Crowdsourcing the crowdsourcing

I'm thinking of doing a Kickstarter to pay for upgrades to the DNA Lounge webcast.

I'd like to make some improvements to the webcast, but I can't justify spending money on that because we don't make a dime from it. So that makes Kickstarter kind of a natural fit: the majority of people who benefit from the webcast are not in-person customers of DNA Lounge, so if we're to improve it, let's see if the people who will actually benefit from those improvements are willing to contribute...

The webcast has some nebulous PR benefit in terms of "brand recognition" or something, but like all advertising, it's impossible to attach a monetary value to that: I can't quantify how many people the webcast has transformed into paying customers. For every anecdote that goes, "I came to DNA because I heard of you through the webcast", I hear another anecdote that goes, "Yeah, I thought about going to that show but I just watched it from home instead."

So, I have two sets of questions for you, Dear Lazyweb,

The first and most obvious one is:

What kind of "rewards" would you be interested in? There are a bunch of obvious ones like tickets, sets of our merch, meet your favorite band when they play here, etc., but I'd like to hear other creative ideas. Serious and practical suggestions only, please. Let's just stipulate that the joke you were about to make would have been hilarious.

The second is more technical:

What kind of hardware should I be aiming for? I think it will be better recieved if I post a shopping list to show how expensive this really is, than if I just say "give me your monies and I'll spend them on cameras or something".

Specificity helps. Also, I want to be able to set the monetary target low, but say "if we exceed that by $N, then we'll do this better thing instead". That seems to be the winning approach with Kickstarters.

I don't have a very specific shopping list / wish list yet, and I could use your help with that. Here are my ideas of ways the webcast infrastructure could be improved. Help me attach prices to these, instead of the wild-assed guesses I have below.

  1. Webcast from the new room only when nothing's going on at DNA.

    That is, we'd still have a single video stream, but it would be either from DNA, or from the new room, depending.

    Buy another pancam (around $900) or 2 or 3 SD camcorders (around $150 each). Install a new coax video run to our existing video switcher. Do a new audio run to the webcast computer. Automate that machine's audio switching somehow ($200 and a bunch of time soldering, probably).

  2. Webcast both DNA and the new room, 24/7.

    That is, two separate video streams at all times.

    All of the above, plus: Need a second Mac Mini ($900), a second Hollywood DV Bridge ($150 or possibly unobtainium); a second coax video run from the switcher to the computer. This would also reduce our available outgoing bandwidth by quite a bit, but I think we could probably squeak by.

  3. That, plus get a second DSL line to increase bandwidth and resolution.

    Around $110/month ongoing.

  4. That, plus do (just) the new room in HD.

    A more complicated and expensive video run: Cat5 instead of coax, and the new cameras each need a pair of transceivers for running HDMI over Cat5 ($150 each?) The new cameras are more expensive cameras ($400 each?) Need a new computer-controllable video switcher for the new cameras (no idea how much). This would leave the new room HD and the old room SD. The webcast would still need to be lower-than-HD resolution (we don't have the bandwidth) but HD cameras would have much better low light performance.

  5. That, but upgrade the main room to HD too.

    Replace 12 existing camcorders and 2 existing pan-tilt-zoom cameras with fixed-position fixed-zoom HD cameras ($400 each?) Replace all existing coax with Cat5. Each camera needs a pair of HDMI-to-Cat5 converters ($150 each?) Find a computer-controllable (cron) 16x2 HDMI switcher with (no idea).

    (Note that this option probably puts us at over $10k in cameras and converters alone, discounting switchers and computers!)

  6. Alternately: get "ethernet webcams" instead of camcorders.

    I only put this on the list because I know someone is going to suggest it, although I believe it's just not practical. Or rather, it's far more expensive and difficult than just using HDMI camcorders. Challenges here include:

    • Find HD "webcams" that have light response better than 1 lux (good luck finding a webcam that even specifies what its light rating is) (note that "0 lux" is marketing code for "weird-looking black and white image if you use an infrared spotlight". No.)

    • Find a video switcher (hardware, or a Mac-based software package) that can read video streams from multiple IP webcams, switch among them under software control (cron), and upload a feed to Justin.TV (or, produce HDMI output that is fed to a second computer);

    • Oh, also upgrade the whole club to gigabit ethernet, since 16-20 HD video streams are not small. Possibly the video network should be segregated from the "real" network that we use for wifi and whatnot, but that would mean even more cabling.

