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Unread 10-13-2005, 05:15 PM
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Webcasts

First off let me say I really enjoy the current webcasts that are offered online each season, they are awesome. I wondered exactly if there are plans to try to broadcast regionals that normally wouldn't be able to get NASA coverage or any otherwise.

I wondered how difficult it would be for teams that coordinate ahead of time to setup (ie they volunteer to do this) to setup a VLS Server (http://www.videolan.org/) and stream through an available internet connection (once again coordination ahead of time would be needed for this). I know that some regionals are limited through internet connection at their site and that is understandable. I just hear every year how much money and how much time it takes NASA to coordinate this service, and while I appreciate them greatly for it I think we in the FIRST community might be able to take some of the pressure off by getting a smaller, cheaper solution.

Also I think when using a technology such as VideoLAN we could then provide compressed MPEG-4 video which would ultimately enhancing the experience. Any ideas, comments suggestions? And please if anyone thinks that I am way off the reservation with this idea please tell me why because I do not know the current process.
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Unread 10-13-2005, 06:00 PM
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Not falling off, but rocking pretty hard...

If nothing else, it would be awesome to set up at least digital recording of the matches. That can be done at any of the events.

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Unread 10-13-2005, 06:07 PM
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Re: Webcasts

I believe the trick to your idea would be getting a server/hosting solution with enough grunt to handle the hordes of rabid FIRSTers mobbing it. I can't imagine that getting that much bandwidth for even a month would be cheap. Very rough calculations on my part indicate that a server with 1000 GB per month of transfers could serve up around 700 128kbps streams for 24 hours. I'm not smart enough to take overhead, etc. into account. Anywyas, it looks like that'd run you $150 for a single month. and that's a server with just 512 MB ram and a 2.4GHz Celeron Processor. I couldn't tell ya if that could handle serving that many streams. I don't even know if their connection can handle that much. I'm sure you've noticed that FIRST teams routinely crash the usfirst.org servers and that the streams coming from NASA occassionally drop or get choppy. And that's NASA.

So, I'm somewhat skeptical that a team could set up a completely independent webcast. I think a more productive approach would be to work with your local regional and NASA to get a webcast. I believe the real problem with NASA webcasting regional is that they typically have to fly someone out to the regional to set up the equipment. If a team with good technical know-how could persuade their local regional to pay for the necessary internet connection or ISDN lines and the webcasting equipment, then NASA would probably work with them on getting the webcast up. (Note: I don't speak for NASA, but this is how I understand things work.)
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Unread 10-13-2005, 06:12 PM
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Re: Webcasts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Sevcik
I believe the trick to your idea would be getting a server/hosting solution with enough grunt to handle the hordes of rabid FIRSTers mobbing it. I can't imagine that getting that much bandwidth for even a month would be cheap. Very rough calculations on my part indicate that a server with 1000 GB per month of transfers could serve up around 700 128kbps streams for 24 hours. I'm not smart enough to take overhead, etc. into account. Anywyas, it looks like that'd run you $150 for a single month. and that's a server with just 512 MB ram and a 2.4GHz Celeron Processor. I couldn't tell ya if that could handle serving that many streams. I don't even know if their connection can handle that much. I'm sure you've noticed that FIRST teams routinely crash the usfirst.org servers and that the streams coming from NASA occassionally drop or get choppy. And that's NASA.

So, I'm somewhat skeptical that a team could set up a completely independent webcast. I think a more productive approach would be to work with your local regional and NASA to get a webcast. I believe the real problem with NASA webcasting regional is that they typically have to fly someone out to the regional to set up the equipment. If a team with good technical know-how could persuade their local regional to pay for the necessary internet connection or ISDN lines and the webcasting equipment, then NASA would probably work with them on getting the webcast up. (Note: I don't speak for NASA, but this is how I understand things work.)

Theoretically it should work out - a server with a 100mbit connection should be able to crank out over 700 128kbit streams, but my guess is probally more around 400 max. A server at servermatrix (theplanet) or ev1 (old rackshack) should have no problem handling this as far as actual bandwidth - they have gigabits upon gigabits of internet bandwidth.
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Unread 10-13-2005, 06:34 PM
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Re: Webcasts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Sevcik
If a team with good technical know-how could persuade their local regional to pay for the necessary internet connection or ISDN lines and the webcasting equipment, then NASA would probably work with them on getting the webcast up. (Note: I don't speak for NASA, but this is how I understand things work.)
I think that the biggest obstacle is getting the interenet connection available for just streaming use AT THE LOCAL SITE. I know that SOAP already records matches and hosts (afterwards and sometimes during) them at certain events. I guess if there were an easy (manuals or just a clear general explanation of the process) process on how to either setup a streaming server or to digitally encode certain matches an abitious team could then use their more technical people to set it up.

