For Immediate Release
July 14, 2020
Contact: Laura Blair Johnson
Public Information Officer/
Administrative Services Director
City Council Meetings
(July 14, 2020, Red Wing, Minn.) Technical issues, virtual meetings, and meetings in the City Council Chambers.
In March, when the pandemic began, words like social distancing, personal protection equipment, and Zoom became part of our daily vocabulary. At that time, the City Council held its first virtual meeting. We began to broadcast live from the Council Chambers for the first time in an empty room. The cameras focused on a computer screen with the "Hollywood Squares" view of Council members from their homes conducting the City’s business. This wasn’t ideal for watching Channel 6 or the live stream on our computer as we were anxious about how well our audience could see and hear the meeting. For the first time in history, Council President Hove called a virtual meeting to order. We were in unchartered territory.
Redesigning City Council Meetings
The City Council is now back in the Council Chambers conducting business live. They have a new seating chart to accommodate proper social distancing, and face coverings are required. We limit the number in the room to no more than twenty people and the Chambers is sprayed and cleaned after every meeting. City staff participate in the live meetings by joining a video conference line; we do this to leave seating for residents who wish to attend the meeting in person. We tested this process and felt it was a workable solution. This plan design assumed the live stream and Channel 6 broadcast as fully functioning.
What wasn’t planned is what you experienced this last month during Council meetings. The first technical issue was an encoder that allows us to distribute and stream meetings, both live and on-demand. With the failure of the encoder appliance, we continued to broadcast live over Channel 6, but we couldn’t stream the meeting live through our website. Interestingly, we discovered just how many of us now stream the meetings from our computers, as many residents choose not to subscribe to a traditional cable provider to view Channel 6. We replaced the encoder and the problem was resolved.
The next piece of equipment to unexpectedly fail was the primary media server that feeds the signal to the previously-failed encoder. This meant we could not broadcast live on Channel 6 or live stream the meeting. Now we had to ask citizens to join City staff on a video conference call to attempt to listen to a Council meeting. That’s what happened last night.
For citizens who stayed on the line for last night’s 4.5-hour City Council meeting that was inaudible, we apologize. The equipment failures will be resolved to allow for the live stream of the meeting and viewing on Channel 6. The hybrid of City Council members in the Council Chambers and staff participating via the video conference will continue. However, the viewer will experience the meeting by either visiting in person, streaming on their computer or mobile device, or watching on Channel 6.
For a glimpse inside the control booth that runs all of these meetings and creates the live stream, on-demand video, and Channel 6 broadcast, below is a page from the standard operating procedure manual. We all take pride in what we produce from this control booth, and it is our top priority to ensure this room is updated and functioning correctly the next time you tune in.
A. Media Server Controller PC
B. Secondary Monitor for Granicus Timestamping
C. Switcher Display
D. Switcher Control PC
E. Charter Feed Monitor
F. HBC Feed Monitor
G. Live Feed Monitor
H. Lobby Audio Control
I. DVD Backup Recorder
J. Wireless Microphone Audio Control
K. Chambers Audio Control
L. Chambers Microphone Controls
M. Wireless Hearing Assist Control
N. Video Switcher
O. Network Switch
Q Media Server
R External Media Storage
S Granicus Encoding Server