So, You’re Thinking of a Revolution… Providing Digital Meeting Capture for Medical Meetings

This document is an overview of the role of digital media in meeting capture.

The technology for producing digital media content has migrated from text to audio tapes (cassettes) to audiovisual digital capture.

Revenue and sustainability are key considerations for which media to use.

Podcast vs On Demand Audiovisual Materials
Audio Podcasts have been used by many associations; unfortunately, there is little revenue that has been generated.  Many members assume that podcasts should be free or offered at very little cost.  For example, many associations offer Podcasts as supplements to their annual meetings- but charge very little or no fee for this material.  These associations charge substantial fees for access to their audiovisual (on demand) media products.

Live versus OnDemand
Very few organizations have generated revenue from Live simulcasts.  Time zones and consumptions patterns associated with media limit the audience; i.e., doctors do not want to interrupt their practice to view lectures- and prefer watching in evenings and weekends.

The success stories associated with live presentations typically focus on the use of the media in the context of international broadcasts.  For example, a ‘sponsored’ broadcast to Japan or Egypt on a focused track of information.  These simulcasts may also have a special introduction which differs from the live meeting- to put the track in context or to provide additional recognition of a sponsoring corporation or organization.

Online versus Fixed Media
While the Internet provides a great means for efficiently broadcasting lectures; many individuals desire obtaining the media in a more ‘permanent’ fashion.  Most organizations offer an ‘up sell’ opportunity to purchase a USB stick/drive or DVD containing the content.  Physicians have bought this option 70-85% of the time when it is available in addition to online access.

The reasons for this purchase include:

  • Desire to view content during flights
  • Knowledge that the materials will be available after the conference is over (some associations remove content from the web after one year)
  • Capability to more readily share content with their colleagues

Changing Hardware and Physician Computer Use
It is important to note that computer hardware is rapidly changing.  The advent and increasing acceptance of Net Books and devices such as MacBook Airs no longer have optical disc drives.  In addition, end-users want their material immediately accessible.  As a result, archival media is migrating to USB-based devices (thumb drives, hard drives, solid state hard drives).

Mobile interfaces for conference capture (iPhone, iPad and Android implementations)

Associations distribute virtual meeting archives for mobile, PC/Mac and fixed media.  In this example, a USB stick contains the entire ACC meeting contents.

An attractive branded stick and a container with magnetic lid are used for shipping and storage of the sticks.

Associations distribute virtual meeting archives for mobile, PC/Mac and fixed media. In this example, a USB stick contains the entire meeting content. An attractive branded stick and a container with magnetic lid are used for shipping and storage of the sticks.

Mobile Computers and Smart Phones
The average mid-large size medical conferences have shown that attendees are now traveling with multiple mobile devices- typically a laptop, a tablet (e.g., iPad or Android tablet) and a smart phone.  The growing expectation is that medical meetings will provide content on these devices.

Recent surveys have demonstrated that over 80% of hospitals are evaluating the use of tablet computers to assist in the provision of care.



A few key facts:

  • There are now more cell phones than people in the United States (source:10/13/11- CTIA)
  • The average person looks at their mobile device more than 150 times per day… (Source: Nokia)

This chart demonstrates the rapid rise of the mobile Internet. Mobile Internet is expected to eclipse fixed-line PC based Internet by 2014.

24 hour availability
Almost all of the major medical associations offer content within 24 hours.  Associations have found that purchases do not occur and interest drops off when the content is not available during the live conference.  Demonstrable content assists in onsite sales as well as making the material more relevant to the attendees (who are the largest purchasers of the virtual meetings).  Content that takes longer to post, runs the risk of having contradictory medical information which may be made available in the interim.  Editorial processes that examine the content after the event introduce many additional issues and liabilities and is not the standard practice with any of the major associations that post content from meetings.  In fact, an editorial process which occurs after the meeting transforms the meeting content into another type of content.

Many commercial ventures are harnessing the internet to create summaries of meetings.  Many of these summaries are sponsored by Industry.  With rapid turn-around of content, growing distribution; these efforts will undermine the membership draw and informational value of meetings.

Sponsorship/Advertiser Opportunities
Sponsors and Advertisers want to be associated with successful efforts- involving wide distribution and viewership.  On Demand Digital Media fulfills this need.  Depending on association guidelines and/or CME, different models exist for sponsorship and advertising.  For example, one association places the sponsors logo on the disc printed cover but not in any other way associated with the educational materials.  Other organizations require multiple sponsors in either graphic print recognition or electronic.  In addition, regulations (when ACCME credit is provided) limit when and where recognition of an industry sponsor can be displayed.

Association Leadership
A clear picture emerges when the question is asked – ‘who is responsible for the digital archives and products originating from meetings?’  The question is answered in the vast number of cases:

  • Meeting Management
  • Publications
  • Professional Education
  • CXO

Often this group is complemented by IT.  Continuing education is included as a support department if and when continuing education is offered as part of the product.  Rarely is the CME department directly involved- primarily because CME offerings can change over time due to changing CME guidelines.  Digital media planning involving pricing, extensive logistics, marketing and other aspects which need to be maintained and grown over the course of the years and CME can be offered in various ways during this cycle (e.g., for the live course but not the archive, for both, or other variations).  Organizations need the combination of long-range planning plus the agility of changing the offering to accommodate CME; however, if CME is not part of the offering; there needs to be an independent group that can still manage the digital offering.

