Laptop as Webcasting Server

Conversations around originating a webcast for conference, including cameras and mixers.
harddrive
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Laptop as Webcasting Server

Postby harddrive » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:12 am

This weekend, I meet with my stake presidency to discuss the next steps in getting us to do webcasting at our June stake conference. I was encourage to hear that are area authority seventy is encouraging us to do it and he says that headquarters is really pushing it.

Now as we discussed, we plan on getting an updated camera from the old 1980's camera that still can take a full VHS tape to something new like a Sony D70. I can get one with controlling software for $1,500.

Now I mentioned to them about getting a new computer to be able to broadcast from. We have a clerks' computer that could work, but that didn't cross my mind. So I have thought about a new computer and I was thinking a desktop. However, the suggestion was made that we purchase a laptop to do it and then when we aren't using it for webcasting, the stake president can use it for his use. We have wireless in the building, but I will use hard wire, because I want to confirm that we have a good signal.

Now my question is has anyone used a laptop as a server? If so what make and model are you using and what are the specs. I'm thinking of a Dell laptop with at least 4 gigabytes of RAM and using a USB tuner to get the signal off of the Closed circuit TV system.

I don't see what this wouldn't work. It will be interesting to hear what others will say.

Thanks for letting me know.

ldsrussp
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Postby ldsrussp » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:16 am

Can someone explain to me where the funds for things like this come from? I've read about stakes buying this incredibly expensive equipment but don't understand how they justify it or get the funds for it? Does this not all come from the general fund? You don't really need a $1500 camera since the webcasting software pretty much degrades the video fairly badly anyways. A basic analog cam from the 90's works just great. All of these things are nice to have and fun toys but do we really need to spend the money this way? I've read of Stakes here spending $10k plus on equipment including remote control. We've done 3 broadcasts now with fine results and have been using the same equipment the Stake has had for over 10 years.

ldsrussp
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Postby ldsrussp » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:23 am

As a response to your question though it seems you don't need the best and latest laptop. What you listed is fine as long as you pay $300 or less I'd say as you should not need to pay more. Here is the reqs. from the wiki:

The system requirements for Meetinghouse Webcast are driven by the system requirements for Microsoft Windows Media Encoder. You will need a computer or laptop that meets the following system requirements:

  • 1 GHz or higher processor
  • Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
  • 1 GB of RAM or higher


Remember, the video this supports is pretty poor overall but still acceptable for it's intended use. You really can do this on the cheap. I plan to add a second webcast simply because we want to send a Spanish feed also and I can't see anyway to send two audio streams on one webcast. For the second webcaster I'm going to reuse an old Dell laptop I happen to have at the house (in other words, not asking Stake to pay for a new one).

harddrive
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Postby harddrive » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:37 am

ldsrussp wrote:As a response to your question though it seems you don't need the best and latest laptop. What you listed is fine as long as you pay $300 or less I'd say as you should not need to pay more. Here is the reqs. from the wiki:

The system requirements for Meetinghouse Webcast are driven by the system requirements for Microsoft Windows Media Encoder. You will need a computer or laptop that meets the following system requirements:

  • 1 GHz or higher processor
  • Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
  • 1 GB of RAM or higher


Remember, the video this supports is pretty poor overall but still acceptable for it's intended use. You really can do this on the cheap. I plan to add a second webcast simply because we want to send a Spanish feed also and I can't see anyway to send two audio streams on one webcast. For the second webcaster I'm going to reuse an old Dell laptop I happen to have at the house (in other words, not asking Stake to pay for a new one).


ldsrussp, thank you for the response. My stake president has allocated money from the normal budget for technology items. He is allowing $5,000 a year for it.

