Friday, October 30, 2020

SVL: Transitional Ops October

Silicon Valley Lines ran another operations session with remote operators and a socially distanced skeleton crew in the layout room. This time around the technology worked smoothly. The upgraded Internet connection performed well and we had sufficient bandwidth to run video conference sessions and Youtube Live stream in parallel. The screenshot above shows the cab view perspectives from passenger train 18 in Igo controlled by a club member in the UK as its getting passed by passenger train 111. High priority train 104 is holding in Jacksonville for train 18 to get moving again. Meanwhile train 102 is ready to depart in Windsor pending assignment of a remote operator. 

Two local operators took care of switching assignments. An on-site brakeman worked with remote operators to assist with easy switching chores, or if there were derailments. The Nowheres Yardmaster set up or broke down trains. I worked the A/V job and helped out with brakeman duties as necessary. I spent most of the evening in front of computer screens.

I went back to the control stand setup I used in June, since that proofed to be the approach with the least problems. The 17" MacBook Pro in the middle is running OBS, acts as the hub for all the cameras, and feeds the layout views to the participants on Google Meet via the OBS Virtual Camera, streams to Youtube Live, and keeps a local recording of the session. This laptop also bridges the audio from Meet into the Youtube stream and the recording.
The old Dell Inspiron on the right is also logged in to Google Meet and acts as the bridge for the FRS radios. After lots of trial and error I determined that the TRRS audio socket on the MacBook Pro does not activate the microphone input when I plug in the radio, probably due to the radio output not matching expected impedance. The Dell has separate microphone and speaker sockets and doesn't try to do anything fancy. This setup also allowed me to wear an ear bud for radio communication, while at the same time listen on the video conference with another ear bud and debug problems bridging the audio on the fly.
Finally, the 15" MacBook Pro on the left is set to the Youtube Live Control Room. I can observe stream quality, concurrent viewers, etc. as well as watch and add comments on the live stream.

The recording of the live stream is linked below. Watch it on the Youtube site to get a playback of the live comments, too.

The technology worked. What can we do better next time? Watching the stream it's pretty obvious that we need to be a bit more formal in our communications protocol to allow for effective radio traffic.
The lag between the FRS radio VOX feature to enable / disable the radio transmitter is causing confusion. 

For the next session and the Open House in November we will need to think some more about how having a host for the event.

Overall, this was a fun session. We had many participants both on the live stream and the video conference, and I'm particularly pleased that with the upgraded Internet capacity a lot of the the technical problems we had in earlier sessions got addressed.

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