Revenue Opportunity
Revenue from digital meeting archives is typically ‘found revenue’ for associations and represents a welcome form on ‘non-dues’ revenue as well as satisfying unmet attendee needs to have a full-fidelity archive.  The amount of revenue varies according to organizational size, registration price, percentage of membership that attends the meetings and several other factors.  Year over year growth in revenue typically occurs.  Call Astute for an estimate of revenue based on the above factors.

Association Staffing Requirements
Many associations are cutting back staff.  As a result, the digital media efforts are typically staffed and managed externally.

Here is a picture of a booth that was designed to sell digital media onsite.

The staffing and administrative functions, help desk and other functions are outsourced so that the association does not have an additional burden of managing this effort.

Integration of CME into Meeting Capture
About 40% of associations provide continuing education credits for viewing meeting capture.  The provision of continuing education typically involves either gathering questions by lecture track from faculty or staff for pre- and post surveys.  These questions can be inserted into the framework.  Appropriate disclosure forms are displayed as well as system requirements, sponsor/supporter information and other required information.  While the provision of CME helps to enhance the marketability of the product; it should be noted that there is usually a very small proportion of end-users that actually submit for credits.  The number is typically less than 3%.

Patented Technology
Astute Technology (Astute) has been providing leading services to organizations in the enterprise, association and government space for over ten years. Astute Technology’s solution will leverage our patented digital video conference capture allowing for full-motion video capture, and distribution of sessions online within 24 hours, when content is most relevant and provides the highest potential for sales. (U.S Patent Nos. 7,689,898, 6,789,228 and Patent Application Publication No. 2010/0328465 with additional patents pending).


Electronic trends in Conventions and Conferences: Webcasts, Mobile, Social networks


Meeting planners, publications executives and chief officers in associations (and corporations) are now confronted with an expectation of attendees – when will the conference be available on my iPad- my computer, or the device of the day?  Sponsors who have increasing appetite for improved return on investment- and looking for enhanced venues for informing attendees and non-attendees about their products and services.

Services such as digital, rapidly available meeting content, integration of surveys, continuing education, distribution to mobile devices and aggregation and search of other content (publications, posters, etc) are all part of the new landscape of the live meeting.  In addition, a new crop of ‘virtual meetings’ are being developed and implemented.

We are seeing a new wave of technology which unites conference content, exhibits, as well as publications with powerful search capabilities.

Growing digital expectations of attendees, sponsors 

Consider the following facts in terms of media consumption:

  • 24 hours of video viewing is uploaded every minute on YouTube.
  • Amazon sells more e-books than printed books.
  • Since 2008, video games have outsold movie DVDs.
  • People view 15 billion videos online every month.
  • About 1.8 billion people connect to the Internet
  • Google handles about 1 billion search queries per day
  • 160 billion emails are sent daily
  • Over 250K WebEx sessions occur daily
  • Facebook has 500 million registered users
  • There are more than 4 billion cell phones in use.

These trends are driven by the popularity of digital media and digital enabling technologies:

  • Television (Hulu and others) as well as digital video recorders (TiVo and others)
  • Community created Media streaming live and on-demand (YouTube, Vimeo, and other services).
  • Movies (NetFlix, YouTube, Amazon)
  • Books (Kindle, Nook, iPad)
  • Conferencing (WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, Voice Over IP (VOIP)).
  • EBay– with the ability to build a multi-billion dollar community around self empowered commerce
  • Online gaming and multi-player gaming.  Gaming capabilities that run the gamut from ultra-realistic simulations to cartoonish games that run on mobile devices.
  • Blast email.  The ability to inform, at unprecedented low cost, large audience blocks.
  • Standard formats for electronic information.  The ability to output to formats that large audiences have ‘readers’ or players for- e.g., Adobe PDF, ePub (for electronic books), MP4 for video, MP3 for audio and many other formats.
  • Cloud computing – with the ability of on-demand, scalable computer resources for setting up web-based capabilities (Amazon, Microsoft and other solutions)
  • Apps – dedicated focused content/programs typically at low price-points or free on mobile stores (Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, GoogleTV and other platforms).
  • Music (iTunes, Amazon)
  • Playlists (organized preferences for music- or other media files).
  • Search (search engines such as Google, Bing)
  • Social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning)
  • Encyclopedic information (Wikipedia)
  • Rapid, short messaging via subscription or ad hoc (Twitter and txt messaging)

History of meeting archives.

Creating archives and sharing information from meetings has been around for quite some time.  People have been sharing notes from meetings, newspapers and television have reported on some of the data and innovations shown and various recording devices have been used to record sessions- from floppy discs, CD, and DVD to record and distribute slides from conventions and conferences.  Audio tapes, CDs, DVDs and Web have been used to record and distribute presentations.  Coupling the power of electronic media with email blasts- creates an unprecedented cost-effective marketing campaign for conventions and conferences.  Further supplementing this capability with rich, deep content from multiple sources (conference, publications, exhibits) with powerful search,  generates new value and revenue streams for the entire conference ecosystem (potential attendees, attendees, exhibitors, meeting organizers).