So, what do you think?

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49 Responses:

  1. Phil Nelson says:

    I may have an old Hollywood DV bridge (Dazzle, right?) collecting dust in my mom's attic if one proves difficult to source.

  2. Being an out-of-towner I would definitely back this project. All the standard rewards you mentioned all sounded great. There might be ways to let people "sponsor" their favorite shows. Like, if you got KMFDM to play and my backing reward was that for briefs periods during the broadcast (or probably before and after, not during) "@pberry helped make this broadcast possible".

  3. sboger says:

    One of the higher awards needs to be a Bloody Mary Sunday Brunch with you and your entourage. You have an entourage, right?

  4. The hdmi is impractical, and a step backwards compared to the ip cam solution. Wirecast solves the software problem.
    Ip cameras keep getting cheaper and better, and the infrastructure changes to go gigabit are far easier than running 20-30 new lines of hdmi over cat 5. Hdmi is made of voodoo, and has so many partial fail states. Affordable hdmi switchers don't always switch instantly, often with a second or two of handshaking before re-establishing image.

  5. Mark Crane says:

    Kickstarter rewards:

    JWZ has to respond cheerfully and unsarcastically to all of your blog comments for a week/month.

  6. I'd throw in some bucks and I don't even use it. I just like that it exists.

    • chris mccraw says:

      I'm in this boat too. It's been a fascinating journey to watch your club grow (thank you for documenting it so eloquently) and i'd love someplace to put a tip...particularly one that'd create excellent benefits for many.

      • Andrew says:

        Same here, living on the wrong coast but I do enjoy the updates. I suspect that such a crowdsourcing event will work best for the upfront costs. Trying to get people to continue to donate to pay for ongoing costs would likely also require ongoing nagging reminders.

        • nooj says:

          I don't care what you do. I'll contribute twenty American dollars for the cause. Even now, your streams are better quality sound, performances, and selections than most internet radio.

  7. Eric TF Bat says:

    This might come across as clueless, but I'm trying to be serious here: is there any scope in any of your options for you to find someone to set it up (competently!) and then give you a support contract so that, at least for the first year or two, you can just treat it like a black box and not have to add "fix the bloody webcam" to your list of Things To Do That Cost Even More Time Than Money? It's not like you need extra stress levels, and the nett cost once you factor in all the debugging and hardware babysitting is likely to be remarkable, given how much trouble you generally have with hardware. So: one of your added-extra Kickstarter options could be "Pay someone so I don't need to think about this shit for N years". Granted that may cost more money than exists in the known universe...

    • This. And, I am possibly interested in bidding on the job. I already do something similar for a different facility.
      JWZ is right, finding IP cameras that don't suck is near impossible. Fortunately, HDMI/Cat5 converters are only $20ish these days.

  8. GreatEvil says:

    1 year high quality feed access with public feed being stepped down to save on bits.
    Know this is added complexity but if built you could then set up PPV for live shows to help offset ongoing costs.

    • jwz says:

      I honestly don't think anyone would ever pay for such a thing. People don't pay for higher quality versions of things they can get for free. If the porn industry has taught us nothing else, it's this.

  9. Reward suggestion: "tokens" (redemption codes) for exclusive control of the switcher and PTZ, with a reserved time-slot.

  10. Grey Hodge says:

    I think all of these except the ethercam are great ideas (and you yourself know the ethercam is bullshit), and frankly, you've solved part of the stretch goal list. Since PayPal donations go directly to the raised of funds, you'll get at least part of the money, so I'd start with the Goal 1 as the base goal, but in HD only, and fall back to SD if you fail to reach your minimum, using the money you get directly via PayPal. The rest can be stretch goals if you exceed the base by the required amounts. For two streams, requiring a second DSL line, require enough to pay 2 or three years of service in that stretch goal.

    My suggestion to go HD from the get-go is based on the suspicion that today SD cams won't be cheap enough compared to HD to make the savings worth it given the potential performance. I could be completely, horribly wrong, and you'll know car better than me once you look at camera prices because you know your need far better than we will.

    that said, if you manage to find IP cams that perform well in low light but aren't SD, I'd pick that over standard video because I'm an idiot. At least I admit my self-sabotaging tendencies.

