Liquor Control Board of Ontario Uses Simple In-House Video Workflow To Train Employees and Reach Out To Customers
by Genevieve Tomney
The room is dark, but for the lights trained on a high-top counter in the middle of the set, dotted with all of the spirits, mixes, garnishes and bar tools needed to make the hottest cocktails for the holiday season. Three cameras are pointed on the host and her guest. The director calls out, “Quiet on set!” and the television segment begins.
This is not a real television set, though – it’s a training session. Everyone in the room, including the director and production crew, is an employee of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), a $5-billion provincially-run beverage alcohol retailer with 650 stores serving the province of Ontario. The “host” is also a member of the agency’s corporate communications team and the guests demonstrating how to make these tasty seasonal libations are LCBO product consultants who are, indeed, training for the real deal.
Using broadcast media to share the knowledge and passion of the 275 product consultants, who work in the agency’s stores across the province, is one way LCBO promotes the high level of expertise employees can offer customers. Acting as ambassadors for the LCBO brand, they are often called on to do television media appearances. Simulations, like this one, are a crucial aspect of their preparation for this important part of the job – the more realistic the training, the better the result, when it finally comes time to stand under the TV lights. The challenge faced by LCBO’s Broadcast Production Group, was to identify an affordable broadcast production workflow with tools that give these consultants the most accurate on-camera experience possible and do not require a large production crew.
“When we are training staff to appear on a live television show, being able to closely simulate what it’s actually like adds a lot of value,” says LCBO Broadcast Editor, Aaron Berardi, who works on the simulations. “They have the opportunity to watch their interview later and really focus on those small but important details, such as where to look in a three-camera interview, which can really make the difference when it comes to a successful, comfortable segment.”
The solution included a simple three-camera set up with Kino Flo Diva lights, wireless lavalier mics, graphics pre-built in Adobe After Effects, and a NewTek TriCaster multi-camera production system. In one compact unit, the TriCaster allows small broadcast production teams, like LCBO’s, to re-create a three-camera studio shoot, requiring just two team members. They are able to switch between cameras, add graphic elements, pre-recorded video, special effects and more, just like a traditional television production. Two Sony EX1 cameras on tripods are locked off, one on a wide two-shot, and one on a single of the host. A Sony F800 is manned, allowing the operator to move between a single of the guest and close-ups of the products or cocktail preparation. A second team member can then easily operate the TriCaster, using the switcher, audio, keys or lower-third supers, as necessary, to re-create an authentic broadcast interview.
Berardi is an accomplished broadcast editor with decades of experience learning new technologies in the field of broadcast production. He says one of the biggest benefits to using this simple workflow is that it creates a highly-polished, professional product in an economical way. As a crown corporation of the Ontario provincial government, the LCBO is always striving to be cost-effective and efficient, says Berardi, “This setup with the TriCaster does most everything that a larger studio would do, but because it’s designed to be operated by fewer people and because it’s so compact, the savings are huge.”
The technology has proved efficient beyond the scope of employee training. In 2010, LCBO launched a series of live webcasts that allowed customers to watch and learn about wine tasting and wine regions of the world. It was a first-ever undertaking for LCBO and an ambitious concept. The segment would feature multiple hosts, multiple camera angles and interaction with the web audience, who would submit questions to the expert panel via Twitter – all of this being broadcast live on the web at LCBO.com.
For the first live webcast, a broadcast crew had to be hired on contract to provide a live, multi-camera shoot, complete with graphics and pre-recorded material. It was a labour intensive operation that required a big team and a truckload of equipment. A TriCaster was purchased for the second live webcast, which allowed the entire production to be done “in-house” by the LCBO Broadcast Production Group. With three cameras, lights, cables, and the TriCaster, which is not much bigger than a large suitcase, an “on-location” shoot was accommodated with ease, and without the need for a rental truck or contract crew.
“The quality of the two webcasts was absolutely comparable and the efficiency makes sense for an agency like the LCBO,” says Berardi, “Hiring an outside production crew can cost thousands of dollars per day and, for us, the technology has certainly paid for itself.”
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