Video at FOSDEM 2013

For the second year in a row, I've led the team that organized video at FOSDEM. This year, most things went pretty smoothly; more so than last year. We definitely learned from some of our mistakes, and although I can't say that everything went better than it did last year, after having done a first look at things I can certainly say that overall, the result is better now than it was last year.

Our setup was very similar to what it was last year. However, there were some key differences:

  • Last year, we used two semi-professional cameras (with XLR audio inputs), two HD camcorders (with only mini-jack audio inputs), and one old SD-only camcorder (similarly, with only mini-jack audio input). This year, we decided to rent three XLR-capable cameras instead; while this drove the cost up, it seriously reduced the complexity for the audio setup. As a result, we had much less issues with talks that only had audio recorded.
  • Due to some misunderstanding, last year the ULB's A/V department was not contacted to request access to their equipment. As a result, we had to do our own audio set-up in Janson and the K auditorium. This year, we made sure that this problem did not repeat itself; as a result, in the K auditorium and in Janson, all we had to do was connect an XLR feed to the camera, and we had audio.
  • Last year, the machines doing transcoding were two rented laptops, one fairly recent spare laptop that I had lying around, and one somewhat older desktop machine. This was needlessly complex. This year, I rented less laptops but added a server with significant diskspace that we could do the flumotion recording on. This made the streaming and recording somewhat less complex to administer.
  • Most critically, this year I had arranged for special green Videoteam t-shirts. This made it much easier to recognize who my trained videoteam volunteers were, and was instrumental in ensuring we didn't have the same volunteers man the same recording station all sunday afternoon, as was the case last year.

Unfortunately, that didn't mean all was well. The internal server would transcode the DV stream into WebM, which was then sent on to the Flumotion platform where it was going to be transcoded to Ogg Theora, before being streamed in both formats. Due to an issue which we could not track down (possibly something incorrect in my configuration), the transcoding into Ogg Theora did not work smoothly, and even had the unwanted effect of disrupting the WebM streaming. Since this made it difficult to debug without disrupting service, eventually we decided to give up on Ogg Theora and only provide WebM streams; I considered that to be a better solution than no streaming at all.

In addition, apparently in the year since FOSDEM 2012, libav and gstreamer have changed significantly enough that the scripts that I used then had to be somewhat revisited in order to be able to transcode the existing recordings into WebM ready for video.fosdem.org. Oh well, I had to add in normalisation anyway; only it would've been nice if I didn't have to revisit it from scratch. Meh.

At any rate, our streams seem to have been very popular. Some statistics:

Saturday

Sunday

Served traffic by country (over the whole weekend)
Served sessions by country (over the whole weekend)

As you can see from these graphs, watching the streams from Belgium seems to be happening fairly often; I suspect much of that is people at the conference watching a stream in a different room. Additionally, we peaked at 212 viewers, which is slightly more than the peak of 206 that we had last year. The final conclusion we can take home from these statistics is that the most popular talk on Saturday (at least according to people watching the streams) was the eudev one in the cross-distro room (with 68 viewers); on sunday, the talks in Janson were all fairly equally popular. The peak of 102 viewers was reached around 15:45.

Overall, I'm quite happy with the result. Yesterday, Thomas Eugène of NamurLUG (who used to do video for several years before I took over last year) helped me do the first review. What's left now is to do some transcoding and uploading; this will happen over the next few days and weeks.

What is the white box you used to capture the VGA screen of the laptop's speaker?
What is the white box you used to capture the VGA screen of the laptop's speaker?
Comment by zoobab (zoobab@gmail.com) Mon Feb 3 12:09:18 2014