I like to ensure that we are prepared for any eventuality when we are out on a video assignment for a client. That’s why I will always try to visit the venue in advance. This is called a “site inspect” or “site recce” in video parlance.
It’s surprising that even in this technologically savvy age, we still encounter recently built meeting venues that were obviously designed without any input from people who produce video or audio recordings for a living. The future for most live events is through recording, podcasting, repurposes, and re-use of lectures, speeches, conferences, panels. And yet the designers of these rooms do almost everything possible to make such recordings impossible using the built-in audio and video systems in these rooms.
Most of these facilities seem to be designed more to protect the equipment from being stolen than to offer an effective system for recording and preserving the events staged there.
Most of these rooms have expensive audio systems but absolutely no access to the system from inside the room. The audio control panels are often mounted in a rack that is locked inside a cage in a closet down the hall from the meeting room.
The actual audio components chosen do not have any input or output connectors on their front panels. All the connectors are on the rear of the device, which is bolted into a rack and completely inaccessible for either adding a microphone or taking an audio signal out to a recording device.
Similarly, room designers never take into account the modern seminar format common in most organizations, a panel of four or more speakers (we’ve seen up to seven on a panel) who each make opening remarks and then engage in a give-and-take dialogue with a moderator. Most of these rooms only have a single microphone jack built into the wall, so the only microphone you can enable is one on the lectern, where the moderator is standing. The owners of these modern conference rooms often don’t know how many microphones they have, how to configure them or what might be required for good sound for a panel of seven members.
Wireless Internet access is another afterthought. Most attendees at conferences and events expect wireless connectivity, but often this is not available, or it is password protected, or the conference venue thinks it will make extra revenue by charging attendees for using it.
It’s particularly surprising that some of these rich-media unfriendly venues are in academic institutions. Instead of thinking about the future of how educational materials will be delivered (online, podcasts, webinars, MOOCs, and so on) administrators are using unimaginative old-school approaches that assume the worst and do not plan for the best.
Here are my recommendations:
- An audio mixer with at least eight channels mounted in the room, accessible for adding inputs or taking an audio output signal for recordings.
- A digital audio recording device in the same rack mount as the audio mixer, one that uses SD cards or Compact Flash for recording.
- Recessed power outlets in the floor of the room, the kind that have a cover that makes them invisible unless they are opened to plug something in.
- Room darkening shades for any windows that might end up being the backdrop for the panel of speakers.
Next time you are designing a new conference facility, it wouldn’t hurt to check with some videographers and sound engineers before you lock all that equipment in a closet down the hall.