As well as the growing popularity of the mobile media device (iPad along with laptops), we are experiencing a culture of continually connected, anywhere, anytime media and information consumption.  Meetings are increasingly viewed as another ‘channel’ of content that attendees, non-attendees, and sponsors expect will be available rapidly, on-demand and with an increasing array of distribution and social networking options.

In addition, meeting participants are increasingly looking for more ‘discoverable’ assets- better abilities to search content and to search across different media types (websites, PDFs, videos, books, music).  The meeting participant wants to consume the conference in a wider variety of technological environments and form-factors- from small mobile tablets, to computers and the next generation of smart televisions (televisions that have the ability to surf the web and to receive Internet-based television programming).  Sponsors and exhibitors are looking for more effective methods for reaching, communicating with and engaging the meeting participant.  The convergence of all of these trends creates new opportunities.  We are seeing organizations who are able to grasp the opportunities flourish both economically as well as creating a new excitement in meeting the needs of the digital ‘ecosystem.’  In this paper, we will provide an overview of what is possible so that you can evaluate and begin implementing solutions.

Along the way to the digital future, there are a number of misconceptions that have arisen.  These misconceptions can interfere with the leveraging these new technologies to the benefit of your association.

Myth 1:  Electronic recording decreases meeting attendance.

Electronic recording does not diminish meeting attendance, but the opposite has happened.  For every event that we have seen recorded, we have not seen a drop in subsequent meeting attendance.  In fact, the electronic media can inform additional audiences about a meeting and increase both live and build an audience who would not attend — ‘virtual attendance.’

Case Study:  TED and TEDX

One great example of the ability to reach new audiences is the TED and TEDX conferences.

“Over the last five years, TED’s audience has evolved from 1,000 conference attendees to 100 million people worldwide. TED Talks have been viewed more than 400 million times, and are available in 80+ languages, thanks to volunteer translators. And more than 1000 independently organized “TEDx” events have been held worldwide, in 100 countries and 50 languages.” —  June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED Media

While every conference may not have the widespread appeal of a TED conference- one has to realize that the content of a given TED talk is very specialized.  TED re-defined conference distribution, multi-lingual support as well as provides a model for aggressive sponsor-based promotion.  The TED ‘ecosystem’ has expanded as has the TED brand, and revenue.  From our list above; TED uses many of the available technologies to it’s benefit; specifically:

  • Television (TED is available through on-demand products and services- Apple, Virgin Airlines, GoogleTV and the new digital televisions)
  • Community created Media streaming live and on-demand (TED is available on YouTube, Vimeo, and other services and they offer a premium live-stream service to listen and watch the conventions and conferences in real-time).
  • Standard formats for electronic information.  TED conferences are available on-demand in a variety of formats and in multiple languages.
  • Apps – TED has developed Apps to enhance the viewing experience of conferences
  • Playlists – You can generate Playlists of Conventions And Conferences that you want to listen to in TED Apps
  • Search – TED offers the ability to search and browse content
  • Social networking
  • Rapid, short messaging via subscription or ad hoc (TED leverages Twitter)

The TED experience is repeated across the 50 association customers that Astute provides solutions to.  With increasing revenue, attendee satisfaction, as well as increased quality of the brand.

Here are some of the capabilities that can be made possible with appropriate application of digital strategy and technology:

Online advantages to the attendee and others

The digital technology enables the attendee experience with near-instant access to digital archives of the sessions; ability to view concurrent sessions, as well as to share materials with peers.

Online learning opportunities

Layering online testing and certification on digital meeting assets enables the end-user to answer surveys, as well as take tests on on materials; gaining credits and/or credentials.  This augments the experience and the capability of the online experience.

International/global opportunities

The ability to offer translations and localizations of content through a digital vehicle provides the opportunity to sell and have sponsorships of meeting content throughout the world.  New revenue steams and audiences can be enabled.  Adding additional language tracks and/or captioning can allow this capability.  Additional context or lectures can be added to localize content as well as modifying the digital framework so that the menus and instructions are available to reach the targeted audiences.

Ability to cross-reference other materials.

The ability to integrate slide sets, meeting abstracts, poster-sessions, print publication information- all in one searchable archive.  All of these capabilities provide a growing value to digital media.  In addition, the digital archive provides a growing value proposition as it is accumulated over several meetings to build true ‘digital libraries’ of content.

Ability to cross-link to sales/marketing materials from exhibits.

This area has the ability to further advance the value proposition to one of the largest revenue elements of meetings- the exhibits.  The topic is illustrated in Myth 5 below.

Myth 2.  Cheaper is better

Many web-based services are available at no or little cost.  You could post your meeting using an iPhone and YouTube.  However, the benefit to your audience, sponsors, exhibitors will be consistent with the price.

As the old adage states, “You have to spend money to make money…”  The TED conferences use first rate production techniques, have developed their own iPad apps (several versions) and make use of aggressive digital media campaigns and partnerships.  This involves strategy, project management, technology and marketing.  A poorly executed strategy can mean wasted staff time, money and most importantly, time and potentially ‘damage the brand‘ of the conference/organization.  Just as a poorly implemented website can hurt the chances for sponsorship, exhibits, attendance and membership- the same principle holds for digital media.  We have seen many organizations make use of a spare staff member to try to capture part of a meeting or use a company which does not have timely or current approaches and the revenue opportunity is diminished.  It is not just diminished for the year of execution- but also hurts opportunities for sponsorship as well as membership/attendee interest for years to come.

