It’s been a busy week, with upgrades to our network and planning for our Remembrance Sunday service stream. here’s what we’ve been up to.

We upgraded our network edge equipment

Over the last couple of years our network has become slightly more important than it was before – instead of supporting an office PC, a couple of card payment devices and the occasional laptop it’s now also providing connectivity for weekly service streaming, and wireless networks in the church and Community Centre for both our own team and guests.

One of our guiding principles in the Tech Team is “do it right”, and we’ve been able to take advantage of a donation for technology in the church to replace some of the last pieces of borrowed equipment in our network. More specifically, we replaced our edge router (the bit which connects our internal network to the outside world) with a TP-Link ER605 Gateway, and we’ve replaced our temporary Omada controller on a Raspberry Pi with an OC200 Cloud Controller.

Together these pieces of equipment make our network faster and more secure, giving us improved reliability and more insight into what’s going on inside. They also give us a foundation for more improvements in the future.

We installed a network cabinet

Anyone who has ever worked with network equipment will know that the cables just love to tangle themselves at the first opportunity. No matter how neatly laid out they are, they’ll tie themselves in a knot and make future work far harder than it needs to be.

We’ve got a surprising amount of network equipment for a parish church, and with the new edge equipment above we wanted to make sure that it’s kept organised and protected.

So we cleared away our existing equipment in all its tangled glory, and in its place installed a 6U server rack. To this we added a proper surge-protected power supply, brush plate to help us keep our cables in order, and rack-mount shelving to keep our devices separated. When in future we install a new switch (as is part of our roadmap) we can pull out the shelf currently holding one, and rack the switch directly into the cabinet.

We planted some more trees

We know that technology – especially buying new technology – has a cost to the environment. To help negate this we carbon offset all our new technology purchases, as well as plant trees for the future.

To offset our new network equipment we’ve offset one tonne of CO2 emissions, and funded the planting of fifty trees in Mozambique. You can see all of St Mary’s offsetting and trees to date in our Ecologi forest.

We got ready for Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday is one of the key services we provide for the wider community in East Leeds every year. Once we have finished the eucharist service in the church, we proceed down Selby Road (ably assisted by West Yorkshire Police, who close the road for us) to the War Memorial where we lead the annual Act of Remembrance.

Last year we were unable to hold this service as we usually would, instead using a pre-recorded Act of Remembrance to give people a focus. This year, although we’re back to worshipping in person, we know that not everybody feels comfortable with crowds and might not be able to physically join us.

This left the Tech Team with a whole new challenge which we only briefly experimented with at Easter: can we get outside video reliably into our streaming services? The answer, after some planning and experimentation, is “yes”. Our aim is to move seamlessly from our usual eucharist service (starting earlier than usual at 9.30 am) into the procession, follow the procession down Selby Road to the memorial, and then pick up the Act of Remembrance.

To do this we’re using a combination of equipment, software and tools. The service is being mixed and streamed as usual via our ATEM mixer in the church, but we’ve also added a new laptop to the mix running OBS Studio. We’re taking the video mix from OBS and running it into the mixer in place of our font camera (which is very rarely used), so that we can pull in additional video from this external source.

The next piece of the equation is getting video into OBS from outside the church, and to do that we’re using a web-based tool called VDO.Ninja. By running this on a mobile phone hooked up to a regular mobile network, we can stream live video from the phone to our laptop running OBS over a technology called WebRTC.

We’re planning to use two phones for this – one will be mounted to a tripod at the War Memorial, and plugged into our sound reinforcement system so that we can get nice clear audio when people are speaking and when we play the Last Post. The second one will be strapped into a handheld mount along with an external microphone (with windshield), and will follow the procession down Selby Road. We’re using the mount so that our camera operator can use two hands to support the phone, which makes holding it for a period of time a lot easier and reduces shake. Once arriving at the Memorial, we’ll attach this phone to a second tripod to give us two camera angles, and be able to use the microphone from it for providing background noise.

We can use then OBS Studio to swap between these two external cameras and mix their audio outputs, and then feed this mix into ATEM where it can be encoded and sent on to the rest of the world.

Fingers crossed!