The pandemic sparked many changes in the M&E industry, including how new gear is revealed and demonstrated. Traditionally, professionals have flocked to trade shows to learn about the latest technology evolutions, but with events being canceled or scaled back, travel restrictions, and public health concerns, gear manufacturers, resellers, and integrators have reinvented their approaches to showcasing their offerings. One such innovator, ASK Corporation – a Tokyo-based distributor that provides products, services, and solutions for advanced AV applications – debuted a high-quality remote product demonstration workflow using AJA BRIDGE LIVE at its core at Inter BEE 2021 in November. The team behind the implementation walked us through the project, and why they think workflows like this are here to stay. Below, we’ve compiled interview highlights from our conversation with ASK Marketing Managers Mayuko Minami and Hiroki Miyoshi, and Technical Engineer Akiko Matsunaga.
Why did ASK develop this remote event workflow?
Mayuko: The pandemic was the main driver. It’s hard for people to gather in one place safely, and we’d received a lot of inquiries from customers about remote workflow solutions, so we felt it was necessary to show what’s possible with tools like AJA BRIDGE LIVE. When we decided to have a booth at Inter BEE, we wanted to make sure we were able to reach as many potential customers as possible. This motivated us to develop a remote workflow that we could use for the event and also offer to customers as part of our solutions.
What did it entail?
Mayuko: During the show, we had two teams available for demonstrations: one on-site in the booth at Inter BEE and one at our studio in Tokyo, which visitors could access virtually via a live stream feed available at our booth. This allowed us to show more products, but it required us to figure out how to facilitate real-time collaboration. We tried a few options, but to get the high-quality video resolution that we wanted, we used two BRIDGE LIVE devices – one on each side – to link the setups, transmitting video via SRT and audio through Zoom, and using both NDI and SDI connections. We also had PTZ cameras in the booth that provided the remote crew in our Tokyo studio a feed of what was happening at the show.
How did the remote workflow impact your show activities?
Mayuko: In previous years, we couldn’t always show certain products because of limited booth space, but this workflow enables us to demo our whole product lineup, and visitors can see details for their product of interest. We were also able to reach more customers, and save time and money by reducing expenses for travel, booth space, power, and such. Another key benefit is that we could maintain a high level of support for our customers, whereas in previous years our full team kept busy staffing the booth.
Akiko: We also recorded the demos using AJA Ki Pro Ultra 12G for Apple ProRes recordings and Ki Pro GO for H.264 recording. With Ki Pro GO, we recorded the SDI feed straight onto USB 3 drives that we handed off to the team right away, so they could cut together a highlight reel to get people excited to visit the booth throughout the show.
What was the attendee response to the setup?
Mayuko: A lot of visitors were interested in the high-quality video transmission that BRIDGE LIVE supports; it made them feel like they were talking to our studio crew face-to-face, and we received a lot of inquiries as to how it worked and the technology powering it.
How important was BRIDGE LIVE for the remote workflow?
Akiko: We had two video feeds from our studio to the venue, and one venue feed to our studio so we needed to handle multiple SDI sources and SRT streams. BRIDGE LIVE has four SDI connectors and an unlimited IP stream pipeline, which was essential. ASK distributes many NDI-supported devices, and NDI has been getting more attention in Japan, so we decided to implement an NDI solution in the workflow. This made it easier to expand the number of sources and designations using existing networks, with BRIDGE LIVE handling the encode/decode and allowing us to control monitoring with just one UI screen monitor. BRIDGE LIVE makes it easy to manage video, even during a live event like this.
Do you use any other AJA gear?
Akiko: A lot! Along with BRIDGE LIVE, Ki Pro Ultra 12G, and Ki Pro GO, we use a host of AJA Mini-Converters and openGear cards like the Hi5-3G and OG-ROI-HDMI; U-TAPs (HDMI and SDI) USB 3.0 capture devices for Zoom; and KUMO routers for live switching.
How does the remote workflow impact ASK’s future trade show plans?
Mayuko: The hybrid exhibition was a first for ASK, but many other companies are following a similar path, so we foresee this practice becoming more common in the future. We want to continue learning from each event how we can evolve the model to show our products more effectively to potential customers. From our first run, for instance, it became clear that we can improve on how we bring more customers into the virtual experience.
What challenges are created by taking a remote workflow approach to trade shows?
Mayuko: Everyone is in the same boat when it comes to pandemic-era events, so it’s important for each company to figure out how to target both physical and virtual attendees. This can be done by investing in online ads, and growing content distribution platforms – like your YouTube channel and website. We get subscribers by posting videos, and that lets us reach event audiences more effectively, but we’re also experimenting with other strategies.
What advice would you share with fellow trade show exhibitors?
Mayuko: When announcing a new product or firmware, run a simultaneous live stream on your platform of choice to reach a wider audience. We’ve found this is the most effective way to launch new products.
Hiroki: I agree that streaming is vital today, because it allows those audiences who can’t be on-site to still feel like they’re part of the event and receive product details as they become available in real-time.
Akiko: Remote style workflows will be the common way to do trade shows in the future, so now is the time to start experimenting and building out your workflows to support the approach.