Few executives would elect to reach just the 2,000 attendees on-site, when their message can be appreciated by 20,000 customers on-line. There is an annual, growing annuity- and a competitive market place- so a poor decision can rapidly result in millions of dollars of lost revenue and a relatively small audience for a convention over a 10 year span.

In addition, meeting attendees are interested in buying products that are tangible- DVDs, USB sticks.  In almost every instance, attendees will upgrade from a ‘web-based’ product to one that they can put on their shelf.  When individuals are asked why ‘upgrade’- they frequently say that they want to make sure that they can access the information when they want it- and do not know if and when materials will be removed from the web.  As a result of this trend, many organizations that simply place conventions and conferences online are leaving attendees less satisfied as well as generating substantially less revenue for the organization.

In this ‘attention economy’ where few organizations are not without peers- it is of key importance to get it right and refine.  The digital economy is one that requires constant re-assessment and re-definition- it is tremendously fluid and the opportunities are great.  However, it is a market that requires careful staging and ‘cultural transition’ to extend the brick and mortar event to digital.  Engaging the right company to build a strong digital foundation is essential to success.

Myth 3.  My conference is too ( fill in the blank- too small, too specialized, etc )– for digital 

This is a key component of building the digital strategy- sizing the opportunity and determining the appropriate road map.  Many small conventions and conferences have a much wider appeal than the brick and mortar event (e.g., TED) or specific tracks or lectures may have much wider appeal than the conference itself.  The agility of digital makes capture distribution and monetization of meeting content possible.

When you consider the expense for the attendee to fly, stay, eat as well as lost individual/organizational revenue from being away from the office during a meeting; one can realize that attending a conference represents a major commitment.  Digital media can complement the investment that an attendee is making in the conference- by allowing him/her to enjoy the content from concurrent sessions as well as share information with colleagues.  In addition, the universe of prospective attendees is much larger than actual based on the out of pocket, scheduling and opportunity costs related to meeting attendance.  Hence, a quality rendition of the conference is a welcome opportunity for many individuals who are unable to attend.  Sponsors and exhibitors welcome the opportunity to extend their outreach.

Meeting announcements can serve as a great place to begin marketing to the attendee and non-attendee.  These announcements typically go out to a much larger pool of potential participants and can provide the platform for beginning to build the brand and outreach regarding the digital product.

Typically, there is a stepped pricing model associated with the life cycle of the event.  Lower pricing prior to the event, slightly higher at the time of the event and then an increase; and later decrease in pricing for the digital materials.  In parallel, organizations can begin building ‘digital reference libraries’ that will hold long-term value as well as selling to both individuals and institutions.

By offering ‘ad-on’ product extensions to the meeting floor- exhibitors will appreciate the effort and ability to reach a larger audience.  Successful implementation of an exhibitor digital strategy can smooth out issues surrounding level of foot traffic- by supplementing it with digital accessibility.  When you add up the benefits- for attendees, non-attendees, exhibitors and enhancement to the brand- the benefits of the virtual conference make sense to almost any venue.  It’s a matter of coming up with a strategic plan that works from a balance sheet perspective as well as from a marketing/brand perspective.

Myth 4.  My members won’t pay for digital

Members can and will understand that digital assets have value and are worth paying for.  Some organizations consider what should be included in membership versus ‘pay for view’ or subscription products.  This is similar to the same issues surrounding publications within organizations.

People are now accustomed to paying to rent movies, to buy eBooks, as well as a wide variety of other digital assets and they buy digital conference materials!  Millions of dollars in found revenue are generated annually through the capture and distribution of digital conference material.  Sales are increasing on average 10-20% per year in the purchase of these materials.

As stated above, meeting attendees are interested in buying products that are tangible- DVDs, USB sticks.  Attendees will upgrade from a ‘web-based’ product to one that they can put on their shelf.

Pricing models are also very important.  One needs to set the ‘wholesale‘ price of digital materials at a level that shows value.  If pricing is too low, there is a perception of diminished value; too high and there will be too few buyers.  Establishing the appropriate pricing is a critical exercise.

The ability to offer discounting during registration as well as onsite (although less of a discount than during registration) will drive sales.  Most sales occur onsite, followed by registration.  Interestingly most organizations under value/under price their content.  Many organizations price access to conference content at well less than $100.  Unfortunately, that sends a message of ‘low value’ to members and also frequently precludes the production of high quality media- which in turn, disappoints the purchaser who is used to NetFlix quality video and instantly available on-demand video and instead may receives a poor-quality product two to three months after the event.

Producing high quality, searchable media in multiple formats (mobile, web, and DVD/USB) provides a much better product for the end-user and the organization.  Members are paying for digital in large and small organizations world-wide.

Myth 5.   This only is for the attendees- there’s nothing in it for the exhibitors …

The power of digital technology also extends to its ability to link and relate content.  Imagine playing a session on new telecommunications technologies and along side the session are a number of resources (exhibitors) who have services and equipment that are related to the topic being discussed.

