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Remote Video to laptop and Skype

Posted on 2009-04-22
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Using Skype, we would like to video various exhibition displays in a local hall and allow these to be viewed at 5 other locations. We can also then view the webcam images at the 5 locations in return.
The setup at the main exhibition hall will be a windows vista laptop connected to a digital projector displaying the laptop screen onto a large screen.  There is a wireless network available.
How can we then roam around the hall with a webcam or camcorder and get the output back to the laptop and through the Skype?  Can anyone help please?  There is another windows vista laptop available if necessary.
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Question by:digibyte86
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by:Gregg DesElms
ID: 24209285
Ooooh.  I LOVE challenges like this one!

Okeedokee... some questions...

It helps to know where you are in the situation.  If you're planning something for the future; and you haven't yet purchased whatever equipment you're going to ultimately need; and you have a little time before you actually need to do any of this; and you have at least a little bit of a budget, then you're golden.  I, for one, can help you in a huge way... but quite possibly not via what I can see (by what you wrote) that you're already likely envisioning.  Skype, just for starters, should maybe not be involved at all.  There are other, better ways.

On the other hand, if you're on the very eve of the show and you already have whatever equipment you're going to be allowed to get (or will have time to get); or if you're for some reason locked-in to do any part of it in a certain way... well, then, that's a whole different situation.  I can probably still get you there, but with hands considerably more tied.

So it's critical that I have a much, much larger picture (no pun intended) of the situation than you have thus far provided (as, sadly, is usually the case with questioners around here... they tend not to provide anywhere near enough information in the initial question to really and truly resolve the problem correctly (as opposed to half-assedly); and then "experts" around here start firing-off solutions without having anywhere near enough information to even be asking intelligent questions... but that's a rant for another day... I digress... sorry).

Take a giant step back, and begin at the beginning.  Give me the big picture... especially hitting on the issues I've just presented.

Must it be Skype?  (And be careful not to answer based on your knowledge of Skype and your presumption, perhaps, that only it can give you want you want.  Is there some reason why it has to be Skype, even if there's a better way which anyone -- Skype user or otherwise -- could utilize if they just new how... and for free.)  Must it positively be via Skype?  If so, why?

What is the upload speed of the WIFI network?

Is it a requirement that the images from the roaming cam are live, or were you planning on wandering around, collecting "footage"; then going back to the (booth or someplace) and then editing and turning it into recorded presentations?  

And precisely what would be the configuration/logistics of that roaming cam?  What were you imagining?

And don't limit yourself to those questions.  Again, begin at the beginning.  Allow me to help you in a holistic way, if possible.

Also, do you do a lot of this sort of thing (useful if something I recommend is costly and it would be helpful, therefore, to be able to amortize its expense over many shows)?
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by:digibyte86
ID: 24209805
Okeedokee... some answers... !!

First and foremost, your eagerness and commitment to the question is much appreciated. Let me start from the beginning....

The event is 14 May, not far off and I have been drafted in at the last minute. My normal work is repairing hardware, software, internet issues and to date has not involved a lot of work with video, however, like you, I love a challenge and am always eager to learn!

The event promotes further education, adult learning, social support and charities etc.  Also involved are the regional libraries who are also featuring and promoting IT facilities as well as good old books.

Therefore, the 5 remote sites are libraries who are ordering a webcam each and on the day of the main event are to appear on screen at the main event promoting what they are doing on this learning day (on the library computers). Skype was chosen as it is free and this is just a one off, although the libraries are considering offering the Skype option for those who don't have IT at home and can use the library facility to contact friends and relations afar.  If there is a better alternative, then I would be glad to know of it.

The libraries are all networked into a local authority public network which will also be available in the hall for the main event.  I imagine the upload speed will be the standard 448kbps.

At the main event, each library will have a 15 minute connection slot where they demonstrate what they are doing and then their audience can witness some of the exhibitors at the main hall and maybe ask some questions directly to stand representatives.  This is where the roving camera would be implemented and would of course need to be live.  The video would then need to be sent back to the laptop running Skype which as I mentioned before would be projected onto a large screen in the main hall while also running through Skype to the remote location.

