Behind-the-scenes look at Garden & Landscape Expo’s Virtual Spring Kickoff

April 1, 2022 Ian Lewitz Leave a Comment

While we were thrilled to be back to an in-person Garden & Landscape Expo at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison this February, we also knew the event wouldn’t be complete without a virtual component.

During the past two years, our virtual Expos have drawn in more than 46,000 participants from across the state and beyond, including Brazil and Australia! It’s been exciting and fulfilling to offer deep and innovative educational opportunities and watch participants so fully engage with the content and each other.

Virtual events increase access, extend the footprint of our traditional events and expand our audience. That is why we’re committed to including virtual options as part of our overall events strategy moving forward.

As we gear up for the Garden & Landscape Expo Virtual Spring Kickoff on Saturday, April 9, we connected with Kristin Korevec, PBS Wisconsin’s special events manager, and two other PBS Wisconsin staff members to get a a behind-the-scenes look at how the virtual event is put together. You can register for the free event now at wigardenexpo.com.

An audio engineer routes audio signals and sets levels for microphone and music for the 2021 Virtual Garden and Landscape Expo.

Kristin Korevec: Months of planning and preparation across many departments at PBS Wisconsin bring the experience to life. Our Virtual Spring Kickoff is intended to unite the gardening community through educational opportunities focused on content related to the upcoming spring planting season.

The event includes educational presentations with live Q&A, virtual 360-degree video garden tours, a panel discussion with UW-Madison Extension Horticulture experts, a gallery of images from our annual garden photography competition, online kids’ activities and more.

Each educational presentation is pre-recorded by our Production team over Zoom. During a pre-production phone call, one of our producers, Tina Hauser, who is also executive producer of the PBS Wisconsin series University Place, works with each presenter on framing and lighting their shot, checking internet connectivity, and determining the visuals (such as PowerPoint slides) that will be edited in later.

Our team then delivers a kit of recording gear to each presenter, which allows us to produce higher-quality video. After the presentation is recorded, the video goes through editing, audio sweetening, tech checks and quality control. Finally, between six and 10 hours are spent closed captioning each video.

A graphics operator brings up lower-third and full-screen graphics for the 2021 Virtual Garden and Landscape Expo.

During the live event, we’re in the studios at PBS Wisconsin to produce and host a question-and-answer (Q&A) with each presenter. There’s a full crew of production, engineering and operations staff. Our moderator, Ben Futa, the host of PBS Wisconsin’s digital gardening series Let’s Grow Stuff, is on set to facilitate the live Q&A.

Each pre-recorded presentation is streamed on the Garden & Landscape Expo website as well as on our YouTube and Facebook pages. As the video concludes, the presenter joins us live via Zoom. Our team collects audience questions from the chat on all three platforms and then feeds those questions to Ben via a Google doc. Ben and the presenter appear on a split screen while Ben poses audience questions in a conversational format. A live captioner is on hand to caption the conversation.

Mary Pokorney-Donelan: I’m the coordinating and line producer for the live Q&A portion of the Garden and Landscape Expo Virtual Spring Kickoff. I serve as the connection between our remote guests and the studio team. I’m connected to everyone by radio.

It’s my job to make sure our presenters join at their scheduled time and to connect them with our host. During the event, I keep track of the segments and make sure we hit the correct times. I also give cues to our host about timings and questions. If there are any last-minute changes, I make sure I get that information to our moderator, presenter and crew.

A technical director cues video playback and switches between video sources for the 2021 Virtual Garden and Landscape Expo.

Eric Schwierske: I’m one of PBS Wisconsin’s engineering supervisors. My main involvement with our Virtual Spring Kickoff livestreams is in designing the signal flow that gets everyone involved with the production the video and audio signals they need. This includes live packaging and delivering the finished product to viewers online.

Thankfully, PBS Wisconsin has a strong tradition when it comes to live broadcasting. This means we can use our existing studio infrastructure to reliably get the production to viewers for a virtual event. Most of my work is completed in the pre-planning stages. Once we get to event day, I am around to help solve any last-minute issues that arise. I also help coordinate the engineering crew that works the event: a video engineer, audio engineer and streaming engineer.

2022 Garden & Landscape Expo signal flow chart.

Korevec: It takes an incredible amount of planning and coordination across the station to pull off a high-quality virtual experience. The last two years have pushed us to innovate and reimagine how to use events to reach our audience and extend PBS Wisconsin’s mission in new ways. While we’re happy to be back to in-person events, we’re also excited to keep learning and refining our approach in the virtual realm – bringing you engaging educational content to enjoy from the comfort of your own home, at your convenience.

I hope you’ll join us for the Garden & Landscape Expo Virtual Spring Kickoff on Saturday, April 9. You can register now and view the full schedule at wigardenexpo.com. For an even more in depth behind the scenes look at production at PBS Wisconsin, you can take a virtual tour of our studios within Vilas Hall.

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