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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2019 10 months ago

Longboat Key improves production quality on Town Commission videos

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The Town's IT team controls camera use from a back room.
by: Sten Spinella Staff Writer

Town Commission meetings aren't always riveting television, but that doesn’t mean the town can’t improve its production quality.

Now, after upgrades to the system used to broadcast public meetings live through the town's website, there's a real difference. Maybe not in the content, but in the ability to sit and watch the proceedings, said Information Technology Director Jason Keen. 

“You can actually read the documents that are on screen,” he said. 

Documents on screen now have a higher visibility. Pictured is town IT Specialist Barry Gaines.

The town was unsatisfied with its third-party vendor, Studio 26, which handled town-owned equipment, because its representative didn’t come to two meetings. So once the Town Commission’s summer hiatus began, Keen and others set about trying to provide a better broadcast, which included the level of high-definition TV many people see at home. 

Viewers will also see better views of commissioners and speakers.

“We upgraded to a solution that will do 1080p,” Keen said. “We did a three-camera system, one for the podium and then two for a back view so that we can swap between the full dais versus individuals, commissioners or the town manager speaking.”

“It was a conscious decision to move forward after we finished the last meeting before recess, and to try and get that work done during the recess,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said.

For months, the town has also sought adding live closed-captioning to its commission meeting videos, rather than adding the text after the fact on its archive of recorded meetings. Now, with new vendor Pro Audio, the meetings will have live closed-captioning. Viewers click a “CC” button in the video streaming service to activate the feature.

Gaines controls the cameras from this tablet.

Harmer is glad the town can livestream the meetings with closed captioning rather than post the video afterward.

“The livestreaming is an option that we now have in place for our videoing, that we're doing ourselves,” he said. “We've always added closed captioning afterwards, but the livestreaming, this system has that capability.”

At the moment, the town’s IT team is producing commission meeting broadcasts in-house. Stationed in a Town Hall room with a tablet set-up showing the different, numbered cameras, employees can select various angles – a full view of the dais, zooming in on a particular seat at the dais, going to the podium and a split-screen effect are all options.

The audio is enhanced as well: “We can adjust the input down so that the stream is a little bit smoother,” Keen said. The town is also considering streaming its meetings via other sources, like Facebook live, he added.

Gaines and IT Director Jason Keen in the control room.

In upgrading its broadcast problems, the town gave its IT team more work – obviously there’s what needs to be done during the meeting, as well as about an hour of prep work beforehand.

“We don't really have the full resources to keep continuing it and our normal day-to-day work,” Keen said, “so we're looking at finding another provider to help us run just those meetings, and then our staff can augment. We're actually looking at possibly the county assisting us or a third-party provider just to come in and run the equipment.”

Harmer commented on why the town bettered its Commission video quality.

“We decided over the recess period with the Commission to have the new camera system installed so that we wouldn't have to rely on the contractor who had his own equipment,” he said.

Sten Spinella is a Town Hall Reporter for the Longboat Observer. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut and his master's degree from the University of Missouri. 

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