Here’s a quick photo history of how the remodeling the former museum building is coming along to be our new auditorium. This is just the main room, while the lobby, side rooms, and restrooms are also undergoing major remodeling. The vast bulk of the work is being done by our volunteers and facilities crew. Since I’m the A/V manager, I’m not doing any of the actual construction work. I am coordinating the design recommendations with the sound and lighting consultants, the design of the sound booth, and deciding what gear we’ll be installing (audio, video – both projection and video conferencing, lights).
Oh dear, it’s been way too long since my last post. The intent of a New Year post is now the end of January?!
Well, our transition to a new video conferencing platform has gone quite well. Last fall I was researching dozens of services, and testing a large handful of cloud-based video conferencing services to find the one that would replace our in-house Scopia video conferencing server. It was quite interesting to be in my office, surrounded by 3 or 4 laptops of various ages & performance capabilities, seeing how each video conferencing service performed and how they implemented various features. The torture test, will it run on a 4 year old netbook? Sometimes, the service’s listed feature and how the feature actually worked was quite surprising. For our needs and desired features, the winner was Zoom!
Just in the past 3 months, we’ve seen the number of members with their own Zoom accounts grow to 135+ people signing in, with a total of over 200 members registered with Zoom (whether free Basic or paid Pro subscriptions). This doesn’t count the much larger number of people participating in Zoom meetings without signing up for their own accounts.
I’ve already written three iterations of a Zoom user tutorial – a quick 3 page document just to get a person started, a more detailed 11 page user tutorial that goes through the major features, and I’m finishing up an expanded document that is closer to a ‘complete’ tutorial that is currently 18 pages long. I didn’t want the screenshots to have my own face (or my cluttered office) in the document, so here’s what I did (the webcams did have some difficulty focusing at such close distances):
What was also fun was having the opportunity to test a handful of various video conferencing gear – webcams & PTZ cameras, speakerphones, and headphones, so that we would have a ‘short list’ of recommended gear for our members. I’m grateful for the project funding to allow me to research the gear – focusing on items that are receiving great reviews online and have high perceived “bang for the buck” value – acquiring a few of the most promising, and doing our own verification testing for the items to be on the recommended list. (I so love using a wireless headset!)
On the to-do list, what to do with our decommissioned video conferencing hardware. eBay?
So many things going on, so busy, that two months have gone by without a blog post. Family medical issues, business travel, researching & deploying replacement corporate video conferencing systems… I’m not even able to keep up with the websites that I usually visit.
One unexpected big surprise at the end of July that I’m still working through is a sizable donation of office and A/V furniture and to our organization from our video conferencing vendor. They were consolidating offices, and had a bunch of extra furniture and equipment that they didn’t need or couldn’t fit into their new offices. We received several nice office desks, conference tables, a large handful of swivel chairs, book cases, 2 gorgeous multimedia lecterns, a handful of large A/V video carts, among a bunch of other miscellaneous items.
Three of the video carts are dual TV screen versions, and they came with TVs! I’ve been testing and buying various cables and adapters, and new video conferencing cameras and speakerphones to equip the video carts for deployment around campus. I plan to ship one cart to our JAARS Center in North Carolina. (click on the images below to see larger versions)
The right photo has one of our older Sony cameras for testing. In the next couple of days, the new Logitech cameras should arrive for the carts. Just in time too, as one of the departments on campus will soon be having a week long department conference – video conferencing with their co-workers at JAARS, in Thailand, and elsewhere (10 hours time zone difference!).
JieJie and I went to the Market Street Allen USA Celebration 2014 event on Saturday. We got there early enough to get a decent spot on the park lawn, just behind and to the side of the sound & video crew tent. Close enough to see the stage, but not too close to get our ears blown out from the loudspeakers. We took on the drive and crowds for the headlining group, a Capella sensations, Pentatonix, winners of season three of NBC’s The Sing Off. Three of the five members grew up together in the DFW area, so this was somewhat a ‘hometown’ performance.
In the above photo you can see the stage, and the video board just by JieJie’s forehead (which they raised higher before Pentatonix’s performance). In the upper right you can see the light blue T-shirts of the event crew, controlling one of the cameras and the sound system. The sharp-eyed can also see the left side camera operator in front of the video screen.
JieJie enjoyed what was happening on stage, and we also wandered around the park, checking out the various booths and stuff (didn’t bother with activities, $$). She liked the opening band, Chinatown, though we still don’t know why they call themselves that. That band was really good, though they had a bunch of stuff loaded up on tracks (no live bassist?). Then, about 5 minutes before Pentatonix was scheduled to start, JieJie said she needed to go to the restroom. What?! In the sea of some 90,000 people (largest attendance yet for this event)?! Continue reading “Singing Sensations”
And another month has gone by. This time it was scrambling to prepare for my trip to visit my parents, the trip itself, and recovering from the trip once I got back!
It was just me on this trip, Judy and the girls didn’t travel; the first time I’ve been gone for an extended period away from the girls. But nearly daily Skype & Google Hangouts calls helped. The girls had too much fun with the Hangouts effects and drawing plugins! When else do they have the opportunity to ‘draw’ on my face and ‘decorate’ me?
Dad’s health continues to slowly deteriorate. The first day I visited with him, he didn’t seem to recognize me at all; cordially greeting me as he would with any visitor. There was no recognition in his eyes. But from the second day on, he greeted me by name, “Hi Ray.” The second day, he even asked me how long was my visit, and where was I staying. Otherwise, he was his usual very quiet self, often not even answering questions beyond a simple nod of the head or grunts. On the last day, I read excerpts of dad’s autobiography to him, which he wrote a decade ago. He apparently was able to track what I was reading, as he answered questions that I asked him appropriately. Continue reading “Home and Back Again”
Finally got another ministry newsletter done and in the mail (snail mail and email)! Only a month later than desired. *sigh* But it was a larger production than usual – including a response form and a new prayer card (yay!). The newsletter and prayer card have been uploaded into the newsletter section. (Please email Ray for the password to the newsletter section.)