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RTS VLink manages virtual CoNZealand 2020

RTS VLink manages virtual CoNZealand 2020
Division head for technology services, John Maizels

RTS VLink manages virtual CoNZealand 2020

New Zealand:

CoNZealand 2020, the 78th edition of the World Science Fiction Convention originally scheduled for late July in Wellington, has gone ahead virtually, with the globally distributed technology team of volunteers using RTS VLink to manage tools such as Zoom and Discord.

“The key to operating as a team when you can’t see anybody is good communications,” said division head for technology services, John Maizels, a freelance broadcast engineer based in Sydney, Australia. “That meant finding an effective virtual intercom system. Looking at its flexibility and especially the fact that there is no limit to the number of users, VLink quickly became a critical element of the project.”

Maizels consulted with Magna Systems and Engineering in NSW, which was already involved in virtualised broadcast events. “When John asked about RTS VLink, we could confirm it was the best online intercom on the market,” said Lucas Böhm, product manager at Magna Group Australia. “It’s perfect for global applications because it’s platform agnostic and infinitely scalable. It’s a very powerful tool.”

RTS and CoNZealand agreed on a 30-seat VLink license, with Maizels using it to develop the Mission Control virtual control room concept. Key elements included RTS VLink for backstage and production intercoms, along with the vMix virtual production switcher. Both were “located” in an Amazon Web Services cloud, operating independently of the public-facing events.

With its similarity to RTS digital matrix systems, Maizels learned the VLink basics, appreciating the software’s inclusive connectivity that works on phones, tablets or desktops, regardless of operating system. “It felt familiar, yet had a lot of its own advantages,” he said. “I was impressed at how seamlessly VLink could link hundreds of users around the world, most of them unfamiliar with pro intercoms. But VLink is so intuitive, people picked up on it very quickly.”

During prime hours, the five-day virtual CoNZealand ran 15 to 20 programme events at all times, simultaneously preparing the next hour’s schedule. In addition to panel discussions and presentations via Zoom, there were also virtualised renditions of the exhibit hall, art show, fan tables, parties, bars and cafes – all monitored via VLink.

Opening and closing ceremonies, a masquerade and two award shows including the Hugo Awards, hosted live by author George RR Martin from New Mexico, were also presented, with RTS VLink a key element in preproduction for the latter. Using point-to-point mode, IFB audio for the far-flung participants could be transmitted directly from a VLink panel. “Hugo rehearsals really highlighted the flexibility of VLink, and I must say, it worked beautifully,” reported Maizels.

“We asked VLink to do two primary things. First, run Mission Control, then support the broadcast process. I’m pleased to report that VLink did everything we needed it to. I would definitely use it again.”

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