25-May-2012 (Fri) Wherein I think out loud about webcast upgrades.

The other night, one of our lovely customers decided, after leaving the club, to piss on the wall of one of our neighbors. He did this right across the street from a police car. When the cops came over suggested that maybe this was not such a good idea, he responded with:

"It's ok, I'm French."

This is a thing that actually happened.


We got some absolutely horrific news, permits-wise, about the construction of the new space above the pizza place that may actually scuttle the entire project. I'm trying to wait for more details before completely freaking out, but who are we kidding here, I'm completely freaking out.

Anyway, in the increasingly-remote event that our new performance space is ever allowed to open, I need to decide what to do about webcasting from that room, e.g., whether to do it at all.

We've been webcasting 24/7 since 1999, and it's mostly been a giant pain in the ass, but hasn't ever quite gotten to be such a pain to cause me to just pull the plug -- though it's gotten close a few times. The webcast brings us no business, and frankly brings us no press either. A lot of people do watch it, though. Of course, those people are by definition not customers.

So really, my answer to the question of "why do we webcast" is just, "Because it seemed like a good idea in 1999, and I'll get whiny email if I stop."


So do we webcast from the new venue or not? I dunno, if we don't people will ask about it constantly. It's kind of our "thing". So, our options are:

  1. Change nothing, no webcast from the new venue.
  2. Webcast from the new venue only when nothing's going on at DNA.

    We'd need a couple more camcorders, a bunch of cabling, and a bit of automation on audio input switching. Probably around $1,000 for the gear.

  3. Webcast both DNA and the new space, 24/7; two streams.

    For that we'd need the above plus a second Mac Mini, a second Component-to-DV device, and it would reduce our available outbound bandwidth by quite a bit, but I think it'd still be manageable. So this approach is probably around $2,000.

  4. But hey, the video's really kind of crummy right now. Wouldn't it be nice if the new venue was HD?

    The webcast would still need to be lower-than-HD resolution (we don't have the bandwidth) but using HD cameras and cabling would give us much better low light performance, so even a low-rez video stream would presumably look a whole lot better.

    That would require a more complicated and expensive video run (boxes on either end to run HDMI over cat5), more expensive cameras, and a new computer-controllable video switcher. This would leave the new room HD and the old room SD, and would probably be around $4,000 total.

  5. Well what about also upgrading DNA to HD too?

    That means replacing all of the cameras; replacing the panning cameras with multiple fixed-position cameras; replacing the video switcher; and each camera needs its own pair of HDMI-to-cat5 boxes. There's no real opportunity for starting small or doing it incrementally, so I think this ends up costing around $12,000 in hardware alone for both venues (not to mention the labor of running miles of cable).

So that's kind of a drag. I'm not about to spent twelve grand to make the "freeloading from home" experience better. In fact, any time I think about how much money I've spent on that already, I feel like an idiot.

Maybe I'll do a Kickstarter for it, har har har.

11 Responses:

  1. Jessica Lennon says:

    If it, uh, makes you feel better, the livestream does help create a sense of community amongst those of us who are freeloading on a particular night, but are likely to come out and pay on another, just cause we like drinking at the DNA. Also, that video of Trista painting the floor: kinda priceless right?

  2. Bad Mole says:

    Webcast is great if I can't make it that night; I like seeing who's there even if I can't be. HD would rock, it's pretty crummy vid now. But then, I won't be paying for that. I would help run cable though...

  3. Frederick Roeber says:

    I will be happy to run cable and install cameras in awkward places. Depending on how much of a rush you're in, I might have a mac mini or two to spare, as well.

    • Jamie Zawinski says:

      Thanks! I can definitely give a good home to a working Intel Mac Mini or two. Now, if only someone would pop up and say, "Hey, I've got 16 HD camcorders and 32 HDMI-Cat5 Active Extenders that I don't need", we'd be getting somewhere.

      • Adam Perry says:

        Is there a reason to be fighting with HDMI, instead SDI or IP?

        SDI has advantages in that it works over your existing coax, which saves rewiring. Seems to be a dieing format and there isn't much choice in terms of cheap hardware, but...

        And with IP everything becomes a software problem instead of a hardware problem, which is either very good or very bad, but China keeps making CCTV-related IP stuff cheaper and better.

        And neither of them were ever envisioned to be something just like DVI, but with DRM and self-disassembling connectors.

        (And, no, I don't have any spare gear to send your way. But you can add me to the list of folks who will definitely be spending some serious drinking money at DNA if I ever get within a few hundred miles of the place, just because of your insistence on making things like the webcast work properly.)

        • Jamie Zawinski says:

          (Disqus didn't post my reply-by-emai, so apologies if this is a dup.)

          > "Is there a reason..." "dieing format and there isn't much choice in terms of cheap hardware..."

          Is it just me, or was your question immediately followed by your answer?

          Seriously, if you have a line on reasonably-priced options that would meet our needs, please let me know. Otherwise, it's kinda like you said "why don't you just reverse the polarity and rip a hole in spacetime?"

          > "but China keeps making CCTV-related IP stuff cheaper and better."

          Again, project-relevant links or it didn't happen, because I've never seen anything even remotely relevant that was also what anyone would even jokingly refer to as "cheap".

  4. When I'm in town I tend to come to DNA Lounge, but normally I'm many thousands of miles away. The commute would be a drag.I do hear many comments from folks on this side of the pond when I talk about coming in about really liking the streams and it's part of the reason they come when they're in SF.It may not generate a huge amount of custom but it does generate some that is hard to quantify.

    • Jamie Zawinski says:

      It's definitely hard to quantify, but I'm gonna take a wild-ass guess that were it quantified it would be far, far less than twelve grand.

  5. Grey Hodge says:

    I'm the only one more concerned with the space not opening? What's up with the permits?

  6. zibuki says:

    It has brought you new business- I know for a fact. If I hadn't seen the stream I probably never would have been to any events at DNA. Also, I've talked to several people in chat that have said that they planned on visiting DNA when they came to SF, and they asked detailed questions about the club that made me think they were serious. I've also talked to people in chat that also lived in SF, were already DNA customers, but were watching from home, then they saw what was happening at DNA that night on the video stream and decided to come in to the club.

    It would help if you worked a little (an hour) on the description of the club so that a brief description shows up in chat when people first join (I'm always answering questions in chat explaining that the club is more of an event space, with some LGBT events, some like Hubba, etc.), and maybe even appointed some chat moderators to keep order in chat.

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