffered a preventable injury or some key piece of equipment simply got unplugged…and far too often simultaneously. Here are some things you can do to manage this easy-to-control variable and avoid disaster.
- Safety first. It’s no joke. People can get seriously injured tripping over loose cables. If even one person will walk over a cable, it MUST be taped or covered securely.
- Tape anything important. A great rule of thumb is: ‘if your show depends on it, secure it’. Having a supply of quality gaffer’s tape on hand is essential to any production. Do NOT use ‘duct tape’…it will leave adhesive goo on everything, including carpets and cables…but a good quality gaffer’s tape will not. This tape typically comes in rolls of 1”, 2” and 3” widths, 50 yards in length and costs between $15-$30 per roll. While this is not cheap, it IS well worth the expense and can literally prevent an injury and save your show. Quality brands include Permacel/Shurtape, Rosco, Pro Tapes and others. Things you should tape:
- Power strip on/off switches – this one is must. If it can be switched off, tape it in the ON position.
- ANY cables – Again, ANY cables that even one person could walk over should be taped or secured with cable covers. There are many instructional videos available on YouTube that demonstrate best practices for taping cables. There are even some great tools for making the job easier and cleaner such as The Gaffgun.
- Wall plugs – whenever possible, secure key A/C cables to the wall. Typically (2) 1” wide strips placed in an ‘X’ shape over the plug will make accidental unpluggings rare.
- Key equipment plugged into power strips – a single strip of tape can secure all the cords plugged into your power strip.
- Laptop chargers / inputs and outputs – if it plugs into a laptop, tape it. This includes A/C adaptors, flash drives, USB cables, display port/Thunderbolt cables, HDMI/VGA cables…anything that would take your show down if it became unplugged can usually be secured with a small piece of gaff tape.
- Camera cables – Use a small piece of gaff tape to provide strain relief for your camera cables such as audio, power, output and remote cables.
- Keep it tidy. Keeping your cables run in clean, organized fashion not only is safer, it looks more professional and makes it easier to troubleshoot if needed.
- Go over doorways. Whenever possible, try to take cable runs up and over a doorway rather than across an area of foot traffic.
- Use cable ramps in high-traffic areas. Things like food or beverage carts, pallet jacks, forklifts, etc. can all easily damage cables.
- Change your batteries. Dead batteries are another easily avoidable way that entire productions can fail. Simply put, if it runs on batteries, ALWAYS start fresh. This typically applies to wireless microphones however any battery powered devices should always start with fresh batteries and should be changed at or before they are 50% discharged. Use quality rechargeable batteries whenever possible but don’t risk your show over questionable batteries.
- Clean your lens. This may seem self-evident but is far too often overlooked. If you are using a camera for your broadcast, even if it’s your webcam, clean the lens before your start.
- Have a ‘crash kit’ handy. Having a kit (often called a ‘crash kit’) of commonly used spare parts, adaptors, cables, splitters and odds and ends can literally save the day. It’s like driving…if you’re not carrying a jack, then a spare tire is only going to get you so far when you get a flat. Carrying a crash kit, even a very basic one, can make the difference when you run into the unexpected.
Obviously, there are many areas in the context of a live event and webcast where ‘Murphy Lurks’. Staying mindful of these few basic but critical tips can help ensure your live event is not only technically successful, but safe for everyone involved.
Want to learn more tips and tricks to make your webcasts shine? Hear from Qumu’s webcasting experts and read our free report: 8 Ways You Can Ensure the Success of Your Next Webcast
Chance Carpenter is an Event Services producer for Qumu and has over 25 years of experience in event and webcast management.