Don’t Cross the Streams

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In the movie “Ghostbusters,Crew Call there’s a highly memorable scene where the three “heros” are called upon to remove an “obnoxious little spud” of a poltergeist from a hotel. The three, who are wearing illegal experimental nuclear accelerators, gather at the door of the haunted ballroom, but are stopped by Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramos) with a warning:

Dr. Egon Spengler: There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Don’t cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
Dr. Peter Venkman: I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad”?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.
Recently, I was the guest speaker at an MPI (Meeting Professionals International) event, where I discussed the use of videoconferencing, streaming media and Virtual Reality as part of the future meeting environment.
The words from the movie kept echoing in my head. I felt like their nemesis, “Gozer the Gozerian” at a couple of points.

Let me tell you why:

In the rental and staging portion of the industry, not only is streaming media the future “Illegal Nuclear Accelerator” we’ll all have to carry, it has always had the same potential of exploding every molecule of an event.

Let’s face it, we go out of our way to avoid streaming when possible because of the dangers. Data lines that were amazingly fast during rehearsals slow to a crawl during the show. Wireless access that was previously dependable disappears during walk-in. Company Web sites that we need to show suddenly become invisible to local DNS servers. And the list goes on.

But as I stood there, talking about the future of streaming in large meetings, I realized that we’re about to cross the streams.

We’ve always gone out of our way to minimize these kinds of issues. We download entire company Web sites and run them as local copies when we need to demonstrate them. We rip and localize video files that are part of them to avoid any stuttering or loss of sound sync. Like lots of staging, a good part of showing online media is as faked as the scenic panels behind the stage.

But all that depends on the idea that a local copy exists that we can access.

At one point during our discussion, however, the subject of the success of devices like Netbooks (and the obviously impending market onslaught of Apple’s iPad) came up. Devices like these are about to become prevalent, without having local storage at all. Heck, I’m a presenter – and after looking at the multi-touch version of Keynote that Apple is going to pack with the iPad, I want one.

But this is going to leave us handling more and more presenters whose work is ONLY stored on the web… and that work, often, will be stored in formats that require that it be streamed, especially with the dedicated operating systems that many of these devices will run. They will COUNT ON streaming the media.

So, many of us are building our own “Media Accelerator Backpacks.” Not only do we now book data services and go out well in advance and check them, we book multiple types of services. We carry wireless cards, jailbroken iPhones, and 3G receivers that produce localized networks. And we’re looking for ways to back-up the backup.

The important thing is that we plan for it NOW…. because the rental portion of the industry sees these things long before others do. We are where we first see presenters coming from around the world, carrying new devices for which they’ll have forgotten their power adapters, their dongles, and their common sense. And that makes them “obnoxious little spuds” to me – even though I’m one of them.

Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

rAVe Rental [and Staging] contributor Joel R. Rollins, CTS-R, is General Manager of Everett Hall Associates, Inc. and is well known throughout the professional AV industry for his contributions to industry training and his extensive background in AV rental, staging and installation. Joel can be reached at Joel can be reached at joelrollins@mac.com