Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Using the Church Webcasting System, YouTube, etc. Including cameras and mixers.
miken2av
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Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby miken2av » Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:41 am

So, our area is having a few stakes reorganized and a new stake created. I was asked to come up with a list/pricing of webcasting equipment. My current set up is a mix of new and old equipment. Some of it is HD and some analog with various HD to Analog and Analog to HD converters. (2 analog sony cameras, 4 channel analog video switcher, audio mixer, laptop and Sony VISCA software to control PTZ and presets, a few monitors, etc) I really would like to switch to HD cameras and an HD switcher. I definitely wouldn't want to duplicate what I am doing now. Most people wouldn't want to go through the trouble I do for a webcast. I really want to simplify my set up. The church is recommending Lumens VC-A50 cameras last time I asked. The HD stuff is pricey compared to the old analog but the quality is great. I haven't settled on a switcher but use Data Video at work and really like it.

It just seems to me that it would make sense for a few stakes to share a portable system rather then have 3 complete systems. At the most we do 4 or 5 webcast a year in our stake. Is anyone sharing a system with another stake? Ultimately if I had my choice we would have 3 separate systems all installed permanently and not have to worry about running cables and setting up tripods.

Anyway, just curious if anyone had thoughts about sharing equipment.

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Mikerowaved
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Re: Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby Mikerowaved » Tue Sep 17, 2019 2:48 pm

miken2av wrote:Anyway, just curious if anyone had thoughts about sharing equipment.

I've been an advocate of sharing some good HD webcasting gear between stakes, but there are some pitfalls that would need to be addressed. First and foremost is educating the various stake's STS's on how to operate the gear. This holds true for using either a hardware or software video switcher. When two stake conferences are held fairly close together, the latter would have limited hands-on time for testing and brushing up on the useage. As we all know, insufficient testing/troubleshooting can lead to big problems during the webcast.

Another pitfall is making sure all the stake centers have a similar A/V configuration that's compatible with the shared equipment. For example, using SDI cabling when the portable gear only has HDMI inputs (or vica-versa). The same holds true for being able to receive and process SD video. Can a set of common VISCA commands control all the varieties of mounted PTZ cameras?

Outputting a signal for local distribution can also have snags. Some stake centers (like mine) still use SD modulators over coax, while others are reporting to have HD distribution capabilities. The portable equipment would have to have be flexible enough for all situations.

Internet bandwidth can vary widely between stakes. While some can upload HD, others may need to stick with SD. (Did I mention the need for flexibility? :shock: )

Haven't touched audio yet, but you get the picture.

Perhaps a better solution would be for a small team (2-3 people) to be deeply trained on the hardware/software being used and took the portable equipment to surrounding stakes prior to their conference. This team could work closely with the local STS(s) in getting everything setup and tested. If the STS was comfortable running the gear then it could be left in their hands. If not, then plan on a member or two of the team staying with them to help supervise the webcast. Following the conference, the team would gather up the gear and pack it away carefully for when they would be called upon next. The participating stakes would share the initial cost of the portable gear making the move to HD far more affordable.
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Re: Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby russellhltn » Tue Sep 17, 2019 4:05 pm

I think one of the big issues would be a details inventory of the equipment and condition. A missing cable or adapter can jeopardize the whole thing. But when asked, the last stake will say "that's how we got it".
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Re: Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby johnshaw » Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:18 am

Mikerowaved wrote:
miken2av wrote:Perhaps a better solution would be for a small team (2-3 people) to be deeply trained on the hardware/software being used and took the portable equipment to surrounding stakes prior to their conference. This team could work closely with the local STS(s) in getting everything setup and tested. If the STS was comfortable running the gear then it could be left in their hands. If not, then plan on a member or two of the team staying with them to help supervise the webcast. Following the conference, the team would gather up the gear and pack it away carefully for when they would be called upon next. The participating stakes would share the initial cost of the portable gear making the move to HD far more affordable.


When the church announced the idea of area technology specialists I was pretty excited about it. Finally someone with expertise that can go around and train STS and have a pretty decent standardization around how that all works, potentially have an equipment checkout system to use tithing, budget dollars efficiently - then they started calling senior missionary couples to this position... and then that position was never heard of again and nothing ever happened with it.

What I'd really like to see is something more like a Coordinating Council Level STS, someone that can track Stake Conferences, can track/maintain stake center capabilities, etc. and be there to help train STS and coordinate equipment. I think it is a VERY unwise use of tithing dollars for every stake to purchase $1000 Video Switcher that is used twice in a year (typically). I think the idea that a small group of STS aren't capable of maintaining and sharing webcast equipment is a pretty dumb reason not to roll this out as an official practice. Stakes take ownership (AGENT STATUS) of Recreational Properties, Wards take ownership (AGENT STATUS) of meetinghouse items and take turns being 'responsible' for much more than this. If FM weren't being dismanteled I'd suggest that this is an FM thing. In a previous stake we had some success with FM owning some audio equipment, wireless microphones and a small switch could be reserved and checked out - it worked well while it lasted.

