Last night’s virtual production of the 78th Golden Globe Awards kind of fell on its face and landed in a puddle of irony.
The Globes are watched most closely as a bellwether for the Academy Awards. And it seemed this year’s event had the right formula: Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler emceed from bicoastal locations, capping their comedic monologues with sincere appeals for greater inclusivity. Chadwick Boseman’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, delivered a moving, remote acceptance speech for her late husband’s best actor award. An excited array of celebrity nominees appeared remotely via video feed.
This is what the most forgiving Globes fans might want to only remember. But the rest of us stubbed our minds’ big toe on the first award of the night, which went to Daniel Kaluuya for best supporting actor in Judas and the Black Messiah. As Kaluuya’s overjoyed face lip synced an acceptance speech the world could not hear, co-presenter Laura Dern told the camera with a Laura Dern-like, horror-masked serenity, “As you can see, we unfortunately have a bad connection.”
Tech issues continued to plague the awards show, as viewers at home mentioned on twitter.
“Don’t you think #GoldenGlobes should have better sound? The tech is so off! Making it hard to watch!” Patti Stanger, star of “Millionaire Matchmaker,” wrote.
“the golden globes needs to fire their entire tech team,” wrote one Twitter user.
“Here for the tech messes lol #GoldenGlobes,” said another.
This is a familiar nightmare — characters may vary — for anyone on the business end of virtual event production. Most of us confronted our high school midterm nightmares by going to class, studying and remembering to wear pants. In this way, we have overanalyzed our own virtual event production model. Probably more than we should be telling you.
In our work, we aspire for something nimble yet ever-prepared. Sometimes refining your production process means solving 2 out of 10 problems in a week, then 20 in a day. Perfection is a journey, rarely a destination.
With that, we humbly offer these pointers on how the 2021 Golden Globes could have avoided their production glitches:
Arm Every Connection
A secure and reliable livestream requires that you optimize the connectivity of each of your speakers/presenters, and prepare them for worst-case scenarios. That includes hardwiring into your router/modern (which often requires a USB to ethernet adapter), having backup internet (like a mobile hotspot), or even advanced solutions like bonded internet which merges two connections into one. A few tactics to consider:
- Check the respective upload speeds of each of your speakers/presenters to anticipate how high of a resolution/bitrate you can stream. When people check their internet speed, they’re often looking at download speeds. The standard to shoot for is 4-5+ Megs for HD or 10+ for full HD at 1080p.
- Hardwire your computer into your router or modem. It’s old-school, but it prevents your Wifi card from disrupting your feed. Consider mailing an ethernet cable to your speakers/presenters. Modern laptops like MacBooks no longer have ethernet ports and require special adapters. And sometimes a nifty, $10 USB hub (with ethernet port) will do the trick.
- Stream from the same room as your router or modem. It simply reduces the number of known barriers (a.k.a. walls/floors).
- If your internet isn’t reliable, consider renting a conference room or studio for the session. This is why most virtual event project managers are savvy schedulers. They anticipate the required trainings, walkthroughs, dry-runs and environment changes, if necessary.
Define Your Godzillas: Worst Case Scenarios
How ideal yet inane our lives would be without worst case scenarios. Where’s the adventure in that? So enjoy your work. Sketch out your own little version of Godzilla. Ours includes the following, relevant take-aways:
- Trampled powerlines. Power goes out. Phone battery on fumes. Don’t be the person who hasn’t thought of a backup.
- Servers destroyed. To the previous point, a mobile hotspot that is turned on and ready to automatically pick up where your internet left off. Expect delays of about a minute. If you don’t have a hotspot, set up your phone on a tripod or imaginative version thereof that secures a good angle. Advise speakers/presenters to keep their backstage link ready to go on their mobile devices. So if you lose the connection on your computer, you can switch over and get back.
- Chaos in the streets. The opposite of chaos is process. Virtual event producers and project managers spend no small amount of time running the show behind the show. Sometimes this involves layers of decision-making beyond our control. This is why process is paramount, and communicating that process needs to run alongside every step of the production. This includes not just the production essentials, but the tactical ones, like sourcing backup speakers.
- Platforms down. If you’re working with a virtual conference platform, you should make sure your browser is not blocking its server, or that any other interferences like government or corporate firewalls are at play.