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Video and Control Systems for Distance Learning, Part 2

Oct 28, 2010 10:37 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Have they got any sort of communication between the presenters and the production crew or is it a visual thing through the control room window?
It’s visual from the window; we did plan IFB at one point—[a] pretty sophisticated intercom system for the camera people and for the presenter. However, that was asking a little bit much of an attorney to put something in his ear and actually try to understand the value of that, but eventually we’ll get there. [Timestamp: 6:21]

Yeah, trying to work in an IFB can be confusing enough for an on-camera pro, especially if you have somebody in the control room who likes to stay on the channel and yak in their ear all the time, so I can see why they may have been a little reluctant on doing that.
There is a talkback system in the room; we put a Yamaha audio console in the back and through the public address system inside the conference center we do have a talkback situation so if from the control room somebody does want to address the audience and/or the presenter, that can be done from the control room. [Timestamp: 6:52]

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Video and Control Systems for Distance Learning, Part 1
Advanced Broadcast Solutions to outfitted the Washington State Bar Association for distance learning....

So once you got the ball rolling on this project, did anybody suddenly come up and change their mind, or did you have to switch horses in midstream on the installation, or did it all go pretty much as planned from the beginning?
This is an organization of attorneys, which is an organization of committee; I think our organization was very patient. There was always change; there were always questions because they did not know. They came to us as obviously as professionals in knowing this space, but the target and the scope changed a little bit as we went through, and we were very patient and we understood what they were. I just wish I was able to build at their rate and not my rate, and I think that’s fair but no, all in all, it was a very good project; obviously they kept us in check through our contractual agreements. You don’t want to mess with 1,500 attorneys….

...which is the organization. So on our Ts and Cs, when we originally went into our agreement, it was reviewed very carefully; let’s just put it that way. [Timestamp: 7:50]

Yeah, I guess if there’s any time you want to make sure you have everything on paper dealing with an organization like that would be the one.
Yeah, that is it, and I will tell you what continually happens in projects like this is best laid plans and then obviously when you’re doing a pretty significant T&I project with a contractor and you’re putting a lot of money into a space, a lot of things do change in construction and construction costs sometimes can be very expensive if they’re not thought of upfront. And with the Washington State Bars Association’s best efforts, they really didn’t understand the process, I think, of construction, therefore the construction cost went a little bit deeper than they anticipated. As a result things had to be scaled back in certain areas and well, where do you think they scaled back? [Timestamp: 8:41]

They made concessions everywhere, and the plan is still there to build it out to everything that it was supposed to be. We had to cut back in a few little areas; we would have liked three new cameras, but we had to use two of their legacy, but eventually we will get there. [Timestamp: 8:55]

Well, that’s where having experience in this type of work really comes in so that you can avoid bricking yourself into a closet somewhere on the technical end of it and being able to leave room for expansion. So where do they get the crew people for this? How do they recruit those?
They have a full-time staff. Washington State Bar Association I think has maybe 125 employees, but for the staff of this, they have a department; usually the person that is the moderator is the technical director—the producer; it’s like the one-man band and operates the robotic camera. They normally have two people in the control room, and currently the two-man cameras are pretty much in a lockdown mode. If they have to move one of them around they, I’m sure, recruit somebody within the organization to be camera person for the day. [Timestamp: 9:46]

Well, that’s probably a format where just a little bit of experience goes a long way any how. So how wide a participation do they have with this? I mean, they have an idea of allowing their members to avoid having to do a lot of time-consuming travel; does it seem to be working as far as the participation level?
If Washington State Bar Association can save its members money and time; I mean, you take an attorney out of his office; that costs a lot of money. If they can accomplish these courses for their certification from their local location, that’s a tremendous time savings and that’s obviously what this is all about; you avoid the hotel cost, the travel costs, a lot of other costs other than the course itself by having to come to Seattle. But then there are those that do. I mean the classroom is set up for 140 people to attend these courses and I’m sure they’re going to have probably five fold of people that will take them over the Web. [Timestamp: 10:40]

Well, any kind of distance learning or videoconferencing solutions now are being seriously considered against travel cost. Does Advanced Broadcast Solutions have any more projects like this coming up?
We sure hope so; obviously, this is in line with a lot of government-based, municipality-based projects, whether it’s the city council or … the effect is all the same. It’s being able to take today’s technology, which is a very affordable technology, to use to communicate. Everyday we’re developing new tools in our industry to make it easier, more affordable to bring video and audio communication tools to future clients. I think Washington State Bar Association is probably one of the first in the country—bar associations—to do this at this level. I think it will probably be the benchmark for others to come, and we hope to be taking this model to other states and having them see the success that Washington State Bar Association had. [Timestamp: 11.39]

All right, Mark, I wish you a lot of luck with it. It’s Mark Siegel of Advanced Broadcast Solutions and the project is the Washington State Bar Association’s distance learning and conferencing facility in Seattle. Mark, it’s been great having you here to tell us about it.
Thanks again.

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