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.
What have the technology team been up to in the last week?
Pretty much the entire week has been taken up with supporting our Easter worship, in a mix of live-streamed and pre-recorded services.
More interestingly, these services have included some new tricks:
We’ve mixed pre-recorded content into a live stream before, but this week we saw the inclusion of pre-recorded content which was also watchable by people in the church via a temporary video screen. Although we don’t have any plans to do this kind of thing in future once we return to in-person worship, it’s been useful to prove we can use more flexible video paths.
To add a bit of variation to the week, we made use of a portable camera rig to include a moving camera both inside and outside the building.
This suffered a few quality glitches we weren’t entirely happy about, but nonetheless added a new, more inclusive angle on what was happening, particularly the parts of services that would traditionally be a procession like Palm Sunday.
Fixing the phones
We were made aware of an outage to our Dial-A-Service phone system, which we investigated and fixed.
It’s been a busy week as we get ready for Holy Week. Here’s what we’ve been up to.
The tech team helped record and edit together the annual dramatic reading of the Passion, with the talents of Whitkirk Arts Guild.
A new clock
Although the tech desk at the back of the church has a radio-controlled clock, the vestry (where people like the clergy and servers get ready for the service) at the front of the church only had one clock. Matthew has spoken about this clock in one of our Midweek Musings, and although it’s a beautiful timepiece it’s tucked in a corner, hard to read at a glance, and doesn’t keep great time.
To fix this we swapped a thermometer that was hanging above the sink for a large digital clock. It’s radio-controlled (like the one on the tech desk) so we never have to worry about it being fast or slow, or adjusting it for daylight savings. It tells us the date, which is always useful when filling out paperwork. It even tells us the temperature so we don’t need to struggle to read a mercury thermometer any more.
Continue reading “Weeknotes: Saturday 27 March 2021”
Bits and pieces the technical team here at Whitkirk have been up to in the past week.
The last bits of our cameras project were installed on Tuesday this week. Read all about it in our blog post.
A bit of title card fun
Closely related to the cameras project, we needed to create some title cards to display before and after a service. We also threw together a test card, inspired by the famous Test Card F and made possible by this little project.
Continue reading “Weeknotes: Saturday 20 March 2021”
What have the tech team been doing this week?
Fitting some monitors
We hooked up two new screens to help us see what we’re doing whilst streaming services and managing the technology within the church building.
Increasing the bus factor
Much of the technology in the church at the moment has been thrown together during lockdown by one person, which has left us with a very low bus factor (the number of people who need to suddenly become unavailable before a project became impossible to continue).
This isn’t a great position to be in, so we spent some time this week filling more people in on the intricacies of systems, and improving some of our documentation.
Continue reading “Weeknotes: Saturday 13 March 2021”
Now that most of the physical work has been done for the cameras project and new desk, what have the tech team at Whitkirk been up to in the last week?
We did some more maths on our tech desk’s total estimated power load and refined our numbers downwards. This meant we could swap some of the fuses for something even more conservative, bringing the already small risk of someone overloading the circuit in a dangerous way even lower.
“Il meglio è nemico del bene”
As Voltaire said, “perfect is the enemy of good”. The tech team always aim towards perfection, but we take a pragmatic view that most of the time “good enough” really is, and we can make improvements later.
Several years ago, when the Church website was redesigned into its current form, we made one of these “good enough” decisions about the look of our website header images. In doing so, we inadvertently left a bug lying around which would only manifest itself in a specific set of circumstances. Not a totally-breaking-things bug, but one which meant the website didn’t always look quite right. More specifically, if you uploaded an image that was narrower than a 9:2 ratio for the page header then it would be tiled incorrectly and look rubbish.
Continue reading “Weeknotes: Saturday 6 March 2021”
Things the technical team at St Mary’s have been doing or involved with this week.
Our tech desk has plenty of bits of equipment on it which need power, and we’re about to add even more. Up until now, power was distributed through a tangle of extension blocks which would invariably tie themselves in knots.
This was hard to make sense of, and annoying.
So we fixed it, making use of an off-cut from when we built our desk.
Continue reading “Weeknotes: 27 February 2021”
Weeknotes are a short summary of what the Tech Team here at St Mary’s has been up to in the past seven days. We keep them as a way of sharing what we’ve been up to, as well as summarising our own progress on things.
We kicked off our Sunday Eucharist with a bit of an audio glitch – read about what it was and how we solved it.
We made a brief return to pre-recorded services for Ash Wednesday, for the first time this year.
As part of this, we recorded a number of hymns and sung responses, which helped inform some of our plans for longer-term positioning of microphones in the building. It turns out that organs are really difficult to capture on their own, and this has some implications for how we plan to capture ambient congregational noise alongside the instrument itself once we return to in-person worship.
As our Cameras Project continues we’ve been planning to move some equipment and wiring around the building. This poses a few tricky problems in a place where anything permanent needs to go through a sometimes complex and lengthy approvals process, and since it isn’t strictly speaking part of the work of installing the cameras we need to make sure whatever we do is temporary.
The first step in this was creating a bespoke temporary desk which fits over and around our existing furniture, giving us a single place to control all the technology in the building from, both existing and in the future.
We’ve also shuffled around some of the many bits of wiring in the back corner, to make them tidier, simpler and more robust.