The budget is low for this as it is a first attempt at such a challenge but it is hoped that the pioneering spirit of video conferencing will catch on in various quarters - this would certainly be the first of it's kind in this region of Scotland.

I hope this answers most of your questions and that your taste for a challenge has been well and truly fired up!!  I look forward to your reply DesElms:-  John
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by:Gregg DesElms
ID: 24210067
Indeed it has, but I have to leave for a client appt right now (it's 2:49 PM PDT here in Napa, California, USA).  I want to get back here and start working on it though... late this afternoon and early this evening.  And tonight's perfect!  My wife co-owns a couple of restaurants, and has to close tonight because her normal closer up and had a baby on Saturday (and my wife's still training a replacement closer).  So she won't be home and I can concentrate on this.

What kind of budget?  Have you purchased the camera yet?  What device (or combination) of devices were you planning on roaving with?

And there are other questions, but I gotta' go now.  I'll be back.
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by:digibyte86
ID: 24210222
I appreciate your time on this and look forward to your results this evening (PDT Time) which will of course be early morning here in Scotland.

A camera has not been purchased as yet, there has been an offer of a camcorder on loan but at this stage I have no idea what make or model.  Could a camcorder be utilised using bluetooth?

One thought that I had is that a camera (webcam or camcorder) could be mounted on a trolley and attached laptop A (USB) - both charged and running on battery for the short 15 minute "live" transmission. The roaving laptop A would be wirelessly networked and could therefore be networked to the other laptop B which is connected to Skype (or other conferencing software) and also to the digital projector displaying laptop B's screen onto the large white screen.

The budget would be about $400 max.

Off to get some sleep here, catch you in the morning (GMT).  My partner and I are travelling to San Diego California in June!  John
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by:Gregg DesElms
ID: 24212049
Just got home... 8:57 PM PDT... a little later... no, strike that... a lot later than expected.  And I'm wiped.  So I think I'm not going to spend too much time on this this evening.  But let me at least ask a few more questions so that I'm clear... and then I'll jump on this again tomorrow.  (There's plenty of time, by the way... don't panic.)

I'm asking A LOT of questions, here... all of which I need answered.  Don't summarize or skip things.  I need to know DETAILS... and I need to have things really clear in my head.  So please, take the time to answer all (you don't have to do one answer per question... but just make sure that, by hook or by crook, everything asked is somehow answered, even if your reply is  free-form paragraphs)...

What kind of webcams are each of the remote libraries buying/using (brand, model)?  And we're talking about just one webcam per library, right?  So, then, just one PC (or laptop) per library, right?  And so, then, how many people at each remote library will be involved?  Will all at each remote library be viewing on just one screen in said library, or will each library be trying to feed anything (be it their own stream, or a stream back from the exhibit hall) to multiple computers within said library?  And, if so, does each library have its own LAN (wired or wireless)?  And what is the data rate (the connection speed) for the link between each of these libraries and the exhibit hall... the speed of each direction (upload/download) for each of them?  Will it be that 448kbps thing you mentioned?

And then, conversely, what, exactly is happening at the exhibit hall?   Is there just one big screen there where a bunch of people will be watching these 15-minute little presentations from each of the remote libraries; or will you be trying to view at the hall on multiple screens?  Will the people at the remote libraries be seeing the people watching the big screen at the hall?  I mean.. you know... just like a normal video chat?  

Or is this more of a situtation wherein there a presentation going on at the big hall which both the libraries and those in the hall will be simultaneously watching (the ones in the hall will be watching live people talking and doing things in the hall, and the ones in the libraries will be watching what's going on in the hall over the video feed from the hall); and then, at some point, each remote library will, in turn, become part of said presentation in said hall, each for 15 minutes at a time; and then, as part of each of those 15-minute presentations, the camera at the hall will stop pointing at the presentation in the hall, and will goes out onto the exhibit floor for two-way communication between the libraries and those on the exhibit floor (and so those watching in the hall will also be watching the camera on the exhibit floor on the screen in the hall, just like the library people?  Is that pretty much it?

