"BlackBlock" when webcam is switched off

Hey Folks - Wonder if you have some wisdom for me. I’m producing a ton of webinars. Most of them have a host, or digital MC. So when the MC does his/her intro’s etc they turn off their camera and sit back until the end to do the QA and/or closing.

I usually have panels or multiple presenters and the ability to flip the camera view between the active speaker, single speaker, and split-screen is awesome BUT!!! what I find super annoying is that I have the MC as a black block in the mix which actually negates the use of the camera view switcher… because the black block appears everywhere.

What can I do? What are you doing to get around this?

Any advice would be highly appreciated.

See the black block bother:

Finally a thread about this - thank you!

What about getting the MC to dial in after his intro so he’s still aware of the conversation, and temporarily disconnect from the webcam, and then just reconnect towards the end, before it’s his turn to speak again? A little tricky, but will probably do the job.

I definitely share the same sentiment about how annoying it is to have those ‘black blocks’, but I guess my case is slightly different as it’s my block as producer that’s taking the place of another speaker’s. It sounds like you’re still controlling the cameras, but don’t have the same issue as I do. I find that my webcam gets automatically connected when I try to switch the videos. How do you do it? I’d very much appreciate any tips!

Finally, if anyone knows how to manually spotlight a specific speaker, and not follow the system’s audio pick up, that would be great.

Definitely following this thread for any helpful info!

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Thank you for chiming in @AlexON … while you idea is technically sound I feel like that might be introducing additional points of failure. Especially if the can’t get their webcam on again, I don’t know about your usual speaker base but mine are not always the most technically savvy peeps.

What makes it even more difficult for me is that I have to deal with very senior folks who don’t read email instructions, and get grumpy if they you require too much from them in the sense of technical hop-scotch.

That said - I feel like On24 needs smaller tweaks like getting rid of those blocks etc to help support the production value a little more. I’ve had some great success streaming zoom into the platform via capture cards but avoided doing fully fledge live events without an proper RTMS key et etc.

Anyways… getting carried away.

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@werner.puchert Wow, that actually sounds a lot more complicated than the usual ON24 webinars I do!

I’m with you on points for improvement, and with the type of speakers you mentioned, it can be particularly frustrating. Hopefully, ON24 does something about those soon.

Best of luck to you and your future events!

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Hey Alexa & Werner - one thing I do to try and work around this is to have anyone who’s going to dive out of the live convo to select ‘Dial In’ as you noted above, but rather than actually calling in, I suggest that they watch the presentation through the media player. There’s a slight delay, but its quick enough for them to jump back in if they need to and rejoin the convo. Either way, much better than the black box.

I faced this a lot while producing and think its kind of annoying that a producer doesn’t have more control to be able to pin or negate camera feeds into that mix. I have the luxury of having a media switch that plugs into my camera feed, so I can easily put a still frame up in place of my webcam - but if I don’t feel like messing with all that, I just tell my presenters that I’ll be watching on a 3 to 5 second delay and will communicate via team chat. Works out really well.

Other methods would require 3rd party software options to feed in the video. I’ve done a broadcast with Wirecast that has worked really well, virtual cameras through OBS media and things like that. Gives more control for directing & producing.

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I have the same issue as well, but we just accept it. And mainly just say to keep the webcam on but MUTE yourself so that you are not visible even thought here is sound on your end. And if necessary you can still jump it. As a producer I always do this as well, mainly if there is something happening technically or with the presenter, that I cam jump in as well and be visible.

But perhaps it’s an idea to post this as a feature request here in the community?

I agree. The ability to choose which camera feeds are showing would be a huge opportunity to improve the production value of events.

I would also like the ability to override the voice detection feature. Although it works well 90% of the time, it’s not quick enough for back-and-forth discussions, and it can get fooled pretty easily. For example: I had a presenter last month who kept clicking his pen (even though I was desperately sending “Don’t click your pen!” messages in the Team Chat box). The video kept switching back to him, despite the fact that he wasn’t talking and another speaker was in the middle of their presentation.

