Technical Post Mortem
The Town of Hinton uses Zoom to host digital meetings, and then uses a custom streaming connection into YouTube to stream. This configuration has been consistently used over the COVID-19 pandemic to stream out meetings.
Our hardware is a Microsoft LifeCam, a unit built for small to medium room teleconferencing.
As the camera, and microphone, are relatively accurate to the back of our meeting room, it was concluded that we could trust this hardware to capture without a direct audio line in, allowing there to be less cabling run from the technicians room through the audience.
The talented technicians at the PATH held a series of mic checks while we configured the devices. At this time, we confirmed that audio devices were correctly selected, and that audio from the mic checks was being adequately received and streamed. With a clear signal confirmed and the meeting established as per our normal meeting procedure, we concluded that a redundancy would not be necessary for on location capture.
While allowing in viewers and Council, the meeting was briefly checked and confirmed to be running and framed as before. A brief check to confirm audio signal was present was made, and the stream was begun.
On location, sound technicians, ASH staff, and Town of Hinton staff were immediately moving speakers, adjusting levels, and attempting to troubleshoot. With one operator off site as a back up for internet loss as well as to adapt to common streaming network issues, messages were simultaneously being sent through text and zoom chat sending both fix theories and feedback, as well as attempting to continue to submit questions to allow the Town Hall to continue. In the flurry of messages, a theory was shared early in the meeting as to the problem - unfortunately, while it was lost on location in the messages, troubleshooting off site assumed that the issue had been checked and confirmed negative, and so other theories and techniques were investigated.
Staff on and off site began communicating in pictures for speed and for clarity, while questions were also being shared and answered. One of the images illustrated either a massive hardware error, or that an input setting (confirmed during sound check) had to have been flipped. This was the previously shared but missed theory. A step by step changes set of photos was shared, which fixed the issue back to the previous setting.
Learnings Going Forward
Our belief that leaving a meeting open but not transmitting would hold all settings enabling a more rapid activation at event time was wrong. Somehow, being it a glitch, computer going to sleep, power surge, power failure, or cord failure, the setting was flipped.
The setting in question is the small arrow visible to zoom users besides the microphone. When using external hardware like a LifeCam or microphone or other camera, a user needs to ensure the correct input is selected. This process was confirmed during sound check, but somehow lost, and we did not confirm it a second time before the stream began.
From this issue, we have learnt the need both for a redundant local video capture in case of streaming failure, and a more thorough before stream sound check.
However, we have also learnt, and are happy to share that, with some lighting work, and confirmation of these settings properly at the time of event, a mid level teleconferencing unit like the LifeCam could be an affordable way to stream stage events from the PATH venue. We will ensure these learnings are incorporated into future events.