There are many flavors of live events these days. Many of them are virtual in some capacity and many of them are tethered to a conferencing platform. Zoom-style events substitute talking heads for the sights and sounds of an actual event. A “non-event” as it were. There are ways to make the virtual feel a little less distant. For lack of a better term, let’s call these “hybrid” events. These hybrid events combine live video with pre-packaged material. This recreates the elements of a full-blown live event.

The hosts of our hybrid live event.
Judy Cooper Lyle and Penny Masaku co-host the Urban Spectrum Theatre Retrospective

Judy asked me about producing the live event “Urban Spectrum Theatre: A Retrospective”. When I started working with the Urban Spectrum Theatre team, I advocated creating a live virtual event that gave audiences a reminder of what it was like to be at one of their shows. Even if it wasn’t with a crowd of friends and fans. We needed to build a hybrid live event that combined many of the elements of my past productions, but was also something new.

Greatest Hits

Rather than have the performers “phone it in” using a conference call, we decided it would be better to record their performances ahead of time in a safe space. We booked a space, hired a small sound and light team. We staggered the recordings over a period of several hours. We minimized the people in space at any one time. Once we recorded these presentations of “greatest hits”, we turned our attention toward the post-production and prep for the hybrid live event itself.

A dialogue scene from our hybrid live event.
“So Blue”, Suzanne Bengston as “Delia”, and Juan Lopez as “Manny”

Judy selected the videos from the archives that she wanted to run. Some of them went as far back as pre-digital video, so it was a real grab bag of resolutions and formats. Considering it was a retrospective, that made perfect sense, so there was no need to go in and up-res the footage or things like that. While I was editing the archive content, I also did an edit of the canned content. The social media team worked on getting the live feed promoted and embedded on their website.

The Hyrbid Live Event

We booked Phoenix Theatre for the actual live event, both to support them a little and to use a stage that many UST shows have actually been performed on. Our video team arrived a few hours early to get everything set-up, tested, tested again and ready in time for the arrival of our stars for the evening.

One of the singers perform during the hybrid live event.
“Nobody Knows the Way I Feel this Mornin’”, Catrina “Trinagurl” Tresvant as “Delia”

Our pre-show content kicked off at 7:25 (a placeholder to let people know they were in the right place). The hybrid live event went live at exactly 7:30pm. There were blessedly few hiccups, especially for a live event, and the whole thing wrapped up about 90 minutes later. Our small crew packed up and went home. This event didn’t have all of the bells and whistles of a full multi-camera event. Nor did it have all of the load-in time and equipment set-up you would have with that. On balance, I think this model might stick around for awhile. It’s a great way to put on a good show on a small scale. For reference, an equivalent budget for the video part of this production would be under $2000.

A highlight still from our hybrid live event.
“Fine Brown Frame”, Penny Masaku

This activity is made possible with a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council through the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund.

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TWVS: MN Video Production + Content Creation