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How to set up a webcam at your temple

Revision: April 1, 2009

If you’re already connected to the Internet 24/7 at your ISKCON temple (via broadband cable or DSL or similar), then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t broadcast the glories of your temple to the world via live streaming video, live high quality still images, and live sound.* All of us at Krishna.com are here to serve you.

I have two recommendations. First, the cheap method with available equipment. All you need is an inexpensive $30 webcam from your office supply store—Logitech USB webcams are fine—and an old computer or laptop. Maybe you already have a webcam lying around the office. Hook it all up, and start the upload. It’s not difficult. See option 1 below.

Second, when you’re comfortable with the technology and ready to upgrade, invest in a nice $900 network IP camera that can pan, tilt, zoom and rotate through presets of each deity, temple room wide angle scenes, and any other areas of interest. And upgrade to a good quality microphone. See option 2 below.

Option 1: Affordable USB Webcam (no zoom)

Overview: You’ll plug an affordable USB webcam into an existing computer that is connected to the Internet, and upload live video, audio and still images every 20 seconds to Krishna.com. That’s it. Simple. (If we feature your webcast on Krishna.com, we’ll also help you implement a webcast page on your own temple website, for your local audience.)

What you’ll need:

  • affordable USB webcam (Logitech, Microsoft, or similar)
  • old computer or laptop
  • broadband Internet connection

1) Set up an account with Krishna.com. Email us at webcams@krishna.com to let us know you want to set up a webcast for your ISKCON temple. If we agree to host you, we'll set up an account on our web server for you, where you can upload the video, audio and periodic still images. Krishna.com/your-temple. (You can also embed your live stream on your own local temple website.)

Once your account is set up and we've emailed you the information, proceed with Step 2.

2) Obtain and install a USB webcam. Install the software that came with it. Plug it into your computer’s USB port. You should be able to see the webcam image on your computer screen if all is configured correctly.

3) Upload audio (separately), video, and still images to the Krishna.com media server. Configure your camera as per user instructions. (You’ll have to enter the account information you got from us in Step 1.) We prefer you use Flash Media Live Encoder (free from Adobe) to upload streaming video to our server. We prefer Winamp with Shoutcast DSP plug-in to upload a separate audio stream for users with slower connections, to feature on Krishna.com radio, and for those who want to listen to your live audio on their PDAs, smart mobile phones, iPhones, etc.

4) Using your web browser, check your upload URL (Krishna.com/your-temple) Do you see a still image? If yes, great! Send us an email to let us know you're live.

If not, retrace your steps and see if you can find your error. Double check the spelling and information you typed into the upload settings.

Recommended software:

Flash Media Live Encoder (free from Adobe) to upload streaming video to our server.

WinAmp with Shoutcast DSP plug-in to upload a separate audio stream for users with slower connections, to feature on Krishna.com radio, and for those who want to listen to your live audio on their PDAs, smart mobile phones, iPhones, etc.

Any webcam software (such as the one that came with your camera) to upload periodic still images in high quality. (Live streaming video will be much lower quality than your still images. Your viewing audience will be thankful to get high quality live still images of Their Lordships in addition to live streaming video. Those with slower connections will not be able to watch the live video, and will really appreciate being able to see live still images (refreshing every 20 seconds) in addition to the shoutcast audio.

Option 2: High Quality Pan, Tilt, Zoom Network IP Camera with Presets, Automatic Iris, and Automatic Tour - Along with good quality microphone

Are you ready to upgrade to well-lit, clear, close, crisp images of your deities? Live streaming video of the same? Good quality audio? Here’s how to set up an absolutely awesome webcast just like we have at the Alachua, Mayapur, Dallas, Houston, Mumbai, Vrindavan, New Goloka, and Fiji temples. Zoom, Pan, Tilt. Preset Positions. Automatic Tour.

