Pila­tes Con­ven­ti­on 2022 — We should have agreed a mileage allo­wan­ce for this order

The request from the Ger­man Pila­tes Asso­cia­ti­on heral­ded a chal­len­ging pro­ject: Equip four con­fe­rence rooms each with a per­ma­nent­ly instal­led came­ra inclu­ding micro­pho­ne, then trans­mit four video signals live and in par­al­lel to a pass­word-pro­tec­ted web­site of the asso­cia­ti­on, with charts and pro­mo­tio­nal vide­os being shown on each chan­nel at indi­vi­du­al times.

Let’s start with the “simp­le” things: Inter­net with suf­fi­ci­ent band­width — four streams in HD qua­li­ty requi­re at least 5–7 Mbits each — could unfort­u­na­te­ly not be pro­vi­ded by the hotel. A look at the Voda­fone net­work map pro­vi­ded reli­ef, as it show­ed the avai­la­bi­li­ty of 5G. As it tur­ned out later, the radio mast was within sight of the hotel and our radio rou­ter, equip­ped with two exter­nal anten­nas, did its job reliably.

The next check­point was a litt­le trickier: the con­fe­rence rooms were arran­ged in pairs, but with a litt­le distance bet­ween them. Accor­ding to the room plan, the­re were almost 60 meters bet­ween them, plus a stair­well on the first third of a win­ding path and a fire door on the second third, which in any case could not be obs­truc­ted by any­thing.

Sen­ding radio signals for video and sound over 60 meters works wit­hout any pro­blems on a straight line. But no chan­ce here. We pul­led 200 meters of HDMI fiber optic cable for the pic­tu­re and 200 meters of XLR cable for the sound through the ais­les and inter­rupt­ed them mid­way with sui­ta­ble split­ters and con­nec­tors. This ensu­red that we could clear the rou­tes at night and in the event of an emer­gen­cy, as we always had the fire door in view during the day. Two con­fe­rence rooms alo­ne, which were in the imme­dia­te vici­ni­ty of the con­trol room, could be con­nec­ted to the sound con­so­le via radio. But here, too, the came­ra signal was trans­mit­ted via HDMI.

So far, so good. The signal paths are in place, trans­mit relia­bly and “only” need to be strea­med. In fact, only our Pearl‑2 would have suf­fi­ced. This ver­sa­ti­le and robust enco­der can stream mul­ti­ple video feeds simul­ta­neous­ly to dif­fe­rent plat­forms and record in par­al­lel.

Howe­ver, as the sche­du­le included various lec­tu­re and prac­ti­ce ses­si­ons, vide­os from adver­ti­sers were to be play­ed during the breaks and covers with titles were to be dis­play­ed at the start of each ses­si­on, we equip­ped the con­trol room exten­si­ve­ly from the out­set. This included two addi­tio­nal con­so­les, a video play­er and a PC to con­trol the four streams run­ning in par­al­lel. Ano­ther con­trol panel was used to switch the image signals from the came­ras, the adver­ti­sing vide­os and the covers of the indi­vi­du­al ses­si­ons in each of the many chan­nels individually.

We have cho­sen Vimeo as our video plat­form. In con­trast to You­Tube, we were able to inte­gra­te the four streams into the Pila­tes Asso­cia­ti­on’s web­site via iframe code wit­hout any addi­tio­nal dis­rup­ti­ve infor­ma­ti­on. As soon as the users had ente­red their pass­word, the cor­re­spon­ding sub­page ope­ned and pro­vi­ded a view of all four streams. Cli­cking on the desi­red stream then ope­ned the video across the enti­re moni­tor area.

And what about the mileage allowance?

Strea­ming pro­jects of this type are ide­al for AV-over-IP, i.e. the par­al­lel trans­mis­si­on of image and sound via a high-per­for­mance net­work. At the same time, con­trol signals can be sent from the con­trol room to the came­ras for ali­gnment. Howe­ver, this solu­ti­on was not yet available to us at the time. So we had to walk the rou­te bet­ween the con­trol room and the four lec­tu­re rooms seve­ral times a day. On the one hand, to help the spea­k­ers put on the lava­lier micro­pho­nes and check their bat­te­ries, and on the other hand, to read­just the came­ras every now and then so that the some­ti­mes very mobi­le prot­ago­nists were always in the picture.

The gre­at effort, com­bi­ned with a litt­le run­ning trai­ning, was worth it. As a result, we sent four HD streams over the air­wa­ves wit­hout inter­rup­ti­on and in top pic­tu­re and sound qua­li­ty. The par­al­lel video recor­dings of the ses­si­ons were made available as video-on-demand after the con­ven­ti­on.

The­re was only one chall­enge that we almost fai­led at the end: the real­ly lar­ge gift bas­kets that Taro Katao­ka and I recei­ved as a token of our cli­ents’ satis­fac­tion only just fit­ted into our van. The next one will defi­ni­te­ly be bigger.