Bridging the gap between the conference and the exhibit. Immediate contextual relevancy is one of the hallmarks of digital media and this can be leveraged to the advantage of the attendee and the exhibitor.  Just as Amazon has a recommendation engine which relates your prior browsing and purchase behavior to a continually updated list of products that ‘other people like you’ have purchased; the opportunity to provide this type of recommendation is a powerful adjunct to a meeting.

The time for the ‘sales’ opportunity is much longer and more targeted in this venue- as an end-user is often watching a 30 minute plus digital media lecture and has the targeted products that are related to this presentation present during the entire viewing experience.

With a clear demarcation between the brick and mortar conventions and conferences and the digital domain; there are solutions that combine both of these environments.  The combination of the live venue with the digital has been called a ‘hybrid experience.’  There are a range of hybrid experiences; from meeting overflow rooms that make use of cameras in a room to broadcast the event to another room in the event convention center or hotel or another state or country.  Other ‘hybrid’ experiences enable both live participants and cyber participants (using live video streams, email, text messages and chat rooms) to listen and interact with speakers as well as other participants.

Many vendors have developed ‘virtual exhibit halls’ which are also being increasingly used to augment interactions between participants in the brick and mortar world and the cyber worlds.

When considering each of these possibilities, thorough technical business and logistical planning needs to occur to insure success.

Summary and key points

We are in the midst of one of the most rapid transformations of the information landscape and it is important to adapt and adopt the best possible digital strategies.

It is of key importance to provide digital solutions that augment the brand of your meeting and organization.

Timely, high quality digital media that is available in both online and offline (DVD, USB) and mobile formats is essential for optimal organization revenue generation and attendee satisfaction.

There are profound efficiencies in making use of technology- driving meeting revenue, enhancing the ability of attendees to enjoy a meeting (viewing concurrent sessions, sharing content with peers).

The ‘footprint’ of the meeting can be expanded to offer continuing education and certification as well as internationalization of the meeting to enable targeting specific countries of interest.

Blending content can enable new opportunities for exhibitors as well as integration and discovery of content from other sources (publications, posters, abstracts) and other content that previously was not accessible through a single ‘portal.’

Most organizations are faced with competition from both other similar organizations as well as additional digital content in the area of focus.  It is becoming increasingly critical to offer tools to both capture the value of meetings as well as to assist in navigating and unifying the information which is key.

Related Facts:

Critical Timing.  Use technology to make content available during highest demand- at the conference- enhancing sales and availability  Over 60% of online viewing occurs during the the conference or convention until 2 weeks after the event.

Editorial Control.  Web-based editorial tools can be used to quickly edit the conference (remove copyrighted materials, pre-publication graphs), and other issues that need to be cleaned up before publication to the web.

Mobile and e-learning.  Consider publishing to iPad, iPhone, Android, computer, web, and DVDs/thumb drives.  Add e-learning, testing and certification to offer additional value.

Enhanced value for attendees.  Attendees can virtually attend concurrent session and review and share key lectures.

Bridging the gap between the conference and the exhibit.  Just as Amazon has a recommendation engine which relates your prior browsing and purchase behavior to a continually updated list of products that ‘other people like you’ have purchased; the opportunity to provide this type of recommendation is a powerful adjunct to a meeting.

The Next Generation of Publishing- leveraging great, cost effective video and video vignettes…

As the ePub electronic book format evolves, textbooks are re-positioned for electronic deployment on mobile devices such as iPad/Android tablets; we are seeing renewed interest in multimedia production.  This production fulfills a range of content and technology- from talking head to full-blown production resembling programs like PBS ‘Nova’ or Discovery/History/National Geographic channel programming.  A new class of media has been termed ‘transmedia’ – the combination of video, text, music, graphics into one bundled media ‘element’– this is the next generation of media that the makers of the ‘post-PC’ devices; e.g., iPad, Nook, etc., and other devices will support… and promote…

Strategy for Success
Astute Technology’s media development team includes several business analysts who have successfully implemented best-in class strategies for the production of award winning, profitable/self-sustaining media.  We have done this in the context of repeatable productions- with both sponsorship models as well as end-user supported media.  We are providing several key considerations for successful production.  However, many more will be refined with specific  production development.  In addition, we have supplemented our staff to include consultation to optimize the business model for this effort.  In the case of pilot programming, we need to determine a rapid path to sustainable series production.  We wish to insure that the success of this effort and have put forth a best-in-class consultative team that has experience in the production of non-profit internet-based television series.

To achieve success in a repeatable fashion, we have several processes that have proven invaluable. These are the key processes:

Review by different target audiences during each step in production
Selection of individuals who represent the intended target audience (there should be several groups of individuals who can review the production with fresh eyes at the different steps in production).

Rapid ‘quick and dirty’ production of script into a rough draft
This provides the editorial group and target audiences to provide suggestions on better scripting, enhanced treatment of ideas, consideration of methods used to illustrate ideas.  More often than not, viewing a read from a script on camera is a very different experience than a reviewer simply reading a script.  We will refine scripts based on this process and to balance input gained from the different viewing audiences (those who would be interested in obtaining continuing education credit, those viewing casually, and consumers looking at the program).

