Best Plan for Local Broadcast
I've got a project in which I want to send high quality live video to several separate locations within a 25 mile radius. It doesn't necessarily have to be "broadcast" quality, but I am looking for a professional, permanent solution for my church, which is considering starting "satellite campuses."
Is satellite my best option? What other solutions are available in the industry? I've investigated IPTV, but haven't been able to find any service providers that fit my needs yet. Any other possibilities out there?
I appreciate your help.
I want to feed sports footage in DV16:9 at an uplink facility that can only send a standard def signal. Stations across the country will have access to the feed. As I understand, some stations across the
country transmit an HD signal, others standard def.
Will the DV16:9 footage I shoot appear as a 16:9 aspect ratio that reaches to the left and the right edge of the home viewer's TV Screen, whether they are watching an HD or SD television in their home .
Have I already lost you? Essentially I want the viewer to have an image that fills the screen as much as possible whether they are watching an HD or SD television. I don't want to have the image appear
on their TV set as a 16:9 aspect ratio with black edges not only on the top and bottom but on the left and right sides as well. I realize it's out of my hands once I feed it. Should I just feed a SD 4x3 image
and play it safe?
I don't have a handle on the intricacies of the uplink/downlink and station to viewer process with
the variables of 3x4/16:9 aspect ratios, HD/SD etc.
It's a shame that I'm shooting with the XDcam HD and downconverting to DV for the limitations of the
feed facility, but it is what it is. So I could just send a DV 3:4 image on the bird and be done with it,
but that 16:9 image looks so good even though it's a standard def DV image.
I just don't want to be shooting myself in the foot since I don't understand the variables in the
Thomas, it is probably better to start a new discussion if you have a different question. Otherwise you are "hijacking" someone else's discussion thread.
If you can only distribute SD, maybe you will need to horizontally compress your 16:9 signal into 4:3. Local TV stations should be able to take a variety of different encodings and aspect ratios and display it however they wish. Full HD (16:9), or letterboxed, or whatever.
What are the technical options available in your city? Do you have fiber and/or broadband cable service to the locations? What is your budget? There are DIY (consumer-level) broadband video distribution things like Slingbox (and probably others). And for significantly more $$$ there are broadcast-grade internet distribution options like Streambox, etc. There are also the kinds of microwave systems used by local TV stations for live news coverage.
What are the logistics? Does it have to be "live"? A large church in my metro area produces the Saturday-night service to DVD and then "sneakernet" distributes copies to the satellite locations on Sunday morning. They have live music teams at the satellite locations, but use the DVD of the pastor's sermon.
Satellite seems pretty expensive for your application and probably eclipsed by more attractive broadband options depending on what is available in your area.
I tend to agree with Richard. We have a remote office 200 miles away and we use a dedicated fiber hookup and V-brick units to shlep SD video back and forth in realtime. Works like a charm. We also do satellite uplinks and downlinks for teleconferences, you can buy transponder time in 15-minute increments which are not outrageously expensive for occasional use, but I don't think you want to do that 52 weeks a year. Plus the cost of c-band or ku-band dishes and attending gear for each location. Probably cheaper to lease a fiber hookup from ATT to each remote site and do the V-brick thing, is my guess. Microwave needs to be line of sight, and requires special licensing, as I understand it.
Two other kind of offbeat ideas come to mind.
Offbeat idea 1: 25 miles may just be in the range of an LPTV broadcasting license. The attraction there with low-power TV would be that you not only reach the church buildings, you reach the entire community with a low-power TV signal they can receive with one of those set-box DTV tuners with pass-through. Once you have the station, other people in the community may come to you and ask for air time as well, (you'd have plenty to spare in off hours) and this could snowball into quite a local outreach ministry. I don't know the inticasies and legalities of the LPTV licensing process, you'd have to go do the homework to see if it was even feasible.
Offbeat idea 2 would be to contact dish network or comcast and see what it takes to get spot coverage for your own channel in your market area off a spare sat channel from them. If nothing else, you can do a cable access program thru the local cable company.
Good additional ideas from Mark. Of course it is different in every city, but in my metro area LPTV construction permits (just the piece of paper) run around 1 million dollars. Then you must build the station and program it. And the sattelite providers are pretty stingy about how they divvy out their spot beams. In our neck of the woods they will only carry channels that they are required by the FCC ("must carry").
Reminded me of another option, too. If you have something beyond the bare-bones cable system in your city, they may have the technology for "upstream" video, so you could put your church service on a local cable access channel as a live show and just have the other locations (as well as viewers at home) tune into the live program.
Richard and Mark,
Excellent ideas! Thank you for sharing your expertise and experience with me. I'll have to do some more investigation on my own here launching off some of the ideas you suggested above. But here are a little more of the specifics/logistics for your curiosity:
We currently shoot SD video and up-convert the signal to Hi-Res using the Grass Valley Indigo. A higher resolution "broadcast" would be ideal, however SD would also be acceptable. I can't definitively say how large our budget will be for this project as it's still in the early stages of consideration, but I imagine $50 K is a good ballpark estimate. (Of course, we'll be doing our best to economize our resources for quality.) We might be starting with just three satellite campuses, but it may very quickly expand to five or seven within the next year.
I really appreciate your suggestions, and I'll be sure to give you some updates as I go along. Thank you!
More and more this looks to me like a situation where leased-access from the local digital cable company would be the way to go. You only have to make one feed to their "head end" somewhere, SD at first maybe, then HD as things progress, or alternately, use the cable co's video on demand (VOD) systems or leased time on one of their other channels for the programming. People could dial up the church programming just like renting a movie or wrestling match or whatever. VOD can be free to viewers (subsidized elsewhere) or charge a fee to viewers. This is a scalable solution that can grow with you and makes your programming available to folks outside the congregation, out into the cable co's coverage area. However, it is one-way for the most part: sending out the show from one point, for reception at all the others. Getting interactivity between the various sites would raise the complexity (and cost) significantly.
If you can get a T1 line at each location you can encode a high resolution H.264 feed around 4-6mb/s and have better than DVD quality. Viewcast makes a streaming server box that you might want to check out that can do this. We sent a 1mb/s WMV stream to an offsite location and looked decent, 4-6mb/s H.264 would look way better.
Right now it's a tie between encoding with h.264 and using a nice streaming package like streambox (thanks for the tip — I was familiar with slingbox, but couldn't find a professional equivalent), or leasing a VOD service with one of the local broadcast companies here in Sacramento. I'll have to get some quotes before I share these solutions with my department, but both sound like extremely viable options. Thanks so much for the great tips! Really appreciate it.