So, then, those on the exhibit floor who will be fielding questions from those in the libraries will need to be able to see the screen (and hear the speakers) of a laptop that's moving about the hall with the camera... no?  So, then, in other words, you want to move the chat from the part of the hall where the presentation was going on out onto the exhibit floor?  Right?  And you want those who were watching the presentation in the hall to be watching the chat between the libraries and those on the floor?

Sorry to ask it a couple of different ways, but I want to be clear.

And how rigid is this presentation format?  If we figure out a way to do it all which might require a slightly different approach which could impact how the presentation actually operates... logistically... are we okay?  Do you have that kind of control over it all?

And this WIFI connection at the hall... are you saying that it's 448kbps (that's four hundred forty eight kilobits (not kilobytes) per second) both directions?  448kbps upload and 448kbps download; or is it 224kbps upload and 224kbps download?  And is that whole 448kbps going to be devoted to just you and your little dog and pony show?  Or is everyone in the hall sharing it (and so, therefore, your portion of the connection may only be, at any given moment, a mere fraction of said 448kbps)?  If it's shared by everyone in the hall -- all exhibitors, even those not part of your presentation -- would it be possible for you to arrange to get a DSL (or whatever is the equivalent in Scotland) connection of your very own?

Or is the 448kbps one thing, and the WIFI in the hall yet another?  And, if the hall's WIFI is separate from the 448kbps, what is the WIFI's speed (up/down)?  And is that WIFI speed/bandwidth shared by you and all exhibitors and others?  Will there be firewalls anywhere in any part of it... at the hall... or at the five libraries?

It may help, also, if you took an even bigger giant step back and stopped talking in terms of what you want the technology to do and, instead, help me understand the bigger picture... what you're trying to accomplish.  Tell me in terms like, "Okay... we want to have a presentation at the big meeting, in a meeting room, down the hall from the exhibit floor.  And that room will be full of people viewing a giant screen.  And there will be five libraries also watching that same presentation live, along with the people in the room.  And at some point, each of those libraries's cameras will show, on the big screen in the room, a little 15 minute presentation from each library; which little presentation will include them being able to ask vendors questions out on the exhibit hall which all persons in the room, and all persons at the other four libraries will also be watching..."   that sort of thing.

I'm thinking that maybe I'm having to deal with your preconceived notions of what's the best technological way to do it, when, in fact, if we take an even bigger step back, and I looked more holistically at what you're trying to accomplish, regardless what you believe is technologically possible, it would be better.

Like Denzel Washington's lawyer character said to Tom Hanks's character in the movie "Philadelphia," explain it to me like I'm a three year old. [grin]

I'm goin' to bed now.  I've got a morning appt, but my afternoon's open and I'll get back on this as soon as I return home right after lunch.  I'll also check when I get up to see if you answered so that I can think about those answers while I drive.

Later!
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by:Gregg DesElms
ID: 24212090
Also, about the connectivity in the hall...

...does the hall have its own router, and, therefore, are all connected devices getting IP addresses from the router's DHCP (using NAT) and, therefore, are said IPs something like 198.162.0.??? when, in fact, the hall's router's IP is provided by a carrier and is something else?  And is there a firewall involved?

Or does every device in the hall have its own relationship with the carrier, who is assigning each device its own IP that's directly connected right out onto the Internet, with no router or firewall in between?  (Unlikely, but I have to ask.).

I asked before, but I don't want how I changed how I asked the WIFI question to get you off the question, so I'll re-ask just to make sure:  If you had to, could you get your own broadband (DSL or cable modem) Internet connection independent of whatever other hall-wide WIFI is present?  Just askin'.
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by:Gregg DesElms
ID: 24212185
Oh, yeah... just thought of another question before I retire for the night...

Do the cell phone providers/carriers there in Scotland offer wireless data connectivity via the cell phone network... 2G- or 3G-style?