    • Grey Hodge says:

      I forgot, I don't know enough to give hardware suggestions. My two cents was that I think you're 100% correct that a detailed list of why you're asking for X dollars is a far more attractive kickstarter offer. "The kit costs X dollars, and your swag costs Y dollars, that's why I'm asking for Z dollars."

      Oh, right, rewards. Swag, event tickets, tours, lunch with jwz, I like the "jwz will say something nice about you" because of the novelty. Maybe for $1000 you put "This camera brought to you by FOO BAR" on a plaque under the camera where no one will ever read it. A credits list on the site "Cams paid for by these suckers". Maybe ask if they'll give you a fee line in exchange for an ad by the stream.

  11. Argonel says:

    At first glance I don't think this will fit into kickstarters guidelines. You can probably do it as a kickstarter like project, but you would either have to roll your own for fundraising or go to somewhere like indiegogo that doesn't get as much publicity and therefore tends not to get as much money. In any case have a few rough ideas and budgets that you can post for goals will help the fundraising a lot.

    The big problem is that right now everybody seems to be focusing on packing more megapixels into smaller sensors and attaching smaller lenses so they can cram it into a phone or other small body. These work fine when well lit, but make low light performance horrible as you know.

  12. Cow says:

    A few ideas for part 1:

    A real low-end thing that doesn't cost you anything is usually a good start. Something like 'your name on a credits page linked from the site' or some equivalent thereof. Basically, an excuse to have a $5 tier.

    If you think you can do it without stabbing neckbeards in the face, a limited edition very-high tier of something like a VIP behind-the-scenes tour would also likely bring in thousands. I bet you have more than enough fanboys to fill that tier. (And again, monetarily it costs you almost nothing. Throw in a slice of pizza or something, maybe.)

  13. What's your current upstream bandwidth? I may get laughed out of the room or ignored, but this may be a case where assimilating with The Borg and using Windows may be worth it. You just get a lot more for your money's worth with the hardware available, and because a bunch of A/V stuff isn't Free As In Speech, the software works a little better on windows. Also, Directshow. For $1200+150*N, N=the number of HDMI inputs you want to switch between, you can probably stream in 720p at 2-2.5 Mbps upstream at something like the medium preset, which would get you good quality possibly without second DSL line. So it'd pay for itself over a Mac Mini within a year.

    Fast HDMI switches are expensive, professional grade, "call for quote" stuff. If you want to switch between HDMI every X seconds in hardware you're just hosed unless you want to set lots of kickstarter money on fire. Instead, throw a bunch of $100-180 capture cards into the streaming rig, and use software to switch between them.
    Gootecks' Streaming Guide, Part 1
    Gootecks' Streaming Guide, Part 2

    Output from whatever scene management/camera switching tool you're using to directshow (and tack on overlays or whatever you want), and then have ffmpeg read from directshow and output RTMP to your endpoint (or have the scene management stuff do the streaming itself). I think the 3930/3960 can encode at the medium preset in realtime. A quicksync-capable machine might do the same thing at less cost, but I don't know what realtime encoding tools use quicksync on any OS. But I'd be shocked if the capture cards worked on Linux very well at all.

    • jwz says:

      As I always say in re Windows, "sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'll never know."

      We have Sonic Fusion DSL, so our current upstream is about 2MB total (for webcast plus wifi and whatnot).

      • To stream in HD at reasonable quality and have any bandwidth available for wifi etc., with 2Mbps or 4Mbps available, you'd need to be able to encode at medium or slow preset in realtime, which requires a high-end i7 and possibly overclocking as well. Theoretically you can do that on linux, but then I don't know what tools you'd use to feed data from capture cards into ffmpeg/x264, switch between inputs, etc.

        So unless you really want to try to get HD to work, or you might switch to cable in the near future (if that's available in SODO), I would bail on all of the HD options.

        • jwz says:

          As I said, the reason to use HD camcorders has nothing to do with actually shipping HD video up to the internet.

      • Unless you can find Ethernet cameras that are sending you an h.264 rather than raw pixels, and you can just flip between streams on keyframe boundaries, though even then you'd have to be able to limit their bitrate (and I know something about encoding but nothing about cameras).

  14. For $X, we name a club event "John Q. Contributor is Awesome Night" and put an overlay on the stream saying so.

  15. Nick Lamb says:

    Hmm, I've seen Kickstarters where the rewards are split, so that at any particular level there are different options and you can only pick one. I think that might make sense here for the distinction between "I''m a Bay Area couch potato" vs "I watch shows but I live in New York / Berlin / Hong Kong" with the "for locals" options being tickets, pizza, drinks, VIP status, whatever is practical to arrange and the "for out-of-towners" options being merchandise with at least US postage included.