I hear what you are saying, but that could mean in 2 years that I would have to replace the laptop because the requirements on the software have gone up. Also the reason for the new camera is because the current camera is ok, but it is a lot of manual work to zoom in and to move it. Where we have it placed and with it being between 10 to 12 feet off the ground, I have to use the bench just to get high enough to manually zoom it in or even to move the camera left and right. This has gotten really old. We are looking at putting the camera on a tripod in the back in the center, but it will be on tables so that it has a clear view of the speaker. Also to climb on the tables and to touch the camera will cause it to shake and that will distract from the users while they are watching. I've had people comment on the shaking while moving or even zooming in on the speaker. They have told me that it is distracting.

I like to purchase for the future so that I don't have to go through the process again in a couple of years.

So the total bill will come in around $2,000 to $3,000 for it if I go with a high end laptop, but I do plan to keep the price down. The price on the camera is for the camera and the software to control it. The software will allow me to have a button to memorize locations.

So I will continue to look.

ldsrussp
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Postby ldsrussp » Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:46 pm

For reference I bought my wife an Asus 4GB dual core laptop in early November for about $300 at staples. Works great. This should be sufficient.

I guess I just have a tough time with all of the high end equipment I see some stakes spending when there are so many in need and the funds are short lately. The FM group had their budget cut severely that past 2 years so I now it's not just our stake. I'm all for doing a good job but when budget works fine and reliable I say go budget and save the tithing funds.

Aczlan
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Postby Aczlan » Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:34 pm

ldsrussp wrote:You don't really need a $1500 camera since the webcasting software pretty much degrades the video fairly badly anyways. A basic analog cam from the 90's works just great. All of these things are nice to have and fun toys but do we really need to spend the money this way?

We are looking at getting a Sony EVI-D70 camera (remote controlled, $850) and a infrared repeater/s-video balun ($150ish).
The benefit of having a remote controlled camera is that you dont have to have ANYONE in the chapel to distract from the meeting, you can mount the camera out of the sightline of the people in the chapel and you can control it from outside of the room.
I have done that for the last few conferences with a Canon camera (about the same as a EVI-D30) and it is amazing how much easier it is to control it. Also, with presets you can have anyone run the camera and repeatedly hit the same shots without making the people watching seasick.
Is it absolutely necessary to have a remote controlled camera? No, but by using it we only need one person to run the video instead of two and the knowledge level needed by that person is lowered.

Computerwise, we have used my Dell Studio 17 laptop as the broadcast server. It has a i5 CPU and 4GB of ram, the CPU doesn't ever seem to get above 25% when webcasting.

Aaron Z

knaptonks
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Postby knaptonks » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:51 pm

We webcast our stake conference last month using a low-end laptop as the server. It worked great - no problems at all. There is a ton of information on the wiki about recommended hardware, take a look here https://tech.lds.org/wiki/Meetinghouse_Webcast_Video_%26_Cameras and here https://tech.lds.org/wiki/Meetinghouse_Webcast_Software_User_Guide. Also, the January edition of the Meetinghouse Technology newsletter (https://tech.lds.org/wiki/Newsletter_%28meetinghouse%29) shows how one stake budgeted for these costs, and eventually returned significant funds to each ward budget because of the money saved by webcasting their conferences. I hope this helps!

harddrive
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Postby harddrive » Thu Feb 03, 2011 7:40 am

knaptonks wrote:We webcast our stake conference last month using a low-end laptop as the server. It worked great - no problems at all. There is a ton of information on the wiki about recommended hardware, take a look here https://tech.lds.org/wiki/Meetinghouse_Webcast_Video_%26_Cameras and here https://tech.lds.org/wiki/Meetinghouse_Webcast_Software_User_Guide. Also, the January edition of the Meetinghouse Technology newsletter (https://tech.lds.org/wiki/Newsletter_%28meetinghouse%29) shows how one stake budgeted for these costs, and eventually returned significant funds to each ward budget because of the money saved by webcasting their conferences. I hope this helps!


Thanks for giving me this information. I have just contacted the stake mentioned and I'm looking forward to their response.

I will keep everyone informed with how it is going.


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