This post is more of a collection of miscellaneous tips and paths traveled recently…for future reference.
We have been having sundry issues from time to time while playing video files through the Windows PC rig we use for media presentation in our church sanctuary. Some of the issues involve
- Frame-rate playback issues,
- Frame dropout,
- Loss of synchronization between video stream and audio track,
We are using a pretty new Dell enterprise-class tower workstation (Dell Precision T1500) with an Intel i7 processor, 16 GB Crucial RAM (up from 4 GB), two video cards (Matrox M9120 PCIe x16 & Nvidea Quadro NVS 295 PCIe x1). The two cards allow us to drive a total of 4 video outputs (3 for monitors on the desk + 1 output to our video mixing board for projection of content to the (mirrored) video projectors behind the worship platform. We are using the stock sound card and that gets sent into our sound mixing board. It is running Window7 Professional x64 bit. It is on a Microsoft domain.
We run EasyWorship 2009 presentation software.
We also concurrently use it to run Lightworks software with DMX controls via USB dongle to handle our lighting system.
Overall it has operated very smoothly and is pretty reliable and beefy. However, I have a few unresolved issues with the system I continue to explore and troubleshoot.
- Despite all my best attempts (so far) I have been unable to get Internet Explorer upgraded to IE 11. It remains on IE 8. For some reason it continues to fail with a “prerequisite” missing error. I’ve got all kinds of logs so lots to process though.
- Random BSOD’s happen. I’ve not pulled the logs yet to do an analysis--probably a driver issue.
- The video cards are a bit loose in their slots--extra weight from the attached cables--we’ve popped a card out of slot seating while running (not recommended!) by bumping the cables. Luckily no harm done.
- Videos coded at a HiDef quality seem to cause the most issue with playback…so I often have to recode to standard def video quality. That seems to help a lot.
- I don’t really like have two “mis-matched” video cards in the system…that’s a whole lot more video drivers to deal with. I’m on the lookout for a decent PCIe x16 quad-ouput card that can handle the thing. So far the best I’ve found is the Nvidea Quadro NVS 420.
Tip #1 - No sound when playing video files through EasyWorship.
A few Sunday’s ago, it was my “off” day and my counterpart was running the system for the service. While getting things put into the system, they encountered an issue playing back video media though Easy Worship.
Video would play just fine, but no audio. They tried at least two codec formats for the video file but nothing.
So they called me.
I was able to remote-attach to the system and begin troubleshooting.
EasyWorship would take (import) the files but no audio playback.
EasyWorship is a bit limited, out of the box, with supported video codec formats so I used some of the video recoding software I have on it to generate new versions. The issue remained the same if it was coded in WMV, MOV, MP4, etc. Video playback was fine. No audio.
Why was I focusing on EasyWorship as the issue? Well, because for a counterpoint test, I would replay the videos through VideoLAN on the system and the sound would play fine along with the video.
We had been troubleshooting for over an hour at this point and time was running out before the services were to kick off.
I started checking the EasyWorship forum and found the solution just like that. Doh!
Yep. Seems “someone” had enabled the Mute button on the live playback window, causing the video to play but no audio output.
Simply clicking that icon enabled the audio again and all was well. See below.
Mute “Activated” - You will get no audio output on Live display although video will play.
Mute “Off” - You will now get audio output on Live display along with video playback.
Tip #2 - Not Enough Video Codec options in stock EasyWorship.
By default, EasyWorship 2009 supports only MPG1 and WMV video formats.
That generally should be “good enough” and most media houses (such as The Skit Guys) offer product download in WMV format.
However, sometimes you may want a bit more flexibility and don’t want to jump though the hoops of converting your other video file format into WMV. Or maybe you want to convert the video into another format for better video playback rendering on your own rig limitations.
Luckily, it is pretty easy to follow this official EasyWorship KB guide to get the K-Lite Codec pack loaded into EasyWorship.
That will allow you to play back MOV, MP4 and FLV files natively in EasyWorship.
It was a piece of cake to do…but please do read the instructions carefully as they do require some semi-technical tweaking for best performance.
Also, you will have to select “All Files (*.*)” from Windows Explorer filter selection at the bottom to see them as the default way file-open works in EasyWorship, it will “hide” them from your media library.
I followed these instructions quite a while ago and haven’t encountered any issues or playback problems (besides those already present that is).
Tip #3 - New EasyWorship version in works.
The EasyWorship team has a forum thread open with periodic news updates on a new version to be released in the near future.
EasyWorship Support Forum • View topic - New Version Weekly Update - EasyWorship 2013 news
EasyWorship Church Presentation Software / Whats-next - A few videos on the new EasyWorship 2013 product. Looks interesting. Especially support for layers with slide backgrounds.
Now about that Yeti
I’m asked periodically to do special audio recordings for the various church members,
I’ve been progressively capturing the sound “better” into my laptop using different microphones.
The first was a Logitech USB headphone set with microphone. That was pretty good but sound quality was pretty “hot” and the foam wind-cover left a lot to be desired.
From there I updated to a stick-style Logitech USB desktop microphone. It was much better quality and allowed me more control to deal with “breathiness” sounds.
However, none of these had the depth of quality that I was looking for. And since I have enough requests for help, I decided to jump into the semi-pro quality of microphones.
So two weeks ago I purchased a Blue Microphones | Yeti (black housing)
Price was in the $100 range. I’ve been watching tons of YouTube videos and online reviews and was very confident it would provide the quality of pickup that I was looking for.
I’m not disappointed!
Random thoughts & observations:
- It is really heavy!
- I liked the black body housing style better than the silver or platinum options…that’s just me.
- It has a threaded stand mount so I could use it with the various mic stands we have for better positioning.
- It has four different mic pickup patterns.
- It is super big.
- Playing around quality demonstrates it is way above the “toy” mics I had been using.
- No “custom” drivers exist for it, Windows 7 eventually found and installed them…though it took longer than expected.
- The device icon Windows used didn’t help me identify it from others on my system. However I was able to find a stand microphone device icon (ICO) on the Web that I liked better and swap it out.
Next I need to see if I can get it working with my iPad (Gen4) and GarageBand for times I don’t want to haul my laptop out.
From what I have seen in Web reviews and YouTube videos, it does work just fine, although it seems a powered USB hub is the trick.
You will also need to find a USB-to-Lightning adapter.
- How To: Use Yeti Pro on iPad | Blue Microphones | Blue Blog
- Amazon.com: Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (MD821ZM/A): MP3 Players & Accessories
There are even “teases” on the Web that indicate if you connect it a particular way and while the iPad is still powered off, you can sometimes get it to connect even without a powered USB hub.
I’ll let you know what I eventually am able to accomplish. And please, if you have any tips or feedback regarding EasyWorship or the Blue Yeti mic, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.