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Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 7:03 pm
by DeeGardiner
Our stake is in line with tsheffield's suggestion to wait. We just got our Internet installations in place. I have talked with a few other stakes that have been doing conference video streaming using various methods. One stake I spoke with has already tested the "new" church solution and gave rave reviews. So we are waiting for that to become available.

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 9:48 pm
by lajackson
RussellHltn wrote:When do most stakes hold their conference?
Stake conference schedules are set by the Quorum of the Twelve and stake conferences occur in every month except July. In late summer or early fall each year, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve sends a letter to the stake president with the dates for the last stake conference of the current year and the two conferences for the next year.

The conferences for a particular stake used to occur during the same months each year. Our stake, for example, used to have conference in May and December each year. This has changed recently because of the satellite conferences that now occur every two years. Our satellite conference in 2007 was in February, and will also be in February in 2009. For us, the regional satellite stake conference replaces the May stake conference.

So, again in our case, in even years we now have stake conference in May and December, and in odd years, we now have conference in February and December.

And, as with everything else in the Church, there are exceptions. [grin]

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 9:57 pm
by russellhltn
lajackson wrote:and in odd years, we now have conference in February and December.
Two months apart? Now that's interesting.

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:20 pm
by lajackson
RussellHltn wrote:Two months apart? Now that's interesting.
Very. And quite a challenge to normal stake calendaring. But, that's what happens when you try to set up a "system" and then make changes to it.

Alan was right. The reason for the central scheduling of stake conferences spread throughout the year is so that general authorities will be available for visits. I imagine that very few at this forum will remember when stake conferences were quarterly and two apostles came to each one.

And there were two sessions on Sunday. Everyone was expected to attend both of them, because they were different.

Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 9:17 pm
by emckirdy
Until this spring, we still had two Sunday sessions of stake conference, because the stake center (which it really wasn't) couldn't hold the entire stake at once. Half the wards were assigned to the morning, and the other half in the afternoon. As the stake music chair and choir director, I had the stake choir sing at both sessions, and we had lunch in between.

Our new Legacy-model stake center was completed in May this year, so our first stake conference was held there last month, but it was a broadcast. I believe we just barely fit everyone in.

During this year's spring conference, a new stake presidency was installed, so this meant all members needed to be at the same session at the same time. To accomplish this, Comcast was contracted to provide a closed-circuit signal from the stake center to a second building, using a broadband connection. I hear the sound was great, but the picture was terrible. But it got the job done.

I'll be anxious to hear whether our stake has implemented an internet connection into the new building.

Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 9:32 am
by MorettiDP
Only to help RussellHltn, we have conferences in April and October, weeks after the General Conference. Is interesting to see the dates of conferences in stakes around the world!!!

Video streaming kit

Posted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 6:13 pm
by DeeGardiner
Our stake will hold stake conference next weekend (Nov 22-23) and it will be our first session to use video streaming via the Internet so that we can hold one session in two buildings.

We were able to borrow one of the evaluation "kits" that the church is developing. Yesterday we installed the equipment and tested it out. Here is a brief summary of what we learned.

The kit includes:
- A Sony security camera with remote control for pan, tilt, and zoom. The camera provides composite and S-video outputs.
- A tripod.
- A dedicated video encoder - basically a PC in a box.
- One crab box.
- A bunch of cables, a microphone, power strip, tape, etc.
- Installation instructions.

We had to provide:
- A laptop computer with Windows Media Player.
- A projector & screen.
- Internet connections in all buildings.
- A second crab box if we want to provide backup audio via the telephone (which we didn't test).
- Misc cables and adapters.

It took us a while to figure out how to install the equipment. You basically have two options; 1) install the encoder near the A/V distribution equipment, or 2) install the encoder near the camera.

If you install the encoder near the camera you can use the S-video output, which gives a higher quality image. But you need to provide audio in to the encoder and we didn't have an audio port near the camera. You would also need to run an Ethernet cable from the encoder to your Internet connection.

So we opted to install the encoder in the stake office where the A/V distribution equipment is. We thought there would be audio and video RCA jacks in the cabinet, but there were not. Most of the A/V distribution is RF video. We finally figured out that we could get composite video and audio out of the VCR in the equipment. We then needed an RCA to 1/8" phone jack adapter for the audio.

