FIRST LOOK MIDDLE EAST
RUDI BUCHNER, CTO AND CO-FOUNDER, 3 MONKEYS WITH LIVESTREAMING AND VIDEO CONFERENCING SOLUTIONS NOW IN HIGHER DEMAND THAN EVER BEFORE, RUDI BUCHNER TACKLES THE TRICKY SUBJECT THAT IS VIRTUAL EVENTS.
Triggered by the global pandemic, our industry has a new buzzword: virtual events. Suppliers are busy creating solutions, agencies are in research mode for suitable suppliers and end clients are developing briefs and RFPs. Suddenly, the appendix of a live production – the webcast – has become the key focus, and AV suppliers, content production companies and agencies are jumping on this possibility as a means of survival. The result is a highly diversified market with loads of uncertainty, superficial knowledge and assumptions. What can be stated though, is that virtual events are not reinventing the business or how an event is produced. The scope of the event agencies and production companies remains almost the same – as does the scope for many of the suppliers. What does change is the venue and all the needs and consequences that come with it. Availability, permits, hanging points, power supply, set building, travel and accommodation are some of the areas that are most impacted. While this is undoubtedly bad news for the many companies that rely on these areas for the majority of their business, their absence simplifies a lot of the organisation and production, allowing agencies and clients to focus on the message, content and delivery of the event. While the translation from a physical to a virtual event simplifies many aspects of a production, it also brings with it a number of issues that must be considered – not least the distinction between a ‘virtual venue’ and a ‘virtual stage’. A virtual venue gives the client the possibility to have added-value virtual spaces in the form of foyers, breakout rooms, auditoriums, lounges and exhibition areas. “Yes! This is what I need,” many clients have said when faced with this decision. However, while this approach might be right for some, there are a range of factors that need to be taken into account, including the operation, choreography and stage design in the main auditorium and breakout rooms, and even the activations and content in the foyer. Virtual venue providers tend to have basic integration, but most fall behind the more specific products from companies offering web-based games and activations for foyer, lounge and exhibition or virtual stages. Looking at virtual stages specifically, there are a range of possibilities, each of which vary significantly when it comes to cost, quality, level of control, customisation and production time. For example, at the low end we have widely available conferencing and webinar platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which are cheap but offer comparatively little in terms of production values. On the upper end, the use of physical studios equipped with LED and green screens and content production tools like Ventuz, Notch