Video Conferencing/Streaming Brainstorming Meeting

Friday 11th April 2008

Present: Dave Robertson, Austin Tate, Craig Strachan, Chris Adie, Mike Lincoln, John Lee, Alastair Scobie, Steve Renals, Bob Fisher, Archie Howitt, Colin Adams, Tim Colles

Lecture/Tutorial Capture/Streaming

Bob Fisher and Dave Robertson

Bob Fisher described what he and Dave had been doing for lecture capture. 100hrs of lectures recorded so far. They use PhD students to setup the lecture theatre for recording and to do the post editing. Downloads of lectures are available through Informatics servers, streaming content is hosted on central servers. Points to note:

  • Committed equipment needed, sometimes when we have needed the capture gear it has been taken by someone else on higher authority
  • Occasional technical faults, only about two thirds successfully recorded
  • 400MB/Hr (encoded VGA), WMV format, digitised to disk
  • Is definitely being used by students, principally for revision
  • Capturing video off powerpoint does not work well, screen capture in general is a difficult problem
  • Students not concerned with video quality, more that it is easy to play on their PC
  • 10min turnaround between lectures is very tight for the mobile capture system to get it setup, lecturer mic'ed up and laptop hooked up
  • Echo360 system for KB, AT and portable, mainly for evaluation for driving future procurement
  • University is installing a new flash server with automatic scheduling from lecture timetable for capture - single camera with PhD student tracking lecturer
  • Speaker tracking technology soon (or just wear RFID tag - SR)
  • Ultimately want to link tutorials and lectures
  • Using PnP - main screen lecturer, small screen slides - one stream
  • New technology will provide independent streams - viewer can choose
  • Tagging/Annotating of streams is important
  • Data protection issues, student clearance

Dave Robertson added:

  • There is not enough content being pushed out at present, we need to dramatically increased what we capture and provide
  • Perfect enemy of good - better to get something out there now than strive for a perfect solution
  • Bobs stuff is good even if low quality
  • We need more people to be doing this
  • We will have more local control with a separate box provided by MALTS which should help drive up usage
  • All about lowering the barrier to use, it should be the default to have lectures recorded not the exception

John Lee

John Lee described what he had been doing for tutorial capture.

  • Using a Smartboard as very easy to capture content on separate MPEG stream
  • Whiteboard HARD to capture
  • Currently MINI-DV (tape)
  • Using MPEG4 in H264 Codec for FLV
  • Using a local Red5 Flash Server
  • Three simultaneous video streams
  • Edit live online by saving endpoints
  • Not running with real students yet but doing this very soon
  • Post edited to index tutorial questions to video stream
  • Having a video stream of tutor less useful
  • Audio is through a table top microphone
  • Apple produce something called Podcast Producer - record via Powerbook camera/mic + screen and upload straight away, started to look at this, is Python scriptable, could be replicated in Flash
  • Could compress to flatten out changes in whiteboard, but still needs to be in sync with speaker

Austin Tate

Austin Tate described what they had been doing in AIAI.

  • We should aim to be capturing more than we currently do for talks, events, etc.
  • Extend group who can watch live plus capture in a form suitable for post production and posterity (eg. Michie talks)
  • Use dynamic transcoding for longer term for changing formats
  • The Uni Boombox has too many permissions to facilitate announcements, so use commercial companies or do our own thing
  • H264, Wirecast and Quicktime Broadcaster being used
  • Streaming server while waiting for Boombox replacement, 8 core Xeon box believed to be good enough for external audience of 20 to 30
  • Essential for recording demos - multiple streams from desktop presenters anywhere in the world, mixed locally with video feeds to create movies for project reports
  • One person acts as the Director for live feeds
  • Only record final output stream mix at the moment, better to keep all streams but enormous storage needs
  • Encoding formats - which to use - multiple
  • H264 vs RealMedia - using H264 MPEG4
  • Pixel resolution for screen capture - lossless
  • Editing final stream by hand to create final movie takes time

Important points:

  • Streamers aren't setup for downloads so need multiple copies of potentially terabytes of content - better to have one copy for both download and live streaming
  • We need stable URLs - these cannot change, eg. boombox.ucs is inappropriate as the name is based on a technological implementation - we use media.aiai
  • Origination material - should be highest quality, transcode (on demand) for various distribution formats - don't commit to end format, just store origination material
  • Need a number of streams, but should be kept separate - don't discard the original streams once encoded
  • Storage/Backup - different methodology - material does not change, just need one backup taken once offsite

Mike Lincoln added:

  • BP conference suite has a homebrew setup using OCR for slides and standard capture card.

Video Conferencing

Steve Renals and Mike Lincoln described Video Conferencing solutions.

  • Commercial solutions are very high quality and expensive but unless who you want to talk to has the same end point a waste of time
  • More likely to use desktop solutions - Adobe Connect and Skype
  • Need solution that works for anyones endpoint
  • Adobe Connect needs good audio setup to work - any one users bad audio or network setup can ruin a meeting for everyone, limited for big meetings and lacks useful diagnostic tools
  • Skype is only one-to-one (for video) but good for multi-way audio

Austin Tate commented:

  • Polycoms for full duplex sound I/O definitely a good idea
  • AT7/8 are based on a software solution

Forum Requirements

  • Don't provide for everything, use the University for one-off big events (500 streams) but could maybe do 50 streams at School level
  • Look at our existing web logs for usage (and also usage for existing non-captured lecture slides for potential future usage)
  • Potentially 2000hrs material
  • Quindi - OSS for capture
  • Meeting rooms have capture hardware (speaker only)
  • Audio setup important

Alastair Scobie commented:

  • Should we be doing it at all - or should it be provided centrally?
  • What can IS do in the short term and what are their plans for the medium term?
  • Talk to IS about provision of stable URLs and media storage
  • Need hardware to do capture and live encoding

Austin Tate commented:

  • Could send streams direct to OneLANs
  • Andy Pride point of contact for Boombox and central provision for lecture streaming

Bob Fisher commented:

  • What content - tutorials, lectures, seminars, meetings, demos ...
  • Building automatically records everything

-- TimColles - 14 Apr 2008

Topic revision: r3 - 18 Apr 2008 - 14:53:01 - TimColles
 
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