LIVE, with Curt

AND WE’RE LIVE!

Flow Video produces story-driven cinematic video pieces, but that’s only one side of our company. On the other side is an incredible team that produces virtual and hybrid events. What started as a necessity caused by the pandemic has blossomed into a wonderful suite of capabilities and successful events that we’re proud to have produced.  

Our Creative Director, Devin Polaski, sat down with Curt Banter, our Director of Live Production, to pick his brain about what our clients are looking for with virtual events, how we go about making them incredible experiences, and how the landscape and expectations of virtual events has shifted in such a short time.

DEVIN: So Curt, what’s your background in video production? How did you land in this particular role at Flow Video?

CURT: I’ve done a variety of live event production from sports, news, large churches, and concerts over the last 25 years. Flow was looking for a way to expand its offerings in live production and after getting to know the team I was excited to join the company and bring my experience into the mix.     

Flow was looking for a way to expand its offerings in live production.

DEVIN: And we’re excited to have you! Can you explain the difference between “virtual event,” “live event,” and “hybrid event”? The terms are used interchangeably at times, but they’re quite different.

CURT: Here’s how we break it down:

  • Virtual Event: the viewers are participating from a device over the internet, rather than in-person
  • Remote Virtual Event: the viewers and the presenters are all participating from separate locations (e.g. from their homes) 
  • Live Event: all parts of the production happen at the same physical location
  • Hybrid Event: live presenter(s) and some live audience are at a physical location, while online viewers interact with the event remotely

DEVIN: Flow Video used to exclusively craft cinematic videos and hand them off to our clients to do with them what they will. But now producing and creating content for these live, virtual experiences is one of our core offerings. Why did we get into this gig?

CURT:  Well, COVID-19 changed the landscape for a lot of companies and organizations. We have a longstanding relationship with a lot of clients and they had to figure out how to pivot in the pandemic while continuing to fundraise and support their communities. We pivoted with them to produce galas, presentations, and events to be as dynamic and engaging as they were when they were in-person. 

DEVIN: To give our readers a concrete idea of what one of these events is like, I want to talk about Cranbrook. The renowned art academy has an annual gala to raise money for their academy, but for 2021, due to the pandemic, they had to go all virtual. What was this event like?

CURT: Cranbrook was used to doing big galas: a fancy location, black tie dress code, etc. But with the pandemic, we had an opportunity to try something completely different. Because the event was virtual, we were able to bring in several performers live from New York City that are Cranbrook alumni. They created a comedy show that was a riff on every TV telethon you saw as a kid. They were hilarious, and had some truly surprising and, dare I say, “shocking” moments. (Their sensational finale is something no one will forget!)

 

See more of of our virtual and hybrid event samples here.

Furthermore, because Cranbrook has this huge repository of amazing students and art, we were also able to produce a number of videos that spotlighted what makes Cranbrook great. These were done in the documentary style Flow is known for, together with some motion graphic animations. 

The experience was unlike anything Cranbrook has done before. It was fun, engaging, and a success for the fundraising activities of the academy.  

The experience was unlike anything Cranbrook has done before.

DEVIN: Agreed; this was one of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on. Aside from Cranbrook, what’s another event you’ve produced at Flow that you’re proud of?

CURT: We recently did a remote virtual event that was a lot of fun to produce with big name politicians, news anchors, historians, and activists all coming together to talk about the state of U.S. democracy. The whole event was virtual and pulled together in a little over a week. And while it was not without a lot of logistics, the event would have been impossible under those time constraints if it were live. 

DEVIN: Obviously the pandemic is not “over” by any metric, but thanks to the vaccine and things starting to open up around the country, things are returning to some semblance of “normal.” Has that changed the appetites and expectations of our clients and live events?

CURT: I think a lot of people want to get back to normal. Seeing faces, shaking hands, and making personal connections are all things we long for, so live events will come roaring back, and we’re ready for that. But, I also think the pandemic taught us that virtual and hybrid offers us opportunities we didn’t have before. Some events are incredibly difficult to coordinate travel, there’s expensive speaker fees, and it’s difficult to find a date that works for everyone. Virtual and hybrid offers the opportunity to meet people where they are and engage them differently than traditional methods, so I think the virtual space is here to stay. 

DEVIN: Agreed, and I’ll also add that going virtual or hybrid allows for way more attendees. You can have just as many people attending the physical location, but also open it up to anyone to peek in from their device. 

So what do you see on the horizon? What are you excited about, or what would make you happy to see happen in the virtual space?

CURT: I think mainstream conferences, trade shows, weddings, interactive learning, kids sports, and entertainment events are going to cater to online audiences like never before. People are more and more able to share their hobbies and passions with likeminded people without having to be “there”. Event creators are starting to realize that not only can they reach a room of fans, but with a little bit of technology and production they can reach their excited base from anywhere in the world also. 

People are more and more able to share their hobbies and passions with likeminded people without having to be “there”.

DEVIN: If we’re being perfectly frank, many people have “Zoom fatigue,” and they wonder if getting on their laptop or phone to attend a virtual event is going to be a worthwhile experience. After all, most people have something like Netflix or a Nintendo Switch nearby, each competing for their attention with an endless barrage of incredible content. What’s your take on how to deliver a meaningful virtual event? How do you help make these worth people’s time?

CURT: I think what Flow brings to the table distinguishes us from the burnout and routineness of your typical Zoom meeting. Flow brings passion, creativity, art, and a hassle-free experience to events. We want to present a product that has heart and a focused message, not something like a Monday morning Zoom call. 

DEVIN: If we could do any project for any client, what would that be? 

CURT: Maybe a live skydiving competition? Or how about an event where we celebrate everyday people selflessly helping others. I’m pretty easy. I like to work with great people and tell great stories.

Thanks, Curt, for offering your thoughts and expertise. The great thing about virtual and hybrid events is how nicely it pairs with our company’s legacy of crafting story-driven pre-produced videos. 

We can produce a stellar live show, organize great guest speakers, and make the experience seamless between people on-site and people online. But interspersed throughout the show are these artistic videos to break things up, and tell stories with cinematic depth.

As the world continues to change and audience needs and expectations around live events evolve, we’re tracking every new technology and moments in the cultural zeitgeist to ensure every show we put on is one with a higher purpose. 

-About the author-

Curt Banter

Curt is an audio-visual engineer with over 25 years experience executing live production for broadcast, theater, concerts, sports, and house of worship. When not doing video, he is growing tomatoes in his garden or building projects in his woodshop.