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November 2011
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
In This Issue....
RMAF 2011, TAVES And Streaming Video
The best laid plans of mice and men...

Article By Steven R. Rochlin

 

  "In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy."  --- Robert Burns' poem To A Mouse

 

  As all of you know, the past month has included two great audiophile events; the TAVES and RMAF 2011 show. Whilst Rick Becker did a truly outstanding job with his TAVES 2011 event report, with manufacturer interviews by journalist Phil Gold appearing in this issue, my RMAF 2011 show report was to be a truly outstanding effort. Rick Becker's 4 part series spanned 8 web pages filled with over 60 photos. Phil Gold supplemented this TAVES 2011 coverage by interviewing 4 luminaries within the high-end audio industry. This leads us to Yours Truly who had planned on providing deep immersion for you during the RMAF 2011 with live video streaming as i walked throughout the hallways. Rick and Phil get huge kudos, their hard work paid immense dividends for our readers. My efforts, on the other hand, showed great promise yet frankly failed to deliver what had been hoped. Thus you ask, "So Steven, what went right and what went wrong?"

 

The Idea
First came the idea of roving around the RMAF 2011 and streaming live audio/video online. That is a really cool idea and this way you could see the people and products 'in their natural show habitat'. The typical pre-recorded video was more like sales-schlock than the true personalities press members like me know and love. Think of it like the difference of a TV reporter who does 'on the fly' spontaneous live reporting versus the typical pre-arranged interview in a studio (or show room).

 

How To Make It A Reality
Ok, so cool idea, sure, yet how to make this a reality? Obviously the first thing needed is a device that can capture the audio/video with the ability to fluidly have it streamed to am appropriate server/service. For me, those typical cell phones or tablets with their 5 MP cameras were just not good enough, as 8 MP cameras were just reaching consumers. Ok, so 8 MP might not seem like much, yet keep in mind this device must also have the ability to connect to the Internet without latency issues. Sure Wi-Fi is great, yet any hard-core user knows that their home Wi-Fi might be ok, when you are stuck in a hotel that has questionable Wi-Fi access, questionable and varying Wi-Fi speed due to other users, and with the Marriott in Denver having multiple Wi-Fi networks that use different names/configurations throughout the venue... The question is, what device would also have as direct a link as possible with the widest bandwidth pipe that was reliable and consistent throughout the venue?

 

The Equipment
So looking at the newest devices regardless of costs, one device rose above all others. Namely, the stunningly expensive (for a tablet) HTC Jetstream 10.1-inch tablet. The Jetstream is so new that there was no proper case available and thus i customized an Apple iPad case for my purposes. Have a look at these specs, which of course today are great yet a year from now will be typical:

Processor: Qualcomm APQ8060, 1.5 GHz (dual core) + MDM9200
Operating System: Android OS 3.1 (Honeycomb)
Memory: 32GB eMMC (supports up to 32GB microSD)
RAM: 1GB, LPDDR2
Display: 10.1 inch with 1280 x 800 resolution 16M-color LCD
Capacitive touch screen capability with active digitizer
Network: GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900
              UMTS/HSPA 850/1900/2100
              4G LTE (AWS/700 MHz)
Camera: 8 MP Color CMOS with auto focus 
             1080p video recording
              2 LEDs for flash and light assist for video capture
 
Connectivity: Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11b/g/n compliant
Battery: 7300 mAh Lithium Ion

 

The above is not all the specification and bolded the most important aspects, so yes what is important here is it uses the Honeycomb OS, 8 MP camera capable of 1080i recording plus the ability to take advantage of not just 3G, yet also 4G LTE. For those unfamiliar, when it comes to streaming media much of it boils down to camera resolution and how much data you can push out with as little latency as possible. The 4G LTE network has been tested in the real world to download at 40Mbps and upload at 10Mbps on a good day and around 12Mbps download and 2Mbps upload on a 'bad day'. Lastly, having all that capability is worthless if you ran out of battery power midstream, and here the Jetstream had aplenty in this department. Since a Jetstream was $850 cash outright, about 50% more than virtually any other good tablet, it was a big pill to swallow yet the benefits of success outweighs saving money and "the agony of defeat".

So a few weeks before the RMAF 2011 i procured an HTC Jetstream, setup with a few streaming media providers and went at it testing the system. During these tests it included 'real world' dark rooms, bright rooms, bad backlighting, etc as is typical of high-end audio events. having attended over 100 of these, all the typical challenges were well-known and easy to simulate. Getting the video online was another challenge and one service rose to the top and so i went with that. Keep in mind no one within the audiophile industry has ever done this. So everything worked, looked great and sent out a press release a few days before the RMAF 2011, as i knew if it was sent out earlier others would try to emulate and steal my idea.

 

Reality Is A Bitch
So starting the day before the event i did s few live streams as a test and here is where the best laid plans of mice and men... The video quality was lackluster. Was using the hotel's Wi-Fi to also see how that would work and seems that was the culprit. The first day of the show i went all 3G/4G and while the video was a touch better, it was still not quite what was achieved during testing at home. Long story short, something indeed did go awry as the hardware worked fine, it was something to do with the provider and so on Saturday simply did the 'canned reporting'. As you can easily see, the canned recordings lack the spontaneous fun the live streaming videos have in spades. Like other who record, edit, etc the videos come off more like sales pitches versus the BAM camera suddenly in your face and GO with it NOW.

The good news, my idea did work and the high-quality hardware worked flawlessly with room to spare. The bad news is the low quality results due to the (nameless for now) provider. Joked with a few manufacturers at the show, who saw my angst yet loved my idea and felt it had great potential. Joked with them saying i bet the glitch will be fixed only a handful of days after the RMAF, which does me no good right now. Get ready to laugh as, you guessed it, the provider upgraded their system software literally two days ago as of this writing. So yes, next time the audio/video will be of proper quality. With vast sums of money and time invested, the good news is that yes Enjoy the Music.com can once again say we are at the bleeding edge of technology before any other magazine both print and online. Add to that, most of this advanced technology Enjoy the Music.com has implemented over the years to benefit our readers in receiving important industry information before anyone else, including WAP, desktop channels, Web browser, Android and WP7 app and soon Apple app, there are times things can and do go amiss. Live roving streaming audio/video at the RMAF 2011 did work, simply with reduced quality that will be corrected during the next audiophile event.

Of the many compliments, with many not caring too much what quality it was, simply appreciated that it was being done and worked. Color me my worst critic and did get only two e-mails from people who were less than enamored with the results. So thousands happy and two unhappy, I'd call that a success for you the readers yet personally i see it as a failure to deliver. Color me my own worst critic. So next show expect the system to work, and I'll assume here and now others will be trying their hand at the same thing, thus copying my idea. As they say, "You win some, you lose some" and in my humble opinion I'll call it a big win for the industry as someone has to drag this industry into offering modern show coverage instead of the usual static photos and text with typical delays and whatnot.

Of course in the end what really matters is that you...

 

Enjoy the Music (some live bloopers below, because live broadcasting is fun :)  ),

Steven R. Rochlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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