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Old April 4th, 2013, 02:38 PM   #1
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Setup tips for an extended webcast?

My organization is planning to webcast monthly board meetings. We're gearing up to run them offsite using a laptop. Some of the meetings run 7-8 hours, so I'm wondering if there are any tips to safeguard that kind of extended shooting/encoding/streaming. I'd also love to hear any other tips, gotchas, or advice about the setup we're considering below. This is our first webcast project so there's a lot we still don't know.

- Video: Camcorder using HDMI or Firewire output. (If HDMI, then we could connect to the Intensity Shuttle for USB 3.0, but are there other good options for HDMI into a laptop?) Otherwise, firewire from the camcorder straight into laptop. Do camcorders still use firewire?

- Laptop: i7 processor, 64bit Windows 7, 16 GB ram. USB 3.0 port (for the video input)

- Sound: we'll need to tap into an existing system. So we're thinking an audio interface like Presonus Audiobox USB to take XLR or 1/4" audio to into the laptop through USB 2.0.

- Encoding: we're considering MS Expression Encoder Pro.

- Internet connection: We have a 4G broadband wireless router from Cradlepoint.

- Streaming server: we have Windows Media Server 2008 running. We'll set up a publishing point to use push from the encoder. We typically have 20-30Mbps of outbound bandwidth available throughout the day.

In other instances, the video has been 320x240 and that seems sufficient. The audio of the meeting is the most important factor since it's just people sitting and talking. We may have 40-80 viewers at any point.

I think that covers it, except for power strips, a small table, and extra long cables.

How are we doing so far?
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Old April 4th, 2013, 05:32 PM   #2
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

Consider video recording then editing it down, 7-8 hours a month in one throw means a whole day.

I was in broadcast and TV for many years. So imo it's to long for the punters, after going to the time and considerable trouble of getting it under way,
after some months you'll find hardly anyone is watching because you won't get positive responses. Send out edited compiled DVDs with a menu,
they can watch it in their time and they and the board members will have a detailed reference for later. You can cut out the meal and potty breaks
and there's always disagreements and boring stuff, they could even stop taking written minutes of the meetings.

Technically, covering a round boardroom table with one camera means some members will have their backs to the viewers.

Sorry to pour water on it, oh and welcome to the forum :)

Cheers.
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Old April 4th, 2013, 05:56 PM   #3
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

Thanks Allan, but the point is to webcast the meeting - real time and for the record. Total viewership is not a priority. I'm in Government.
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Old April 4th, 2013, 06:16 PM   #4
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

Aha! Joe, changes everything, this must be Texas, so it's not my tax dollars :)

Imo you might need 2 or more cameras and a video switcher. Investigate a 7 secs delay to contain any volatile meetings.

In fact to set it all up call in pro help, they'll comb out the hassles and get you going.

First web/broadcasts are always nerve racking affairs and bosses don't take kindly to on air screwups.

Cheers.
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Old April 4th, 2013, 08:11 PM   #5
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

HD capture into a laptop is a thorny problem. IF your laptop is on the shortlist of supported boxes at Blackmagic, I understand the Intensity USB3 can work quite well. But that's a very short list.

OTOH, more woe, try to find a new laptop with firewire in. I think it's easier to find a camera that supports DV or HDV over firewire than it is to find a laptop.

Of course one solution is to go desktop, use the BM Intensity PCI and/or firewire on a card.

It IS possible to go laptop, and an i7 laptop does pretty well at live encoding. Last year's (?) macbook pro still had firewire 800/400 ports and 2nd gen i7 processors, but you wouldn't be doing windows media on them, unless Windows on Bootcamp has access to the firewire port. Maybe it does, I don't know.

Desktop? The Intensity is a little finicky to set up, but once you've figured it out it's pretty solid.
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Old April 5th, 2013, 10:18 AM   #6
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allan Black View Post
...this must be Texas, so it's not my tax dollars :)
Yes, that's one of our goals here... efficiency. The webcast is so people don't have to travel to attend the meeting, and we're doing it ourselves to avoid the extra cost of hiring someone. The main point of my posting was to get feedback about the setup rather than the production quality. Sorry, maybe I didn't make that clear, but having more cameras is not necessary. A delay is also not necessary. "Combing out the hassles" is what I'm doing on this forum.
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Old April 5th, 2013, 10:23 AM   #7
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
HD capture into a laptop is a thorny problem. IF your laptop is on the shortlist of supported boxes at Blackmagic, I understand the Intensity USB3 can work quite well. But that's a very short list.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
Desktop? The Intensity is a little finicky to set up, but once you've figured it out it's pretty solid.
That's good to know! Thanks.

I'm wondering what the weakest link here is. If something were to fail during a 7-hour webcast what would it most likely be? We could have a backup on hand.
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Old April 5th, 2013, 11:40 AM   #8
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Burkhart View Post
That's good to know! Thanks.

I'm wondering what the weakest link here is. If something were to fail during a 7-hour webcast what would it most likely be? We could have a backup on hand.
Internet connectivity is always an adventure for me, but I'm visiting multiple venues. I could tell you stories...

