My best friend’s daughter recently got married. It was a day everyone had been looking forward to, and then just before the wedding, a terrible thing happened. The bride’s grandmother was admitted to the hospital! Even worse, the hospital was about nine hours from the wedding. As my friend began sharing the details of how desperately her mother wanted to attend the wedding, I began running through possible ways to bring the wedding to her. Skype and FaceTime were possibilities, but both options limited who could see it and neither would record it for later. Google hangouts on air seemed a better choice because up to 9 people could join in live, anyone could watch from YouTube, and the event would be saved for later playback. Since the bride’s grandmother didn’t have a google+ account, she would be able to watch by simply tuning into YouTube during the event.
In the last hour before the wedding, we jumped into action.We pulled it off, but I learned several lessons. I thought it would be helpful if I shared some of them here:
Know your Internet situation and have a backup plan.
When I got to the wedding location, I discovered there was no internet. I looked for nearby networks to tap into, but they were all secured. Thank goodness my husband had a mifi card (mobile hotspot) for his laptop. Otherwise, I would have been dead in the water.
Consider a webcam for better picture and sound quality.
I didn’t have any choice due to the last-minute notice, and it showed. In addition, my husband’s laptop doesn’t have the quality camera that my laptop has. Even so, the hospitalized guest and some local friends still enjoyed watching the grainy picture and broken sound.
Make sure in advance you have a good angle to film.
There aren’t a lot of places to hide a laptop on an altar. My original plan was to join the hangout using the Google app, mount my phone on the tree in front of the bride and groom, and then use my laptop to give an additional “behind the scenes look.” I didn’t realize that mobile phones can’t yet participate in hangout on air (only regular hangouts). Instead, I was seated with the bride’s family where I could rest the laptop on my lap and get a shot of both the wedding party walking down the aisle, and the bride and groom saying their vows. I had some trouble keeping a clear shot of the aisle though, as others behind me moved about.
Disable sleep mode and screen-saver on your computer.
My husband thought of this and disabled all screen-saver and sleep mode features. Can you imagine if the laptop had gone to sleep and I didn’t notice? After all, it was facing the wedding… not me.
Post directions in advance for watching/joining the hangout.
I wish I had been able to make a video to demonstrate where to go and what to do, or at least provide instructions in advance. Even better, I would liked to have embedded the live hangout on my blog so people didn’t have to go to YouTube to find it. I would have shared all of this on Facebook, and asked the wedding party and relatives to do the same. Then more people could have joined us or at least watched. I also wish I had been afforded the time to get a Google+ account set up for the grandmother to use. She wasn’t able to join the hangout or be seen, so I spent a lot of time telling people that she was there watching in the background. I could have invited her by phone, but then she would have used all kinds of minutes, and the phone conversations might have competed with the already compromised wedding sound. I didn’t want her to worry about a phone while she was trying to enjoy the day.
Post a visible sign near the laptop, explaining the reason for the video hangout.
I felt like a broken record, constantly explaining what I was doing and how the people watching through YouTube could hear people who walked up to the screen, even though nobody was visible. With a little more planning, I would have made a sign and posted it next to the laptop.
Remember that people are always watching.
At one point during the live broadcast, my husband decided to clean the camera lens with his shirt tail. The camera caught a close-up of him reaching into his pants, wiping off the lens, and then tucking his shirt back in. It was quite amusing. What wasn’t amusing was my husband’s curt response as he became frustrated with the internet situation and the heat of the day. I scolded him in the background for the tone he took… and we could BOTH be heard clearly and on air during that exchange (and yes, I trimmed that out).
Pay attention to music and other copyright items.
Be careful what music plays in the background if your hangout is on air. My recorded hangout was flagged for copyright infringement because of a song that played (barely recognizable, but there) in the background. This would hold true for weddings, soccer game half-times, dances, reunions… you get the picture. I tried to track down how to get it cleared (since the sound was so poor anyway) but never got anywhere on that one. I suggest using a private hangout when possible and if you have to use hangouts on air, mute your mic when any music is playing. (This has got me thinking about another blog post on how frustrating copyright issues are for those of us who want to do the right thing but have no reasonable avenue.)
It was gratifying to know that Google+ hangouts helped make a difference in someone’s life, and that I was a part of it. Here’s the finished product. The sound and picture would have ben better with a nice webcam and better internet connection, but the grandmother got to be a part of the wedding: