SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Using the Church Webcasting System, YouTube, etc. Including cameras and mixers.
lajackson
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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby lajackson » Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:57 pm

russellhltn wrote:Assuming you didn't get permission from CHQ to carry the Regional Conference, the webcast would have only been scheduled for 30 minutes - and might have escaped the cancelation. (Depending on the nature of the problem.)

The stake president presided for the first 30 minutes. Even those who only scheduled that time were shut down.

I can see where the loss of the Central US region would have had a large impact. That's where several hundred stakes would have tried to set the first part of the conference. Those who went east got lucky. Those who tried to go west lost out.

In any event, it provided an opportunity for a number of high councilors to become stake president for a day. You really can't beat that kind of training.

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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby russellhltn » Sun Nov 08, 2015 10:11 pm

lajackson wrote:The stake president presided for the first 30 minutes. Even those who only scheduled that time were shut down.

So much for that theory.
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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby danieldawson » Mon Nov 09, 2015 11:19 am

I live in Glendale Arizona and we had the same/similar problem yesterday.

We also had our stake conference event deleted about 1 1/2 hours before 10 am (start time) I created a new event using the same region (central) and it worked.

The original conference scheduled was for 10 locations set to the central servers for only 30 minutes. Once it was deleted, I recreated it using the exact same settings. Although we have a HD camera, we broadcasted at a low quality video and mobile audio. We broadcasted using these low quality settings because of recent internet constraints.

From 1030 to 12 was the portion of the meeting from SLC, which we used a URL provided from SLC. Our stake center used the satellite but our 3 other buildings used the URL, which looked great.

At 9:45 the conference shut down and we quickly restarted it. This happened 4-5 more times between 945 and 10:02. The high councilors had been given a copy of the Stake President's talk and announcements, so they were our plan B. Fortunately, we kept restarting the broadcast because after the 10:02 shut down it worked without another incident.

I know the stakes located around us were not so lucky.

I should also note, we had a full 2 hour broadcast 4 weeks ago from our stake conference that was a disaster. The broadcast didn't work and neither did our backup option.

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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby lajackson » Mon Nov 09, 2015 8:04 pm

danieldawson wrote:I should also note, we had a full 2 hour broadcast 4 weeks ago from our stake conference that was a disaster. The broadcast didn't work and neither did our backup option.

To keep this topic focused on the Regional Conference, I have started another topic as a follow on to this comment about another stake conference broadcast that did not work, along with a possible solution to consider.

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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby shawndowler » Thu Nov 12, 2015 2:25 pm

I am in Gilbert, Arizona. I did not receive any information about an internet stream of the regional conference. We have the ability to easily rebroadcast the satellite feed using our video switcher, so we planned to do just that. The added benefit is all the buildings are on the same timing and there's less fumbling around on the podium to disrupt the flow of the meeting; everyone has a very similar experience to being live. I offer the following as a caution with a hope that the reliability and communication improves in the future.

Our Stake President was very clear that he wanted each ward to attend the conference in their own building, which required us to broadcast to all three other buildings at once for the first time ever. Based on promises from the Church Technology Department and many tests ahead of time, it appeared that the Church's new solution would meet all of our needs.

We purchased three used quad core laptops to get the best quality possible and we tested them extensively. Over 30 hours of streaming time leading up to the conference showed that while the system wasn't the best quality I'd ever seen, and while the Silverlight player on the receiving computers wasn't the most stable, that if we stuck to a particular set of procedures, that the Church's new broadcast solution would work well for us.

I created my event 1 month ahead of time on the South Central server in Texas, which is the same server we used for all of our testing. The night before our Stake Conference, we did one more long test and made sure all the sites were ready to go. I sat waiting on Sunday morning at 8:00 for the encoding sign to turn green on the webcast portal. As soon as it did, I fired up the Teradek and told all of my assistants to start the stream at each building. And that's where it all started to fall apart.

