High Holiday Live stream event at Chochmat HaLev

High Holiday Live stream event at Chochmat HaLev

High Holiday live streaming events

This year, Chochmat HaLev, a progressive synagogue in Berkeley, celebrated the Jewish High Holidays and streamed services to their large online community.

Chochmat HaLev, (in Hebrew means “wisdom of the heart”) is a liberal synagogue that is inclusive, multigenerational and family oriented –  “a home for all people”. They offer joyful ceremony, contemplative practice and beautiful music. The music they create can lift one’s spirit in a complex world. The Berkeley community is a home for those who seek justice and healing.

This year, the High Holiday services were different and required a total rethink due to COVID. There were no live gatherings, therefore creating virtual events for each of the High Holiday services was indeed the way to go.

Setup challenges

I was approached by the synagogue in May, and was chosen to join the team as videographer and live streaming specialist.

There were a total of five virtual events. Each event would last for two or more hours streamed to the Zoom platform. Two Rosh Hashana and three Yom Kippur services would consist of prayer, ritual and beautiful live music. In addition, the events would require rehearsals to check the flow of the service, as well as a technical test for connectivity, audio and video. 

This was a big undertaking and involved high level team work from all those involved, including, technical director, sound recording engineer, set designer, myself – videographer and live stream specialist.

I was in charge of filming, live switching and streaming to the Zoom platform. I was also the last link in the chain, so it had to work perfectly, with no hitches. My videographer’s motto is, “it has to work right the first time” – that is a big responsibility!

Virtual setup for high holidays at Chochmat HaLev

Virtual live stream setup for High hHolidays at Chochmat HaLev

It was a complex setup, involving up to four wirelessly connected professional video cameras. Every service had five musicians including a drummer, a violinist, a guitarist and two main singers who led the service.

My videographer’s motto is, “it has to work right the first time” – that is a big responsibility and I do my best to make it happen!

We set up a large TV monitor in front of the camera rig so that everyone could engage directly with the audience. This actually worked well and created an emotional connection.

Singing in group settings has become an apparent risk for outbreaks of coronavirus 

Each musician was spaced twelve feet from each other, except for the main singers/spiritual leaders – a couple, Joel and Julie. Singing in group settings has become an apparent risk for outbreaks of coronavirus. Singing can produce a  larger number of respiratory droplets than speaking, as it is louder and sustained for longer durations. Every caution was taken to meet social distancing guidelines and safety.

“We were so lucky to find you and it was great working with you! Looking forward to future collaborations”.

Executive Director

From a videography perspective, this setup had its challenges. Being 12 feet apart in a very small courtyard, meant I would have to use a very wide angle to include everyone. This would detract from the musical chemistry with the musicians being so far apart. I resolved this by using split screen format – an effective way of creating the illusion that the musicians were much closer together. This worked very well and looked great!

Split Screen format

Live streamed at Chochmat HaLev Berkeley showing split screen format for the High Holidays

Some of the events started at 5pm in daylight, however finished in darkness. To compensate for the lighting change, I used powerful daylight LED lights which were on from the start. The gradual shift of light to dark was hardly noticeable.

The sound was mixed professionally by Paul Knight (paul@paulknightsound.com). Paul supplied a hardwired audio feed and created a flawless mix.

“I was the production manager for a high quality livestream for Chochmat Halev for their popular high holidays. We did 5 live-streamed services outdoors and Alan’s work was gorgeous. Technically the videography & lighting was perfect and he added much artistic flair and creativity to the production. Alan was a pleasure to work with. Great communicator, team member and total pro. And he has great gear! I highly recommend for any event, large or small”.
Jennifer Berezan – production manager

The set design was created by Nonnie in the outdoor courtyard of the synagogue. She did wonders with decorative fabric and created a dreamy atmospheric desert tent setting. This suited the mood and ambience perfectly.

Some events finished after 9pm and all my equipment had to be dismantled, ready to start again by 10am the next day. I arrived early in the morning the next day at 6am to set up everything, test and repeat the process.

Air quality – worst of the year

In September, we had some of the worst air quality of the year, with fires raging near the Bay Area. Every day we checked air quality apps to see the latest results. On one occasion, we had a rehearsal indoors just in case we had to go inside at the last moment. Luckily, during the High Holidays we had moderate (though not perfect) air quality.

indoor rehearsal with large Zoom monitor for performer engagement

Indoor rehearsal with large Zoom monitor for performer engagement

During the event, I was given camera direction from Jennifer, the event director via a communication headset. Jennifer and I worked together with the schedule.

It all went extremely smoothly, to the credit of the professionals and team members working on the production.

The online community was extremely happy with the result and gave many accolades of praise! It was a fantastic team and a memory that will last!

To see some highlights of the event please click here

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