Lessons learned:
- The "kit" camera picked up audio noise. We concluded that the source was the fluorescent lights in the chapel.
- The "kit" camera does not have any color controls, and due to the dark brick in our chapel, the color was absolutely terrible. Faces were washed out ghosts. Basically unusable. The S-video output on a TV screen looked fine. I am not sure that this problem is entirely a result of the camera, but with a standard camcorder we can manually adjust the color and get good results. So we will not be using the "kit" camera.
- The remote for the "kit" camera has very limited effect. You had to point it directly at the back of the camera.
- You cannot use the remote to adjust the camera unless you have a viewing monitor attached directly to the camera (which was impractical for us).
- There is about a 1 minute 15 second lag provided by the video server to help isolate Internet traffic problems. This makes it impractical to use a laptop to receive the streamed video so you can control the camera.
- The audio led the video by about 1-1.5 seconds. I assume this is caused by the video server. It is pretty annoying. I don't know if there is something we can do to avoid this problem or not.
- The video quality was fair. It is fairly low resolution, but it was stable and didn't break up much - even when there was motion in the scene. It only uses 300-kbps bandwidth.
- The audio was over-modulated and sounded terrible. We finally found an adjustable attenuator in the back of the A/V cabinet. Once we turned it down a little, it sounded great. You couldn't tell the source was coming from a different building.

All in all I was fairly pleased with the kit. I thought it would include a dedicated decoder so we wouldn't need a laptop, but it does not. The video quality is not great, but I think it will be tolerable. I would rather have stable and fuzzy than sharp and flaky. I am worried about the lag between the audio and video.

I suspect that we would have higher quality audio and video if we could pick it off prior to the VCR output. The camera's composite video and the microphone audio signal go in to an RF modulator so it can be distributed throughout the building. The VCR is then converting it back to composite. All of these extra conversions don't help the quality any. If anyone knows how we can easily pick off the signals prior to the RF modulator but still provide distribution throughout the building, I would love to hear your ideas.

Posted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:38 am
by russellhltn
Seems odd to me that you get good video out of the camera in some situations and not others. Perhaps a mis-adjusted modulator?

conference video streaming

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2008 2:32 pm
by DeeGardiner
We held our stake conference this weekend, so I thought I would post some follow-up lessons learned since our initial test of the streaming kit.

First of all, I bought some "piggy back" RCA patch cords. This allowed me to pick off both audio and video prior to the RF modulator but still drive the modulator for distribution within the stake center. This required a couple of coaxial to RCA adapters as well. This made a HUGE difference in quality. Audio in the destination building was crystal clear and video was much better. With the RF modulator in the loop, the kit Sony camera was basically unusable. By picking off the composite video the camera quality was fairly good. It would be nice if the camera had some color controls, but the quality was usable.

We ended up using a mixer to select between two cameras - one that was zoomed in on the speaker, and one with a wider view of the choir. By switching rather than pan/zooming in and out, we minimized video compression artifacts.

We decided to do a trial run during the Saturday evening adult session. This was a wise decision. We were able to make some crucial fine tuning adjustments and work out some issues without a chapel full of people. We made a few tweaks and repeated the test during the Priesthood Leadership meeting Sunday morning.

We found that at about 1 hour 20 minutes in to the broadcast, the video would start to stutter and then the sound would get out of sync. It would progressively get worse as time went on. The only fix we found was to reboot the encoder and start a new stream - which isn't a good option in the midst of a two hour conference.

Reports from those in attendance at the remote location were mostly positive. The audio sync problem was apparent, but not overly distracting. In general everyone felt the video streaming was a success.

On Saturday evening we also tested a back-up audio feed via the phone line and two EJ-10 crab boxes. Audio from the stake center phone was piped in to the remote sound system just fine, but we were never able to get a good signal from our stake audio in to the EJ-10. I am not sure if we were doing something wrong, but I was glad that we didn't have to rely on the phone line.

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2008 10:11 pm
by russellhltn
DeeGardiner wrote:First of all, I bought some "piggy back" RCA patch cords. This allowed me to pick off both audio and video prior to the RF modulator but still drive the modulator for distribution within the stake center.
A few quick comments. I suspect your cables were designed for audio, not video. Video signals are not designed to be "split" or "Y" cabled in any way. It creates an impedance mismatch and reflections in the signal. More importantly, it will likely create a "double termination" in that both devices are terminating the signal which changes the signal strength (brightness).

The proper way to do it, in the absence of any equipment that allows a "pass though', is to use a distribution amplifier. Unless your setup only has a single modulator, you probably have one in the rack already. See if there's unused output you can use.

I'm not sure why you are getting such a poor signal from the modulator. But from our setup, I suspect the levels were not adjusted using professional equipment, but was just eyeballed. As result, your video may be over-modulated.