    Unique rewards are a big success for KS, how about a "fans of the DNA webcast" periodic email for supporters at quite a low KS value? People who put in at least a dollar get their email on the list, they get genuine Zawinski snark concerning the purchase and installation process while that's going on, and they get a heads up which forthcoming events they should watch out for specifically on the webcast.

  16. I don't know if this helps, but in the case of the HD options, Ubiquiti makes some decent 720p HD cameras that talk IP. They are reasonably priced online (around $100 a shot), are designed for security type applications, support their whack version of PoE and emit h.264 at 30fps. They purport to support RTSP, but I've only ever used the built-in HTTP server in these so I'm not going to vouch for the ability to software switch these things...

    Their FAQ claims 0.1lux@30fps for the sensor and the lenses seem... reasonable (4mm@f1.4 for the wall/ceiling mount units).

  17. Sheilagh says:

    big dollar item: a hidden cam in some interesting/weird location, say aimed at the bartender's feet (or hell, aimed at shoe level in a main area and pitch it as a fetish channel).

  18. Jason Heilig says:

    The DNA was a second home to me for the better part of a decade. When I lived in Boston, and now living in Austin, I've taken advantage of the webcasts. Hell, I've watched bands play at the DNA online, instead of seeing them in Austin simply because I'm not a a fan of the venue here, as I recall it's possibly your least favorite venue ever as well.

    I'll definitely kick in on the Kickstarter.

    I still want one of those awesome injurious house t-shirts. The dog tags are always awesome... What about getting R.Black to sign some of the old posters? I can think of a few memorable shows that I'd love to have a matted signed poster from All Hallows Eve in '05.

    You could also auction off limited use of the old-school Snarkotron.

    • jwz says:

      We ended up giving away or junking all the remaining "Injurious House" shirts because nobody ever bought them.

      So apparently you "still" "real want" one of those shirts, but in the three years they were available, you never wanted it enough to pony up the ten bucks.

      Ladies and Gentlemen, e-commerce in a nutshell.

      • Lun Esex says:

        Bands are still doing ok selling t-shirts and other swag at live shows, right? Maybe it's the "limited offer, buy now or never" aspect, along with the "I want a souvenir to remember this" feeling that does it. It used to be that there was no other way you were ever going to get a tour shirt than by going to a band's show, but now most bands have them on their websites... and they probably only sell a fraction online of what they're still selling at shows.

        So I'd speculate that DNA Lounge t-shirts, dog tags, etc. on sale at the coat check and online suffer from not being associated with a moment in time "event." Going along with any thoughts of "that's a cool shirt" there's also the thought of "...but I can get one later, or online."

        As part of the fundraising rewards, then, you could pull some of your merchandize from general sale and say "this is it, the last time you'll be able to get this shirt/poster/dog tag/whatever, by pledging at least $xx." Then it becomes a limited offer, it's associated with an "event," etc.

        • jwz says:

          I do so love the fascinating and insightful armchair quarterbacking I get here. I really do.

          • Lun Esex says:

            You even title the blog post "Crowdsourcing the crowdsourcing" and you expect... what?

            • jwz says:

              Oh, you know, answers to the questions I asked.

              But hey, how about you tell me how to sell t-shirts instead? Because I bow to your mammoth fucking expertise in this matter.

      • Sigh. I bought one and ended up with one that was too small, because just this once, the size info for the shirts was correct.

    • jwz says:

      Also I think it's been four years since we sold a dog tag.

  19. Adolf Osborne says:

    First, your main question: Kickstarter. Yeah, maybe I'd kick in some cash in exchange for some manner of awesome trinket, but I'm not your target market (I'm in Ohio, and have no plans to visit SF).


    You only want less than 1 Lux? Axis and Panasonic make (as you say) Ethernet webcams that provide you with h.264 or motion JPEG streams right from the camera, powered over Ethernet, and get this job done just fine.

    I have a fixed 1280x960 Axis camera with motorized zoom and focus online, on a slow DSL circuit, in a dark room that is lit at night only by some cheesy LED stage lighting that you're welcome to play with if you'd like, which seems oddly appropriate -- shoot me an email. I'll even give you admin privs so you can ruin things as you see fit. (Disclosure: I sell the things, and can cut a bit of a deal, but our volume is limited and therefore so is our pricing structure from Axis. And 1280x960 is just a cropped 4x3 version of 720p, which is "high definition," so...)

