David Jablonski

Behind the scenes at OHWW Festival

This November saw the first Open House Worldwide Festival, a digital and global event on architecture, urban design and the future of cities. In addition to on-demand content, the free-to-access festival also included a 48-hour livestream, with more than 120 live speakers and content from more than 40 cities around the world. Let’s dive into the technology that made this event happen.

Open House organisations on five continents met virtually in spring of 2020 and started working on an international Open House festival, the first of its kind. Working groups included content, communication, finances and technology. As the technical coordinator of the OHWW festival, I was responsible for the smooth delivery of the festival to a global audience.

Thanks to the work of an incredibly dedicated, international content team, the livestream programme was curated in the summer of 2020. In October, we started work on the tech runsheet for the event, created in Notion, which included a minute-by-minute schedule for the 48 hours, as well as emergency contacts and technical specifications.

Of course, delivering a 48-hour livestream is impossible to do on your own. We had two tech hubs, one in Brisbane and one in Vienna, that handled the live-streaming during the weekend as well as a wonderful team working behind the scenes on various aspects of the production. As the live director in the Vienna tech hub, I was responsible for 32 hours of streamed content.

Our software of choice for the livestream was vMix, which handled up to eight live video links through vMix Call and additional ones via Zoom, playback of pre-recorded content and delivery of custom graphics, including lower thirds and interstitials, which were based on the visual identity created by V-A in Lisbon. The livestream was distributed via YouTube, which was integral to ensuring a smooth streaming experience for the global audience, including interactive formats via our live chat and social media.

Especially challenging formats included a hybrid in-person and virtual discussion that included four speakers in Zurich and one remote speaker in Vienna, as well as live building tours using mobile phones and very quick changeovers from one live setup to the next in the span of minutes.

More than 40.000 visitors tuned into the livestream, with up to 600 simultaneous viewers during London’s city tour. More than 3.500 live chat messages, 8.700 watch time hours and 1.800 newsletter subscribers during the weekend show that we successfully engaged a worldwide audience. We delivered 75 live video links through vMix Call and an additional 50 through Zoom.

Working on this festival as part of an international team has been a real joy. I felt like I was traveling around the globe while sitting in my living room, which had become the impromptu live control room during the second lockdown in Vienna. A huge thank you to the international team that made this event happen – and our audience around the world.