Virtual events: Rick Portin Productions

An era of change, full of possibility

August 15, 2020

In our previous blogs, we have been exploring this changing era in virtual events. We were giving our insights on how to design in this ever-changing space. In this blog series, we wanted to make sure we were giving different perspectives. Silver Fox has many partners in the event space, and they, like us, have been evolving to meet this shift during this worldwide outbreak.

This week we chatted with Rick Portin from Rick Portin Productions. We wanted to get his perspective on this changing event landscape and how his production company sees the opportunity and meets the challenge.

How has Rick Portin Productions embraced a changing era in virtual events? I’ve been producing and directing virtual events for large corporate and entertainment clients for many years.  The Covid-19 changing landscape has made the interest in virtual events much more immediate.  It’s exciting now to share the learnings with clients as they plan engagement with customers, partners, vendors and employees in this new environment.

The concept of virtual broadcast events is about capturing the in-person experience into a single screen experience that informs, entertains and provides interaction for the viewer. The virtual event is really now a streaming interactive TV show, which is then supported with tools like Microsoft Teams and PowerPoint, along with rich graphics, animation, emotion-evoking video, all designed to share the story in a captivating format to grab the attention of your viewers.

For example, the virtual concerts that we’ve seen streaming recently are an example of a new way of entertaining an audience, branding music and connect with fans. Virtual gaming has been a part of our culture for years through Mixer and Twitch.

My experience producing and directing live events coupled with virtual elements, including: concerts; sports; Oscar and Emmy Pre-Shows; ESPORTS competitions; along with large corporate events, gives me a unique perspective and experience on mixing traditional events, with technology, entertainment and interactivity in a digital enhanced world for today’s audiences.

What does good, better, and best look like for webcast recordings? This might include how the presentation is recorded, lighting for the on-site or off-site recordings, how to capture the best camera angles for the virtual experience. There are multiple ways to scale the show, depending on budget, location, number of participants, network capability, and other factors.

  • Basic: WebCam, mic in computer.
  • Better: HD WebCam, AirPods, ring light.
  • Best: Broadcast camera, high end mic and mixer, LiveU, a high-quality solution using cellular bonding technology. And adding in a broadcast studio experience through a host connection at a studio.

What are the challenges with virtual events and how does Rick Portin Productions solve for them? The biggest challenge is to make the single screen experience as exciting and informative as being there in-person.  My experience in multicamera live event directing of a technoentertainment show, enables me to visualize the story through animation and graphics. The multiple boxes of the Microsoft Teams video, along with a live studio hosting video connection, can make a broadcast experience that connects and enhances the online audience.

We help corporate groups and event companies understand the need to adapt from the theatrical on-stage experience to this new virtual online streaming experience, while also offering creative and direction for the virtual event. You can think of virtual events really as a streaming show on a single screen, aka – a television show.

What should our designers and presenters be mindful of when presenting or speaking at a virtual event? Does the approach change for webcast vs. online meeting? It’s a new way of thinking, designers ought to plan their virtual event as a broadcast TV show, how to make it entertaining, engaging and informative to be viewed on a variety of devices.  For presenters, it’s about looking straight into the camera, smiling, being authentic, engaging with your audience, even though you may be alone in a small room.

Here are a few tips to help producers and designers plan the production:

  • Arrange or design the background around the presenters
  • Work with the Producer and Director to storyboard how you want multiple presenters to be displayed and what the overall look and flow of the show is
  • Make a template to display PowerPoint or Video next to the presenter
  • Design the background plate that the Teams boxes are layered over. This can either have movement with an animation loop or a static background that’s not too busy
  • On larger shows include a studio host and a video wall
  • Create animations for the presenter’s title lower 3rds, call to action, transitions between topics or video and opening and closing of the show. Think of this as a news entertainment tv show

Here are a few tips for presenters to look great online from where-ever they are located:

  • Place your computer on a flat surface so the camera is eye level
  • Avoid windows or bright light sources in the camera frame behind you
  • Get a selfie ring light to fill in your face
  • Provide more depth for your camera background
  • Keep your eyes focused on the camera
  • Use wireless Air Pods instead of the speaker and mic on your computer
  • Have a backup phone to dial in, in case your video and audio are lost

What excites Rick Portin Productions about the future and now of virtual content and branded experiences? For years, I’ve been encouraging my clients to design for the broadcast audience, remembering that thousands or millions are viewing online, so in a way my time has come around, and that really excites me.  With COVID, the concept of virtual content and events with branded experiences will evolve more quickly and broadly across sectors. Future goals will be about driving to create enhanced physical and emotional engagements with brands and products, through digital interactions. Immersing ourselves into the virtual world through VR, bringing a virtual world into our home through AR, will be a part of creating these new immersive experiences for global audiences. Even when live events are back, the virtual event broadcast will continue to live on as a primary interactive storytelling experience.

Stay tuned for more blogs, pieces of training, and tutorials in the future around virtual events and how best to utilize Silver Fox and our design team. If you’d like to see our work, please visit our Work page.

Photo © Rick Portin Productions.
Mitchell Derrey
Director of Creative Services, Silver Fox Productions
Mitchell Derrey
Director of Creative Services, Silver Fox Productions

Mitchell joined Silver Fox in 2008 as a freelance Presentation Specialist where he was able to merge his passion for design and mentorship, as well as rise to a leadership position in the company. His proudest achievements have been in training new designers and providing coaching as they grow into their careers. He has traveled all over the world to support executives for some of the most well-known brands of our time. His 14+ years at Silver Fox has enriched his life both personally and professionally.

Rick Portin
Owner, Executive Producer and Director, Rick Portin Productions
Rick Portin
Owner, Executive Producer and Director, Rick Portin Productions

Rick has been producing and directing virtual events for large corporate and entertainment clients for many years. His clients include Fox Television Studios, E! Entertainment Television, Microsoft and Xbox, Starbucks, and Google. He has directed live multi-camera concert shoots for artists such as Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, U2, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston.

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