Simulcast 2.0

Back in 2010 I told you about how The Chapel had been using the latest HD video technology to be “one church in many locations”. We are still a mutli-site church and have grown from our initial 4 video campuses to 8 campuses by 2012 (5 with live video & 3 with “tape”). Our current video simulcast solution was working great for the 5 campuses that were on our fiber network but we had not moved the other 3 to live video for a number of reasons.

Some of the problems with our current solution:

  • Expensive – Joining another campus to our fiber network to enable them to have live video would require thousands of dollars of network equipment and thousands more to get the fiber into the building and terminated.
  • Flexibility – Singing a 3 year contract on fiber is about as fun as taking out a mortgage on a house (and hurts the pocket book about the same!). The Internet and network world is constantly changing so why get locked into something?
  • Scalability – To this date we had been lucky that all our locations are within the same Chicago metro area and could be serviced by AT&T’s Opt-e-Man product. But what happens if we want to cross the boarder into Wisconsin or downstate Illinois? Or another state or country? Our telco broker warned us that that could be an expensive problem in the future as it would most likely require an even more costly circuit.

I knew that I didn’t want to get caught off-guard when it came time for renewal in 2013 and be forced to resign. So I started working with our telco broker early in 2012 and I am glad I did! We heard pitches from several of the top vendors and to my surprise most were even more expensive than AT&T!

Throughout this time I had been talking with Chris Kehayias at Calvary Chapel Melbourne who introduced me to Zixi at the Church IT Round Table event they hosted in 2011. Zixi can best be described as a transport service specializing in video. Zixi ensures that my video gets from point A to point B without dropping a packet. Chris and others had been using it to deliver video in a point to multi-point church environment with amazing results. After getting a demo setup in our environment we were sold! The great thing about how Zixi works is that we really didn’t have to change our workflow, encoders/decoders or even bitrate. Zixi just “dropped in” seamlessly.

We have now moved most of our receive campuses to Zixi but still maintain a fiber connection between our two broadcast campuses, Grayslake and Libertyville. Our receive campuses each have their own 27/7 Mbps Comcast coax internet connection. So far this has worked great for us and is able to keep up with our two HD video feeds running at around 16 Mbps. Our send site uses a 40/40 Mbps Comcast fiber Internet connection for the upload.

We had to make some network changes since we were going from a fiber point-to-point system to a VPN system. For that we are using SonicWall TZ-200 & TZ-205’s at our receive site and an NSA-240 at our send site. The NSA-240 seems to handle the video just fine but is struggling to keep up with other traffic so we are in the process of upgrading. The TZ-200 & 205’s are doing just fine at the receive sites though.

Even with these changes we should see a 43% yearly reduction in our simulcast and network cost! We are now able to get all our campuses live video for less than we were paying for just 5 in the previous model. We are also to setup a video campus anywhere we have a decent internet connection.

Earlier this year at the Spring National Church IT Roundtable even I gave a “Ten Talk” about Zixi and most of what I detailed above. You can check out the video here on YouTube.

Also, this is a link to the presentation slides.

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