I wasn't reffering to setting up a stream directly through the usfirst website, but I would think a stream coming over the local internet host just so that more people could watch it and possibly used some more advanced technology other than RealMedia that could offer some alternatives as to quality vs. bandwidth. (by that i mean a better compression codec could possibly yield a better quality or a smaller load on current regional internet connections) Thus enabling more regionals to be able to broadcast over their local internet connection. Please go look at the Google Video Client and think about how we could leverage that for FIRST (it is almost entirely based on VLC)

I think that a SOAP encoding system would work provided someone would be willing to host something like that, but I am reffering more specifically to the live broadcasting of events that will not be archived.
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Unread 10-13-2005, 07:26 PM
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Re: Webcasts

I helped provide webcasts last year for Boilermaker, Midwest, and IRI. I can tell you that the biggest obstacle is a server with the necessary bandwidth. Sure, Servermatrix has servers with a 100mb pipe (we used ours to provide the IRI webcast), but as pointed out already, a large 3-day event would chew through more bytes than most plans offer. This is why NASA's help is so important (they provided the servers and bandwidth for Midwest and Boilermaker).

Server horsepower is not an issue. The server is simply replicating streams coming from the event site and redistributing them out to all the clients. That uses very little CPU power.

Having an internet connection at the site is a problem, but usually a solvable one since most facilities will have internet available. It's mainly a coordination problem with getting in touch with the right people to get access to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Kowski
possibly used some more advanced technology other than RealMedia that could offer some alternatives as to quality vs. bandwidth
I'm not sure why everyone rags on Real so much. Years ago their player was intrusive and took over all your file associations, but now it seems to be quite good. And their compression algorithm is at least as good as anything else you'd want to use for streaming video (I personally believe it looks quite a bit better than Windows Media at the same bitrate). Additionally, all of the software necessary to provide a Real stream is available free which makes life easier.
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Unread 10-13-2005, 08:50 PM
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Re: Webcasts

Last season I tried e-mailing FIRST to ask about an internet connection at the LA regional and sadly got no response other than "I'm forwarding your message to these people" and then "these people" never replied.

All I need is an internet connection capable of uploading one stream. I know someone at an LA internet company who has servers on a gigabit backbone connection where it can be streamed out to several hundreds of viewers around the globe. Also, we'd set up a machine at the site to capture the video feed and upload it to the server where it is then streamed out.

As far as I know, LA has not been webcast at least as long as I have been in FIRST. Who do I need to talk to to find out about an internet connection at the regional site? That and the permission of FIRST would be virtually all I need to make this happen. If I can get a little info about the connection available at the regional site at least a couple months in advance, it shouldn't be a big deal to make this happen.

Now for the disclaimer: I don't guarantee anything. Things could change. But I think if there is a connection at the site capable of uploading one stream then I think there's a good chance an LA webcast can happen.
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Unread 10-13-2005, 09:34 PM
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Re: Webcasts

sanddrag,

You basically need to talk to the LA Regional Director. I've no idea who this is. I'd recommend emailling FIRST at info@first.org and volunteer@first.org. Make it prominent that you're arranging to have a webcast donated to the LA Regional. Say donation a whole lot, as I hope that'd get their attention. Ask for full contact info for the LA RD or someone in charge of fundraising for the LA Regional.

Mostly, I think you need to present yourself as arranging a donation to get their attention before you ask about them providing an internet connection. And remember that FIRST Corporate is in a bit of flux at the moment with new board members and whatnot.
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Unread 10-13-2005, 09:55 PM
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Re: Webcasts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Flowerday
Sure, Servermatrix has servers with a 100mb pipe (we used ours to provide the IRI webcast), but as pointed out already, a large 3-day event would chew through more bytes than most plans offer. This is why NASA's help is so important (they provided the servers and bandwidth for Midwest and Boilermaker).

Server horsepower is not an issue. The server is simply replicating streams coming from the event site and redistributing them out to all the clients. That uses very little CPU power.

Having an internet connection at the site is a problem, but usually a solvable one since most facilities will have internet available. It's mainly a coordination problem with getting in touch with the right people to get access to it.
So do you have any idea what is specifically needed (not neccessarily wanted) in terms of bandwidth?

My reference to Real was not meant as a slam on them, but an idea to see if there is any other technology available for evaluation besides the one we currently use. My thought is not to comment on the current system (on either it's pluses or minuses) but rather to understand the current system to see if there are any possible alternatives that may or may not been looked at. Through, I believe my probing will find there has been a tremendous amount of thought on this topic.

Additionally I want to know if there is any way to possibly adapt the current system to help make more of the regionals webcasted.
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Unread 10-13-2005, 10:20 PM
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Re: Webcasts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Kowski
Additionally I want to know if there is any way to possibly adapt the current system to help make more of the regionals webcasted.
As noted above.

I believe any regional is available for webcasting under the current system. NASA just needs people on the ground at the regional to set up (and possibly provide) the streaming computer, polycom unit, etc. And the regional most likely needs funding to pay for the internet connection required. That can get pricey in some venues.
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Unread 10-13-2005, 11:36 PM
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Re: Webcasts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Sevcik
I believe any regional is available for webcasting under the current system. NASA just needs people on the ground at the regional to set up (and possibly provide) the streaming computer, polycom unit, etc.
Have you spoken to someone from NASA about this? It wasn't clear to me if the reason they don't do more regionals is only because they need manpower to cover them (which they do, of course) or if it's also a case of them not being able to handle the bandwidth needs of multiple regionals on the same weekend.