Balance between script reading with a teleprompter and ‘prompted’ questions.
It is critical to have the right mix of tele-prompted text with spontaneous speech (e.g., using Q&A).  This will vary according to the subject, the presenters and the atmosphere of the shoot.  Also, optimal coaching of the speakers can make or break a shoot.’

Coaching of presenters
Body language impacts 70% of our impression of on-screen talent.  Body language involves facial expression, use of gestures.  It is very important to coach the talent in an optimal manner.  The atmosphere of the shoot needs to balance ‘playfulness’ with accuracy and goal directed shooting.  Grimacing talent, shaking legs or lack of use of body language (stiff presentations) do not do justice to the content/programming.  We will coach the presenters to provide optimal performances.  During the shoot we will have a set of eyes looking at the shoot to insure that we have the best performances.

Selection of presenters
It will be important to select attractive, well spoken talent.  In the spirit of ‘American Idol’ – it would be important to get the best talent possible and leverage the ‘casting call’ if at all possible- to generate buzz for the selection of presenters. Where possible, integrate footage and ‘talent’ from real projects into the program.

Involvement of potential sponsors
Consider the involvement of sponsors in the ‘editorial board’ of the program.  Their early ‘buy in’ and participation can facilitate their subsequent financial involvement.  This is where leveraging an upcoming Expo or conference in the same topic area can lead to sponsors, distributors and other synergistic arrangements.

Variety of imaging, movement and different viewpoints are critical to gaining a persistent audience (use of drawings, videos (some of which can be obtained from stock footage, industry, as well as on location shooting).  In addition, low cost HD video cameras can be sent to a variety of job sites and individuals to gather footage that can be included).  The review of the production stages will facilitate novel and creative suggestions involving media production.  We will make use of media to insure an appropriate range of content that works with the programs being recorded.

One of the most exciting and relatively practical advances in portable video cameras is the  new Sony NXCAM 35HD.  See a lecture on what it can do and some clips of the camera in action.  The key to success in low/no budget environments is to make use of equipment that pushes the envelope to looking like Cinema quality- and these cameras with large image sensors and interchangeable lenses- start to allow for the depth of focus and full-frame image capture to enable a film-like production.

The production tactics- production of productions so that it is true to the programmatic goals
We  consider the best methods for shooting based on the subjects, capability of the talent to present in a fixed versus mobile setting- as well as the ability to illustrate the programmatic points in the best possible way.  In consideration of a 50-60 min program; it would be useful to ‘mix’ it up- with studio plus mobile shooting.  In addition, blending conference and other event-based footage into the series will also make sense to keep the series fresh.  However, we will also need to discuss the anticipated shelf life of the productions so as not to ‘date’ a given episode with contemporary events.
The following production methods will be used to produce both the pilots as well as the on-going programming with a consistent, fresh look-and-feel that is marketable and visually interesting:

Great conceptualization of series- building upon elements that work in other programs both air and online
Provide visuals of all concepts to make them as digestible as possible
Provide as many ‘ah hah’ moments as possible so that the programs offer unique perspectives (both from a content and visual perspective) as possible.  This is of particular importance with this series as there will be many segments that will make up one program and each of these segments needs to ‘stand alone’ as a pearl.  The teaser will string together a number of these segments so that the programming appears as rich as possible.

Design several fun series specific visual motifs communicating concepts-

For example a graphic/video/musical rift that is used when a concept is stunning but impractical.  Another for a ‘why didn’t I think of that’ concept.  These approaches can combine lower third, in frame effects, animation, even John Madden style ‘sketch on the frame’ approaches.

Where possible, shoot on-location.

While we have access to a full studio; we encourange on-location shooting
Great Direction.  Provide great direction, coaching of talent, camera shots (multi-camera shoots)
Use of cameras with the capacity for high depth of field, interchangeable lenses paired with state of the art, full frame, HD image sensor video cameras to obtain cinematographic quality footage

Leverage new camera technology which includes use of cameras with high capacity digital recording to allow continuous recording without re-loading media.

  • Excellent lighting design- to get optimal color depth and to avoid over or undersaturation of presenters
  • Use of boom to get sweeping shots
  • Use of several inexpensive HD cameras to FedEx to additional content sources
  • Some on location shooting
  • Use of stock footage
  • Use of Adobe After Effects Software- to combine animation, photography and rich-layered graphics for opening, closing and scene transition effects.
  • Use of word-class graphic artists to build the look of the brand for the series
  • Use of high quality, movable lighting
  • Use of noise canceling, shotgun microphones (one per speaker) to obtain rich, full range sound
  • Sharp concise edits
  • Provide great sound, music, and pacing of piece to keep visual exciting and attention of end-users
  • Resourceful use of industry footage to enhance the production value of the piece.


