Oops: Excessive buffering during the service

In this morning’s service a few people noticed that their connection was having to buffer more than usual, and that the quality of the video and audio kept fluctuating. This blog post takes a quick look at what happened, why it happened, and what we’re doing to fix it.

What happened?

The internet connection to the church wasn’t capable of sustaining the speeds needed for smooth streaming of video. This meant that people watching would see the video stutter or sometimes pause entirely.

Why did this happen?

We’re not sure. The path to get an internet connection into the church is a relatively complex one compared to what you might have at home, involving several points where things might slow down. We weren’t able to quickly identify what was wrong during the service.

What are we doing to fix it?

There are two problems we’re fixing:

Making sure we can stream services

We’re reducing the threshold at which we decide to use a backup mobile connection to stream services. It’s difficult to change our connection mid-service (although we can in an emergency), so for the time being we’ll be using our backup connection unless we’re absolutely certain our main one is behaving as expected.

Making sure the internet connection to the church is stable

We’ve put some extra monitoring in place to see if we can narrow down which bit of the chain is at fault and then investigate further, but since the problem doesn’t appear all the time it might take us a few weeks before we’re able to properly identify it.

Depending on where the problem lies the solution could be as simple as a quick configuration change, might need replacement hardware for our network, or might need us to involve our connection provider.

Weeknotes: Saturday 20 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.

An image of a television test card with a line drawing of St Mary's Church in the middle. The text reads "please stand by".
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What the Cameras Project has brought us

Our cameras project has been the largest single investment in technology at St Mary’s for decades. Here’s a quick summary of what’s been added to the building – with pictures!

The cameras

We’ve fitted three permanent cameras to the church, which give us an enormous range of options when it comes to recording and streaming services.

The PTZ camera

The PTZ camera is mounted to the side of a pillar above the pews.

The PTZ camera – short for “Pan, Tilt, Zoom” – is our principal workhorse which will cover most of the time during a service. That’s because, as the name suggests, this camera can pan, tilt and zoom freely to capture different angles within the building. More importantly, we can remotely control this movement during services.

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Weeknotes: Saturday 13 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.

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Now (nearly) showing on a screen near you.

The process of moving the technology in the church to one single place has been steady. It’s taken time to come up with a plan, build a desk, move the audio equipment (and its cables), move our video equipment (and its cables), install some new video cables and build a power distribution board.

Today we took the next step in the journey to completion – the addition of two new monitors. It might seem a bit over the top, but this is actually the bare minimum we need to have available for streaming our services once we finish the camera installation. One screen will show us the state of our various different cameras and our stream, and the other will be used for a supplementary PC responsible for mixing in graphics (like our title slides) and controlling more complex bits of the process.

A photograph of the technology desk at the back of the church building. It shows two monitors mounted on adjustable arms, a CD player and a sound mixing desk with a pair of headphones.
The technology desk, now with both of its monitors.
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Weeknotes: Saturday 6 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?

Less power!

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(1), “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.

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1sort of, there was a bit of a translation error

The nature of a service

One of the trickiest bits of continuing to provide worship during the pandemic has been getting to grips with how we define “a service”. This might seem like a pretty clear-cut thing on the surface – it’s a time when we come together to worship, and there’s a set of words which are said.

When we were able to worship together, this was pretty easy to manage. We had an entry in the calendar so we knew when services were, there was a rota so we knew who was responsible for things, and we had some orders of service that people could follow.

And then the world turned upside down, and we found ourselves delivering almost every single aspect of our services in a whole new way. Most of these relied on some form of technology, and since we had to throw things together in a hurry what we ended up with was a bit of a tangled mess.

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Weeknotes: 27 February 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.

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