How would you change the Meetinghouse Webcast software?

Conversations around originating a webcast for conference, including cameras and mixers.
harddrive
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Postby harddrive » Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:13 am

MattWorley wrote:It would be great if every building that handled multi-camera webcasts just had a Tri-Caster. I use one at work and it's brilliant!
It does much of the stuff that is being asked for.


That would be a great item, because I have been looking at that. However, the cost to install one is very expensive and for our stake it would take nearly a quarter of the budget to purchase it. The unit retails at $9,000. That is before you purchase cameras and other items.

MattWorley
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Postby MattWorley » Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:03 pm

Would be nice to even have a budget... But I gotta say, the Tri-caster is pretty solid.
Matt Worley

rpyne
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Postby rpyne » Sat Jan 15, 2011 2:42 pm

MattWorley wrote:It would be great if every building that handled multi-camera webcasts just had a Tri-Caster. I use one at work and it's brilliant!
It does much of the stuff that is being asked for.


The Tri-Caster is a nice unit, but I doubt that most wards or even stakes could justify spending the money for something they would only use a couple times a year. The best price I've been able to find on even a used tri-caster is $5k.

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Suggestions

Postby sammythesm » Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:00 pm

Thanks for opening up this thread. We have been working on doing our first webcast using the software-only option. Here are our findings.

1) Win 7 didn't work. We had to go back to Win XP. It would be really nice if the webcasting client was Win 7 and MacOS X compatible. Really, truly compatible. This caused a lot of frustration in the initial setup. It wasn't even a driver issue with the cards. We purchased 3 different analog video capture cards and tried them all on Windows 7 with no luck.

2) Build in a few simple "producer" functions into the webcast software. Check out Wirecast or UStream Producer for great examples of how to do this. They have great applications for producing a webcast from a single computer and sending it to different web services (i.e. ustream.com). Here's how I would describe the features they have:
a) allow switching between multiple sources that can be video, photos, music, powerpoint, etc.
b) allow lower 3rd graphics (can be used for titles, hymns, etc)

3) Support for IP/network cameras or RTP/RTSP streams. This would greatly lower the disruption to the meeting. (no big bank of computers and monitors and cameras in the overflow or chapel area) You could very easily install nice IP cameras inside the chapel and then produce the webcast from a room outside the chapel. The camera 'operators' don't even need to be in the room to get a good shot. Especially since most of these meetings can be accomplished with a single stationary camera.

4) Better enable cameras with HDMI or other digital signals. I know I'm going a little over the edge with this one since the hardware support for HD/HDMI/Component is still expensive and nascent, but it would be very nice to have an end-to-end digital webcasting system, allowing the producer to easily connect one or two cameras with component or hdmi outputs, then switch between them. I'm using a fairly new HD camera from Canon, and it really looks bad when converted to analog and run through an analog capture card.

5) Audio. We're really struggling with the audio in our setup. We're finding that the 'record out' jack near the clerk's desk rarely (if ever) works, the assisted listening devices are difficult to control the volume (too many knobs), and we couldn't even get a wireless lapel mic attached to the church system to work correctly (too many adaptors and volume controls). I dont' have a great suggestion for this one, but it's a problem.

One thing that would help is being able to adjust the volume during a webcast from the webcast software. We think we can adjust the volume using the windows volume controls, but we're not sure if it's taking in the webcast (since you can't access volume controls after you start a webcast)

Parting words of advice - check out the 'competitive' offerings out there. Ustream is one among many sites who are doing a great job with their webcast tools. Perhaps the church could white-label someone else's technology rather than developing it all in-house? I only say this because it's kind of frustrating when the church creates a policy that locks us into using church-only services, when the commercial offerings are so much more advanced. It's hard to explain to a church leaders and members who want to use the technologies around us, but be bound as the technologist by the policies set by the church.

Hmm. That's all I can think of for now. Thanks for the great work on this product, and thanks for your continued work to improve it. I'm really glad the church is enabling technology like this, and hope we (as a community) can be helpful in giving you the proper feedback to make it great.

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Postby russellhltn » Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:04 pm

sammythesm wrote:a) allow switching between multiple sources that can be video, photos, music, powerpoint, etc.


That gives me an idea. How about some graphics and prelude music that can be streamed before/after? Make it easy. Preferably last in stream so that the operators can work out kinks in the video and audio without broadcasting it, but still stream something for the other sites to check out their systems.
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Aczlan
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Postby Aczlan » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:28 pm

sammythesm wrote:1) Win 7 didn't work. We had to go back to Win XP. It would be really nice if the webcasting client was Win 7 and MacOS X compatible. Really, truly compatible. This caused a lot of frustration in the initial setup. It wasn't even a driver issue with the cards. We purchased 3 different analog video capture cards and tried them all on Windows 7 with no luck.

