How can we webcast live video?

The town board (local government) has asked me to look into the possibility of live webcasting our board meetings. While I’m computer-knowledgable and familiar with audio/video recording & editing, I have never done this before. What equipment is needed, how does it get hooked up, and what cost range are we talking about?

Charter Communications offers Internet cable in the vicinity. What speed would they have to supply for this to work? And could typical cable end-users see full motion video & audio on their computer or just a fraction of a screen?

Any government sites doing this now that I could take a look at?

The bandwidth required is going to depend on what resolution you want to stream. If Charter has a charter :wink: from the town to operate (this is how most cable companies are regulated), that charter may specify that a video feed to the public access channel be provided for governmental functions. If the town wants to webcast this feed, it would be no problem to do so at the Charter headend.

IOW, contact the cable company (and possibly the town attorney for clarification of any governing agreements between the cable operator and the town government). They may actually be obligated to help.

We already have a video TV channel (PEG: Public/Educational/Government) supplied by Charter. That is, they broadcast whatever NTSC signal we feed into their modulator. And we don’t go live, but just play tapes or DVDS.

The webcast would use some of the same cameras, switchers, etc. but of course be live and feed into the Internet, not dark fiber like the TV signal. This is where the equipment would be different.

The franchise agreement predates such hi-tek stuff as streaming Internet video, so I don’t think Charter will supply anything other than a fee-based Internet connection. We’d really just be running a web server, wouldn’t we?

You can start by looking here. If you look down the left hand side of the page, you’ll see links to many different pages that will answer all of your questions.

Click on the “Server” link, for example, and at the bottom they have links to Hosting providers that are compatible with windows media services.

Apple also has a Quicktime Streaming Server that’s built into OSX server, and the open source Darwin Streaming Server

That is correct, you’ll pretty much just be operating an Internet WWW server offering streaming video. You’ll therefore need DNS for your server, unless you want to just provide a numeric IP address. You could also relay the stream via an existing WWW server with streaming capability or provide a link on that server to the feed directly.
You’ll also need some sort of video capture device. I have used a MSI TV @nywhere Master to stream live, over-the-air video across my home LAN but not over an Internet connection. It does offer variable bitrate streaming to suit a broadband connection, though. Other modern TV capture cards should provide similar capabilities. That covers it for a PC. If you want to capture live analog video on a Mac, you’ll need a different expert.

It depends on your requirements but you may find it better to outsource the datahosting to a company specialising in webcasting. How many people do you anticipate are going to be viewing your webcast? More importantly, how variable do you expect the rate to be? If you have 200 people trying to access it the day after it is broadcast and not many people any other day, then your going to be paying a lot for a high bandwidth connection that you are not using much. Furthermore, enterprise solutions can usually offer you a Service Level Agreement which guarentees a certain percentage uptime.

If the board meetings are only once a month or so, I wouldn’t bother with trying to host it yourself. I’d set up an account at someplace like and let them worry about equipment and bandwidth. A generic password can be supplied on your information page to the public and they can access the meeting and you can decide how much interactivity, if any, that you want.

I’ve run a streaming video webcam for many years and while it is childishly simple to set one up if you only expect a couple of viewers at a time, if your audience becomes more than a few, then you need to step up to a video server and have tons of bandwidth. Like I said, for a meeting that only happens once a month, I personally wouldn’t bother to go into the expense or learning curve necessary for that.