Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lessons Learned or Never Bend Your Business Rules

First, this last 4th of July weekend we worked with some amazing people.  Special thanks to Kyle Riley for Riley's Hotshots for beautiful photography and running around with us in 100+ weather.  Special thanks to Chana Seibert, she bravely did interviews through the 4th and 5th and did a great job for us.  With the heat the way that it was, these two went above and beyond.  You have our gratitude.

I have never had to blog anything like this before.  Since the Biggest Show event we have heard (through the grapevine) that any glitches were our fault.  It has been stated that we don't understand the technology.  Also there have been rumors that we will be sued.  I am stating the facts of our relationship with an organizer.  He was new to the game; however, we felt the risk was low due to our own ability to stream if needed.

Now to other matters.  We were supposed to live stream most of the video we shot over the weekend.  The agreement was to provide the video but the organizer would provide any equipment necessary since we have no intention of getting back into live streaming for our own program.  Unfortunately we were only given the equipment we needed on July 3, 2013 at about 5:30 pm.  The capture device was overnighted and due to that issue we were unable to go through our normal vender because the cutoff had been missed.  I did order the device; however, I did not know there were two versions and I ordered the wrong one.  Since the device had been overnighted, we had no hope to change it out for the correct version - mostly because I would have had to order on the 4th which is a holiday.

We had told the organizer of the digital media that the equipment had to be tested with all the components before the event.  As we stated to him, if we don't test, the stream will not work because there is always compatibility issues.

Although Conversations is a new program, Mike and I have been doing streaming since 1998, and it did not resemble anything that we have today.  It was truly the stone age and I would never want to go back to that. We continued to work on video and in 2005-6 we began both live and on-demand streaming for the Idaho Examiner.  We built the studio from ground up and had one of the best stream providers in the nation.  During that time we learned that most people want to watch on demand, but I believed that events could be the exception.  We agreed to provide video and help with commercial ads but because we do not live stream, we told the organizer that we would need him to invest in any equipment needed.

Fast forward, although we could not live stream direct from camera due to my error, we could live broadcast under a time delay.  We had set ourselves up to remotely encode and transfer the videos to the central server for broadcast.  Once the 4th of July was here we realized the due to a shortfall of advertisers, we would not be paid.  We chose to go ahead with our part of the commitment so the sponsors would get some value for their money and the video we shot would still get play time.  Here is a timeline of events:

About 9:30 to 10:30 am July 4th:
On the 4th we were informed that the mobile element of the stream was not working.  Calls were put out and the web developers were working to correct the code to allow the stream to play on mobile.  After completing filming at the parade and finding out the schedule at the replica, we headed for the Fairgrounds.

About 5:00 pm
Got to fairgrounds, Chana, Mike, and Kyle took off to get film and pictures and to get setup to film the Honor Guard.  I stayed behind to encode and set up a playlist that included ads so that they could be posted at the biggest show and on facebook.  I also set up my account at youtube so that streaming could be pushed to mobile.

8:30 pm
Told organizer that I had posted all the video we had in a mp4 format as agreed.  Tried to tell him that I had also set up a work around for the Mobile app so that we could get some footage out.  Unfortunately, I was told that he was busy so I let him know we were going to get some distance so we could get good footage of the fireworks.

10:00 pm
Have relocated to get footage of fireworks.  Kyle calls the organizer to see what the delayed was.  Organizer states he knew nothing of it at 10:25pm.   We find out more info through the radio broadcast.  Because no time was given on when they would finally be shot we left at 11:20.  The fireworks did go off but at around 11:30 and lasted for about 15 minutes.  Kyle did get some shots, but most were no good because the wind had actually increased even more when the fireworks started.

July 5th
12:30 pm
We shot film at the replica.  Chana did an excellent job of interviewing at the replica.  You'll be able to see that footage on the Conversations for Inquiring Minds later this month.  Kyle and I went throughout the grounds to see what else was happening and he got some spectacular archery shots.  Again, special thanks to both Chana and Kyle.

4:00 pm
Kyle and Chana get some shots of the Big Toys at the fairgrounds.
Mike and I arrive, I attempt to do the encoding and the upload, but my laptop is too hot from the heat.  We have an appointment to interview Muzzy Braun at 8:00 pm after he finishes his set.  We decide to take off for the Muzzle Loaders competition at 2 1/2 Mile Gun Range for about an hour or so.

4:45 pm
I go to inform the organizer about our plan and am told to forget it, none of the video was going to be streamed.  When I asked why we were not setting up to stream to facebook or the Biggest Show Website, I was told it was about the Mobile.  None of that mattered.  The video we shot would be used to promote next year's show.

After that I told the organizer we were through.  Although I had taken it upon myself to do work arounds so the sponsors could get the exposure in another way, that was discounted.  He told me that he was setting a youtube account to take the footage, at which time I told him I already had it set up and all I needed was the info on where to post.

At which point I told the organizer that the video crew was done.  Spending hours in over 100 degree weather is bad for equipment and people.  If the video was only going to be used to advertise next year we definitely had no reason to continue.  I also stated that this happened because we were never able to test the entire system.  I never dreamed that I would have less than 24 hours to test the equipment and learn the streaming program before going live with the show.  We had asked for 3 actual tests. First test was to find incompatibility, second test was to see if everything was solved, 3 was optional if we still had bugs that needed to be worked out after the second test.  None of this happened.

In summary:

  1. We were contracted to provide video and assist in developing ads only.  We have checked with the individuals that we developed the ads for and they were happy with the result.
  2. The mobile app did not work; however, Conversations for Inquiring Minds had no involvement in determining what mobile app to use, how it was implemented, or testing the app to make sure it worked with the streaming host.
  3. We did have the wrong equipment; however, we did not acquire the device until after 5:00pm on July 3.  There was no way to correct the issue but if the order had been done a reasonable amount of time before the event this would have been a non-issue.
  4. We did try to help by giving workarounds and offering our streaming server so that at least the footage we had could be used for the Sponsors' benefit.
  5. The remote location feeds could not be live fed because the Internet company providing the service to the remote locations refused to send a mobile truck to the parade, the Replica and Bannock County Historical Museum.
  6. No effort was made to work around the issues, no communication with the video crew, and the decision to scrap streaming to the internet at all was not conveyed until July 5th at about 4:45pm.
  7. No time was given to see what I had done to help, even though the organizer had requested that I come up to tutor him on his own software.
I am saddened that this turned out this way.  There was absolutely no credible reason why we could not provide service in some form.  Our company has always prided itself on being solution oriented; but we will not be abused or taken advantage of.  I hope this lays to rest any misconceptions on what happened over the weekend.  We did the best we could to provide great content for those who were depending on us and we are committed to continuing in that vein.