Elections 2021

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Elections 2021
Genre: Events Coverage
First Broadcast: 22/02/2021
Producer(s): Alize Akturk, Ben Allen, Kira Moore, Rhys Milling
Exec Producer(s): Alize Akturk, Joe Radford, Rhys Milling

Covid turned this whole exercise into a lot of work due to us having to produce it entirely remotely.

60 Second Manifestos

The recordings where mainly done by Alize Akturk, but Joe Radford did complete some when she was unavailable. Interviews where mainly recorded on OBS with obs.ninja. It was originally planned to use vMix but during the training sessions done by Rhys Milling. It was then discovered neither of them could run vMix due to it only being available for Windows so we pivoted to obs.ninja and used Zoom for any scalywags that we couldn't get to work.

Jonathan Hughes then edited every single video, adding the graphics, created by Ben Allen, and subtitles, written by Alize Akturk, to each individual manifesto. Although this year, due to all the manifestos being recorded using webcams in candidates' bedrooms, there were no green screens to key out!

The morning of being posted, on the 3rd of March, Sophie B-D was also roped in to create thumbnails - as the manifestos were going to be posted onto Facebook and IGTV, as well as the website. Ben Allen helped out with the thumbnails, getting them created automatically with candidates' names and positions onto each thumbnail.

Debate Night

This was the most difficult with regards to other people of the trio due to the fact it had the most amount of guests on at the same. It also had extra requirements such as subtitling being required for both viewers and candidates and needing to give the meeting chair extra permissions to ensure that democracy was safe. Due to finding out these requirements rather close to the deadline, we had to pivot away from the solution we had in mind, obs.ninja, and had to get Microsoft Teams due to it's ability to have each guest as an NDI source in comparision to something like Zoom which would have resulted in screen capturing and cropping. Doing this also resulted in YSTV having Office 365 for the first time and peaking at 10 licenses!

The production's layout was also quite interesting with there being 3 vision mixers! So we had one main vision mixer, Rhys Milling, probably should have delegated it to someone else but oh well. Then the other two, Connor Sanders and Sophie Bolwell-Davies who mixed the meetings. So essentially the main mixer played the different cards such as technical difficulties, intro sequences and countdowns. Then the meeting mixers handled the meetings including playing the graphics such as

It was also the 2nd time that we have had people vision mixing remotely! Due to COVID-19 we where only allowed one technical person in the station so since we needed multiple vision mixers we utilised a remote desktop application called Parsec which thankfully let them operate the mixing PC's with ease.

Technical issues

The production itself featured four main technical issues which was not the most ideal. In order of when it happened.

Talkback

So the Talkback system (Mumble) where it had decided to ban people from joining the server. This was discovered two hours before live by Dom Hall alerting Rhys to fix his Mumble server setup.

The way the talkback system worked was there was a Mumble server which we had people who were happy installing a dedicated client and didn't mind the hassle of configuring there audio setup. But there was a little companion server which offered a simple website that enabled people to not have a client installed and made the initial setup a lot easier.

However, the Mumble server saw people who were using this companion server as all having the same IP address as it didn't forward what the remote IP address it was to it. Mumble by default will automatically ban an IP when there are 10 incorrect attempts and since we had the meeting chairs, vision mixers, yusu people attempting to join it, it quickly hit that limit due to people unknowningly entering incorrect information and caused the server to stop all people using the companion to connect.

In the end Rhys had to modify the Mumble config and remove the default value and give the Mumble server a restart which thankfully allowed everyone to connect.

The station's router

As we were about to go live the remote vision mixers started to notice that there remote connection was starting to stop working. At the same time Rhys, who was in the studio, was attempting to start the playout from OBS which also wasn't working and kept on disconnecting. It appeared like everything was starting to fail on the internal network which was very problematic and potentially show-stopping. Rhys then scampered off to the server rack, using the KVM to access Paxman, YSTV's router, upon connecting he was greeting with a nice range of network errors.

This sort of issue was seen earlier in the previous academic year by Rhys and Matthew Stratford where when someone attempted to stream from the internal network it would just start to fail. The solution to this was quite simple where you just needed to run a single command on the switch to resolve the issue, which disabled some power saving features but made it stop dropping packets.

The reason why it occured again was because Rhys the week before had decided to upgrade the switch's OS to the latest long term version. Doing so had required the router to be rebooted which is hadn't been for over a year so it resulted in the same issue occuring. Luckily running it again fixed it all straight away and people could vision mix once again.

Switch issues

During the production the vision mixers started to notice that the candidates video feeds all started to appear choppy. This appeared to be caused by the cheap gigabit switch that was usually used for the production PC desk, that for the event was repurposed to network the two vision mixer's computers. But it appeared it just couldn't support the amount of video feeds that we where sending over the network.

Rhys had to briefly disconnect one of the mixing computers which wasn't in use from the switch and connect it to the new 3U switch that we had got from ITS last year, very much overkill, but luckily resolved the issues as the frames started to return and the video feed started to look normal again.

Losing audio during an interview

With how Team's NDI works it gives unique video feeds of everyone but the audio channels are still a mix of everyone. This little issue made our setup have only one person from each meeting have there audio come through to ensure that it wasn't duplicated. However, during the last meeting, the participant which all the audio was being routed through randomly disconnected and it wasn't resolved until 20 seconds after it had started.

So to resolve this we had to swap where the audio was coming from then had to go to our technical difficulties card until the candidate managed to join back. So luckily, not as bad as the other issues.

ERN + Aftershow

Potentially nerdy but interesting tech note: ERN was the first production in YSTV history to use SRT for low latency video from the host. Between the two productions used the trinity of ‘current’ next-gen video protocols - SRT (for host), NDI (for teams call for after show) and WebRTC (candidates live reaction feeds).


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