By Jack Caldwell

Everybody likes to go to a conference. The more exotic the locale of the conference, the better. Las Vegas, Honolulu, and San Diego are my picks for conferences. In the last year I succeeded in going to conferences in St Louis and Denver; so in retrospect I failed. But regardless of how cold and dreary those cities were, there was still benefit in being at a conference.

The obvious advantages of conferences are the chance to escape routine, to meet old friends, to see new places, and to gather information about one’s profession. In particular, the chance to attend talks and presentations by experts is a central part of any conference. There is no substitute for a live presentation of work done, ideas generated, and doubts expressed. We are creatures of a tribal past; I suspect our instincts are honed to sitting, talking, and listening as a way of exchanging information, making value judgments, and picking up scraps of useful information from even the most inarticulate.

In the good old days, a conference ended with a volume of printed papers. I was always thrilled to carry home the proceedings. I loved to leaf through the papers and delve deeper into the topics of the presentations I had sat through, and maybe napped through. I built up a fine library of conference proceedings. But those days are now gone. If you are lucky you will get some CD that is slow and clumsy in my computer and hard to read on a small screen. Maybe you get a business card and an invite to go to the presenter’s website where you have to register and maybe download the PowerPoint presentation. And in most cases you get nothing. It just takes too much to produce those gorgeous volumes of yore.

Now there is another way. AM Productions is producing videos of selected conference presentations. I have watched these two:

  • Cordilleran Mineral Deposits Motherlode-Mesothermal Gold Deposits
  • Gold Losses That Are Not Due To Recovery Equipment.

These DVDs are direct recordings of the live presentations. They capture the best of live conference presentations: the immediacy, the person, the honesty, the hesitation, and the subtle technical insight that few can put in print. It is not as easy to assimilate information from the TV as it is from the live presentation. I suppose the difference is the same as watching an opera on DVD and watching an opera in a small, intimate theater. There is no comparison. Even the worst live opera performance is visceral and exciting; the feeling of a shared experience with others coughing and sneezing through a thrilling aria; the tension of the moment and the penetration of live music that no sound system can replicate. It is fun to watch opera on the home TV. You can pause when you want to. You can fast forward through the dreary bits. You can enjoy the latest bottle of booze unhindered. So too the benefits of conference presentations on DVD.

I confess I knew nothing of Cordilleran gold deposits or placer gold recovery before watching these DVDs. I certainly am no expert after watching them. But just like I feel after being at a conference, I now feel informed and empowered to go out and get the details that I may need for my specific purposes.