While there are many video series that we have produced, the ACC effort described below is of import to rapid, cost effective production required by many efforts. The format may be different but the impact, resourcefulness and effectiveness is critical to the success of both efforts.
The American College of Cardiology needed a high quality series of programs depicting the science and history of angioplasty.  Astute was awarded this contract six weeks before the scheduled ribbon cutting of the exhibit on the first floor of the building.  The program needed to be designed, hardware for the exhibit specified, as well as working with the selected architects to finalize the space requirements and specifications for the hardware.
Program development needed to go from a few sentence description to script and production.  Budget did not allow for production of substantive graphics that were needed to illustrate the scientific concepts surrounding this ground breaking innovation.  We desired to integrate graphics and computer animations to illustrate the use of the device in macroscopic views within vessels as well as molecular interactions and structural & materials science surrounding this innovation.  To accomplish the goals of this effort, Astute reached out to industry and solicited video footage that is used in PR, education and marketing.  We clearly told industry that we would remove ‘brand-related footage’ and edit as we saw fit to incorporate into the production.  Using this strategy, we were able to obtain approx $1M of the highest quality three-dimensional rendered sequences, videos of patients, molecular animations and other critical ‘eye candy’ and key footage to illustrate fundamental points.
We auditioned voice talent and produced and edited the pieces.  At each stage, rough cuts through final production were posted on the Internet for comment- increasing the ability to widen the editorial team and move through multiple iterations of product.
The final product was completed on time, on budget and was used in venues far and wide beyond the original concept of a fixed exhibit.  As a result, it was used to punctuate a plenary session at the annual meeting, it was embedded as a link in the ACC journal, it was sent to members in an email and segments were used in the online programming of CVN.

To view this video; click here:

Video Production Tip: Shooting Conversations

This blog entry provides some tips in the production of videos which focus on interpersonal interactions (definitely not action-adventure genre).

Astute makes use of the ScreenTest(SM) methodology for this effort to more effectively go from communication goal to finished media. ScreenTest involves the following steps: creation of script, script approval, quick read of script (inexpensive non-professional video read), distribution of quick read via video streaming, critique by experts, modification of script based on critique, shoot, critique of shoot, re-edit and release.

Each step of ScreenTest leverages the power of the Internet to enable distributed and rapid review of media. In this way, Astute is better able to achieve the communication needs and provides reviewers and content experts with greater insight into how the materials will be received before the expense of production.

In so doing, we achieve better quality media products faster. ScreenTest is yet another way that Astute Technology continues to advance the process and methods of producing cutting-edge video.

Script development
Write the script so that each line is purposeful and moves the story forward.
Scripts are often used to ‘establish a scene’ with words. However, setting up a scene is accomplished through the use of visuals- they really set things up. As it has been said, 70% of communication is body language- and likely 80% of movies communicate through the visuals. Don’t slow the pace of the story down with unnecessary language- realize that the camera tells much of the story.

Production Process
It is important to produce the scripts and get approval on them. Pacing and duration of the script are usually not evident with a ‘read.’ As a result, we do a ‘rough read’ without the actors and circulate the video (you can use YouTube to circulate- with a ‘private URL’ which will not appear on the search engines). In so doing, your editorial team will be able to evaluate the length, the way the lines work and sound and come up with a creative approach to filming. Almost every time this is done, some suggestions are made to enable better production to occur.

Refine the script based on the feedback from the ‘alpha’ video and then you are ready for casting and rehearsing.

Always have your shoot date ready before casting so that you can check on availability of actors/actresses prior to (and ask again during casting).

It is important to get a sense of the range of actors and actresses when you cast. Direct them during the casting process to get a sense of their ability to take direction. Ask them to look at new material and see how quickly they pick lines up. Often times, the role that someone has been cast for may not be their ideal role- have an open mind so that you can make use of talent in a different role than you may have originally thought.

Lighting and makeup.
It is better to underexpose your scenes than overexpose. Soft box lighting can be good as well as use of appropriately colored fluorescent lighting to provide more continuous tones in the lighting– especially when shooting HD.

Make-up is also very useful- particularly for pale skinned individuals- as the camera has a tendency to overexpose them (especially if they have dark hair and/or clothing).

Try to illuminate the action and also light up the background to enable adequate overall lighting (so that the image sensor does not go grainy in the indoor backgrounds). Also this will enable separation between the characters and the background.

Monitoring is important. If you use lavallière mics- make sure that excess breathing and clothes rustling does not interfere too much as well as HVAC and other ambient noise. If you are plugging into walls- you may need ‘ground lift’ filters- to get rid of electrical hum. If you use a boom-microphone, you may miss audio when actors are looking down or speaking away from the microphone. It is a good practice to have the talent record the sound separately as a read- by themselves- with a microphone which is surrounded by a foam cone to decrease ambient sound. In this way, if all else fails, you can synch the audio to the actors using software such as ‘elastic reality’ from Digidesign or other packages that enable the seamless synchronization of audio to video.

Also be vigilant when you film of extraneous items in the scene- personal belongings that may bring embarrassment if they are in frame; keep brand information off screen as well so as not to have issues with corporations. Make the scenes as simple as possible so that the end-user focuses on the dialog and action.

Be fluid and ‘in the moment’ when directing. Remember to ‘trust your gut’ — what you record will likely be around much longer than it takes to film a scene- so try to get it right even if it takes a few extra takes. Also try to see each scene as if you were watching it in the theater– seeing it for the first time. Being able to see things afresh makes it possible to direct with greater focus and confidence to make sure that the experience that the viewer will have will be the best possible experience. Make sure that the lines and delivery make sense if you had not heard them a thousand times…

Finer points:

I find that use of hand-gestures are very useful to punctuating the action. Often you need to direct the actors to move their hands closer to their faces when gesturing- else this added element will be out of frame.