I know for a fact that 3 surrounding stakes in my town own their own HDMI mixer and that I've just requested that our stake purchase one as well. It just kills me to think of the wasted tithing dollars that could be better used supporting my neighbor's children at BYU, or pay raises for BYU football coaches next year.
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”
― Thomas Paine, Common Sense

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Re: Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby russellhltn » Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:27 am

johnshaw wrote:I think it is a VERY unwise use of tithing dollars for every stake to purchase $1000 Video Switcher that is used twice in a year (typically).


It would seem that the church is somewhat in agreement. From Webcast Requirements

Units that use webcast technology are encouraged to keep their webcast setup as simple as possible. Overly complicated systems can be difficult to run, and they represent an unnecessary expense. Advanced features such as speaker titles, hymn text, and multiple cameras are optional and not required for a successful webcast.
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Re: Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby Hagothsen » Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:35 pm

I approached my Stake President about creating a webcast team that would be staffed by STSs of surrounding stakes and others willing to help. The idea would be that each stake contribute $100 a year (or some other amount) to outfit the team. Initially, I would provide all of the equipment I have to get us started. Then, a team of two would setup the broadcast and video distribution as Stake Conferences come up. Unfortunately, I discovered many of the neighboring stakes are scheduled on the same day. Also stakes already contribute to some other shared endeavor so ...

Nothing ever came of it.

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Re: Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby Mikerowaved » Thu Sep 19, 2019 12:06 am

Advanced features such as speaker titles, hymn text, and multiple cameras are optional and not required for a successful webcast.

Why even have video when audio is the only real necessity? I remember as a youth going to the stake center and listening to the Priesthood Session. There was no video, just audio.

To answer my own question, it's the user experience and creating an environment where the Spirit can dwell that really matters. Disruptions to either can turn the best stake conference into a train wreck. (Been there!) Our stake president (and others, I'm sure) has found that members have a tendency to use stake conference weekend as "time off" from their regular callings and often don't attend any of the sessions. This is especially true when the webcast has been rather lifeless, as with the case (IMO) of using a single camera, or there's been transmission outages.

Yes, adding a second camera and hymn lyrics calls for a more sophisticated setup, but when people go out of their way to thank you for the good experience they had, it makes it all worthwhile. I don't have the numbers, but I know that since we've been using two HD cameras with titling that attendance has improved. We used to only have one overflow building, now we use two. Even now, people know to show up early to get seats that aren't in the very back. Of course, this has not been solely due to better webcasting, but I believe it's a contributing factor.
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Re: Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby russellhltn » Thu Sep 19, 2019 12:26 am

I'm sure there's a certain amount of risk/reward going on. I suspect it's better to do single-camera well then do multi-camera poorly. It's easy to get over-extended. (BTDT)

I think the other concern is to make sure you have enough "depth" in the available technical talent to make sure the stake can continue even if one or two key members move on.

A stake just starting out might want to stick to single camera until they've mastered that.
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Re: Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby randysteck » Sun Nov 03, 2019 11:41 am

miken2av wrote:So, our area is having a few stakes reorganized and a new stake created. I was asked to come up with a list/pricing of webcasting equipment. My current set up is a mix of new and old equipment. Some of it is HD and some analog with various HD to Analog and Analog to HD converters. (2 analog sony cameras, 4 channel analog video switcher, audio mixer, laptop and Sony VISCA software to control PTZ and presets, a few monitors, etc) I really would like to switch to HD cameras and an HD switcher. I definitely wouldn't want to duplicate what I am doing now. Most people wouldn't want to go through the trouble I do for a webcast. I really want to simplify my set up. The church is recommending Lumens VC-A50 cameras last time I asked. The HD stuff is pricey compared to the old analog but the quality is great. I haven't settled on a switcher but use Data Video at work and really like it.


I would strongly recommend you look at IP cameras with either vMix or OBS running on a PC to set up a full HD system. I've previously posted our configuration, and it frankly is as easy as IP cameras, a PC, a USB audio connection for sound. We were able to deploy this for under $1500 and it has given us very high quality remote sessions with excellent control. We've been webcasting 1080P for over 5 years. Before 1080P was available on the church servers, we used an external provider ($50 each conference) that also allowed us to use Roku boxes on the receive end.

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Re: Stakes sharing webcasting equipment?

Postby randysteck » Sun Nov 03, 2019 11:45 am

We also approached other stakes in our area about sharing equipment or expertise. Of 8 or so queries, we did not find another that shared the same concerns. Plus, there were more than one conflicts on dates for conferences.

Since our setup was inexpensive, we decided to just share with other stakes and take what they learned. I haven't been on these forums for quite a while since we've been so stable, but I'm glad to see some of the recent changes, which I think are in the right direction.


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