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Issue 27
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MCEC Keeps Investing in Pearls

Epiphan Pearl hardware remains the backbone of Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre’s burgeoning livestream offering.

By

5 September 2023

Text:/ Christopher Holder

It’s hard to believe now but it wasn’t that long ago that live events and live streaming were best of enemies. After all, live events were all about the in-person experience — that’s the currency — so to dilute that experience or give delegates a reason to stay at home was seen as anathema. 

Eventually, some exhibition centres dabbled in live streaming to provide a good experience for those in overflow spaces during a big-name keynote. But, again, this was a service to those with lanyards not to the layabouts at home or stuck in the office.

Of course, covid changed everything, especially for the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) industry. With in-person numbers severely capped, virtual and hybrid events instantly went from undesirable to the only way.

GENTLY GOES THE STREAM

Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre has been on a livestream journey. Streaming is now a thoroughly entrenched part of its offering. Everything from a super-simple, remotely-managed setup, to an all-singing/dancing, full broadcast production in the plenary theatre.

As a rule, MCEC clients will use its in-house software streaming platform, which takes care of moderated comments, voting etc. The client will generally want a recording of the stream they can access in the cloud. They want PiP features to view the presenter’s Powerpoint presentation on the stream, as well. Nothing out of the ordinary.

From the very early days of adoption, MCEC chose Epiphan Pearl hardware as the basis of its streaming offer.

Supplied by AP Technologies, it continues to invest in the latest Pearl hardware to meet growing demand. Some spaces have an Epiphan Pearl hardware installed while others are mobile.

One of the original Epiphan Pearl streamers in the AV storeroom ready for action.

ON THE CLOCK

Ben Helweg, Video Production Coordinator at MCEC reflects on why the Pearl streaming appliances are such a good fit for his workplace:

“Time, perhaps, is the biggest factor. All the technical staff is on the clock and there are multiple sessions happening concurrently every day. We can’t afford to go into a space and spend time configuring a software solution or worrying about hardware conflicts, incompatibilities or updates. Our Pearl fleet is always ready and waiting to go. Pearl has the inputs and control we need. Pearl plays nicely on our network, it’s just a matter of powering up and getting started.

“Pearl 2, in particular, has so many inputs — HDMI, SDI, USB etc. I think that’s a real gamechanger because to achieve something similar with software and a PC, you’d need multiple capture cards, while the Pearl 2 has it all out of the box.”

WARE HOUSE

Epiphan is renowned for providing its customers with tasty firmware updates, upgrading the feature set of its hardware rather just fixing bugs. When we chatted with Ben Helweg he’d just started updating the MCEC fleet and was impressed with what he saw: “The latest firmware allows us to add lower thirds to the stream, which is a big deal. Clients are increasingly requesting names and job titles, and this feature will be very welcome. It’s good to see Epiphan supporting its customer base so well. The firmware upgrades are often like getting a new supercharged product.”

In situ, Ben and the team (pictured here is team member, Bart) will often use the Pearl’s onboard vision mixing features, sometimes teamed with a Stream Deck-style button box for control. But it’s rare the team will need to pull out the larger-format Panasonic vision mixer. (A Sony PTZ camera controller is being employed here as well.) “The Pearls are so easy to use,” comments Ben Helweg. “I’m often emailing people who have never used the Pearl with a short cheat sheet and they’re good to go — good luck doing that with anything else.”

PEARL ROI 

Reliability, easy of use and tangible ROI… little wonder, then, that MCEC keeps investing in Pearl. Currently its fleet exceeds 2o devices, and as hybrid events become the norm rather than the exception, Pearl has become a crucial part of the MCEC AV department’s armoury. “The Pearls save us time,” asserts Ben Helweg. “And time is money in this industry. Our AV equipment needs to earn their keep and the Pearls are keepers.”

Epiphan is distributed by AP Technologies: aptech.com.au
MCEC: mcec.com.au

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Issue 27