We use mostly SONY and in some cases AXIS network IP cameras. There are currently three models I recommend. They plug directly into your broadband Internet router and upload periodic still images without additional computer directly to the web server. For live streaming video and audio you will need a computer located within cable's reach of the camera.

3x optical zoom, AXIS 212 PTZ Network Camera. No moving parts. Good for small temple rooms. Pan, tilt and zoom happens inside of a large, high-resolution image with 140-degree viewing angle. Allows presets and automatic tour just like the bigger cameras below. $700

18x optical zoom, SONY SNC-RZ25 - Great quality at a great price. We use this camera in Alachua (two of them, actually), and in Houston, Dallas, and New Goloka. 1/4\" CCD. Pan range -170° to +170° $900

36x optical zoom, SONY SNC RZ570. 360-degree endless rotation (pan), 180-degree tilt. This is the newer version of the camera used in Mayapur and Vrindavan. $2,250

The 18x optical zoom SONY SNC-RZ25 is fine for installations up to 20 meters (60 feet) away from the deities. The 36x optical zoom of the SONY SNC-RZ570 would be my personal favorite for larger temple rooms. Especially if you can mount it in the center, on a low ceiling, suspending it from a high ceiling using a rigid pole (you can purchase pole mount accessories), or mount it to a centrally located pillar - allowing you to make use of the camera’s 360-degree pan, and 180 degrees tilt features. Even if it were mounted on a back or side wall it should do well so long as it can see the entire altar, deities, etc.

(NOTE: There are several other brands of network IP cameras worth mentioning. However we don’t want to recommend something we haven’t tried and tested. You’re welcome to experiment with other models and share your experience with us. AXIS, Panasonic, Canon, Toshiba and JVC are some of the trusted name brands who make comparable network IP cameras.)

1) Purchase your pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) Network IP camera with built-in web server. Pick one of the above recommended models. Purchase from a reputable dealer such as B&H Photo Video in New York, http://www.bhphotovideo.com - or from Newegg.com. You'll have to purchase online / mailorder unless you can find a security camera store in your area (look in the yellow pages under security systems.) These cameras are top-of-the-line network IP security / surveillance cameras and are not sold in consumer electronics or office supply stores.

2) Set up your camera on your network using the supplied users manual. Get someone who knows a thing or two about network IP addresses to help you read through the instructions, if you’re new to the subject.

3) Email us when you have the camera connected to your Internet broadband router and are ready to send periodic still images to Krishna.com’s web server. If you wish to webcast audio and video, have a computer connected on the same internal network as the camera. We'll help you configure the settings via live chat.

4) Set up a static IP address. (See the benefits of a static IP address below, in the Frequently Asked Questions.)

Happy webcasting!

On behalf of the team at Krishna.com,

Your servant,
Manu dasa

webcams@krishna.com

* PS: The Krishna.com team reserves the right to decide at its sole discretion what webcasts it features on its site, and in what location. If you would like your temple webcam to appear on Krishna.com, contact us and we can talk about it. We’ll consider ISKCON temples dedicated solely to the worship of Krishna first. Then all other Krishna temples. And then temples of devotees of Krishna, and so forth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can you please suggest which particular camera will be sufficient for us? Due to the typical shape of our temple hall, there comes out to be only one point which can cover the whole temple and the three altars. The distances from that point to the 3 altars is: Sri Sri Gaura Nitai - 21 meters; Sri Sri Radha Parthasarathi - 21 meters; Sri Sri Sita Ram - 19 meters.

Answer: The 18x optical zoom of the SONY SNC-RZ25 should be sufficient in small to medium size temple rooms. We use two of these at the Alachua, Florida temple. One in the back corner, showing sufficient full-body close-ups of the deities about 20 meters away. The second is suspended from the ceiling in the center of the temple room, about 10 meters away, and points mostly at the deities, showing nice, detailed close-ups. See our webcast for examples.

