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Zoom Logo LRGDear Zoom Communications - Thanks for making such great apps! Being able to see and talk in real time with multiple people from all over the world is freakin' magic. At Zoom Theatre (no relation) we think your software is so fantastic that we started a live theatre company based on Zoom Webinar. We know that you wrote your software for business and not entertainment, but when you get a moment, would it be possible (pretty please), for you to add a few more features desperately needed by the live performing arts community?

Zoom Theatre learned a lot about performing live on Zoom Communications products by producing, rehearsing, and performing three live, full length plays in 90 days using Zoom Meeting and Zoom Webinar. You can watch our What We've Learned So Far webinar here. Our audiences have been amazed at what we can already do with Webinar. But twenty performances and over 1,500 man-hours on Zoom later, we've found that there are five missing features that will really make Zoom Webinar the go-to platform for live performances. Implement these five features, and you'll have a lock on the live performing arts market that includes every educational institution, professional and community theatre, and dance and music studio in the world.

Below is the list. These are all features intended for Zoom Webinar (or maybe a new Zoom Live?). These would be options available to the meeting Host and Co-Hosts, and might require opt-in permissions to be granted by Panelists.

  • Turn off “who is talking” indicators for attendees. Flagging the participant who is talking (by outlining their window or putting a tab at the top of the screen) is great in a meeting, but not in a performance, because it distracts the audience and makes them self-concious. We are artists, we know how to get the audience to look where we want them to.  While you are at it, could you also make it possible to turn off participant names?
  • Master Host Control for Panelist Video and Audio settings. Please, please give Hosts and Co-Hosts a control panel to manage and change Panelist video (video on/off, camera source, virtual backgrounds) and audio (mute on/off, microphone source, microphone volume, speaker destination, speaker volume) settings. Our artists need to focus on their performances, and finding / positioning the mouse to turn off video at the end a scene.  It is very distracting to them and the audience. Maybe this requires a Panelist prompt to give the Host permission for the current meeting only.
  • Attendee Volume Master. Those of us producing live shows with audience interaction (comedy, improv, auctions, Q&A, and other live interaction) need to be able to hear our audience members. For comedies, the best result seems to be when audience mics are open but their volume is turned down to about 20%.  It is not reliable to ask every audience member to do this themselves. Ideally, changing the Attendee volume level by the Host would be for that webinar only would not continue to effect the microphone level of the Attendee after they leave the webinar.  Giving the Host and Co-Hosts an Attendee volume master would be so sweet.
  • Support for fixed / preset video window positions. Giving the Host the ability to globally pin Panelist window positions (for all Panelists and Attendees) to specific locations would be huge.  In multi-person performances, we'd love to be able to turn on a window in a specific position. If you could also give us scenes (defined collections of window positions) that we can queue up and select, you'd be the best ever. I'm available to talk through the specifics of this one if you'd like more detail. :-)
  • Better audio blending when multiple panelists are talking. I'm sure this one is already on your list. Mixing multiple simultaneous digital inputs coming from all over the world must be an engineering nightmare, but there are many occasions in performance that people are scripted to talk at the same time.  

We know that there are work-arounds for some of these issues involving other products (OBS, Wirecast, remote control software, etc.). But they add latency and complexity, and educators and performance artists are not always computer techies. They want to learn one platform without needing deep dives into work-arounds, additional software, interfaces, and plugins.  

Your apps are lifesavers that so many of us are relying on to get through this pandemic. They are already so good that we forget that it is magic to be able to see and talk in real time with people from all over the world. But if you could get us these top five features, we'll love you even more.

Thanks and keep up the good work!

BTW, if anyone reading this has a contact at Zoom Communications, please forward it to them.  I've sent messages, opened tickets, and called, but they seem to be pretty busy lately (for very understandable reasons).