It’s been another week of technology here at Whitkirk. Here’s what we’ve been up to
Better order of service redirections
One thing we’ve been stuck doing manually each week is updating our “redirect to latest order of service” URL so that it actually went to the right place. We use this link for the QR Code in the church which points people to the order of service, so it’s important that it’s right.
We’ve now automated this process, so it’s one fewer thing to have to remember.
Over the past few weeks an annoying buzzing sound has crept into the speakers in the Community Centre. We spent a bit of time fixing this (and tidying up some cables), but also took the opportunity to improve power management and connectivity.
To help save energy, our sound system is now on a timed power supply. A push-button switches the whole thing on for a few hours – plenty of time for bookings to make use of the speakers and hearing loop – and then it’ll turn itself off to help conserve energy.
As part of this we also added a new phono input and an additional 3.5mm jack input, giving more flexibility for our users.
The lovely people at Openreach have finally switched on the ability for us to get fibre-optic cables run right into our Community Centre. This isn’t just about improving our internet speed (although we’ll certainly enjoy a speed boost), but also about making sure that we’re on more resilient digital infrastructure in the future.
We’re confident that we’ll be moving to this fibre-optic connection some time in the near future, but we’re still not sure exactly which provider and package we’ll be using. This last week we spent some time looking at options and putting together recommendations.
It’s been quiet on the tech front, but things are going to start getting busy again as we approach Advent and have to start thinking about things like carol concerts!
Fun on (and off) the stage
We do a lot of stuff in the church building, but we also take care of technology over in our Community Centre. Over the past week we’ve been thinking about work we need to do on stage to tidy things up and make it more usable for more people.
This is a big job which we’ll be breaking down and tackling in multiple stages, but we’re starting by rearranging some wiring to tidy things up. This is particularly a problem in the stage right corner where a tangle of cables is not only making it look a mess but is also making it unintuitive to use, hard to troubleshoot and is causing interference.
At the moment we’re still narrowing down exactly what we want to do on paper, thinking about our various Community Centre users to make sure we’re covering as many use cases as possible, and thinking about the future to make sure we don’t need to re-do this kind of work for a good few years.
All things going to plan, we’ll be leaving the relative safety of our tech desk and taking a pile of equipment with us; our trusty video mixer, a monitor, two cameras, a laptop and all of the associated cables. We’ve already done a couple of test runs, so we’re reasonably confident of things going to plan. In true Whitkirk Tech fashion, though, we’ve got a couple of contingency plans up our sleeves.
It’s been a few weeks since we last had an update from the tech team… because we’ve had a quiet few weeks! The period of Ordinary Time after Trinity has given us an opportunity to take a bit of a breather after the chaos of the last 18 months, but we’re starting to get back into things now.
The Heritage Open Days talk
As part of Heritage Open Days this year, we’ve got a talk! Although we’ve had plenty of talks given between the church and Community Centre over the years, this has been the first one since we’ve had our streaming equipment installed, so we’re sharing it with the world.
Since we’re not fans of doing things by halves, and since we’re always looking for opportunities to step up our game, we’ll be providing slides via projector and relay screen (to address some poor sightlines in the building), as well as interleaving them into the video stream using picture-in-picture features of our video mixer. We’ll also be providing a presenter display and clicker, for a little extra bit of quality of life.
The Temple Newsam Eucharist
Each year we hold a service at Temple Newsam House to celebrate the estate being acquired by the City of Leeds. This year, we’ve been asked to stream it live so that those who can’t attend in person can still join in.
Although we’re pretty confident that we can stream from outside the church building, we’ve been doing some planning and testing to make sure everything goes as planned.
More trees, less carbon
Both of the special events above have meant we’ve needed to get hold of some more equipment to help move video around, and as part of our ongoing commitment to reduce the harm we’re causing to the planet we’ve planted more trees and offset more carbon. Including our lasttwo offsets, that’s a hundred trees and two full tonnes of carbon offset by the tech team.
We’ve finished up our resiliency and soft-launch testing, and we’re finally happy to roll out guest wifi in the Community Centre! If you’re visiting us, point your phone’s camera at one of our wifi QR Code posters to get connected, or manually enter the network details.
Getting technical with Raspberry Pi, Omada, SMTP and HTTPS
Last Sunday we went for a new record for Tech Team involvement in one day, with two services and a bell ringing open day to support. Here’s what else we’ve been up to.
Taking it all down
All the things we put in place to support the YACR open day – cameras, screens, network devices and more – was only a temporary installation. So we took it all out again.
Better wifi coverage
One of the things we put in the tower was a network access point. Instead of putting it in a cupboard ready for the next time we needed one, we put it to work improving wifi coverage in the church.
Two access points in different parts of the building mean that no matter where you sit you’re now more likely to be in the range of one, and the position of the new hotspot gives much better coverage to the vestry area where people are getting ready. Since we’re increasingly using devices like tablets to read orders of service, this is a big step for the reliability of our network.
As part of our “do it right the first time” goal for rolling out tech, both access points talk to our Omada SDN controller. This means that as you move around the building the hotspots can intelligently and seamlessly pass devices between themselves without interruption, so everything behaves as one big network.
We want people in the church to be able to see what’s going on up the tower for tomorrow’s open day, so we borrowed the big screen from the Community Centre.
To make this work we used OBS Studio (formerly used at Whitkirk to handle service streaming before we bought our new equipment) to pull in the video streams from both cameras and combine them into a single picture-in-picture view of both what was happening in the ringing room, and what was happening in the belfry.
A pretty quiet week, perhaps surprisingly given that this week saw a huge change in Coronavirus regulations.
Moving microphones. Again.
We shifted our choir microphones forwards, to pick up our newly expanded cohort of singers. Picking up and distinguishing the many sources of sound in our building can be tricky, so we’re constantly reviewing how all our microphone arrangements work.
We’ve got a couple of Raspberry Pi miniature computers which are perfect for this kind of thing, so we installed some software called VLC on one, which can connect to the video streams from the cameras.
On the day this will be on a much larger screen, but everything in testing worked exactly as planned.