Today (Feb 7th) we accomplished our first Stake Conference Webcast successfully.
We webcast to 4 outlying buildings from our Stake Center. Attendance was approximately 2000, with about 800 in the Stake Center, and 1200 in the other 4 buildings (preliminary estimates, final stats aren't in yet).
Equipment in the Stake center included two Canon VCC50i cameras, one in the center rear of the chapel, and one on the side of the chapel, both in permanent mounts (no tripods). The cameras were controlled by a laptop using Canon's supplied control software (free download from Canon) located in a clerks office, and a video production computer (HP i5 dual processor machine) in that same clerks office running video production software, feeding a webcast communicator box.
Audio was supplied by a mixer recycled from a building audio system that had been upgraded. We used 5 mics, (2 for the choir, 1 for organ, 1 for piano, and the pulpit mic)
The video production software ($500) enabled very nice transitions and cuts between cameras, video overlay's of speaker's names (similar to General conference name overlays), and video overlays of song text, 2 lines at a time, avoiding the need to print song sheets.
We had 3 operators inside the clerks office, one to man the camera control laptop, one to man the video production computer, and a third to function as a support person to the computer operators and handle phone conversations from the webcast specialists in each building. We used a teleconference bridge for conference audio backup (didn't have to cut over to it though), and a seperate teleconference bridge that each of the 5 building webcast specialists all dialed into with their cell phones to enable a troubleshooting network full time between all 5 buildings during the entire conference. The troublshooting bridge proved very helpful, as it avoided the problem of 4 outlying webcast specialist all trying to dial the stake center webcast office at the same time in event of problems. (Since it was a weekend, cell phone minutes were free for all webcast specialists becasue nights and weekends are free on most cell phone plans). The total cost for the 2 teleconference bridges was less than $40 for the conference, which the Stake President was very happy to have the stake pay.
In addition to the receiving laptops/projectors in the chapels/cultural halls of the outlying buildings, all outlying buildings distributed the webcast via TV modulators thoughout their buildings, with TV's set up in the primary rooms and Relief Society rooms of the outlying buildings.
In the Stake center, we distributed the live feed (pre-webcast communicator feed) throughout the building, with TV's in the Priesthood room, RS room, and Primary room, plus a small TV set on the floor of the choir loft where the Stake presidency and visiting authorities could view the webcast feed.
Each outlying building was supplied with a laptop for receiving the webcast. We initally ordered and received the webcast receivers from Salt Lake, but the video from the receivers was so poor that we returned all 5 of them to Salt lake and purchased laptops instead. There was a about a $300 per building savings using the laptops, and the video produced by the laptops was far superior to that produced by the webcast receivers. The Laptops will be returned to the Stake Center for storage between stake conferences. The Laptops are kept in a kit for each building that includes all cables needed to set up the projectors and TV's, so that when the webcast specialist for each building picks up the kit about 2 weeks prior to each stake conference, he has everything he needs to set up his building.
Total installed cost of the webcast equipment was about $10k. Myself and one other Stake Technology Specialist spent about 500 manhours each (1000 manhours total) over the past 4 months installing everything into all 5 buildings, doing testing, and doing practice webcasts of 6 sacrament meetings and one Choir presentation/fireside in early January.
The webcast was well received by all viewers. Our practice sessions resulted in a very smooth presentation, something that would not have happened without those practice sacrament broadcasts. One of the visiting authorities (a mission president) said he had attended a total of 8 stake conference webcasts in the past year, and that ours was the best webcast he had seen to date.
Only one outlying building had problems with the internet during the webcast for about 20 minutes during a hail storm (the community's internet feed is via a Microwave feed, and subject to problems during heavy rain and hail storms). Their internet feed to the community is being upgraded to Fiber optic next month, so this should not be a problem in the future.
I realize that our stake's committment to this technology ($10k) is beyond what some stakes would be willing to do, but I wanted the forum members to be aware of what our stake did, so that when you go to your stake presidencies with budget requests, you can at least take these figures with you so that your stake presidencies can see that some other stakes are committing this level of funding to webcasting. In our stake, with large driving distances (20-80 miles to outlying buildings), each family would spend $10 to $20 in gas to drive to conference. The savings to stake members just from that standpoint will more than offset the $10k cost to the stake in less than 2 webcast broadcasts.
Other problems resolved by the webcast include the parking problems and complaints from stake center neighbors about the overflow parking that spreads into their neighborhoods, and in past stake conferences, the local police have issued several hundred parking tickets to member's parked vehicles during conference (a bonanza to the city, but irritating to the members)
I'll be happy to answer any questions, and all comments are appreciated.