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Mass Innovations, From The Beacon, February 2015
Chatham, a community with more than 40 boards and commissions, has been video-recording public meetings for many years. But until recently, viewing a recording of a meeting that had aired on the local-access cable channel meant coming into Town Hall and having a staff person transfer the digital video to a DVD.
That changed in the fall of 2013, after the town began upgrading its video server to accommodate large video files that could be stored in “the cloud,” with its almost limitless storage capacity.
“Before we went forward, we had to make sure that everything would work well,” said Ryan Darmon, the town’s media coordinator.
A test room was established at Chatham’s Community Center that included a wall-mounted camera, microphone and other devices.
The testing appears to have paid off. In the 16 months since the system went live, there have been virtually no technical problems, according to Darmon. He said that the only problem to arise resulted from the accidental unplugging of a microphone, which canceled out one recording’s audio portion.
A key piece of equipment for each of the six meeting rooms is a professional-grade video encoder, which converts an analog recording signal to a digital one. Off-the-shelf, the video encoder would have cost $5,000 for each meeting room, according to Darmon. He and his colleagues chose to develop a customized encoder, which cost roughly $1,500 per room.
The cloud-based format allows anyone with a reliable Internet connection to access the videos, including on a mobile device.
“We had a lot of requests for access from iPads, so [officials and residents] could view meetings while they were traveling,” Darmon said.
He said the number of views of digital recordings increased from roughly 50,000 in 2013 to about 340,000 in 2014.
Town Manager Jill Goldsmith said Chatham has a core of active volunteers as well as a large number of part-time residents who are active in civic affairs. She described online access to the meeting videos as an important means of promoting public engagement among both part-time and full-time residents.
To view videos, visit www.chatham-ma.gov and, under “Hot Topics,” click on “Channel 18 Live & Archives.”
For more information, contact Ryan Darmon at (508) 945-5116.