Field report: CueTimer used for the EME Culinary Cup

I recently got the chance to test CueTimer in a new setting, at least for me: as a countdown-clock for a cooking-competition.

EME Culinary Cup is a competition where 9 teams compete for the best 4 course dinner. It is hosted in Oslo, Norway, with participants from all over the world. The whole event was both broadcasted on web and shown to a live in-house audience.

The competition was divided into several parts which each ended on a specific time of the day. To help the contestants keep control of the time and the schedule, we had a 55” screen in the kitchen which showed the clock, and every time a task had less than 10 minutes left, a countdown started. This screen was using the Fullscreen-output from CueTimer. 

When there was no countdown, then just the clock was displayed:

The clock and the countdown was also sent to the streaming-team to be put on the live-stream.

This setup was chosen because it allowed the contestants and the event-production to really focus on the last 10 minutes of the tasks. So when there was no countdown shown, the live-production could focus more on other aspects of the event, and the contestants would still have the clock as a reference. And when the time was running out, the host could count along to create some drama. 

CueTimer settings

1.     Customizing the fullscreen

The latest version 2.3 of CueTimer adds some features that we used for this production:

  • Display the clock along with the countdown
  • Background image

The image is just a black background with a blue line which separates the countdown from the clock. I created this in Powerpoint, then imported it into CueTimer.

The Preferences-menu lets you customize how the fullscreen looks. So we could easily place the clock on the top and the countdown on the bottom. 

One thing I like to do is to use a bolder font for the countdown than the rest of the text and numbers. I think this helps it stand out a little bit. The default font for the countdown is Verdana (bold), but you can change this into any font you have installed on your computer. 

2.     Preparing the Cue List

For this event I was in charge of both the audio and the countdown-clock. I had to find an easy and reliable solution which made sure that all the contestants for the cooking-competition got exactly the same countdown.
What made this task easier, was that I didn’t have to start the countdowns manually: since we knew the End-time, I could automate the countdowns. 
CueTimer has a feature called AutoStart which forces the timers to start at a specific time of the day. It lets you create pre-planned and scheduled events. 

Using this feature, I let CueTimer start the countdowns automatically. So, for example, if I knew that Kitchen 1-3 would finish at exactly 18:00, I could force the 10 minute countdown to start at 17:50.

I chose to end the countdowns manually (after reaching 0), since I wanted to control when the countdown was hided, to time it with camera-switching. But I could have automated this part too if I wanted. 

Looking at this list again now, I see that I probably could have solved this task a bit differently: Instead of using Countdown timer-types which has to start precisely to hit the end-time, I could have used what we called End Time timers.
Then the list would look like this:

End-time timers forces the timer end at a specific time of the day. So then I could just plot in the end-times in the end-time field. With End Time timers it would be less important exactly when the timer starts, and how long it lasts. It would still hit the correct end-time. 
But the way I solved it did exactly the same, so in the end it didn’t matter much which method I used. I guess there are always more than one way to solve the problems.

CueTimer used for gameshows and competitions

This is not the first time that CueTimer is used for competitions: Last year it provided the studio-countdown for season one of Lego Masters Norway. So I think it’s safe to say that CueTimer is more than just a speaker timer software. (Despite what we say in our own marketing!)
I hope that the contestants in the cooking-competition agree that CueTimer is a nice tool for time-management. At least it seemed that the judges were happy with how the time was kept: When the judges were asked what impressed them the most with the competition, two of them mentioned the fact that all the contestants managed to finish their dishes on time. I will be bold enough to let CueTimer take some of the credit for that. 

Morten Brekke Stensland is the owner of PresentationTools A/S, and a freelance audio/video engineer in Norway. For this project he was hired by the AV-company EHS A/S. The video-streaming was provided by Oclin.

Contact:
info@presentationtools.com

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