Bottling Show Magic

In the ever-evolving presentation industry--where productions are packed with multi-sensory simulating elements and stunning graphics--many are nothing short of breathtaking. We in the industry face a new challenged to be able to "package" or "can" our labor of love in a DVD, or some type of portable format, so those who didn't experience the show first-hand can experience the "next best thing to being there."

Today, presenters use more than their voice to communicate a message. They use computer graphics, interactive video, sounds, scents, and live action to enhance and communicate their ideas. Below are a few possible solutions to assist in answering the question that is still eludes our industry: how to deliver a high-caliber packaged piece that can serve as a reproduction of experiencing the original, live show.

Adapting to Our Audience's Needs
The most common practice to accommodate post-event viewers in recreating the presentation is to use PowerPoints and computer graphics edited in a post-show environment to create a representation of what happened on the show site. Aspect ratio of 3X4 and 16x9 formats can be easily edited in Windows. This is fairly easy to do for shows that use conventional screens. Cutting and editing enables us to present the information in an understandable way--with legible graphics--but maintains some of the show-like feel. In order for the post-attending viewer to see the graphics, the actual PowerPoint or computer images must be cut and edited. For instance, if there were a speaker referring to a PowerPoint graph in the background, this graphic would need to be edited to appear on the screen.

A challenge comes when companies use non-conventional or widescreen technology, which doesn't conform to most home or computer displays. Widescreen formats create a long narrow strip in which to view the projected images. It is nearly impossible to reproduce the entire widescreen shot with the window on a DVD. With such a limited viewing area, the information and graphics are condensed, which usually makes the text unreadable. As a result, those of us in the industry are in a pursuit of a system that delivers both quality after-event videos and captures the essence of the show and the information.

Facing One Obstacle--Widescreen
In my experience, there are a few systems that enable producers to capture widescreen shows: For example, with a Montage system, you can take the display out and get a long, narrow picture that you can record as a representation of what the windowing looked like, but the images have very small windows and are long and narrow. Production companies usually use this type of recording to serve as a client review of what the show will look like or to show to potential clients as a sales tool. However, Montage recording won't effectively communicate the presentation to those who need to understand the graphics and information. In order for a presentation to become comprehendible, editing must occur and graphics must be reproduced in additional formats.

What typically would happen in a widescreen show in a post-show environment is that graphics would have to be reproduced to look like a PowerPoint with videos intermingled. The final decision of what is integrated into the show is up to the discretion of the producer, which means that after-event viewers miss some of the images and information from the actual event.

Currently, there is no format currently available that can capture an entire show with intelligible graphics, and there is no real solution for converting widescreen graphics to DVD without changing them to 3x4 or 16x9 formats.

Only One Piece of the Puzzle
Even though producers can record the display of the widescreen show and reproduce the graphics in post-production environment, the viewer will not be receiving the full experience of the live show. In order to accomplish this, producers will need to completely rethink the elements that they put into the post-production piece to be able to reconstruct the sensory-stimulating experience of the original show.

Simply put, no current product fully allows production companies to provide the benefits of seeing, understanding and enjoying an actual presentation. And, with the growing trend of interactive presentations, this task becomes even more difficult. I like to think of our task as retelling a story, with modern-day technological challenges. Obviously, there is no substitute for experiencing the actual show--but our industry will keep on striving to deliver the "next best thing."

In future columns, we'll look at some new solutions that innovative companies are developing to help capture the magic of the show.