As any good producer knows, the show must go on. But today, another promise is gaining popularity: the show must go online. That said, streaming a virtual production to your audience means things can get awkward. Especially if you’re not ready for day-of-show challenges you’ve never dealt with before. Fortunately, a few simple tips can help you overcome day-of-show obstacles to ensure streaming success.
Test All Video, Sound, & Internet Connections
No two online streaming services act the same. Success starts with finding one that fits your speed, consistency, and security standards. And—more importantly—one that delivers the online experience your consumers crave.
But your work isn’t done once you find the perfect streaming partner. Because even the most advanced technical tools and support mechanisms fail. Video, sound, and internet issues are bound to happen day-of-show. Be sure that testing connections and services happens in the lead up to your production, not just minutes before your performance. Many theatre makers have learned these lessons the hard way - make sure your production can succeed by testing your entire set up consistently.
Check All Backgrounds and Sets
Set design has only grown more important in the age of online streaming. The backdrop you choose sets the tone for the depth, dimension, and overall engagement level of any performance in your viewer’s mind.
And unlike a traditional stage show, live streaming requires a different approach. Because your challenge isn’t limited to creating a believable setting. You need to use set pieces to keep performers socially distanced and safe. And camera tricks to make everything look natural.
New lighting and performance spaces also mean your color palettes and patterns need to change. What looks good in-person doesn’t necessarily translate to online video formats. Meaning your technical director has a lot of new things to consider on any day of show.
So, how can you help? Assembling a pre-show checklist is the best way to ensure all of these elements are 100% ready when it comes time for lights, camera, action. Especially if you’re using a pre-built template to help your crew check off crucial day-of-show boxes such as:
- Fly system
- Light and sound operation
- Communication systems
- Emergency plans and medical kits
- Running sound/light cues and setting final volume levels
- Securing all props, set pieces, and miscellaneous costuming/staff areas
- Giving call times to cast
- Maintaining technical integrity throughout the stream
- Checking in with cast members
- Making technical adjustments on-the-fly and during scheduled intermission(s)
If your performance is being completed over Zoom or another remote solution, you’ll still want to test all aspects of your production: virtual backgrounds, performer lighting, microphones, and more all need to be validated prior to and on the day of show.
Share Time Schedule With Cast and Crew
One thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of keeping your cast and crew members on the same page. The methods of how you do so, however, have.
A remote communications tool is no longer optional—it’s an essential tool that keeps everyone connected. That way, your cast and crew know everything that’s going on, what they’re responsible for, and what’s coming next. Whenever possible, use video conferencing tools to prioritize face-to-face interactions. Regularly scheduled updates and ask me anything-style conversations are also useful for eliminating uncertainty and missed deadlines.
By focusing on mission-critical steps and universally visible schedules, you can prevent most day-of-show disasters and delays.
Host Pre-Show Meet & Warmup
Like any live performance, your online streams need a practice run or two before they’re ready.
Performers should know and feel comfortable in the space. Technical crew members should have the chance to troubleshoot problems before you’re live. And you should be confident you’re delivering the best possible viewing experience to your audience.
It’s as important as ever to host pre-show meetings and warmups. Maybe even more important. Whether you’ve been streaming shows online for five days or five years, live streaming is a new format. And it’s unreasonable to expect a flawless process every time. Pre-show meetings and warmup tasks give your crew the dry run they need to ensure things run as planned when the virtual curtain pulls back.
Expect The Unexpected
Tech issues have the potential to derail your day-of-show streaming efforts. But the worst unexpected problems come from the business side of your role. Because these challenges often go ignored or undetected. Especially if you’re spending too much time, attention, and energy on purely creative tasks.
For some reason, many producers believe that artistry and business isn’t any one person’s job. But that’s simply not the case. At least it’s not for any production environment hoping to sustain long-term success and growth. Without a solid business strategy driving audience engagement, content distribution, and ticket sales behind the scenes, your work isn’t seen. And that’s not a good situation for anyone involved.
It’s important to learn new skills and develop a pro producer mindset. Otherwise, live streaming and online performances can’t be a sustainable and profitable part of your future.
Enjoy The Process
Making your online performance streams a success is hard work. So remember to have fun along the way. After all, online streaming gives you the opportunity to do something new and creative. And any producer should be able to enjoy this process.
After all, live digital events and experiences aren’t a fundamental shift. They’re just an innovative way to deliver the experiences your audiences enjoy. While not every step is easy, these challenges aren’t anything you’re incapable of overcoming.
The popularity of online streaming will continue to grow. But if you’re limited by the size of your budget or the savvy of your in-house technical support, your organization may find it difficult to do the same.
While these best practices can take your live performances to another level, your audience deserves the best digital experience possible. So, why stop at a few simple tips? On The Stage can take care of all the technical details to keep you focused on what matters most: making a memorable performance.