But if you have the money and want to see more than full-body, that is, close-ups of the little deities, shilas, close-ups of the big deities (portrait style) etc., and you have to install in a location that is 20 or more meters (60 or more feet) away from the deities, then I would recommend the 36x optical zoom SNC-RX570.

Question: Do you recommend using separate broadband line for video & audio, or the same one line of 256 kbps will be sufficient.

Answer: You mean periodic still image uploads (every few seconds one image), and audio. In that case, one line is sufficient.

I would suggest you start with setting up the periodic still images and audio. When all is working, and you've spent some time familiarizing yourself with the camera, then add streaming video. (It will require a $150 software license for IPCamSource by Unreal Streaming Media which will allow you to capture video off your SONY camera and upload it to our video server. We will be posting a separate tutorial about how to broadcast live streaming video shortly.)

Question: Do I need to have a fixed IP from my ISP for the SONY cameras as they don’t require a PC. Or a simple DHCP connection will do?

Answer: While it is not required in order to upload to our servers, there are many advantages to setting up a static IP addres for your camera and webcast. Read on...

1) Fixed IP address allows Krishna.com to “grab” images from your camera instead of your camera uploading periodic images to our server. This gets rid of the “half-loaded image” syndrome. When you upload images via FTP (file transfer protocol) you’ll have several people on their computers watching the webcast, waiting for the javascript to automatically refresh the image every 20 seconds. Chances are that the refresh request will come during the few seconds it takes for each of your images to upload from your location. So that means frequent half-loaded images for the viewers - who will call up and complain. (This used to drive us crazy until we discovered how to grab images via a script on our web server directly from the Sony cameras.)

With fixed IP address, a script on the Krishna.com web server is able to “grab” the image from your camera directly every 20 seconds, copy it to a different location where people can view it, and the resulting image only displays when it has successfully transferred to our server and thus will not show half-loaded versions to viewers.

2) Fixed IP address for your camera allows you remote control. You will be able to manage the camera remotely from anywhere on the Internet, and do not have to be present in the temple room to control the camera position, settings, etc. So that is a big benefit of fixed address.

For example, our volunteer who manages the Alachua temple live webcast can log into the Alachua webcams from anywhere on the Internet, because of the fixed address, and thus adjust the settings, control where the cameras point to during festivals or Bhagavatam class, etc. He can do this from the office, from home, from anywhere when he's traveling... it is very convenient. Sometimes the camera presets shift slightly (the camera will move a fraction of a degree which will throw off the presets over a long distance across the temple room.) To re-adjust the presets of where the camera points to has to be done about once every week or two, and it is convenient not to have to be in the temple room at that particular moment. Wherever he is, on any computer connected to the Internet, if he notices that the presets are off, he can adjust them.

NOTE: The AXIS cameras also include the option of using an Internet Dynamic DNS Service provided by AXIS (see http://www.axiscam.net/) where you can configure the camera to automatically register itself on an axiscam URL that acts as a fixed address, allowing you to log into the camera and control it remotely from the Internet.

If you want to have the ability to remotely adjust microphone input levels on the webcast computer, a fixed / static IP address is really useful.

My recommendation is get a SONY SNC-RX570 if you can afford it (best image quality.) Get a static IP address if you can afford it. And invest in equipment to webcast live sound from your temple. This will give you a first class webcast that draws visitors to your website who long for virtual association because they live far away from temples or because they are unable to attend your temple functions. They can listen to Bhagavatam class while getting ready for work, see the darshan of the deities, listen to the temple live sound in their office and home during the day... your live webcast can transform their lives.

Could you give us a basic outline of expected one-time and running costs to operate a live webcast from our temple?

Sure. One-time costs will vary based on the quality of equipment you buy. Adjust accordingly. If you start with a webcam and add sound later, take away the money itemized below for a laptop and audio equipment.

In my example, I'll assume you want to set up a nice, high quality webcast with live sound from your temple (like we have in Alachua, Mayapur, Dallas, etc.)

