Make the extraordinary seem ordinary. Students in Orbit Media’s Media Production program will tell you first hand that while this concept seems simple, it is, in fact, complex. As the University developed and implemented safety measures to limit social distancing this past fall, all in-person campus performances were canceled. So, the group, led by Michael Carvaines, assistant professor of Media Communication, set out to make these performances seem as ordinary as possible.
Accepting the challenge to broadcast live art to campus, and beyond, the team was presented with an opportunity to learn real-world production skills and gain invaluable experience through hands-on training.
“Our team operated cameras, recorded sound, and broadcast the video for campus events almost every weekend this term, and many of these shows had a large viewing audience of faculty, parents, and alumni, allowing zero margin for error,” Carvaines said. “This was a fantastic learning experience and opportunity for everyone in our program.”
While a great experience, there were some challenges associated with live-streaming these complex productions in a consistent, engaging way. And because each show was completely different, the expertise gained during one event didn’t necessarily translate to the next broadcast. For example, the camera set-up for a live tuba recital is very different from a soprano singing an opera. Equally as challenging – attracting and holding the audience’s attention.
“Regardless of the type of production, one of our top considerations is the audience and how to keep them involved with the program,” Carvaines said. “As people watched remotely, we realized most of them were watching from home, often on phones with very small screens. Because of this, we tried to keep the visuals incredibly dynamic by using a multi-camera setup and adding graphics and titles to the production. This was a perfect opportunity to get our talented and creative students involved.”
Carvaines says one of his favorite projects, “Music on the Quad,” highlighted the team’s creativity and ability to make adjustments on-the-fly. The October 25th concert took place outdoors, on the Quad, with people socially distanced and wearing masks under a large tent – all very difficult conditions for live-streaming. Add to this a cold day that included rain in the middle of the event, and you get a group of students that “came of age quickly” during the broadcast. The end result was a beautiful juxtaposition of amazing music with the outdoor campus setting. “I was fortunate to have a front row seat,” said Carvaines.
Equally as impressive as producing these live streams for Muskies and the region, the Media Production team meticulously followed safety guidelines to help ensure the wellbeing of all to continue broadcasting campus events.
“This group never let up all semester. They kept their distance from each other, wiped down equipment, and were diligent about not sharing microphones or headphones, which are great habits that will serve them well for a long time,” Carvaines said. “I think it’s safe to say we’re educating the most cautious class of filmmakers in the history of this University. I am proud of this group and look forward to the opportunities presented next semester.”
A portfolio of the Media Production Team’s work throughout the fall semester can be found here.