Last weekend was my stake conference. (If you aren’t LDS and aren’t familiar with LDS terminology, just bear with me.) And we had two general authorities visiting, one a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
I’m in charge of video for the stake. And part of that responsibility is broadcasting meetings from the stake center to the other two church buildings. I was given several months warning that we would be having a VIP coming (though I was sworn to secrecy about who it was) so I would have plenty of time to make sure that everything was going to work perfectly. So for about a week before Christmas, and for two weeks after I got back here after Christmas break, I was getting the various buildings and equipment ready to go. Lots of time in the attics, in the tunnels, and on the roofs of the three buildings. Thanks to Ryan for helping me run cable to the roof, and the deacons of my ward for doing most of the work running cables in the tunnels. (They really loved helping, BTW.)
The first meeting that would need video services was the Saturday evening adult meeting. So that meant I had to have everything working by 7pm that day. But because this is a major event for me, I actually started hauling equipment over and hooking it up about 24 hours before. The only major hurdle was the need to be out of the building at 1pm on Saturday for its security sweep.
When I say I go all out, I mean that we use four professional video cameras, and switch between them during the meetings. All three camera operators and the director all have an intercom for communications. We had three projectors going, along with at least a dozen televisions in various rooms in all three buildings. I also provide graphics in real-time (words to the hymns, the text of scriptures being referenced), and setup an array of microphones to create a decent audio mix so the choir and musical numbers can be heard in the remote buildings and on the DVD recording. (It looks like a general conference, except that it takes place in a stake center instead.) We even had Spanish interpretation going on. So it took several hours to setup the equipment, even with help from Brent and two others. Not only that, but I was trying out some new technology which required me to build several new devices and assemble and test racks of equipment, as well as tweak and test the software I wrote for controlling the whole mess. Which meant that I was awake most of the night Friday night. And also that I was at the church building until 3am Sunday morning after the Saturday evening session installing the last of the equipment that was going to be used for the general session at 10am that day. I think, in total, I got about 7 hours of sleep over three days while it was all going on.
Fortunately it all went off without any sort of major problems. On Saturday night a power cord got unplugged, taking down a projector and my main camera, but other than that everything worked just the way it was supposed to. Thanks to quick work of a couple people on the team, we were back up and running in just a couple minutes. But it was very lucky that we only had one problem, because our visiting general authorities (as well as the stake presidency) were watching everything on LCD monitors placed on the stand. If we made a mistake, they would see it.
After it was over it took about two hours to take everything down, even with about 5-6 people helping. And two absolutely stuffed truckloads, plus one carload, to get the equipment home.
But it was all worth the effort. The apostle that was there made a very positive comment about what had been done. And on his way out he thanked me again for my efforts, and gave a compliment on a job well done. I was also told later on that he hadn’t ever seen anything like that done at a stake level before, and was very impressed.
After I got home Brent and I unloaded the truck and went to bed. It was about 4:30 Sunday afternoon by then. And I didn’t wake up until 11:00am the next day. I was exhausted.
Now I’ll just have to go back and watch the videos to actually find out what took place during the meetings. Performing the functions of a video director, audio engineer, or graphics guy all pretty much require the full attention of whoever is doing them for them to be done properly, and at any given time I was performing at least two, if not all three of those roles simultaneously. So, honestly, I have no idea what was said in either meeting. Good thing I’ve got that recording.
But thanks to Brent (setup, takedown, running a camera twice), Dave (directing Sunday morning), Paul (camera Sunday morning), Irv (setup and takedown), and Danny (setup, takedown, and running a camera twice) for helping with the whole thing. I couldn’t have done it without you.
P.S. We even had a little fun with our visiting apostle. He was watching the whole meeting on the LCD monitor in front of him, but if we put a video image of him on it, he would immediately look up at the crowd. Several times through the meeting we would watch him do the same thing each time we went to a camera that included him in a shot.