By Jessica Robinson, Better Said Than Done
As the number of new covid cases start to go down in many areas of the country, more and more events are going hybrid. As a show producer – I produce Better Said Than Done out of Fairfax, VA – and a video producer – I run a corporate video company called Capture Video, Inc. – I thought I might offer some advice on how to produce a hybrid event.
What does hybrid mean anyway?
The term “hybrid event” can be interpreted multiple ways. What this blog post will be discussing is an event that is performed before an in-person audience and also streamed for a virtual audience. Even there, though, there are options.
- Live Streaming. This is how we have been producing our events. We have a storytelling show in-person, in Fairfax, Virginia. When the show starts for the in-person audience, we begin live-streaming to Youtube so the at-home audience can watch at the same time.
- Recordings Available After. This is how we handled the 2020 Women’s Storytelling Festival, which was in March, just as the pandemic was starting to shut things down. We recorded the festival and then packaged the videos, and sold tickets to watch the recordings. So, the events were performed in front of a live audience, but the videos were made available after.
- Zoom In. We haven’t done this at BSTD, but several other programs have. “Zoom In” is what I am calling it when you have a live, in-person show and one or more performers joins the show via zoom, or another video streaming media.
Why go hybrid?
I can’t tell you why YOU should go hybrid, but I can say why I decided to make our shows hybrid.
- We are still trying to social distance, so our in-person audience size is limited. This means we can only sell so many in-person tickets. Being able to sell tickets to the recording or live stream gives us an option for making more money.
- Over the past 18 months or so, we’ve had most of our shows online. We have built a wonderful following of people all over the country. It doesn’t make sense for us to suddenly cut off a large portion of our audience simply because we’re now back to performing in-person in Virginia. Going hybrid allows us to keep some of that audience from around the country and, hopefully, gives them the sense that they are still connected to us.
Why to NOT go hybrid.
At the risk of jumping ahead – next up, the “how to” – making your next event a hybrid event is not for everyone. It is not easy or cheap. In some cases, you may have to learn new technology, hire a crew, or pay your venue extra to do it for you. Money, time, or energy will be spent. And the return might not be worth it.
Before going through the work of going hybrid, consider: will I make more money through virtual ticket sales than I will pay someone to help me stream or record the event; is a significant amount of my audience virtual and likely to stay virtual; can I significantly expand my audience or my talent pool by going hybrid?
Here’s how we do it.
As I mentioned, there are different ways to make your event hybrid, and different definitions of what it means to be hybrid. I am only one person and I have figured out one way to do it. So, here is what we, at Better Said Than Done, have been doing to produce our hybrid events.
- First, we plan the in-person event. If you haven’t been doing this for a while, remember to tell people where to show up physically.
- I tested the wi-fi at our venue before our first hybrid event. Fun fact: it worked great when I tested it, and not so great for at least one of our live streamed events. You cannot rely solely on the internet as it is a fickle God. Have a back up plan. In our case, we record the shows as well as stream them so, even if people can’t tune in live, they can watch the recording after.
- We live stream to Youtube via OBS. This is where things start to get technical, so I want to break that statement down a bit.
- Live stream means we are streaming the video of the event as it happens to Youtube where people are watching live. We have had volunteers on Youtube watching the strea and responding to comments from our virtual audience. Tis is a nice way to connect with the at-home audience.
- OBS is free software that you can use to stream from a camera or from Zoom to Youtube or other video sites. A lot of storytellers are using Streamyard, and there are others out there as well.
- I set our Youtube stream to “Unlisted.” This allows me to share the link to watch with ticket holders, but people without the link can’t see the video. I recommend using “unlisted” if you are selling tickets. Use “public” if you are okay with anyone watching. Use “private” only in cases where you are going to allow a few people to watch as you will have to add their email addresses manually.
- As a videographer, I already own a fancy professional video camera and lavaliere mic kit. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars for a good camera and mic, unless you are also a videographer. There are hundreds of cameras out there. I cannot recommend a specific one, just make sure you have a good mic kit to go with it as most cameras don’t have a great onboard mic and sound is pretty important for storytelling. You can Google cameras and mic kits for tips, or you can call B&H Photo in NYC and ask their sales team.
- Finally, I run my camera into my laptop using a CamLink. This is a USB to HDMI converter. You may or may not need this depending on what camera and computer you have. But if you are plugging your camera into your computer and it’s not working, check to see if the CamLink is the missing link.
- Finally, a hybrid event has two audiences. The performers should be instructed to perform for both audiences. Being in-person again is such a fantastic feeling and it is so great to not have to stare into a box. But remind the performers that there are still people watching through that box at home and that they should make sure to include them when connecting with the audience.
If you really want to, and you find paying someone else to be cost prohibitive, you can do this yourself. Ask friends for help and ask the internet for tips and you’ll get there.
If you are blessed to have a budget, check first with your venue. Our shows are usually in a pub and they have little in the way of A/V. Some theaters and concert halls have “video packages” or “streaming packages.” They also may be ale to help with that “zoom in” situation.
And if your venue can’t help, you can ask a local video company or a local A/V company. I will say, in this area – just outside DC – both video production and A/V production costs are high. So be prepared to pay a lot if you are going with an independent contractor.
All of this may be hard to visualize. Here’s a shameless plug that may also help you – come to our next hybrid show. If you are in the DC Metro area, come to Fairfax. If not, watch us online!
On November 27th, 2021, join MC Nick Baskerville and storytellers Richard Barr, Sandra Hull, Dave Lawson, Miriam Nadel, Jessica Robinson, and Diana Veiga for “Thanksgiving: Stories of Gratitude, Grace, and Gravy” both in-person at The Auld Shebeen in Fairfax, VA and live streaming online.
PLEASE NOTE THE TIME FOR THIS SHOW IS 7:00PM EST.