Then it's those darn computers. But it will usually be just before you go live, when you've completed your setup and do a live check webcast. That's when its handy to have a second encoder standing by. Of course you do need good cooling for extended encoding, and a UPS helps when a circuit breaker blows or someone kicks the plug out of the wall.

There may be some pitfalls running Windows Media Services that I haven't experienced, since I've always used commercial media hosting services. You do, of course, need to look at the outbound bandwidth consequences if 25, 250, or 2500 viewers actually request streams. That's a lot of bandwidth.

But Windows Media is so 2008! These days, to give access to the widest audience you need to provide not only Flash, but something that works with iOS. Then, speaking of accessibility in government, there's the need for closed captioning. Maybe you aren't legally required to do so for a live stream, but probably only if you later make available a captioned on-demand stream? Local jurisdictions vary, of course.
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Old April 5th, 2013, 11:42 AM   #9
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

You might also run in audio/video sync issues, so be aware. I've noticed that after a prolonged encoding, that they can start to drift sometimes. I would recommend maybe starting and stopping the encoding if there are significant breaks. Our windows streamer needs a reboot or restart when we start to have sync issues.
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Old April 5th, 2013, 12:03 PM   #10
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

Excellent point, David. Maybe we can at least stop and restart encoding at the breaks, being sure not to overwrite the previous archive file :O A colleague had the idea that maybe we could plug the audio from their system into an adapter then into the camcorder and just use the camcorder for both the audio and video. Does that sound like a good plan? It would knock out the need for the audio device.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
But Windows Media is so 2008! These days, to give access to the widest audience you need to provide not only Flash, but something that works with iOS. Then, speaking of accessibility in government, there's the need for closed captioning. Maybe you aren't legally required to do so for a live stream, but probably only if you later make available a captioned on-demand stream? Local jurisdictions vary, of course.
Good point, Seth. We may discuss that further internally, but the overwhelming majority of the 40-80 that would view our webcast would have IE. On accessibility, in Texas we're required to provide an accessible version of multimedia upon request. We've had to add captions to the archive video in the past. (We've gotten archive videos when our meetings were in facilities that provided a webcast.)
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Old April 5th, 2013, 12:59 PM   #11
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

Having the audio and video coming in from the same source may help with sync as the encoder won't need to work as hard processing to separate files form 2 sources. I would give a try.
As for Windows media, if it works it works. I provide live web streaming of many events at the university that I work at, Wright State in Dayton, OH. When we do a stream, we send out a windows media and a QuickTime. The QT is done on our internal streaming source, which is intended for internal network traffic and the few that can't get the WM to work. We went with low bandwidth for mainly an economical stand point. IT doesn't want viewers hitting our network at HD rates and our WM is hosted from an outside source that hosts our PEG channel. On the Athletics side we do stream HD on the Horizon League Network, but they have a deal with UStream to handle the hosting.
Good luck, 7-8 hours is a long time. I've have to stream 3 basketball game in a row, which is a lot of work.
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Old April 26th, 2013, 01:33 AM   #12
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Re: Setup tips for an extended webcast?

Hey Joe. I directed live city council coverage for years. I know the focus is on the streaming/computer issues, but here are some other things to consider. (if they haven't already been addressed)

- Can you really cover it with one camera? How about covering the staff table/podium, and the podium for delegations? What's the seating arrangement for the board members? Will you get only the back of the heads of some people?

- Will the staff be using a projector for powerpoints, photos, and video? How will you get this onto the video stream?

- Will you be adding any graphics/CG to the stream? How about rolling an intro/extro or getting in and out of breaks? If someone is looking at the recorded stream later, it's much easier if you have each agenda item identified as a lower third graphic. If it's a slow moving meeting you can create these graphics on the fly. Think about how the recording or stream will be used. If someone joins it when it's underway live, or watching the recording later, I think they should be able to immediately see what agenda item is being discussed. There are probably name placards sitting on their desks to identify each board member, but it's good to be able to put in their names as a graphic.

- I found that my volunteer camera ops needed a break every hour or so, and definitely after 1-1/2 hours of standing.

- What kind of viewfinder and zoom/focus controllers will you have? If there is back and forth questioning and conversations, the camera op is going to need to follow that, and know who is talking next. In a studio style setup with tripod arms, zoom and focus controllers, and a separate large viewfinder, it's a lot easier to follow the discussion, and a lot easier on the camera op. They can look around and see what's happening. Harder to do if you're hunched over a small VF. Focus is also tricky if you don't have a good, large VF. Peaking helps if you've got it. The trouble with using just one camera is you can't zoom in, get focus, then frame your shot. Maybe you would just use autofocus.

- We eventually switched to robotic cameras. No need for camera ops. The director sits in a separate room at a console, and remotely controls & switches 4 robotic cameras, and could switch to the projector feed as well. We would also keep an eye on the decks (Betacam at the time) and monitor the feed. If I had to set this up, I would definitely want to go with a couple of robotic cameras. They don't even have to be HD cameras. The video quality won't be quite as good, but big advantages otherwise.

- You can have the streaming handled by an outside company. A few years after I left, the city contracted with Neulion to do the streaming and recording.

Good luck with it...

/ Keith

Last edited by Keith Dobie; April 26th, 2013 at 02:14 AM.
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