A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Conversations around originating a webcast for conference, including cameras and mixers.
randysteck
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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby randysteck » Thu Mar 23, 2017 5:49 pm

@johnshaw and @Mikerowaved: excellent insights. I don't know how much different our stake setup is from other stakes, but we also used to see all the problems with the encoder, webcaster, building bandwidth and server. After successively knocking these down, we've now recognized the instability of the PC on the receiving end. Some analysis led us to understand that some of what we had thought were purely distribution/broadcast issues were also partially or fully the fault of the PC. Thus the original request.

As time has gone on, we've successively deployed less expensive and more reliable solutions. At this point in time we have a single PC running vMix. The PC is not very special, an i5 processor and we're only using Intel integrated graphics, 8MB RAM (CPU load is only 20%). Of course, this is a dedicated machine for only this purpose. We used to use HDMI-connected cameras but have gone this year to IP PTZ cameras costing about $300 because the software can sync the delayed video to the audio stream. Setup is very simple now.

The broadcast servers used to be a problem (both at the Church and commercial), but aren't any more. However, with the requirement of the PC on the receive end for the church system we've had to make the call to use a commercial provider for best reliability.

The trend over the last few years has been from expensive, hard to deploy systems to simple, reliable ones for sure. I think in 1-2 years, it'll be entirely reasonable to get a full 1080P stake webcast system with 2 cameras serving 2 remote sites (with projectors and boxes) for under $1500.

Sorry, got caught up in some wandering thoughts, but overall it seems that many are seeing the same things we are.

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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby russellhltn » Thu Mar 23, 2017 6:11 pm

randysteck wrote:We used to use HDMI-connected cameras but have gone this year to IP PTZ cameras costing about $300 because the software can sync the delayed video to the audio stream.

That's all well and fine until someone wants to set up screens in the overflow. Even if you're not doing it now, I'm sure the request will come.
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randysteck
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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby randysteck » Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:37 pm

Since we have not had any issues with our webcast system, I've not been back on this forum in quite a while. However, let me just touch this topic again and report the results of our experiment over the last couple of years.

Since the church system does not support any dedicated video box (Roku, AppleTV, etc.) or even an RTMP feed to avoid a browser-type interface to the stream, we made the decision to use an external provider for all our webcasts. We selected Sunday Streams and the cost is one month of connection fees ($50) for every conference. Other stakes in our area have been using Youtube Live, but we have not gone there due to one transmission issue when we first looked at it. However, we're not at all opposed to it as it is even cheaper than Sunday Streams.

Thus are we able to use Rokus at each of the remote locations with 1080P (2Mb bandwidth) streaming video. Setup at those locations is literally 5 minutes: drop the screen, plug in the cat5, HDMI to the projector, audio out of projector to chapel, and power cords. We feed HDMI to the projector and use the projector's remote to adjust volume out. This has proven to be superb quality.

We have had ZERO transmission problems over the last 5 conferences. No dropouts, no delays, no buffering issues, etc. Latency from camera to remote screen is about 40 seconds compared to the church's delay (2 years ago) of about 4 minutes. Rokus have been rock solid.

I think part of this is the fact that we are using a commercial vendor, but part of it is absolutely the fact that we're using a dedicate receive box. When members use a computer to receive the webcast from Sunday Streams they report minor glitches and occasional frame drops which we have never seen on the receive Rokus.

I would like to renew my request for the Church to support dedicated video boxes. In addition, using cloud-allocated systems as most webcast providers are doing would likely prove cheaper with much less overhead than the current server reservation system, which I believe requires virtual machines on Azure from Microsoft.

I would strongly suggest that if you are having webcast transmission problems that you look at what Bruce Anderson (bcourtenaya) and we have published.

This has vastly improved the quality at our remote locations and dramatically decreased the stress felt by our Stake Presidency.

dcburnett
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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby dcburnett » Sun Dec 09, 2018 9:30 am

I agree with Randy. I've been the STS for 3 years now, and each conference we had webcast issues. We never had upload issues, but several sites would either become choppy or drop out. It was so frustrating! Each time we did full testing for several weeks prior, but problems never occurred then. So last month we switched to Youtube. Bingo- no problems. It just worked. Additionally, we now have an archive of the meeting, for the stake to review and share (and easier to share with homebound). The only downside is we have to bypass the firewall, since Youtube live streams are blocked. We're also considering use of Roku instead of laptops, which are expensive, and we distribute/return them to the stake center each time, requiring driving great distances (if the visiting high councilor forgets, like last month). Rokus or Chromecasts would be a much better solution. The Church's current solution might have been a wise decision at the time, but streaming technology has advanced rapidly, and a rethink might be in order, going forward.