Direct for audio level- so that the soft spoken is as loud as the loud person…

Often ‘cheat’ people closer together and have them cheat to the camera to get them in frame.

For long technical scripts- consider use of teleprompter, ear prompter, or use the script itself and hold it in the position of where the actor is addressing the other actor. Make sure in any of these scenarios that the eye movement and focus is reflective of a conversation.

Have the talent practice lines and ‘block’ action before shooting. Don’t over-rehearse and get ‘stale’ lines.

Actors with a lot of stage experience can ‘over emote’ particularly on close-ups in HD. Be careful to look for this.

Often times, with todays cameras, you can film without using a tripod- freeing you up to get better shots without the inhibition of setting up and breaking down the tripod and having a fixed location. This will enable you to move with the action, more readily zoom or widen the shot and in general, be more responsive in filming the scenes. This is also the style that many video/film productions are being filmed. You need to be steady and it does take practice to do it well- use your core!

Another suggestion is to grad the AV output of the camera and hook a long cable to the camera to a mid-range HD computer monitor (less than $1K) so that you can see what the scene looks like in a much better way than the small viewfinder.

I suggest shooting in at least 720P or 1080P resolution. In this way, you can re-crop footage without loss of resolution- particularly when the output is for use on computer or the Internet (which have much lower resolution requirements).

Like playing cards- pick out best scenes- and put them in a ‘best scenes’ pile in the editor. I believe in quickly reviewing each segment of footage and classifying it as ‘must use,’ ‘maybe’ and ‘don’t use.’ Another classification is for transitions, or cut away shots.

Remember that you can show an actor when another is talking.

Reaction shots are shots of actors agreeing, disagreeing, shaking heads, moving hands, etc. Make use of reaction shots when appropriate – there is an art to making sure that reaction shots add to a scene rather than distract.

A lot of people argue back and forth about which edit package to use– like FinalCut Pro, Adobe Premier Pro, AVID, Sony Vegas, etc. It really doesn’t matter- the key is the creativity and persistence to make the video look good. The tools for cutting, transitions, and overall editing provide an equal footing these days… it is more of a question of execution at this point.

Put ambient sound between blank spots in time-line. Fade in and out dialog. The ear is sudden changes in volume… especially ‘no sound.’ So fill spots that are empty of sound with ambient sound.

Recent Examples:
These are video segments on cultural competency which were shot using the methodology explained above. The video was shot with a Sony EX-1 with 64GB of removable media (SXS media), Arri lighting kit, Seinnheiser Wireless Lav Mic System with audio feeds going into an 8 channel TASCAM mixer. Scenes were shot at 720P- with all filming done ‘hand-held’ with steady-cam setting enabled. One camera was used and scenes were shot from multiple angles and edited together.

ScreenTest is a service mark of Astute Technology.

Rapid Documentary Film Making

It’s such a great feeling to shoot, edit, and post a video. Recently, I was working to capture the APA (American Psychiatric Association) conference in New Orleans. I called my Med School friend, Neil Notaroberto who has set up several successful eye clinics outside of New Orleans. As I had brought my camera gear to the conference, I made the trip to Neil’s clinics for an afternoon to shoot a documentary for use on his Eyecare 20/20 website: .

Neil called his grateful patients- and they signed release forms, and I interviewed them. Neil runs a great practice, so it wasn’t hard to find many patients who were very willing to participate. I interviewed each patient using a Sony EX-1 with 32GB SXS cards as well as some b-roll of Neil and his staff conducting eye procedures and examinations. For lighting, I used natural light and a small Sima 9 LED daylight tuned light- which was fabulous for its portability- and ability to hold a charge during 2 hours of filming- changing examination rooms and walking the clinic.

The piece was edited using FinalCut Pro 7 (and the initial sequence was done using Slide Show mode- with video screen captures using iPhoto on a MacBook Pro and uploaded to YouTube using H.264 in HD. One key aspect of this effort is editing each patient’s story so that it is concise and tells the story without diversions or unnecessary detail.

Please Rate My Movie!!! — Social Media and Movie Making

Recently, I entered the Tony Stark Expo contest which is a joint promotion for Audi and several other brands.  I only had a couple of hours to produce this.

Basically, I am intrigued with the growing capabilities to externally sense brain activity and control devices.  The video was produced to look ‘webcam-like’ — using the built in insight camera in a MacBook Pro and editing on FinalCut Pro.  The ‘lab note book’ was the theme for introducing some of the illustrations and concepts.  Video can be used to show a ‘rough sketch’ of an idea– great as a tool for incubating and sharing ideas.  This is a neat idea for a contest with a great plug for innovation and creativity …

The technology concept underlying the video that I submitted is in it’s infancy… look at these inspirational videos.

This is great technology– basically we need to come up with an io interface standard for the brain and spine… like a complex web service so that you could interface peripherals with the brain (new eyes, ears, prosthetics, etc.)

.. it reminds me of  the first original Star Trek episodes in which commander Pike who had ‘locked-in syndrome’ in his wheel chair is able to communicate using the computer…Here is the Star Trek episode where this concept was shown…