Weeknotes: Saturday 8 May 2021

Another week, another weeknotes! Here’s what the technical team have been doing:

Further audio refinements

We’ve made some more adjustments to how we pipe audio from our in-church microphones and into our video stream. This gives the technician more control over the different sources of sound, and hopefully will help to reduce some of the echoing which becomes apparent when certain combinations of microphones are used.

Moving the wifi

We’ve changed the position of our wifi transmitter in the church, which should now give better coverage across more of the building.

Parish Notices: 2 May 2021

Christian Aid

Christian Aid this year runs from the 10–16 May. Watch out for ways to donate in next week’s notices.

Revision of the parish electoral roll

We will be revising our parish electoral roll this week, from Sunday 2 May until Sunday 9 May.

If you would like to update any of your details, or sign up to be on the electoral roll if you aren’t already, please get in touch and let us know.

Worshipping in person

In line with the Government’s plan for easing lockdown, and based on our own risk assessments, we have now re-opened our doors for public worship. As in the past, you must still book to attend any of our services in person, and you must follow additional rules around cleaning your hands, covering your face, and maintaining distancing whilst in the church. If you want to attend a service you can either book online, or you can call us on 0113 450 8554.

We will continue streaming all our services, both during this period of limited availability and into the future. You can join us online every Sunday morning at 10.00 am, catch up any time through the week, listen to our services over the phone, or listen using our podcast.

Continue reading “Parish Notices: 2 May 2021”

Weeknotes: Saturday 1 May 2021

Happy long weekend everyone!

The last week for the tech team here at Whitkirk has been all about configuring, optimising and planning. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

A bit of printer tweaking

We’ve changed how our printer is configured to connect to our network. This is a hangover from the days before we had a network spanning two buildings, and the printer was instead plugged directly into the office computer. The change makes it more reliable, more visible to our network management tools, and most crucially enables us to queue print jobs remotely using our VPN.

Optimise all the images

Following on from last week’s website tweaks, we’ve gone through our entire collection of uploaded images and run them through an optimiser, shaving an average of 60% off the size of each image we serve. These small changes add up, especially for people on lower bandwidth connections, making our site seems faster and more responsive.

Continue reading “Weeknotes: Saturday 1 May 2021”

Weeknotes: Saturday 24 April

Now we’re back in the church building we’ve had to make some tweaks to how we stream services, so here’s what happened last week!

Some new audio tweaks

We added two new bits of cabling to our audio setup – one which lets us bring audio from our new PC into the church’s sound system, and one which lets us bring a second output from our mixer into our video stream.

This second output gives us the ability to more cleanly separate the vocal microphones in the church – such as the lectern and altar microphone – from the organ microphone which picks up the music. By doing this we can reduce the amount of chatter which is picked up from the returning congregation at the end of the service, whilst still feeding our organ voluntaries out into the world.

Continue reading “Weeknotes: Saturday 24 April”

Letting the (wild)flowers grow

As part of Earth Day 2021 St Mary’s Church, Whitkirk are pleased to share the news that parts of their land will now be left to grow wild.

The Church is responsible for the upkeep of large amounts of grassy land in its churchyard and cemetery, and this change means that selected patches where there are no graves will no longer be mown. Leaving these areas to grow wild and encouraging local flowers and plants to take root helps to support local wildlife, in particular pollinating species such as bees and butterflies. This in turn strengthens the local ecosystem, boosting biodiversity and making it more resilient in a changing climate.

St Mary’s is committed to reducing its impact on the environment, and this change is the latest in a line which includes moving to low-energy lighting, installing improved insulation, adjusting heating to better match usage and encouraging greater reuse and recycling on our sites.

Weeknotes: Sunday 18 April

This has been a pretty uneventful week for the tech team, as we’ve focussed on building on last week’s fix for some connectivity problems.

A new router

We’ve switched our existing combination modem/router which connects the Community Centre to the internet into ‘bridge mode’, so it acts exclusively as a modem. To provide routing across our internal network, we’ve added a new, dedicated router.

This brings us a few extra goodies, such as better remote administration, better controls over how we handle data from various devices, and the ability for us to remotely connect to the Church’s network to perform maintenance and diagnose faults from anywhere.

Access point controller

To boost the reliability and flexibility of our wifi networks in the church we’ve added an access point controller, which lets us treat our entire wifi estate as one single managed entity. This helps give us a better image of how things are behaving, which is important as we encourage people to use their own devices to access the order of service.

Weeknotes: Sunday 11 April

After the busyness of Holy Week, what have the tech team been up to?

New PC for the tech desk

Since the beginning of the first lockdown, way back in March last year, every service we’ve streamed has involved some element of borrowed equipment.

This week we finally installed the last piece of the puzzle to allow services to be entirely streamed using our own gear – a small PC that lets the technician manage some of the more advanced features of our video mixer, start and stop the stream, keep an eye on our infrastructure, play audio files and more.

Because we love automation this PC has been hooked into our existing user and device management system, seamlessly setting up user accounts and configuring security policies.

Recording the services

We’ve attached a high-speed disk to the video mixer, so we can directly record services in high quality. In the past we’ve always had to include an extra step in our process to record services, so this not only simplifies our own content pathways for things we do with recordings (like pulling out service audio to deliver via phones and podcasts) and adds certainty that we get a good recording, but also gives us the possibility of offering video recordings of services such as weddings.

Improving the connectivity to the church

Following a particularly bad spell of connectivity which affected our streaming, we spent some time finding and fixing the problem.

Oops: Yet more excessive buffering during a service

Today’s service suffered from very poor connectivity throughout, leading to stuttering and buffering. This wasn’t up to the standard we aim to meet, so we spent a few hours getting to the bottom of exactly what was going on.

So, what was the problem?

After eliminating most possibilities we isolated the fault to the wireless link between the Community Centre and the church. The church building itself has no telephone line, so to provide internet we use a pair of high-power directional wifi devices. One of these is positioned on the outside of the Community Centre, but we’re not able to (and we have no real desire to) fasten one to the outside of our Grade I listed building and ruin the look of things.

Continue reading “Oops: Yet more excessive buffering during a service”