Live streaming town council meetings - what do I need to know?
February 8, 2013 4:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to get our town's council meetings streamed to the web, or at least recorded digitally (video - the audio is already recorded)...what's involved?

Assume I know nothing about cameras, microphones, how many,..the placement thereof, encoding options etc. I am in IT so I do know about computers & networks if that helps at all.

There are 7 council members, and a podium where speakers must also be covered by the video. I don't want any amateurish stuff, only the best quality video and audio. If it's not possible to understand who you're looking at and what they're saying when watching it then it is a pointless exercise to me. What do I need for this (yes I work for the town), or is it even possible to do this with just one person? Should I be looking at a business that specializes in this instead?
posted by dukes909 to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My school board has two cameras and one operator; one camera is trained on the podium and stands there on its own; the other is moved around by the operator to focus on different members of the board when they speak. The podium and all board members are microphoned specifically so it records audible audio. I don't know a lot about the equipment but we use (link to our channel) to stream and post videos, which has been very reasonably priced and user-friendly.

Other resources to consider -- if you are in the U.S., there may be state grant funds available to help you set up live broadcasting/streaming, or a state office that provides technical support to local governments doing this. Definitely if you contact other local government offices that stream their meetings, they will help you out; when everyone around here started live streaming, there was a lot of information and expertise-sharing. Some local government bodies use local high school students from the A/V club to operate the equipment (this may or may not run afoul of union contracts, but our unionized tech guys use the A/V students as assistants for these sorts of broadcasts and it works out well). Finally, you might also consider adding audio-only streaming (if you're not already on the radio) as older community members who are often a large audience for broadcast or streamed government meetings (and may have limited transportation/mobility) may also have lower-quality internet connections and may have trouble with video streaming. Also, public meetings are WEIRDLY POPULAR as podcasts to download later.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:42 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great info - do you stream the audio recordings from a separate site than
posted by dukes909 at 9:23 AM on February 8, 2013

I just realized I have absolutely no idea where we do the audio and possibly it's a local radio station that does it!

Also, I believe it cost us around $5000 to get set up for streaming, but I'm not sure how useful that is as a comparator; we had cameras and a sound board and microphones already from broadcasting on cable access and it was just the computer and various equipment and software to connect the computer that we needed (the parts I know nothing at all about!). On the other hand, lots of smaller government bodies around here lend and borrow microphones and sound boards to each other, so you may not need to purchase those. Our sound system is wired in, for example, so when we have a meeting at a different site, we borrow the library board's wireless microphones and portable soundboard. (We pay for the tech guy's time but not for the loan of the equipment.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:38 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, one last thing: with just one operator, the onus is on the board members to use their microphones properly and there is a "training period" while they sort it out. Our operator moves the panning camera to the board member who is speaking, switches between the two cameras, and turns the podium microphone on and off, but board members turn their individual microphones on and off. Usually we leave them off unless we are actually speaking, so there's not a lot of noise from pages turning and coughing and chair shifting (which comes over the speakers in the room as well as being streamed with the video), so board members have to remember to turn their microphones on and off. Some microphones are a lot easier to turn on and off, and a lot easier to TELL if they're on or off, than others. If you're purchasing microphones, that's definitely something to consider because your board members will be futzing with them every week.

For larger meetings someone (often a student) runs the sound board specifically and turns them up and down according to who's speaking, though we still usually turn ourselves on and off out of habit.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks again, this is very helpful.
posted by dukes909 at 11:51 AM on February 8, 2013

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