The best way to open up the summary of our week is really to share footage from the festival here to be viewed after the fact. We worked incredibly hard on implementing and slept very little this week, so there may be less to say than usual, but some can be found below after these videos and photos.
Early this week we began sending out the guest invitation codes to all of our guests. In order to do this we set up a tool to scan through the lists of guests, assign them invitation codes, plug that information into an email, and send them out in large batches. After assessing the amount of work facing us this week, we held back the emails to those who indicated that they had Mac computers only before we confirmed or denied that we would be able to provide a version for them. Unfortunately, with all the work left to us in this last week, a Mac version ended up not coming to a fruition. As a last minute addition, we put together a catalog of the event and had every project team, BVW team, and Visual Storytelling team put their information and link to the festival Zoom room into. By sharing this with all of our Mac guests, they were able to still take part in some of the live event that took place in Zoom, if not our virtual festival space.
Before the livestream went off this week we had a few changes to the Visual Storytelling portion of the schedule. John and Ralph reached out to inform us that the interactive projects that they were intending to showcase in the stream were less than reliable for a day of highlight. In order to keep things easy for us with rescheduling, John and ralph agreed to join the livestream Zoom call, chat about the class, call out some successful work, and in the evening, so the recording of the Vizzie awards that they presented in class on Friday. In hindsight, this portion of the livestream had some difficulties due to the lack of structure. It ended up becoming a time to primarily talk about the course and what it brings to the curriculum, and not a highlight of student work. If this had been the intention, we would have liked to bring on Brenda, Chris, and Drew as well to talk about the courses that they teach for the immersion semester. However we were really focusing in on student work, so I believe that this was a mistake on my part.
We also worked with Dave in the evening to join the livestream and present the First Penguin award to the most deserving BVW team for the first time. This moment was definitely a high point of the stream as we saw a huge influx of students all cheering in the stream chat.
During the week in advance of the festival, we met with the member of the livestream committee who were helping to coordinate guest hosts in the background to ensure that they were joining the Zoom call at the appropriate times to talk about their projects. We ran tech rehearsals internally to make sure that the scenes and elements that we had set up in OBS were working and ready to go for Saturday.
All of the project teams were incredibly busy of course, but we touched in with each of them at least via text about what the expectations were of the livestream, who would be joining and when, and providing a list of questions that we prepared unique to each of their projects.
BVW Soft Opening
On Sunday evening of this past week the BVW teams with worlds that had been selected for the synchronous experience provided us with the assets required to implement their work into our festival space by their Tuesday morning class. We wanted to use this last class as a chance to hold a similar sort of soft opening that typically happened during the day of festival itself when in person with all the faculty touring around the building. We invited the faculty, staff, some alumni, and the second year students to join the demo build throughout the class session while the BVW teams awaited them in their Zoom rooms to walk them through the experience.
This was a great chance for the BVW teams to get some reps in before the event and practice their onboarding procedures for naive guests. After this test we saw the need to create a strict schedule that the teams assigned to themselves in order to keep everyone on the teams accountable for the time that they were expected to be staffing the rooms.
With this playtest came a huge list of bugs and requests by BVW teams to change or add things to their project rooms in order to make the flow a bit clearer, like simply writing up some simple two or three word prompts to place around the space and guide the guests.
This new influx of bugs and changes made it clear to us that it would definitely not be possible to provide a Mac build for our guests unfortunately. Some of us had it in the back of our minds that we could somehow miraculously pull off the Mac build on the last day, but after several more days of implementation and iteration, and a finalized Windows build at 10pm Friday Dec. 11, the impossibility of it became very clear.
So we made it through. Looking back on the event, the festival was a huge success all around. It certainly wasn’t without its hiccups! However with the timeline and budget that we were working on, we’re incredibly proud of and happy with the results. Each session of the virtual space had an average of 100 concurrent users at once and the livestreams both saw over 1000 views. Much of the feedback that we received about festival amounted to us capturing some sense of what makes the normal festival experience special. At the end of the event we were happy to see a collection of all ETC students moving from project room to project room in the virtual space hanging out as an after party. If nothing else, we feel successful in bringing together the first fully remote ETC class and looping them into the greater ETC family despite never being with many of each other in person.
We’re looking forward to deep, deep sleep to catch up on and preparations for final presentations next week.