City closer to fixing live streaming issue

After months of issues with the city’s live streaming system, the Commission will be asked Tuesday to approve a contract for an upgrade.

Staff is recommending that the commission approve an agreement for City 190 Broadcast Video System Upgrade and three years of support with AVI Systems Inc. The cost is $123,835.26 with an annual $8,044 support cost.

If approved, the city will purchase an upgraded HD video system for live streaming, recording and rebroadcasting meetings in the Commission Chambers or the Gibson Room.

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The existing equipment was purchased beginning in 2011, before the national conversion to HD television signals began in 2014. Channel 190 remains in Charter Communication’s analog channel lineup, according to the staff report.

When the city switched from paper packets to Novus agenda software system in 2017, “components of the audio/video system either stopped working or became increasingly problematic,” according to the staff report.

In early 2018, antiquated projectors in the Commission Chambers and Gibson Room were replaced with modern HD projectors and the control room computer was replaced.

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“These additions seemed to further exacerbate the technical issues. Staff was able to broadcast live to cable but could not rectify the inability to live stream to the internet. At the suggestion of Novus Support, new pieces of equipment were purchased in an effort to get the newer equipment to communicate with the old equipment. However, staff continued to experience glitches and technical issues,” according to the staff report.

Problems persisted for months and staff eventually decided it was best to replace the system.

During its Oct. 16, 2018, meeting, the commission approved an agreement with AVI Systems, Inc. for technical and engineering services to provide initial and ongoing audio-visual systems Pro Design to include an AV floor plan; video, audio and control flow; equipment lists; system infrastructure requirements and operational and post-operational requirements; project scope of work; costs and project integration for the Commission Chambers and Gibson Room to air, record, and live-stream public meetings. AVI submitted its Pro-Design proposal after several more meetings via video conference between staff and AVI’s team, and subsequent retail sales agreement.

The upgraded system will allow staff to again live stream meetings online. The video will stream to YouTube and also be available online to watch later. The upgraded system will allow full capacity of the HD projectors installed in the Civic Center rooms last year.

“Live-streaming our commission meetings and having the meetings available ‘on-demand’ is a tremendous feature and resource for our residents. Bringing back the live stream to the internet allows government to become more open and transparent, and allows more people to view meetings live,” staff wrote in the agenda report.

The upgrade will also include an ADA assistive listening kit for the hard of hearing.

City staff contacted local vendors but was unable to find one able to complete this project.

The vendor that provided the current system was contact, but would be unable to provide ongoing support due to the distance from their normal territory in Spokane, according to staff.

AVI has an office in Billings and is based in South Dakota, making them the closest vendor and Great Falls is in their support area.

Some funding was set aside in the City 190 budget for the project and the remaining balance will be funded through General Fund contingency. The annual support costs would be budget in years two and three and funded through the City 190 budget.

If the commission rejects the agreement, staff will continue with the live broadcast to cable channel 190 and if there are no technical issues, will post a copy of the video to YouTube later in the week, as it has been doing for the last several months.