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.