    Meanwhile, I put some (expensive!) Panasonic PTZ "webcams" outside at a place recently, and the low-light performance is staggering: Far better than my own eyes, without any tricks other than just hanging the camera on a wall. Folks watching the video coming from these cameras swore that they were watching pre-recorded stuff because things appeared to be so well-lit, until I moved the camera and showed them that they were watching reality.

    I've also got a line on a Scandinavian company that sells software to deal with multiple IP cameras in realtime for broadcast-ish stuff, which I haven't yet used, but I'll get you the dirt on it upon request. It looks to be pretty CPU efficient, as long as your CPU is able to handle one real-time encode and at least one or two decodes.

    You don't need gig-E to each camera, either: The individual bitrates are not exactly big. Just pick yourself up a cheap PoE switch with the appropriate number of powered 10/100 ports and one or more gigabit uplink, and plug that gigabit port into your Magic Box That Sends Video to Teh Interwebs. (PoE switches are expensive only because power supplies are expensive. If you've got power at the camera locations already, PoE may not make any sense at all, in which case gigabit turns absolutely cheap. It also, contrary to popular belief, works Just Fine over Cat5 (not even 5e) by design, so whatever you've got for cabling should be perfectly OK.)

    Whatever the case, HDMI isn't the answer, but is instead part of the problem (much like DLNA). Real HD cameras for video production use SDI, which is designed for long runs and even has a good chance of running over your existing coax network. I've seen PCI Express SDI cards for PCs in use that accept a half-dozen or so inputs. (which means your Mac Mini is out, but...)

    And, of course, HDMI is a complete and total clusterfuck (apparently by design), intended only to operate at short distances to display one source on one nearby monitor, and is fickle even at that. Capturing it for distribution is its own clusterfuck. So please don't burden yourself with HDMI. On this scale (however small), it's not at all worth the pain.

    • jwz says:

      I find your ideas fascinating and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      However: I have two of those Panasonic WV-NS324 camcorders (plus one broken one), and they're shit.

      The low-light performance is... eh. The focus is spotty, and they lose their presets if you regularly allow them to complete a 360° revolution. They are infuriating junk.

      However, it is the only web-controllable PTZ camera on the market that has composite video out.

  20. samble says:

    Can you charge for access to the stream, like five or ten bucks, maybe only when someone popular is playing? It'd take some software setup and payment gateway (paypal, amazon payments) integration but it would at least be definable income, and limited expenses after the software's done.

    "But nobody would ever pay for that!" Well maybe not, or maybe so, idk.

    This has nothing to do with a kickstarter, so good luck.

    • jwz says:

      Making that work sounds like a lot of work, and I seriously doubt anyone would pay for it, because, hey, I'd never pay for it. Also it puts us in the situation of having to explain and/or argue with the band about it, because it would not be unreasonable for them to want a cut of that. It just sounds like a huge bag of worms for likely zero financial upside.

      • samble says:

        Making it is kind of a lot of work, and so is doing what you're already doing.

        Charging during popular acts would reduce bandwidth requirements during the times when most people would be watching (by making people pay, so not as many people use it), so no monthly DSL fee increases there yet, and once done, it'll make thinking about justifying upgraded camera hardware way easier because you have monthly income to compare it against.

        I also kind of doubt people would pay for it, but I doubt they'd watch this sort of thing at all, and it sounds like they do that already. Neither of us can say for sure if anyone would pay for it. This is totally a legit reason not to do it.

        As far as arguing with bands, that seems addressable up front with hey, this is some extra money you get because people are paying to stream this shit, here's fifty bucks (or whatever). It's zero extra work or concern on their part.

        You could fund the setup of such a thing with a Kickstarter ("donate money so i can get set up to charge you money!") and give donators permanent free rides, maybe. You get something more closely resembling a business model out the other end of the process (instead of just upgraded hardware), which if it works well / is justifiable, you can turn in to upgraded hardware.

      • samble says:

        Oh yeah also, what you're already doing has actually zero financial upside, which makes likely zero financial upside pretty good in comparison =]

        • hattifattener says:

          Likely zero upside minus definitely lots of hassle puts the expected return down in the nope, I think.