Estimated One-Time Costs for High Quality Equipment: $4,130

  • $2,250 - Sony SNC-RX570 top-of-the line webcam with 36x optical zoom, 16 presets automatic tour of the temple room, and capability to simultaneously upload high quality still images and stream live video in the future, (if you want to upgrade to live video at some point.)
  • $450 - Climate controlled, secure housing to protect the SONY camera from the elements.
  • $1250 - Dedicated laptop with sound equipment to upload live streaming audio. (PreSonus INSPIRE and chorus microphones). If you already have a laptop or computer, then the cost is much less (approx. $400).
  • $80 - UPS (uninterruptible power supply) with battery backup to stabilize and protect the webcast equipment from brown-outs and power surges.
  • Estimated Recurring Monthly Costs: $208

    The number of visitors viewing your live stream will affect the cost involved in maintaining the bandwidth necessary to serve those viewers, especially with live streaming audio and video. The below example costs figure an average of about 100-200 congregation viewers and listeners a day at a medium size temple.

    • $115 - Repair and maintenance savings put aside every month to maintain, fix, repair, and replace the above "one-time" cost equipment when it becomes obsolete or breaks, wears out, based on an expected life of three years of uninterrupted, continuous duty.
    • $50 - Broadband Internet connection fees
    • $33 - Shoutcast streaming audio server rental, for example, http://www.primcast.com/shoutcast.php
    • $10 - Temple website (server rental) to host the live image uploads from your webcam.

    If you are an ISKCON temple looking to set up a live webcast, Krishna.com may be interested to host you, giving you lots of exposure, a larger audience, and donations coming in to your temple. Let's talk.

    What about live video? Can we do that?

    Live streaming video, at small size, is becoming affordable for people due to hosting services like Ustream.tv, Justin.tv, and Mogulus.com. Here's our first draft at a tutorial.

    We encourage you to explore uStream.tv and set up a free account with them. They have an easy tutorial on how to begin live video broadcasting. If you use an inexpensive USB webcam for the live video, you can be up and running almost immediately. Configuration of uStream.tv account settings takes just a few minutes and they allow you to embed the video in your own web page.

    Don't get your hopes up too high. Streaming high quality (full-screen) live video is not yet possible. Plus, uStream.tv is full of advertising inserted into your video stream (with ads for things you would never want to promote but you have no choice if you host with them.)

    The practical limitations of broadband Internet technology restrict the size of your live stream, and mean that you will most likely be streaming at business-card size, low frame rate (about 6 frames per second), low image quality (visible compression artifacts), and lower audio quality.

    We've done some experimenting here at Krishna.com with our DSL connections. We were able to live stream at 144 kbps combined audio and video, at 6 frames per second.

    Good news: As of April 2009, we are going to start offering video streaming service to selected ISKCON temples free of charge, without karmi ads in your stream. We will need to put a donation button on the page to ask for donations to support the bandwidth costs of live streaming video, and we may display tasteful banner ads from ISKCON sponsors such as BhagavatLife.com Japa Retreats, MIHE, VIHE, Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesh, and similar programs.

    This aspect of the Internet is rapidly changing as bandwidth becomes more affordable, more accessible. Imagine a world where everyone has access to megabit-per-second Internet on optical cable modems. Research this subject. Test new providers. Experiment. Share your findings with us at Krishna.com.

    Whatever you end up doing, you will want to keep the live still image uploads for quality so you can have nice views (darshan) of your deities.

    Hope this helps. If you have questions or suggestions, send them our way.

    Remote Reboot

    There may be times when you'll want to remotely reboot / restart your webcam by logging into a power supply connected to the Internet. In our case, when you're managing multiple webcams at multiple temples, we have found the following remote-reboot power strips to be extremely helpful.

    Single unit: iBoot $275

    8-outlets, individually controlled: iBootBar $500