Producing Live Events, Master Tip 6: Ensure Slide Integrity with a VGA Distribution Amplifier

Total Webcasting is a webcasting service provider out of New York that produces dozens of events a month, and thousands since its inception in 2007. Total Webcasting is unique in that it produces virtually all events for its customers, while owning the streaming server and content management system used for live and on-demand delivery, providing the complete “glass-to-glass” experience. Through their experience, the company has mastered the art of the problem-free webcast. I’ve been after company president Robert Feldman to share his tips with my readers for years; he’s agreed to share his top ten in Letterman order. This is number six.

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Most Webcasts that we produce include PowerPoint or Keynote slides. Our system handles slides in one of two ways; inserting them directly into the video as a switched input from the VGA port of the presenter’s computer, or by converting the slides to images and pushing them to a webpage which presents them alongside the video. The typical problem here is most presenters will work on their slides right up to the time they present. I’ve even had presenters come over during a break and ask to update their deck of slides.

Most larger webcasting companies require customers to upload all collateral material at least 24 hours prior to the webcast, but customers dislike these restraints, so we have no set rules about submissions. This policy can cause problems when the slide deck we convert and push to our website is different than the one being used by the presenter for the live attendees. Most often it’s a minor problem like a misspelling, but sometimes major issues popup like a patient’s name on a medical slide, which is a HIPPA violation. Though you can always fix the mistake in post-production editing, that’s time consuming and delays the availability of the on-demand presentation.  

We’ve found that the best solution is to use the VGA output from the presenter’s computer, not the supplied slide deck. Our system can handle this, as can most video mixers used by other live event producers. You’ll need a splitter to route the signal to the in-house projection system and your video mixer. We used to use an inexpensive VGA splitter, but at larger display resolutions, we get a much cleaner signal with a true VGA distribution amplifier, like that shown above, which we bring to every event. It’s a bit of extra kit to carry, but it ensures that we input a high quality VGA signal into our video mixer, not to mention that we caption the right slides. 

About Jan Ozer

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I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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