Thanks for your thoughtful replies, Aaron.
We actually had our first webcast last night, and it went all right.
Really, there was one major thing we needed that we didn't have, and that was a way to put the PPT slides directly on the webcast - so let me reprioritize that to be the #1 feature request. Other than that, the webcast was a success.
Now, to respond to a few of your ideas and questions...
Aczlan wrote:What version of the webcast software did you use? I have been using a Win7 (x64) laptop with the V2 software and it has performed perfectly.
It was Win 7 32-bit with latest version 2 webcasting software. Still not sure why we had problems. Perhaps we should try x64 with the instructions/learnings other have posted. End of the day, WinXP worked out OK.
We are currently planning on using a Sony EVI-D70 with the Vaddio control kit to remotely control/power the camera that over a pair of (dedicated) CAT5 cables. That will allow us to get decent results (videowise) from non-expert camera operators.
We will be running it from the stake clerks office and thus the most visible part of the operation will be the camera mounted to the wall or the choir mics (if there is a choir singing).
If you want to go to a network camera, it appears that the AXIS 214
camera (which is based on the Sony EVI-D70) has a driver
available that would let their network cameras be seen as a video capture device on Windows, but it probably wont work with the webcast communicator box.
Personally, we are running SD cameras, we dont have bandwidth to stream HD video and so anything better than an S-Video connection is overkill.
The Axis solution you mention would be cool to try. I have access to some Axis equipment, so I'll give it a look.
What prompted the use of the webcasting software (vs communicator appliance) was the Stake's desire to save money. If they didn't want to spend $800 on a webcasting appliance, they certainly don't want to purchase an audio mixer, video mixer, multiple cameras, choir microphones, etc. So we were trying to do the most with the least investment. My personal gear is not too shabby, so I was hoping to utilize the more advanced digital capabilities of the gear I had.
Enabling the digital endpoints (IP cameras, or HDMI capture) would just make setting up the equipment easier (fewer cables, fewer adapters, more integrated operation) and produce a better end product (i.e. the software could detecting the aspect ratio, more gracefully down sample for webcast, etc) A better origination image just makes for a better webcast overall, no matter what the bandwidth limitations.
I recognize the industry is still in transition and all the tools aren't quite there yet, especially at a reasonable price point.
I would recommend that you do two things:
1. Find an audio person in your stake and recruit them to handle the audio
2. If the audio person agrees that the problem is in the chapel sound system, ask your FM group to get it fixed
I have always adjusted the sound levels outside of the webcast program (via a mixer and the Windows volume levels). That has worked great for the 3 meetings which I have broadcast for our stake.
Sadly, I AM the audio guy...
It's not that I'm unable to find a solution - it's just that all the solutions I have feel like bailing wire and duct tape. Maybe I should be OK with that - it is, after all a temporary setup and not a permanent installation.
The suggestion was more to promote thinking outside of the box as a community and thinking of a way to capture the audio without necessitating a bunch of extra mics, an audio mixer, and a dedicated audio guy to mix it all live. I still don't have a great idea, though, so I'm stuck in the boat with everyone else.
Thankfully, our FM group did get the record out fixed in time for the webcast, but it was still a bear to run and conceal a cable from the front of the chapel to the overflow where we were webcasting from.
At any rate - our first webcast was a success. Hopefully we can keep getting better from here, and as the leadership uses it more they will see the benefit from investing a bit in it.