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Video Distribution in Satellite Worship, Part 2

Sep 15, 2010 11:05 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

The Unification Church decided to stream broadcast-quality video to their satellite campuses using the Internet rather than by installing expensive high-bandwidth dedicated video links. They called LMG Systems Integration to handle the set up and Neil Morrison is here to wrap up his talk about how they got the system up and running.

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Video Distribution in Satellite Worship, Part 1
When the Unification Church in New York decided to reach dozens of remote branches by video transmission they took a different approach....

Neil, thanks for being back with me on the SVC podcast for part two of the Unification Church and how they’re sending out video over the Internet to their satellite locations and that’s been a new one on me a little bit. The churches that have their facilities and resources have, in the past, been using much more expensive dedicated video links, but this is sending broadcast video out over the Internet, and it’s still amazing to me that this works as well as it seems to with the Streambox system. What kind of production system does the church have? What are they sending out on these links as far as program material?
The church is housed in a facility which is a commercial production facility in New York City. They both own and operate this facility in addition to having their services there, so they’ve got a wide array of cameras, switchers, full compliment of microphones and PA that are in place full-time for commercial use. Sundays are blocked out for them for their productions, so the production pieces are well in place as well as all the people for those productions because they carry through many of the people that are working with them on a commercial basis into the church production piece on Sundays. So it’s a very nice environment that they work from. [Timestamp: 2:01]

Yeah, it sounds like it must be a step up from your usual church situation as far as most of the churches are using volunteers; they’re training on the job; this sounds much more substantial in terms of the production quality and the equipment and the operators and so forth. So what happens at the receiving locations?
The receiving locations are quite low-tech in general; on the larger locations, we’re coming out of the Streambox decoder directly into a projector and then the audio is taken directly to a audio console—very limited because, again, these are locations that are scattered all over the country, and the folks that are there are predominantly volunteer based at their remote campuses so there’s less of that professional tech-savvy folks available there. So what we’ve did is try to make that as easy as possible for them to implement week over week. [Timestamp: 2:57]

OK and that seems like, well obviously, not as big a challenge on the receiving end, particularly if they’re not doing a lot of local production.
Right, and one things with the Streambox decoder is that because it is a unicast connection, there’s always a direct peer-to-peer relationship from the server side to the decoder so it’s possible for the folks at the head-end to absolutely know what all the diagnostics are within that decoder to be sure that it’s operating properly so they can do any and all adjustments on that piece of equipment in order to be sure that the folks that are at those remote campuses can focus on the people and not on the technology. [Timestamp: 3:38]

Yeah, that flexibility has a lot of applications, not just in this particular one. Although it would certainly be handy here, but I’ve read where these things are used more and more frequently by news operations where they’re doing ENG. Instead of sending out microwave trucks, they’re using Internet encoders and so forth to send back their news feeds.
Indeed. Again, with the ACT-L3 codec, it’s very easy to even move video across a wireless connection. It’s able to recover the proper amount of packets so that the delivery is solid, completely independent of the connection quality. [Timestamp: 4:18]

And of course you had to do a lot of installation at different places for the receiving locations even though that was probably less of a technical hurdle. How long did this whole installation take and did you have to dodge services and work in between what they were doing there?
Well, it’s interesting in that for all of the larger locations with the Streambox decoders we had preconfigured, all of the decoders IP addresses, and just invited all those folks that were from those campuses to the main campus in New York City. We trained them there; we showed them all the connectors and what not, then sent them back home to hook them up themselves, and it actually worked extremely well. We only got one or two phone calls, and it was very easy to facilitate the challenges that they had. Within the main facility, it was just a matter of connecting the encoder and the broadcast server into one of their racks, connecting up their ISP connectivity and the video and audio, and pretty much that was it; it was only about a two-day install. [Timestamp: 5:21] And when they’re using these things and they’ve got the service broadcast coming down is there any kind of coordination they have to do between the senders and the receiving ends, or do they just do it like a broadcast and they know what’s coming exactly at a particular time?
It’s more of a scheduled type experience. We’ll typically do about a 30 minute preservice role so that everybody can make sure their decoders are working properly and all that; we can sort through any bugs or problems that they have. The good news about all the encoders and decoders is they all have a public-facing IP address, so that if there is a challenge, either someone at the main campus or even myself—wherever I am—can log into that specific piece of equipment and do any diagnostics that need to be done. So as long as it’s plugged in and it does have an Internet connection to it, there’s quite a bit of help that we can provide for them. [Timestamp: 6:13]

OK and at the transmission location, I guess you’ve got all the production equipment and the analog converters and streaming gear and all that all located in the same place in a rack somewhere?
Yes, the facility is an all digital facility, so we’re essentially doing SDI with embedded audio. So it’s a single cable going into the encoder on both the Streambox encoder and on the Digital Rapids touch treatment coder so that it was actually very simple, just a couple of connections and we were in and out. [Timestamp: 6:42]

And the AJA converter, which model are they using of that?
The HD10C2 AJA converter was sent out to all the decoder locations. Obviously a lot of those folks don’t have projectors that have SDI connectivity, so we were using that to go D to A so that their projectors could take an analog component signal. [Timestamp: 7:02]

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