If we had the ability to “spotlight” someone’s video feed (as the feature is called in Zoom and Microsoft Teams), that would be a huge win for these situations. Give the producer the ability to choose whether they want the voice detection feature enabled, or if they want to control who is on camera manually. I would probably still use voice detection for the majority of events – but it would be nice to have manual control for certain types of webinars.


Great points Micheal. As a producer, we need just a few more capabilities and controls to push the production value and audience experience of the session up a bit.


It would be nice if we had an option on what to show instead of the black box. I don’t want my presenters who either can’t connect on webcam or choose not to be left out of the panel list. Instead we should be able to upload their headshot or another image here. For example, at Hootsuite our mascot is Owly - It would be great to have Owly fill in for a presenter who can’t connect on webcam.


Out with Black Blocks! In with Owly!

Shall we start a movement @stacy.combest :smiley:

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Let’s do it! @tiffany.beddow.4 *winkwink!

The host joins via dial-in (phone) and the speakers/presenters join by webcam - in this way there will be no black block for the host at all - the audience will just see the speakers and hear the host

Thank you @raluca however what if the “host” is the CEO and would love to have him/her on camera. In the end it’s a simple feature that needs to be fix and hopefully it’s on a list somewhere.

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I agree being able to pick who is onscreen is key. As a producer, I am NEVER part of the presentation, so I tried to eliminate the empty black box by using the dial in. However, that means I can’t see the presenter’s video feeds unless they are onscreen (so all, or active speaker with the thumbnails at the bottom). I think it would be a groovy enhancement to have the producer be able to use the dial in AND see each presenter’s video feed – regardless if they were onscreen or not.


Great points. An advanced producer mode would be very welcome! They could still have a normal producer mode as well for someone who doesn’t want as much control.

We’ve used a full production crew in a live remote location with their own camera switching to handle some stuff, but being able to actively switch feeds in real-time within the console for multi-remote speakers would be the best.

For my black box, I usually just set my name as “Welcome!” or “Thank You For Attending!” so at least my black box doesn’t say some random name. I’ve also used OBS software to switch my camera over to an image, but it’s a lot of work and I have to manage from different locations where I can’t have that software at times.


Here’s a perfect example of when this feature is critical:

A couple weeks ago we did a webinar that had 5 people participating as presenters.

  • The first 35 minutes of the webinar was our interviewer talking with the President and VP of Strategy of a large well-known company (3 people onscreen)
  • However, there were two other “detail guys” who joined the conversation during the Q&A. They were there to help the President and VP answer more technical/in-the-weeds questions. They turned on their webcams when it was time for the Q&A to start, but they were black windows for the main interview.

I could have told the “detail guys” to toggle their setup to Dial-In during the main interview, and only switch to Webcam right before the Q&A started when they were ready to come on camera. But I was afraid to do that – because I didn’t want to burden these guys with the technical issue of needing to switch between dial-in and webcams (and the possible issues that could have gone along with that last-minute switch).

So unfortunately we ended up with 2 out of 5 screens being black during the 35 minute interview. It looked less than professional.

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I’ve been watching my original post BUT have not seen anything in reply/acknowledgement from On24? What’s the point of the Producer role if not to be able to control the cuts and what can be seen by the audience. This seems like a real need (rather than a whiteboard function) that could move the needle on hosting virtual events. Yet, no response.

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I agree - this is a definite need for us as well! We like to use a variety of presentation styles and need to be able to control who is visible and when. I’m really hoping this is high on the priority list for functionality improvements.

Here’s an interesting article about how WebEx has very similar behavior – with non-presenters being shown on the screen as a black block, and no way to suppress them. The author says that 260+ WebEx customers have asked them to address this issue.

More control for producers is definitely needed. The ability to select live video streams, move streams around, set overlays on video streams, and things like that.

I do a lot of it remotely now with multiple zooms feeding into OBS and then mixing and controlling in there using various “camera angles” for speakers, but it is not reliable.

3rd party addons are not a solution. More features are desperately needed for producers to create a better experience.

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