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.

3) Support for IP/network cameras or RTP/RTSP streams. This would greatly lower the disruption to the meeting. (no big bank of computers and monitors and cameras in the overflow or chapel area) You could very easily install nice IP cameras inside the chapel and then produce the webcast from a room outside the chapel. The camera 'operators' don't even need to be in the room to get a good shot. Especially since most of these meetings can be accomplished with a single stationary camera.

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.

4) Better enable cameras with HDMI or other digital signals. I know I'm going a little over the edge with this one since the hardware support for HD/HDMI/Component is still expensive and nascent, but it would be very nice to have an end-to-end digital webcasting system, allowing the producer to easily connect one or two cameras with component or hdmi outputs, then switch between them. I'm using a fairly new HD camera from Canon, and it really looks bad when converted to analog and run through an analog capture card.

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.

5) Audio. We're really struggling with the audio in our setup. We're finding that the 'record out' jack near the clerk's desk rarely (if ever) works, the assisted listening devices are difficult to control the volume (too many knobs), and we couldn't even get a wireless lapel mic attached to the church system to work correctly (too many adaptors and volume controls). I dont' have a great suggestion for this one, but it's a problem.

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

One thing that would help is being able to adjust the volume during a webcast from the webcast software. We think we can adjust the volume using the windows volume controls, but we're not sure if it's taking in the webcast (since you can't access volume controls after you start a webcast)

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.

Aaron Z

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Postby sammythesm » Fri Jan 21, 2011 9:55 am

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.

Aczlan
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Postby Aczlan » Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:48 am

sammythesm wrote:Thanks for your thoughtful replies, Aaron.
We actually had our first webcast last night, and it went all right.

You are welcome. I am glad to hear that it went well.

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.

Out of curiosity, did Windows Media Encoder work outside of the communicator software? If not, do you have the x32 version of Windows Media Encoder 9 installed?

The Axis solution you mention would be cool to try. I have access to some Axis equipment, so I'll give it a look.

It looked nice, but I dont know that it will work with the communicator (which we are probably going to use).

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.

I know what you mean. I have run the webcasts that we have done up to this point mostly with my own gear (or gear that has been lent to me). It makes it easier sometimes, but interfacing it with the church equipment can be problematic.

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 think that the biggest issue with IP cameras is that they all have their own propitiatory way to view the video. There is no good standard to work with. That is why I suggested Axis because their driver should allow their network cameras to be seen as a camera by Windows. If I could get a demo and they worked, we might go that route, but I dont think that we will.


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.

Our FM had a record out and a line in installed in the stake clerks office (not sure why). That is where we are planning to run the webcasts from. It is on the other side of the wall from the chapel and should work well to feed audio in from the stage if we need the choir microphones.

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.

We have had 3 successful webcasts so far. At the last one, one of the members of the Stake Presidency wasn't feeling too well, so he spent most of the Sunday session in the clerks office. That really impressed him and helped to jumpstart the current project (to setup so that we can webcast from the Stake Center, or another building via the webcast communicator).

When we get the details hammered out, I will start a thread on the project.

Aaron Z

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Postby georgevanleuven » Sun Jan 23, 2011 1:24 am

I would suggest that if possible, hymn text overlays be made available by using the feature built into the webcast software of .jpg files on the lower-right corner of the software where the pictures of Lehi on the boat, sacrament, temple and Second Coming pictures are provided by changing the website interface radio buttons to check boxes as well as the radio button in the lower-left corner of the screen for the camera video feed. Using check boxes may allow the operator to select the incoming camera video feed as well as graphic files of words to a hymn (2 lines per graphic) with the graphic having a transparent background. The graphics would probably have to be .gif files to allow a transparent background just as in web pages? The types of file formats may need to be expanded that the webcast screen will accept. Mixing the two may allow the video of the choristor for example to show through the transparent background on the top of the screen with the words to the song showing on the bottom of the screen. If something like this or similar could be made to work, it might remove the need for some expensive mixing equipment in order to have text over video capability. It would also be great if the webcast software would handle more than one video feed and allow the switching between 2-3 cameras.

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Postby georgevanleuven » Sun Jan 23, 2011 1:30 am

We purchased a Mackie 402-VLZ3 Premium 4-Channel Ultra-Compact Audio Mixer for $99.99 on Amazon and connected the incoming building sound we tapped into inside the sattelite cabinet and then went from it to the computer sound card input. We used some headphones connected into it and can adjust the sound before going into the computer.


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