The Centre for Investigative Journalism is a non-profit organization headquartered in London that trains journalists, researchers and students in the practices and methodology of investigative journalism. The CIJ is committed to the protection of information- and press freedom, educates investigative journalists and continues to protect whistleblowers.
The Centre for Investigative Journalism organises an annual conference since 2015. In 2016 the conference was held in Berlin for the first time. I was approached and asked if I could come up with a solution for a particular problem.
The organization won the investigative journalist Anas Anas Aremyaw as a speaker for the event. But the face of this person couldn’t be shown. Neither the visitors of the event nor the guests following the video stream must not be enabled to connect a face with this name. The simplest solution would have been to use a mask – but this was not desirable because the audio quality would have suffered.
I developed a solution based on a translucent screen with shadows playing in the colors of the event and suggested this concept to the organizers. After I proposed solutions for two other problems (team communication during the event and solutions regarding the video stream production), I was offered the position of technical director of the event.
On the eve of the event the Speakers Dinner took place. Because of the “field kitchen for the CCCamp 2015” I had a large network of gastronomical suppliers. I used that network and got several offers for the catering and the drinks. In the end, both the glasses and all drinks were ordered through one of my contacts.
On behalf of the organizers it was desired that a video stream was to be produced, which had to be accessible during the event live on the Internet. All presentations were to be recorded and the records were to be made public shortly after the event.
The bcc, which was the event location, offered the production of the videostream. The c-base regularly produces video streams and publishes recordings of events in c-base as well. Because these areas of competence were present in my network, I was able to negotiate a special agreement. The Logan CIJ Symposium rented some equipment from c-base, supplementing it with other equipment from a rental company. It was agreed that those that normally produce videos and recordings in c-base were to work for free, and that instead of a salary comparable to typical daily rates, equipment for c-base were to be purchased, which we could use on the Logan CIJ Symposium as well.
It pleased us particularly that the company Wowza sponsored the distribution of the stream on theire content delivery network without any costs for us.
The result was a win-win situation in which the Logan CIJ Symposium got a significantly more complex produced stream that costed less than the initial offer of bcc and also enhanced the technical possibilities in c-base.
For the audio system I wrote all requirements of each speaker, and the requirements of the event curation down and developed a technical concept, which I handed over to the house technicians of the bcc. Among other things, we needed eight wireless microphone channels and audio compressors for each channel. Furthermore, it was necessary to play the audio sum signal not only in the lecture hall, but it was also necessary to distribute it in the rest of the location. The audio sum was needed for the live stream, for the TVs on location and for the organization “Voice Republic’.
To ensure that all technicians, as well as the organizing team could communicate with each other, I hired professional mobile radio equipment from two different organizations and registered a frequency allocation from the German federal Network Agency (BNetzA). I rented the radios with remote speakers and microphones but also with sound tubes. For the technicians, I rented fully closed headsets with rigid boom microphones.
Together with the team of bcc I performed the network planning. We needed several separate uplinks. One Uplink was reserved exclusively for the video stream, another uplink was used for the wireless network for our guests, another uplink was used for the wireless network for the organizing team and a fourth uplink exclusively for videoconferencing. I rented 22 network switches and ensured that network ports for the volunteers, the organizing team and our guests were plentiful and distributed in every room of the building, including the Hackcenter and the Cryptobar.
The house is usually lit up with simple white lights. Since this was inappropriate for the planned event, I developed with the senior technicians a technical concept for decorative lighting of the building. Then I asked our senior decorator to develop an appropriate color scheme and modified the lighting concept so that the projections of several projectors at various points in the building were not interfered by the decorative lighting in the building.
The german magazine taz and the Spiegel offered us to embed the videostream on their website. I took care of this in advance and communicated with the responsible editors of these magazines. I explained the technical details of the integration of the stream to the editors of the Spiegel, the taz did not required such help and embedded the stream without further assistance.
About four weeks before the event, I learned that the previously planned Head of Volunteers could unfortunately not participate in the Logan CIJ Symposium. Since the rest of the team was already very busy, I had to taken on this task as well. This task involved the shift planning and communication with over 50 volunteers. I planned all shifts and distributed approximately 30% of the shifts to our volunteers.
I searched particularly in the community surrounding the CCC for potential candidates for the position of Head of Volunteers. All the tasks during CCC events are done traditionally by volunteers, and the CCC held the Annual Congress for many years in the bcc. Therefore it was important for me to have a Head of Volunteers who not only knows the building, but has also worked in advance with volunteers at events.
Fortunately, I found two persons who indicated their willingness to accept this position. About a week before the event, I handed this task over to the two Head of Volunteers. In close cooperation we then distributed the remaining shifts together.
It was planned that on the first night of the symposium a concert of “Juice Rap News” will take place. Because the standard bcc lighting technology is not fit for concerts, we had to rent several moving heads and integrated them in the existing lighting system. I created a lighting concept and handed this to the house technicians a few days before the event.
For the concert, it was necessary to rent additional microphones that are better suited for rap, than the normal conference microphones. Also Juice Rap News needed Effects and compressors for the concert. Each song and the spoken introduction to the concert was accompanied by videos. The video team was briefed by me how it should deal with the video data during the concert.
An event of this magnitude requires a lot of digital and analog content. For example, large banners in the window, sponsor rollups on stage, signs for guests and volunteers, posters, flyers, stickers, digital animations for the stream and the screens, T-shirts for our volunteers, and wristbands needed all a uniform design that is in synch with the corporate design of the event. I was responsible for media planning and summarized the technical and design requirements for each of these objects and discussed the requirements with the designer based in London. I was not responsible for the design or layout, another member of our team in Berlin cared about all designed objects and requested necessary changes.
During the event I had the “Head of Stage” position. This meant that it was my job to be the central connection point between all trades on location and had to worry in particular about the implementation of the tight timetable.
During the event there were several spontaneous program changes, triggered by a Speaker that showed up several hours late. My task was to meet the technical requirements of these lectures anyway and organize all necessary resources in spite of the changes in plan.
Two very special highlights during the event were the video link to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to Julian Assange, and the video link to Moscow to Edward Snowden. Both the technical details and the implementation together with the team in London and Moscow were very exciting for me. Unfortunately, these details have to stay confidential to protect Mr. Assange and Mr. Snowden.
The lounge directly below the auditorium is also worth mentioning – here several artists who already decorated the house in past years during the CCC Events furnished and decorated the lounge according to the theme. In the middle of the lounge a big Wikileaks sculpture was installed that was blocked by “Crime Scene” barrier tape.
After the event, I was responsible for the preparation of the video footage and the editing. It took about a week until all the records were posted online. The Recordings are available on Youtube.
Unfortunately, the audio track of all recordings had to be remastered. We used for this the services of auphonic. The publication features offered by auphonic accelerated and simpliefied the process of uploading and publishing.
Success and lessons learned
We consider the event as a success. We welcomed more guests then initially planned and financially the event did not incur a financial deficit. For future events, I have learned that it is better to make a completely separate audio mix for the stream and not to use the audio sum in the lecture hall for this. We also had problems with the radios for the technicians, which partially impacted the cameras. In future events I will, if possible, prefer to work with wired Intercom all technicians.
I want to personally thank the more then 60 volunteers – without you this event would not have been possible!