     SEE:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3G_network

And, if so, is it too cost prohibitive to consider for our little project, here?  Would the signal in the hall be good enough to use?  And at what speed, precisely?
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by:digibyte86
ID: 24212444
Good morning! Wow - I'm off to a client now but will do some fact finding later on today. Yes, we do have 3G in this part of Scotland. More later......
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by:Gregg DesElms
Gregg DesElms earned 400 total points
ID: 24220290
Okay.  I'm here.  Got ideas already, but I don't want to assume things 'til I'm sure I understand what's really going on and what's really needed.  Sometimes people ask a question, and the question itself contains an assumption about the right course of action which may not really be appropriate.  That's why I always ask people to take those giant steps backward and begin at the beginning; and talk in terms of goals (and not the technology which they assume needs to be applied to get there).

Sometimes it works, others not.  Er... well... very rarely not.

Anyway, this is fun already... so do reply when you can.  Just, please -- and I know it's a lot -- do try to cover/answer all questions one way or another.  And by all means, do not hesitate to toss-in extra comments based on what you can intuit I'm trying to get at.  This is a collaboration, remember.

'Til later.
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by:digibyte86
ID: 24270952
Apologies for the absence, been a combination of work and being poorly!  I am now back on the case and will fire out the questions.....    back soon..  John
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Author Comment

by:digibyte86
ID: 24359563
Hi DesElms
Well trying to get answers around here is proving difficult but here goes (3 days to "live")......
The original ambition:
To operate a Skype video connection at an exhibition for adult learning facilities & various charities etc
There will be many exhibition stands around the hall displaying their services.
The organiser (a 70 year old non techy lively lady) had a vision that the exhibition could go out to the rural communities via the local libraries using low budget facilities as it is a pioneering exercise.
The participating libraries (5) will each have 1 of their PC's with Skype running and a USB webcam attached to allow the public at the main hall to hear and see what services are offered in each library. They were hoping to point the camera at the PC monitor and show what they have on the screen as well as onto people that wanted to offer questions to exhibitors at the main hall. Each of the 5 libraries will come in at different times during the day for a ten minute period. The main hall will call them when ready.
The vision for the main hall was to have 1 large display screen at one end of the hall, a digital projector, a laptop (with Skype installed) and webcam.  The main hall and libraries are on a shared public network administered via a router situated at the central council offices. There is a wireless network available at the main hall on an 8MB (downstream) 448kbps (upstream) adsl connection.  The libraries all have huge bandwidths both ways.
The difficult bit is that the organiser wanted to have a roaving camera in order to approach individual exhibition display stands in the main hall (about 30-40 stands) so that library viewers could see the stand and fire questions to the stand representatives.  The laptop would have to stay fixed to the projector (or) the laptop roves around the hall on a trolley with camera attached (Logitech Quickcam Sphere AF) and somehow transmits the screen to a projector (or) laptop roves with camera during broadcast and the footage of the 10 minute session is replayed on the large screen after reconnecting the laptop (or) can we utilise 2 laptops?
The router at council headquarters is set to DHCP.
Hope this is still 'fun' and the info helps a little more.....

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by:digibyte86
ID: 24398356
Well, event done.  Resorted to fixed USB webcam location with laptop directly connected to the digital projector onto large screen.  Had to request that all exhibitors closed internet applications prior to each live Skype broadcast as the bandwith was limited.  Went well and one year to prepare for the next event!
Thank you for your interest and apologies that people could not give me answers to your questions.
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digibyte86 earned 0 total points
ID: 24398398
This question can now be closed and even though a solution was not reached (due to lack of information required and of no fault on the part of DesElms, I would like to award 100 points for effort displayed!
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by:Gregg DesElms
ID: 24398691
I've been so busy myself of late that I wouldn't have been able to get back to your 5/11/2009 reply until today in any case.

There just wasn't, as it turned out, enough time, was there.

This situation still interests me greatly, however.  There's a right way to do it without breaking the bank. But it's clear from what information you did provide that it couldn't have been done on the budget allowed... or quite probably as long as 70-year-old non-techies are holding the purse strings.

If you're going to repeat this next year, then I'd still like to help you... probably not in this venue, however.  If you're interested, then contact me privately at gregg[at]greggdeselms.com (substituting the [at] for the @ symbol, of course).  Once we have it nailed, I'll be only too happy to come back to this thread and summarize what we decided so that this thread may still be learned from.

You decide.  Contact me if interested.
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