One of the buildings told me they couldn't see any events on the webcast portal. One of the others had bookmarked the URL, but it wouldn't ever connect. At 8:10 I found that my scheduled Stake Conference was now listed under the "Completed" section. I frantically got started creating a second event. I gave the new event code to the Stake Executive Secretary for shut-ins to be notified of the change and crossed my fingers that everything would go well. That event disappeared 5 minutes later as well. I was still connected and sending, but my receiving sites couldn't connect.

I called the Global Service Center to report my issues and ask for advice. The gentleman on the phone told me they were aware of the issue and there was a bridge line with engineers working on a fix, but that I should have better luck using one of the east coast servers. So I cancelled my event and created one using East 1. I waited for 15 minutes, but the sign to start the encoder never turned green. I tried again with East 2 and wasted another 15 minutes. By this point it was 9:00—one hour before the meeting time.

Since the Global Service Center tech had indicated they were working to get the South Central server back up for everyone, I tried creating an event there again. Now I was getting desperate. I started the encoder and this time it stuck. All of my receiving locations could see the event in the portal for more than 20 minutes, but the Silverlight players would never connect to the buildings' assigned URLs. It was at this point that we caved to our backup plan using Slingboxes. We hadn't tested it much since the last Stake Conference (to only two remote buildings), and we knew it would be dangerous to try to broadcast three streams with only 4Mbit/sec upstream bandwidth, but we didn't have any other choice. We had foolishly disconnected them after numerous successful tests of the Teradek webcast solution. We also hadn't installed the Slingbox software on any of our new machines.

At 9:35, I was sitting on the floor frantically trying to connect all of the Slingboxes correctly and running around looking for cables to do so while Heath, and Assistant STS, had the three buildings on a conference call walking them through downloading and installing the Slingbox software. At 9:55 I got the last of the three Slingboxes connected and at 9:59 I got the text message that all the buildings were up and running with sound and video.

Heath was driving back to the Stake Center when the opening hymn started and I was manning all of the controls by myself. I hadn't been able to do any of the preparations I had planned for the morning, so I didn't have any camera presets. My suit was soaked clear through with sweat. I missed many cues and messed up routing the audio for about 10 seconds at the beginning of the satellite broadcast, since by mind was all swiss-cheesed from having to recover from an emergency. The Slingboxes performed perfectly in all the buildings, though. I'm sure the quality wasn't as good as it could have been, but I'll bet it was better than the quality of the Church's webcast solution on its highest setting, even with the Slingboxes stepping down to lower bitrates due to bandwidth constraints.

I don't like the idea of shut-ins not being able to watch Stake Conference live, but I seriously doubt that I'll be able to trust any official Church broadcast solution that they build themselves. Tell us to use a third party that knows what they're doing and how to load balance for big events and I might be willing to come back. But as long as Slingboxes continue to function, that will be our primary solution.

Fortunately for us, we had a backup system. Many STSs are left with nothing or the official audio only solution, which would have left our three receiving locations empty. Disappointed stake members have abandoned broadcast meetings for less serious quality issues than that in the past. No video would be considered an unacceptable failure for our Stake President. We have learned that our backup systems need to be at the ready and our receiving locations need to be trained and ready to use the primary and backup systems. (That part was my fault. Going to a backup system shouldn't constitute an emergency.)

How many stakes had completely failed broadcasts because of the poor handling of the official broadcast servers? I am encouraging my stake president to communicate with other stakes around us to see what their experience was like and to communicate their dissatisfaction up the chain.


I would be interested in hearing more Stakes' experiences. Most of the STSs near me don't use the official broadcast solution, so I'm hoping others who used it will chime in with their experiences.

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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby harddrive » Thu Nov 12, 2015 3:12 pm

I for one started with the first Webcasting and found it ok at best. The stream would fail, the computer would fail and so forth. So I personally have abandon the Webcasting solution. By reading these reviews and others I am not getting a warm and fuzzy that this system is any better than the last.

