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Here’s how the convocation hall looked from the perspective of the virtual audience.

Mood Indigo (MI), IITB’s annual cultural festival, is Asia’s Largest College Cultural Festival. And this year, even when no one expected much in the way of a fest, much less such a well-executed one, Mood Indigo 2020 was a pleasant surprise.

Mood Indigo started in 1971 on a minimal budget but with an abundance of ideas and enthusiasm. What started as a vision to create a one-of-a-kind cultural festival is now Asia’s largest. Over the years, Mood Indigo has created a legacy of its own, hosting eminent personalities from various spheres of life- Asha Bhosale, R.D. Burman, and Smriti Irani, to name a few. In 2020, Mood Indigo celebrated its 50th edition virtually, in the midst of a global pandemic, even when most other college festivals were cancelled or postponed.

The days leading to the fest saw some exciting events and workshops as part of ‘Indoor Indigo’. It was an ensemble of Youtube Live and Instagram Live events including competitions and virtual concerts hosting well-known personalities in the fields of sports and art like Ehsaan Noorani (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy), Kirti Kulhari (actress), The Yellow Diary, Monali Thakur, and even Magic!. Indoor Indigo and other social media activity of MI like MI Studio and MI Diaries helped keep the hype of the fest alive. The increased online activity through the College Connect Program during the lockdown period helped them communicate with the target audience to increase the reach and get necessary feedback. The team kept themselves busy in ‘sharpening the axe’ to deliver a fest for and of the student community.

Moving the Fest Online

The MI team was optimistic that they could organise an on-ground fest. But, as time passed and the situation didn’t get much better, the team took the brave decision of shifting the main fest online. The Dean SA, Professor Kundu also supported them in this decision. Once the team decided to move the fest online (around mid-September), they had a very tight timeline to pull it off. Since Mood Indigo’s maximum audience is available only during certain dates in December, they could not afford to postpone the fest.

Mood Indigo is about the atmosphere of the fest, so having individual events spread out over a long time was not something that would convey that experience to a visitor. Additionally, it was the 50th edition of the fest, so they wanted it to be unique. These reasons led to the decision to build a new platform that could convey the feel of the institute to attendees.

Viewers were able to witness bands like Indian Ocean play on the Gymkhana Stage

With this decision, many duties and work distributions were reconsidered. For example, the Operations & Logistics department, which is supposed to handle the on-ground work during the fest, now acted as the link between the MI team and the agencies that handled and created the online MI platform. Several other departments were repurposed; including departments like Food n Beverages, Hospitality, etc. that had limited work in their own departments. Offline jobs were converted to the corresponding online jobs. To make maximum use of the members’ skillset and make up for the lack of sponsors due to the economic depression, they started helping out the marketing team, contacting sponsors relevant to their departments. The team had a hard time convincing sponsors, and even artists to perform since they were unwilling to perform in the absence of a live audience. Still, they persevered, and by proposing innovative new ideas, they convinced artists and sponsors alike to give the fest a chance.

The legacy of Mood Indigo, which has never failed to impress, served as a strong motivator to the team even in times of adversity. They also started several new initiatives to keep the audience hooked right up until the fest, including an attempted world record (largest number of paper cranes made) which is now being verified by the Limca Book of World Records.

It was already a challenging task to get coordinators involved in the working of the fest. One can hope that this has instilled in the next generation of CGs the same enthusiasm and senti for their fest that we have come to expect from MI junta.

The Platform

The decision to build an entirely new platform from scratch was a risky one, but the team felt it was a necessary risk. In the absence of an on-ground fest, there was no existing way to convey the institute’s environment during the fest to a visitor. Building an immersive platform to conduct the events ensured that a visitor got a feel for the institute and felt that they were virtually in a fest, as opposed to streaming concerts and other events online. Even other options were considered but eventually discarded, either due to being unable to convey the theme or other optimisation constraints.

Here’s an image of the Old SAC amphitheatre.

Given the time crunch, they collaborated with an external agency that built the platform according to certain specifications given by the team.

A video chat feature would have put too much strain on the server, so it was decided to build in a private chat feature so that attendees could communicate with their friends through the platform.

Conclusion

While the fest was great, there were certain issues as well. The quality of artists was a little less than usual, and there were also some optimisation issues, as a result of which some visitors saw a decline in the quality of video streams. But most of these issues can be attributed to the lockdown, network issues on the client-side and tradeoffs made in order to increase accessibility.

Taking into account the difficulties that went into making Mood Indigo possible, these issues can be considered insignificant. We salute team Mood Indigo to have presented us with a unique and beautiful experience, which we would have thought impossible.

Sunidhi Chauhan was one of the headliners of the event.

Despite the haste, Mood Indigo delivered what was promised: a college festival, which allowed visitors to explore the beautiful campus of IIT Bombay. The platform allowed a viewer to enter the Virtual Campus through the main gate and take a Rickshaw to three locations in the institute, the Convocation Hall, the OAT and the Gymkhana Grounds.

Although virtual, the platform was able to beautifully capture the essence of these three locations. The compound around the Convocation Hall, the grassy fields of the Gymkhana, the entire Old SAC area, including the back-lawns and amphitheatre were well designed. Mood Indigo was able to successfully take us, students, on a trip back home, allowing us to visit our beloved institute after all these months of lockdown.

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Chief Editors: Amogh Gawaskar and Suman Mondal

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