Aardvark Video goes on-location for a client who required recording continuing medical education seminars in Puerto Rico.
Although we are a Las Vegas based video production company, we have several clients that over time have become very comfortable with our work and when when they have video needs outside of Nevada or even in different countries, they’d rather fly us to their location instead of taking a chance on an unknown local company.
Such was the case this year when we flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The project requires five days of recording Continuing Medical Education Seminars, which later would be edited, converted to web video, and ultimately made available as a DVD box set. These are sold to doctors and radiologists who could not attend but need the training and/or CE (continuing education) credits to remain certified.
One of the challenges with a project like this is being certain that all the proper equipment is tested and brought along. To do this we lay out all the equipment we need and hook it up in the studio and test to be certain all is working correctly a week before the trip. We then build redundancy in with extra cables and components. We also bring a full complement of adapters to deal with any unforeseen circumstances. This redundancy includes two Tricasters, two cameras, plus HDMI, VGA, Display Port, Ethernet and SDI adapters. We also bring external hard drives to backup all recorded files.
Our setup mixes a live camera feed of the presenter with the PowerPoint feed coming from a presenters laptop and with a Tricaster combine them in a two window template that has titling specific to the presenter and the specific presentation.
For this job, there were 38 different modules in 5 days of presentations. We build all the templates ahead of time and get them approved by the seminar organizer before we pack.
We were out of Las Vegas for an entire week, we needed two travel days to get there and back home again as well as a full day to setup and test. Though this specific job was not live-streamed, with the Tricaster it would have been very simple to just get an Internet connection and enable the live-streaming feature.
This was a four-person crew. There is an operator for the camera, a Tricaster operator, a person to take notes on errors the presenter makes and other needed fixes we do as part of the editing to prepare the online files and DVD/s, plus me who tries to make certain that all the moving parts keep working smoothly, provides relieve to crew members and provides an interface to the client. Oh, and before I forget, there is a three hour time difference to contend with. Meaning a 7AM start in Puerto Rico is really 4AM to us.
A trip to Puerto Rico takes up a good amount of time and there were no direct flights, so our flight took about 10 hours with one stop. This airline allows two checked bags per person plus a carry on. This gave us 8 equipment cases (2 each for 4 of us) plus cameras and laptops we could carry on board. We used our clothing as packing material in the equipment cases.
We’ve learned from past trips how important packing equipment correctly can be. In prior trips we ended up with broken computers and other equipment by not packing so that cases are full and giving TSA a chance of putting equipment back after inspection incorrectly. We also learned to take pictures of the inside of the packed cases before we leave and after we arrive to document damage.
Part of travel plans includes contacting all vendors we will use during the trip ahead of time. This meant booking and confirming a shuttle from and to the San Juan airport with the right sized van for the large number of cases and confirming our hotel reservations. We also made plans to be driven to the airport and picked up by our SUV rather than leaving our car at the airport for a week.
We’ve also learned that checking in baggage at the curb at McCarran Airport works better than going to an inside attendant.
In the past the time goes by excruciatingly slow in the plane so we’ve learned to take several movies on our laptops, which we charged in between plane transfers. Surprisingly this made the trip much more bearable. Additionally with stops in Fort Lauderdale going and Orlando on the way back we had a chance to stretch and get some food. (It’s really a rip off how when you buy sandwiches at airports, they put all the meat in the part of the package you can see and the rest of it is just bread!)
Video Shoot Setup
When we arrived in the hotel late at night we brought all the cases up to one of our rooms and then spent the next day setting up in a conference room where there will also be an audience while we are recording the continuing medical education seminars. The format is to have a speaker at a podium and PowerPoint slides on a large screen.
The podium is lit with high power focused LED lights mounted on poles towards the back of the room on each side plus a hair light for separation and colored background lights on a black curtain. Our job is to be certain the lights are properly aimed and balanced.
The AV person for this show provides us an XLR audio feed of the presenters, an RJ45 connection from the speakers laptop for PowerPoint and a backup HDMI feed of the PowerPoint from the AV scaler. All this feeds to the Tricaster where we put in different templates for each presentation module. We communicate during the show through a Com System. We test the speakers actual PPT presentations during setup. Besides recording in the Tricaster we record redundantly on Atomos Shoguns. All this equipment is setup and thoroughly tested before we leave. It is inevitable that problems arise relative to equipment compatibility and those all need to be resolved during the setup day.
After everything is set up and working, we shut down the equipment, go out for dinner and come back prepared for an early rise. Remember, I mentioned that San Juan is 3 hours ahead of our home base in Las Vegas so that means that for the 7AM show start it is really 4AM to our biological clock and a 3AM wakeup time!
For the presentations we have to be alert every second of the show to avoid or fix technical problems and take notes on what needs to be fixed in editing. We also need to coach the presenters on the format and timing of how they present to be compatible to something that will be packaged unlike them just giving a live presentation. This requires staying on top of proper dress (ie: a crooked tie), grooming (hair combed, etc) and being certain they introduce every module title and pause when necessary to allow insertion of titling and a proper end to each module. We send guidelines to the presenters ahead of time but we usually have to go over the plan at the show and coach in between modules.
The show days with an early rise are long. Fortunately for this show 3 of the 5 days ended at 1PM. Following each day of presentations we spent 3 hours backing up files to external hard drives and then had the rest of the day to explore San Juan.
Our hotel was right on the beach with a nightclub and great pool. The street it was on was a cross between South Beach in Miami and San Diego Beach. There were lots of shops and restaurants to eat. The food was exceptional and reasonably priced. We became partial to a close by crepe restaurant and also ate a few times at a Turkish restaurant right across the street.
Because some of the days ended at 1PM we were able to explore the city. We spent time roaming the hotel street and many of it’s shops and restaurants, visiting Old San Juan with its 15th century fort, time at the beach and pool and roaming through a National Park Rain Forest.
Back in the Studio
Upon arriving back in Las Vegas we were met at the airport with our SUV and loaded up. The next day we unpacked at the studio and checked everything for damage. From there we began the editing process. That involves implementing all the changes on the notes we took during the show and any other issues we run across. We encode the files for an online review by our client and then as they want changes, we implement those until we get final approval. We encode the files for DVD’s, build the menus and do the authoring to produce DVD sets. Those are sent for review and finally a set of DVD masters are sent out for replication. All this for the 38 modules is the better part of a months work.
Continuing Medical Education media production requires an understanding of equipment needs, setup requirements and the mentality and personality of the audience, the AV people and the seminar producer. Similar seminars are conducted for the medical field, architects, lawyers and many other fields. A project like this with travel and a tremendous amount of needed expertise and equipment is not for every video company. However it is one of our specialties here at Aardvark Video and our customers have remained repeat customers through the years.