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johnshaw
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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby johnshaw » Sun Dec 09, 2018 9:44 am

You might be interested that the latest church release (beta) does have the ability to adjust the 'what you label as' Latency to a smaller number (adjustable) I can't guarantee it will be in the full production release but it was in the beta.

I did help out with evaluating the new beta and finished our latest webcast of Stake Conference Last weekend. It continues to be the ONLY real issue I have during the broadcast is the uneven experience with the receiving locations.

Because our stake is so large, we've been asked to not only setup receiving stations in the Chapel and Cultural Halls, but also the RS and Primary Rooms, so that's 9 official receiving stations being used. There is NO control of the type of equipment we use. It is varried between MAC's and PC's some use firefox, edge, and Chrome, some safarri, one person might not know how to separate the audio from the video when using HDMI so their audio goes to the projector and then to the sound system. Some people will plug their audio into the overhead sound system by using an EJ-8 while others will be going out to a TV, others choose to use a Projector.

No amount of training, no amount of 'here's what you need to do' nothing will EVER make the receiving stations consistent. We've been saying it on this thread, who knows that AV is running and what it's doing, malware might be on there, there could be Host-based intrusion prevention solutions running on a business laptop. And yet, in every instance, EVERY TIME, that we do a webcast the receiving stations ATS are asking to change things, the audio is bad here, so can you do X it's bad differently over here I need Y, it's bad a third way over here, so I need W - I'm like, guys, I'm sending the same feed to everyone.

I am not interested in any way in using another system and will NEVER do it as I feel the right thing is to support what CHQ is providing for us. But I am dumbfounded to understand why a dedicate receiving solution has NEVER been on the table. I was outright DISMAYED by previous comments from church employees in this thread about just sitting down and shutting up. The great thing about this solution is that even a High Councilman can get in, setup the feed and turn it on. As long as wireless is off you're bound to be successful with the upload. But good-golly if there isn't a dozen things that can be wrong at the receiving end.
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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby lajackson » Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:01 pm

randysteck wrote:I would like to renew my request for the Church to support dedicated video boxes.

I was very recently in a meeting of stake technology specialists where representatives from Headquarters said they are working to implement a dedicated receive box similar to a Roku that will eliminate the need for PCs or laptops at receiving sites.

It is an existing device they are working to interface with the webcasting system. I believe they said it was in testing. I may have been happily dreaming at that point, but it was very clear from the discussion that they realize the need to replace laptops and other similar devices with a simple plug and play device at the receiving locations of webcasts.

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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby russellhltn » Sun Dec 09, 2018 1:00 pm

dcburnett wrote:Additionally, we now have an archive of the meeting, for the stake to review and share (and easier to share with homebound).

Make sure that's cleared with the presiding authority - which may not be the stake president. Having a recording is a whole different kettle of fish.

Handbook 2: 21.2.10 prohibits recording. The exception for stake conference may only apply to streaming and not to recording. Webcast Policies and Guidelines found in the Help Center indicates "stake technology specialists should ensure that events originating in the chapel are not recorded. An event that includes the participation of a General Authority should also never be recorded."
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richphillips
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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby richphillips » Sun Dec 09, 2018 7:47 pm

In our stake we purchased Lenovo Chromeboxes for each receiving site about two years ago. We paid between $100 and $120 each. This allowed us to standardize the training and the connections. It eliminated a lot of problems at the receive sites. We do have some locations that have audio differences which we address. Some work great with an EJ-10; some using a direct-in box; or similar device. This is probably because of aging audio components in the system and in the crab boxes, or improper levels set in the system. The operating system on the chromebox has been rock solid and the OS gets updated automatically. Since these boxes are dedicated to webcast receiving, they are not cluttered up with other software.

We don't have 1080p in our sending location, but we can send 720p out to the webcasting server. The only major problem we experienced in the past two years was when the webcast servers did not come online until 50 minutes after the opening of our Stake conference in March 2017. After that I tried Youtube and another free service as either primary or a backup, and the firewall eventually blocked them both.

As a backup now, I put lower resolution video plus sound into Google Hangouts, which is free and has worked very well, and has not been blocked. Drawback to Hangouts is it is limited to 10 users, which isn't a problem for our small Stake (six receive sites).

Another drawback to Chromeboxes and the Chrome OS is that data analysis available through the portal for other OS, is not available for Chrome. Seems this would be an easy software fix for our portal software.

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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby randysteck » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:27 pm

richphillips wrote:In our stake we purchased Lenovo Chromeboxes for each receiving site about two years ago. We paid between $100 and $120 each. This allowed us to standardize the training and the connections. .


