Lights, Camera, Produced Hangouts!

Lights, Camera, Produced Hangouts!

HOAs are awesome but, can they be better?

Can we take this amazing tool from Google and expand it to new heights of creativity and entertainment? I am not saying we need to but are we able to?

HOA (Hangout On Air) in all its glory

If you’re unfamiliar with what a HOA is then I direct you to the Google+ description of it here or to Ronnie Bincer, the well-known Hangout Helper!

There have been amazing HOAs with incredible information shared.

There have been amazing HOAs with incredible information shared.

All caught up? Great!

For those already in Google+ or on YouTube watching these HOAs you’ve probably noticed the number of HOAs available seems to be growing exponentially. In fact, it’s becoming impossible to really watch them all! And most of these HOAs serve their purpose wonderfully! They create conversations around a variety of topics, distributing a lot of high quality information in a video format. For some, the awesome little tidbits of new information and ideas is enough. For others, like those with the ever wandering mind and attention span of a 24 year-old, we want something else: entertainment and production!

The next level: Produced Hangouts

This is where we at SEOWiSE decided to push the boundaries. We saw all of this fantastic content being produced in Plus so we wanted to find a way to bring the production up to that same level. If you have the option to provide quality content AND more professional production, why not right?

It wasn't actually a HOA but a produced Hangout streamed through YouTube Live Stream.

It wasn’t actually a HOA but a produced Hangout streamed through YouTube Live Stream.

Well, we had to see if it was feasible first!

Aside from the laborious task of light scripting (not to be taken lightly of course), we used Wirecast, a few extra cameras, and some equipment that is still foreign to me (Computers loaded with ram and i7 quad core processors, multiple screens, breakout boxes, studio quality mics, cables) to create production quality shows. These include segmented slides with people shown side by side or in what John Ellis likes to refer to as a three-way or custom lower thirds and graphics that pop up next to someone as they monologue. Basically we can emulate the types of elements you see on the news and broadcast a show right from the comfort of our homes.

It must be noted that to produce the quality we want we have to run all of our hangouts through YouTube Live Stream. This means that we aren’t actually doing a Hangout On Air but a regular Hangout through YouTube Live Stream. This is how the Obama hangout was run. Tricky, I know!

Live Network Style Television… Without the Network… Or the Television

What goes into Produced Hangouts?The only organization telling us what we can and cannot say or do is YouTube. As long as we continue to follow the YouTube guidelines, which are significantly more modern than those of the FCC, we can do and say as we please. I accidentally dropped the F bomb in our most recent Wednesday show in my furious passion for Breaking Bad and I caught it much too late to correct it… But I don’t have to correct it because it didn’t mean we were taken off air or I was scolded for swearing on live TV. Sure, it could mean we lose viewers because I used a word many would consider to be vulgar, but that is my decision to make and not some obscure organization’s that we never get the opportunity to meet, understand, and debate with. We can discuss transparency at another time!

If the show runs past the allotted hour? Then the show runs past the allotted hour! No one is going to cut us off to move to a commercial we don’t endorse. We don’t have to spin stories or change content because so-and-so is our biggest contributor so we cannot upset them. Most importantly: we don’t have to pay millions of dollars to produce the quality content and images we are producing. Pretty much anyone can afford it!

Bringing Technology and Entertainment to Education

Edutainment at its finest: Glass in the Class is an ongoing experiment of bringing technology to the classroom.

Edutainment at its finest: Glass in the Class is an ongoing experiment of bringing technology to the classroom.

As much as we wanted to make produced hangouts affordable for companies (big and small), we wanted to make produced hangouts a feasible option for education. Why? At SEOWiSE we think it’s time for an education (r)evolution and we think one of the components to that is produced Hangouts. People like Annabelle Howard and her husband Forrest Stone of BIG FUN Education have begun the education revolution in doing amazing things to bring fun back into K-12 learning and I’ve begun a series of Glass in the Class to connect university learning with real life application.

But to continue further engagement on the learning process, both from within the classroom and from interested observers, the added production of the event maintains interest and keeps things fun. The production makes our educational lessons into not simply another lecture or a closed classroom discussion but a performance. Each person, each shot, each piece of media becomes a component of a polished performance that people enjoy watching, but also learn from. It’s performance education!

John in his "studio" getting ready for one of our produced hangouts.

John in his “studio” getting ready for one of our produced hangouts.

With education in mind we have kept equipment low cost and portable. Any teacher can carry around what I bring to and from class and any teacher can set it up. Trust me, I may be a Glass explorer but I am terrifyingly inept at technology. If I can figure this stuff out anyone can as long as they have the right guidance. That is why at SEOWiSE we have fumbled our way very publicly through technical difficulties and all for no immediate financial gain. When you’re the research and development team for anything, the gain is the knowledge you can now share with the world. Don’t get me wrong, the R&D of produced Hangouts is still very much in progress… But think of the possibilities! No really, where do you see this going? Do you see it in the business world? Education? Are we reaching too far too fast? Tell us what you think!