ELS – an innovative Manx company forging a path through the pandemic

By Simon Richardson

Many Island companies have been forced to adapt to survive the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. In some sectors the pressures have been unrelenting, and – while restrictions and border controls remain in place – there are few immediate signs of hope for many companies.

ELS is a proudly Manx business led by Justin McMullin. The company has built an excellent reputation as a leader in the provision of lighting, sound, staging and special effects for all manner of events – both corporate and related to the entertainments industry.

The onset of the pandemic brought many of ELS’s normal business channels to an abrupt halt: “It has been extremely tough for us,” explained Justin. “The shut-down in the hospitality sector brought all special events and festivals to a halt. It has had a similar effect on the corporate side, stopping all promotional activities.”

One area in which ELS has been active throughout the pandemic though is supporting the Isle of Man Government’s communications strategy through its regular online live media briefings. Working closely with Greenlight Television ELS has applied its expertise to the running of the ZOOM briefings hosted by Chief Minister, Howard Quayle and Health Minister, David Ashford.

It’s a complex process coordinating the broadcasts – often at short notice – and maintaining the links with journalists from the Island’s leading media outlets: “It can be quite a tricky business, particularly on days in which – for one reason or another – one or more people have internet issues. You have to think on your feet and it’s impossible to relax when so many little things can de-rail the process,’ added Justin.

Despite the occasional connection issues the briefings have become part of the lives of people in the Isle of Man, and a vital source of up to date information on the Coronavirus crisis. Since the online broadcasts began many thousands of people have tuned in to hear the news: “For us it’s been an interesting exercise, not least because it has marked an historic moment in the dissemination of news and information to the Manx public. At ELS we have been proud to play a part in the process,” said Justin.

Recently ELS marked an Isle of Man first by creating and providing the Island’s first ever “All day” Virtual Live-streamed Conference for AICP. The yearly “State of the Nation” Conference normally takes place each February at the Comis Hotel but due to restrictions ELS was forced to look at other options: “This is where our 10m wide giant green screen studio in Tromode came into play. We were able to host the entire event virtually with all panellists and presenters joining our studio remotely, through our brand-new broadcast studio software (V-Mix Pro)”, explained Justin.

Enterprise Minister, Laurence Skelly addresses the Virtual Live-streamed Conference for AICP.

Unlike zoom or teams, V-mix is specifically designed for high end broadcast use and is used by multiple broadcast companies to allow for remote guests to dial in. Their built in app V-Mix Call allows the remote user to see and hear the entire broadcast on their device in full HD whilst they present remotely in real time with half a second delay: “It allowed us to have the host isolated in one part of our studio and our two technicians both isolated in two separate areas, all socially distanced in a large well ventilated studio space. An entire conference run by three people!”

The “Virtual” stage sets and backgrounds along with holding slides etc were all custom designed, branded and tweaked in-house by our own technicians to provide an Ultra realistic full HD backdrop to facilitate the host, remote guests and pre-recorded elements which were cleverly built into the virtual TV screens that feature on the stage set either side of the host. These TV screens despite being virtual were fully functional and we had full control over their content at all times and live mixed content onto them during the entire event. Multiple camera angles allowed us to zoom in and out virtually to give it the feel of a live TV show. The host was able to see the entire output on a giant screen alongside the cameras which allowed him to fully interact with the virtual TV screens and remote presenters just as the weather presenters do on TV.

Slidedecks and presentations were loaded onto our broadcast software allowing us to have full control from the studio, however we realised that a number of presenters still like to retain control of their presentations and this is where our clever little app came into play. This enabled presenters to remotely control their own slide deck in our studio remotely allowing them to advance slides back and forth. We also facilitated real time integration of Sli.Do polls and Q&A and this was embedded into the live broadcast which allowed for an interactive participation from the audience who were watching the livestream via our VIMEO Pro streaming channel.

The entire production was live mixed in real time and streamed over our Manx Telecom High Speed Fiber Line. This gives us the leading edge when doing live streamed events as we have a dedicated connection that most venues don’t access to and that consistently delivers high speeds and a stable connection which is crucial when delivering virtual events.

Over 200 people joined the all-day live-stream and it has since been watched back over 800 times which is a greater turnover than an in-person event. 

The event proved a huge success and offers a potential boost for local companies looking to get messages across to staff or customers in this difficult time. 

Contact ELS Isle of Man for more info. +44 7624 200101