Chromeboxes are indeed credible systems for the receive end and much better than a laptop. They do enable decode hardware for standard video streams and have a very low load when receiving the stream. A few stakes around us use them also. Our decision to go with Roku was based on the lower cost of the Rokus (<$60), and the ability to get 1080P instead of 720P supported by the church system. We did not understand the major difference in experience on a 10 foot screen until we observed it and received glowing comments from those at remote buildings.

I'm fully aware that these conditions may change and that technology moves on. I look forward to the day when we actually do have full HD streaming on-demand (not through Azure VM servers) with a dedicated, supported receive box. I also heard rumors in meetings at church HQ 2 years ago about trials of a dedicated box. But, the requirement of collecting link data persists due to performance reporting requirements from the management chain. That is unfortunate as that metric is an artifact of using a laptop at the receive end with the assumption that it was a link problem.

I'm hoping that we're due for a revision of the streaming system that allows simple RTMP with cloud servers on demand. Even though they are pretty tight-lipped, I believe that Sunday Streams uses AWS and adds capacity as required at the time of stream initiation.

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Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Postby randysteck » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:49 pm

johnshaw wrote:You might be interested that the latest church release (beta) does have the ability to adjust the 'what you label as' Latency to a smaller number (adjustable) I can't guarantee it will be in the full production release but it was in the beta.

Because our stake is so large, we've been asked to not only setup receiving stations in the Chapel and Cultural Halls, but also the RS and Primary Rooms, so that's 9 official receiving stations being used.


We also had to sort out the difference between video reinforcement and webcast. The cultural hall is a candidate for video reinforcement because they are hearing the audio feed from chapel speakers. You need immediate video for this with no more than about 50ms delay. If it's longer than that the A/V sync gets on people's nerves. Yes, you can stretch it, but the comments increase. This requires a straight HDMI or SDI camera pointed at the speaker that does not compress the video, so IP cameras are out for this. However, we found that we could do away with this reinforcement and members did not have a problem with it. If we needed to do it we'd run it as an entirely separate system using a camcorder feeding two projectors/monitors. A very cheap solution as we can easily find camcorders and the scene does not have to change for choir shots, etc.

The webcast is a different matter where the delay from an IP camera does not matter and where movement is required to give remote locations a better feel for what is happening (choir shots, chorister, congregation, speaker names, song names, etc.). This camera feed is processed with delayed audio and combined into one a stream that we use directly to the YW and RS rooms as well as to feed the webcast to remote locations. We use an HDMI over Coax unit (discussed in other threads) to get the HD video and audio to these other rooms. The key is that we use the audio from the webcast stream, not from the building sound system for these rooms and the delay of 400msec is not noticeable. Of course, the delay through the streaming servers is longer but we don't use that in the originating building, just the remote buildings. In other words, no receive box is required in the originating building.

johnshaw wrote:There is NO control of the type of equipment we use. It is varried between MAC's and PC's some use firefox, edge, and Chrome, some safarri, one person might not know how to separate the audio from the video when using HDMI so their audio goes to the projector and then to the sound system. Some people will plug their audio into the overhead sound system by using an EJ-8 while others will be going out to a TV, others choose to use a Projector.


Why don't you have control of the remote building equipment? We send to three other buildings and simply got the same receive box paid for by the stake for all three buildings. Seems that this is something that is actually under your control. Feeding a projector with the combined signal and pulling audio from the projector (or monitor) to the chapel system using an inline transformer (cheap and does the same thing as the crab box) make volume adjustment straightforward. One building required a ground loop isolator, but it's also cheap and reliable. The only level issues we've had to deal with are for shut-ins who typically have to increase their volume a bit more than normal to get good levels, but that's been fairly minor.

Mostly curious on why this is the situation in your stake. Perhaps we don't have the same set of problems or situations to deal with.

Postscript: In thinking through this, is the lack of control of remote locations due to having each location decide for themselves how to operate? If so, we finally fixed that problem by calling a STS for each building that worked with everyone else to come up with a single stake-wide solution. Of course, it helped that at the time I was serving in the Stake Presidency, but your presidency can probably be approached for the same thing. Doing this allowed a single solution for everyone, which in turn increased reliablity to the point that it is rare to see even one dropped frame during an entire webcast.

We've also been in contact with other stakes in our region to share equipment and costs. But, that is mostly turning into an education effort since it turns out we can enable a two camera, two remote location system for about $1500 total. Frankly, I cannot imagine why we'd spend even that amount on a single camera at this point.


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