From reading this you did all the testing in the world and had everything going and did your preparation to make the broadcast a success.

In my stake, I have decided to use personal video conferencing (PVC). I have found that it is very reliable. I currently have 5 buildings that connect and I will eventually add a 6th one. We haven't had the greatest picture at times but unless there is a hardware failure or reboot everyone is fine. We even use the clerk computers as our receiver. It does take a bit of watching because of people who could come in with video cameras. However things work great.

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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby Mikerowaved » Thu Nov 12, 2015 6:05 pm

shawndowler wrote:Most of the STSs near me don't use the official broadcast solution...

[Raises hand] I feel your pain. I went through a similar scenario (several times) with the old webcast system. I've migrated to YouTube Live and have used it numerous times for both church and non-church events and found it to be rock solid every time. I'm sticking with it until the church can convince me they have something on par.

PVC may be a viable solution, but at the time I was restricted from using it, otherwise I might have given it a try.
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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby shawndowler » Fri Nov 13, 2015 4:13 pm

We used the old Meetinghouse Webcast solution for years. It was never very reliable and the quality was terrible. We abandoned it in favor of using Slingboxes a couple of years ago. The primary drivers for trying the new official webcast solution were the free Teradek VidiU devices, the desire to allow shut-ins to watch live again, and not having to send a three of the same stream to broadcast to three receiving sites. (Slingbox is point to point only, so every receiving location requires its own stream.) It turns out even with the bandwidth limitations, quality and reliability are still better with our Slingbox solution. If we can get just a little more upstream bandwidth, then there will be no reason not to use the Slingboxes as long as the Slingbox company supports them.

It turns out there was supposed to be a communication sent to Stake Technology Specialists to let them know about the Internet stream from Salt Lake. I never received it and I know 2 others who didn't receive it either. I saw the text and it doesn't say not to use the webcast portal. It just says there is an Internet stream as a backup in case you don't have satellite. And given that some Stakes were only scheduled for the first 30 minutes and their events were cancelled, it doesn't seem like it would have solved the problem even if everyone had received it. We would have done the same thing.

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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby michaelfish » Sat Nov 14, 2015 7:54 am

Note: SlingMedia (SlingBox) now forces video ads when first connecting to streams and then displays banner ads for a few seconds when not in full-screen.

Due to those ads, and the company not currently offering a way to hide advertisements has left some of us anxious for the church's new Webcast solution.

Over the years, I've read numerous lds.tech posts similar to Shawn's where STS's have tested thoroughly in advance, only to experience a total failure during conference.

I can't imagine the embarrassment of someone (and it's usually only ONE person) working so long and hard to prepare for an event, with as many as a thousand plus members getting dressed up to view - with the humiliated STS kneeling on the floor in prayer, desperate for a solution, searching for and attaching cables - and the majority of the stake sitting and waiting in the dark for the problem to be corrected, only to eventually leave and go home.

For that reason, I purposely set up the Regional Conference on the new Teradek Webcast as a backup only to our tried-and-true SlingBox set up and although we have never had much success streaming to home bound members with the previous Webcasting software solution (using Wirecast), I was hopeful our home bound members would actually get to view this conference. Unfortunately, I experienced a portion of the same issues Shawn did (luckily it was our backup for streaming which failed) and resorted to the old telephone conference bridge (2nd) backup for home bound members.

I'm sure the church's technology department will be diligent in correcting this issue and I'd sure hate to be in their shoes after this past weekend's blunder.

Our stake purchased SlingMedia's SlingPlayer set top boxes 7 years ago and fortunately, we are still immune from the ads - but our boxes are based on first generation streaming technologies, and is only capable of 640 x 480 - which has served us well but needs to be retired.

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Re: SLC shut our Webcasting session down for Regional Conference

Postby rannthal » Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:50 pm

Do any of you know actually what happened that weekend? Its called growing pains. Any company out there to make money would be jumping up and down, thrilled to have this problem.

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