Live Event Videography: Plan. Plan. Plan.
Live event coverage is daunting. Capturing footage in the moment and turning it into a functional recap video is manageable, but when the client wants to live-stream, deliver packaged strategic content to multiple platforms, and produce bite-sized video for social platforms, success comes down to one word: The Plan.
In the first part of this series we’ll cover how to competently plan for live event coverage and deliver against your client’s needs.
Planning Step One: What Does the Client Want?
This step might seem self-explanatory, but we’ve heard horror stories of clients expecting live-streaming of panels with multiple speakers and a team not having A. Lavalier Microphones and B. Any streaming equipment. Be up front and make sure you clarify the following with the client:
Do they want live-streaming?
Live-streaming content is almost boilerplate for conference coverage. Large and small businesses, non-profits, entertainment organizations and other clients go through great lengths to secure industry panels, special speakers, and exclusive content. Providing that to audiences on a global scale, and not just those at the event, can be a huge draw. We’ll cover live-streaming in another post in more detail, but make sure if the client wants live-streaming you’re capable of pulling together the right team to support the event.
Do they want content-as-you go?
Engaging with attendees as an event is going on allow teams to highlight and promote performances, panels, and other events. Being able to deliver original content on-the-fly helps immerse attendees along with helping brands create a conversational tone with their target audience. These misc en scene type posts help bring top brands down from their pedestals and create human conversations. However, if you’re going to be shooting, editing, interviewing, and posting…you can see how that ship could sink pretty fast. This is where a capable team becomes invaluable. We’ll dive deeper into how.
What type of content do they want?
Is the client looking for small social-friendly bites? Are they looking for hero-content for an event recap? Are you interviewing experts and helping recap panels? Understanding exactly the kind of content the client is looking for will help you formulate a plan. For our larger events we usually have multiple weeks of pre-production meetings to create a content calendar for each day, highlighting the “hero” moments we need to capture, the b-roll filler content we’ll need that can be used anytime throughout the week, and any secondary content that we can live without. If you know the content of some of the “hero” moments before hand you can pre-create title assets and social copy beforehand.
Are there multiple teams?
Sometimes you’re A-Team, and sometimes you’re not. Make sure you know if the client has multiple teams on site with different goals. Often times there are internal productions teams, or another agency focusing on a specific type of content. If you haven’t coordinated with these teams beforehand make sure to seek them out ASAP. Nothing like getting in the way of others working for the same team.
Planning Step Two: Where is the Event?
Location scouting is important for planned commercial productions and maybe even more so for event coverage. Familiarity with the venue, the support staff, restrooms, charging locations, cafe/food locations, and staging/production environments will make your life easier in the heat of the moment. Outside of the venue restrictions and travel plans, it’s always good to have a network of contractors and rental houses that you’re familiar with in the market/city in case of emergencies or client requests that fall within the scope of the project.
Recently we worked a large event at McCormick Place in Chicago supporting Philips Radiology and Health Care team. They had a backstage work area, tickets for food, and lockers to store equipment. However, the most important aspect was a map of each “hero” display or booth. This map became the backbone of our content checklist, and we mapped out a plan to get coverage over the first two days of the event to help supplement social videos over the week-long conference.
Planning Step Three: You Can’t Do This Alone, Who’s Your Team?
We mentioned contractors in the last section, but most times event coverage consists of well-oiled team effort. The basic makeup we use consists of a shooter, editor, and wrangler.
Shooter: The shooter shoots. Period. Not only do they grab coverage based on the content plan, but their experience documenting true human moments can really elevate the sense being “there” for those outside the event. Our usual shooter kit changes on the needs of the client, but the majority is our Hybrid Kit. This consists of a GH5, Metabones adapter, 2-3 lenses, a DJI Ronin-S, Tri-pod/monopod, lavalier mic, and Rode Video Mic Pro.
Editor: Now, the names might seem self-explanatory, but the editor edits, and a whole lot more. They’re sending files to the client for review, organizing footage for quick turnarounds, and pushing additional content to a shared folder online that the client can potentially pull from. The editor needs to be able to create social bites, have a great grasp of motion graphics (we usually produce templates before hand), and continue to produce content between "tent-pole” posts on the content calendar. Our Editor Kit usually includes: Macbook Pro, Card/Media reader (SD, CFAST 2.0 etc), Thunderbolt edit/storage RAID array, second monitor, and headphones.
Wrangler: The Wrangler is the essentially the event AD for the team. They know the content calendar back and forth. They run new media out to the shooter. Keep the client informed. Make sure the “home-base” has extra batteries, media, and snacks. If anyone on the team has a question, they have the answer. They are the single most important point of a contact for the client. Their kit usually includes a laptop, second-shooters camera kit (if needed), iPad, and a small gaffers bag/belt.
Other roles our team will supply include writers and communications managers. Our writers will create the copy for the social posts and other communications. The communications/engagement manager’s role is to interact with the audience on the target platforms (Twitter, Instagram, FB,) and can even be on-screen “host” talent for live-streaming type content.
Planning Step Four: Delivery & Wrap Up
Event work is exhausting. Breaks can be few and far between, you’re literally walking miles and miles. Maybe you’re chasing athletes around a race or weaving in and out of attendees at a massive conference. Either way, you and your team will be mentally and physically drained. This fatigue can make the most meticulous of us sloppy, which is why planning the delivery of your creative and wrap up will keep your clients happy. The plan keeps you arriving and leaving with everything you came with.
You already know what you’re delivering, you did the prep up front, now double check. The content calendar is your guide and the Wrangler should be on top of the schedule; working with the shooter and editor to capture and create any additional or missed content for the client. Each post is a delivered asset and must be cataloged by the editor in the storage/edit array.
At the end of the event, the Wrangler will communicate with the client and make sure all the stipulations of the statement of work have been met. The editor backs up the project files, makes a duplicate for your archives, and depending on your agreement with the client you may hand over a copy of the RAW files to them.
As a team, you’ll work through your equipment list and make sure everything is packed up then loaded into your cases/luggage. You’ll do another equipment log when you return to your studio/office.
REST, REGROUP, REVIEW
First thing after a big event; rest. You’ll be exhausted. Schedule a meeting with the team a day or two after the event and go through a proper after-action review session. Our Six-Sigma and agile product development backgrounds make us to the 4Ls retrospective template, but you can utilize any simple template or format as long as you’re asking your team what worked, what didn’t, and what do we want to improve?
Finally, when it’s all over and you have a happy client, get ready to do it all over again.