When organising a DebConf, there are a number of things the local team needs to investigate so that the video team knows what to expect when they arrive to set-up. Most of these are physical constraints of the rooms hired, which makes pictures of the rooms and existing equipment useful.
The biggest question is how large the rooms are. This affects the Room setup. The positioning and number of power and network sockets as well as the speed of the network sockets are also crucial. If there are floor plans of the rooms, they make planning of the setup much easier.
To stream the conference, we need at least a network uplink with a 5mbps dedicated connection. Although not a requirement, having at least a single static public IP that we can NAT behind is appreciated. If we can get a range of IPs this makes things easier. Our setup requires gigabit connectivity between all our machines.
Another consideration is how cables can be run between the front and the back of the talk rooms. This includes any local safety laws that may prevent us from running cables in specific areas or tape them down to the floor. If there is a false ceiling that cables can be hung from, this is often the easiest solution.
In each room covered by the video team, there are typically 2 video cameras: One facing the presentation, from the back of the room, and one facing the audience from the side of the stage.
There’s a table to be set up in the back (or side) of the room for 3 people to sit at, typically next to the rear camera:
Director (live video mixer) using a desktop PC.
Audio Mixer (for the videos and the room PA) using an audio mixing desk and wireless microphone receivers.
Room Coordinator or a Video Team member assisting/learning.
Beyond the talk rooms, the video team also needs additional spaces for:
Build-up configuration and testing, before DebConf starts.
Storing equipment before DebConf starts, and spare equipment during the event.
Monitoring live streams during the event, and debugging issues. This requires desks, chairs, and ideally computer monitors.
Network and server equipment.
Server equipment can be kept in a venue’s own server room, if after-hours access can be provided to the core video team members. Or, if sufficient network connectivity, power, and cooling can be provided, this can all be hosted in a single (lockable) room.
Often the chosen venue has some audio/visual equipment available for use to use in the talk rooms. What is available needs to be determined early on so that the hire list can be adjusted as needed.
The most important piece of equipment usually provided by the venue is one (or more) projector(s) in each talk room. These need to be able to take HDMI input, as this is what the Opsis outputs. They should also be of sufficient quality so that the image projected is clearly visible. If there are any switchers or range extenders between the computer input and the projector, these should also be identified.
The next useful pieces of equipment are speakers. We can hire these, but it is easier if the venue has a room PA that we can connect into. We require stereo (left and right) 3 pin XLR or balanced 1/4” jack line inputs that we can connect our mixer into.
As we use a free-software stack, a lot of our video mixing and streaming is done on computers running Debian, rather than professional video production hardware. The video team only has enough equipment for single-track miniconfs, for a larger event like DebConf, we need to borrow / hire additional equipment. Some of these need to be desktop-style PCs with free PCI-e slots that we can put video capture cards in.
This means we need quite a few computers to put on the event. For a typical DebConfs with 3 rooms with video coverage, this requires:
4 x mid-range Desktop PC for video mixing. Modern CPU, >= 16GiB RAM, >= 1TiB storage, 2x free PCI-E sockets.
1 x storage server, with >=10TiB of storage. Preferably with 10Gbe network connectivity.
1 x network router / DHCP server. Preferably multiple network ports, or 10Gbe + VLANs.
1 x video stream encoder node, >= mid-range Desktop CPU.
3 x video publishing encoder nodes, >= mid-range Desktop PCs.
3 x basic laptop for presenters who have trouble with their own machines.
If the storage server is sufficiently modern with high-end CPUs and lots of RAM, the encoder nodes aren’t necessary. But having a few extra computers is always useful.
We need to be able to open machines to install PCI-E cards, and re-install operating systems on them.
If possible, keeping the storage server available online for a couple of weeks after DebConf allows the team to resolve any issues discovered in the published videos, and re-publish them.
Generally the video team needs a Gigabit network link from the podium of each room, to the video mixing desk at the back of the room. And a Gigabit link from the mixing desk to the server room. Either these can be separate drops to the same switch, or cables can be run in the room to a switch at the mixing desk.
Usually the video team runs its own segregated flat network, either on dedicated cables or a VLAN on the venue network. This is routed to the Internet through the video team’s router.
Ideally, there’d be 10Gbps between servers.
Now that you understand why we need these things, here is a checklist you can use to provide us with the information we need:
Floor plans (if possible)
Detailed pictures of the rooms
Detailed pictures of the existing audio and video equipment in the rooms
Position of the power sockets
Position and speed of the network sockets
Network uplink speed
Network and firewall topology
Review of the local safety laws with regards to cable runs and large objects (tables, etc.) in walkways
Plans on how to provide us with computers and servers