For reference, when I helped out with some of the regionals this year I used a 2.8GHz P4 along with the Osprey 210 capture card and Helix Producer to do the encoding and feeding to the NASA server. This was all my own equipment - I doubt that the NASA people would have much spare equipment to lend out but I may be wrong.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Kowski
So do you have any idea what is specifically needed (not neccessarily wanted) in terms of bandwidth?
You can get a pretty good estimate by using the bitrate of the stream that is encoded. I was running at 150kbps, so it's easy to figure out what bandwidth you'd need by multiplying this by your expected "peak" viewer count:
100 viewers = 15 Mbits/sec
200 viewers = 29 Mbits/sec
500 viewers = 73 Mbits/sec

Usually when you're talking about a connection large enough to handle this there's also a limit on the total amount of data transfer per month, so it's worth looking at that too. If you assume that you'll be broadcasting 8 hours a day for the full 3 days of the event, a viewer who is connected the whole time will consume around 1.5 gigabytes of data from your server. So, you can multiply this out by the average number of listeners you expect to figure out how much transfer you'd need:
100 viewers = 155 gigabytes
200 viewers = 310 gigabytes
500 viewers = 770 gigabytes
and so on.

I don't really know how many viewers actually connect but it's probably not more than 200 for a popular regional (and that'd be peak, not average).
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Unread 10-14-2005, 12:23 AM
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Re: Webcasts

If I remember correctly reading back a year or so ago, Dr Bot I think it was, said that the problem with web-casting more regionals is the man power (having someone to have time to get it all setup), and the connection at the location and the available equipment. If one were to have a stable connection at a regional that would solve much of the latency. Being that NASA uses their satellites for much of the sending, you have to take into account that satellite signals can be temper-mental with clouds and other anomalies. I am sure that NASA's servers and connection are more than enough for firsters to watch the videos, the problem is usually the connection at the regional when things start to get skippy and slow. As a owner of my personal webserver, which wouldn't have a problem with 200 people accessing, it wouldn't be that hard to stream video as I have no limits on transfer rate, just my upload speed, which I am working on getting upped to a couple mbps. If we cant get more regionals webcasted atleast it would be a good idea to get them digitalized and hosted at a central location, such as SOAP or myself, as I have nearly all the files SOAP has.

This year when/if video gets digitalized at any regional if anyone doing it could please contact me I would like to host the video for all to see and download.

Last edited by Mike AA : 10-14-2005 at 12:27 AM.
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Unread 10-14-2005, 07:16 AM
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Re: Webcasts

I have inquired about web casting for GTR Super Regional this year. These are the specs that I received:

Here are the specs

Your computer should have at least a 2.8Ghz processor, 512 MB Ram or higher, and the higher the front side bus the better. You will also need a video capture device. We use Osprey cards in our encoders. You could probably get away with getting a capture device from your local computer store for a little under 100 dollars. It is usually labeled for receiving a video feed from a VCR or camcorder. If you want better quality and better control over the feed that comes into your computer I would recommend an Osprey card. You can see them here at this website http://www.viewcast.com/products/osprey.html Actually they have the osprey 50 which could be something you might want to consider as a cheaper solution and it may work better if you are going to use a laptop. We use the Osprey 230, just so you know. You will need the Windows Media Encoder. You can do a search on the Microsoft website and you can download that for free. We have been encoding at 48 and 143 kbps. You can do the same. This will require you to send about 200kbps to us. I would get as big a pipe as you can. We can try a larger stream if you want if you get a bigger pipe. Like we could add a 200kbps stream onto that and you would need 400 or more kbps throughput. To be safe I think you could ask for 768 upload and you should be fine.

This will need approval from FIRST and our area committee. We hope to make it work and give everyone the experience of a Super Regional.
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Unread 10-14-2005, 09:34 AM
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Re: Webcasts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike AA
Being that NASA uses their satellites for much of the sending, you have to take into account that satellite signals can be temper-mental with clouds and other anomalies.
NASA doesn't use their satellite channel for very many events. Most regionals are webcast only (not carried on NASA TV) and therefore they have the encoder on site and an internet connection to pipe the data back to the NASA servers. They use the satellite for the kickoff and Championships and a few regionals in between.
Quote:
As a owner of my personal webserver, which wouldn't have a problem with 200 people accessing, it wouldn't be that hard to stream video as I have no limits on transfer rate, just my upload speed, which I am working on getting upped to a couple mbps.
A couple of megabits won't handle many viewers at all. See my table above.
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Unread 10-14-2005, 11:44 AM
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Re: Webcasts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve W
Your computer should have at least a 2.8Ghz processor, 512 MB Ram or higher, and the higher the front side bus the better. You will also need a video capture device. We use Osprey cards in our encoders. You could probably get away with getting a capture device from your local computer store for a little under 100 dollars.
Terribly important caveat to getting a capture device from your local computer store. As I remember these requirements, you don't want a capture card that does MPEG encoding. These won't work, but they're unfortunately the most common cards out there now. You're looking for something that will capture AVI files. The Osprey cards are best, of course. Hauppage TV tuner cards and video capture cards work as well.
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