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How to webcast sound from your temple

Revised: September 2011

For software we'll use a technology called SHOUTcast, with support information at Shoutcast.com, the major streaming audio platform for most Internet radio stations. We recommend you purchase the $200 SAM CAST software to handle the encoding and uploading of your audio stream, which we've found to be more reliable than the free alternatives suggested at Shoutcast.com (such as the DSP plug-in for Winamp.) The software is a digital download so it's easy to order online.

Benfits of Streaming Audio

  • Smartphones: Works on all mobile phones that support live streaming audio from the Internet (such as smartphones like iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Nokia platforms). This is really a cool feature when you want to listen to live sound from your temple but don't want to be tied to a computer. You can listen to the morning lecture while commuting to work or school.
  • Non-broadband Internet users. About 30% of Internet users in the world still do not have high speed connections, or their so-called broadband is so slow that live streaming video from your temple is just not working for them. For these users, having the option to listen to a relatively low-bandwidth consuming live audio stream is a blessing.
  • Economical. It saves money. Bandwidth costs money at a rate of $1 for every four user hours. Mostly on the server side, where your uploaded live stream is distributed to thousands of simultaneous viewers / listeners. That means, for every four users watching or listening for one hour, someone somewhere (usually Krishna.com or your hosting server) is paying $1 for the bandwidth being consumed. Having a live audio stream along with live periodic still images from a webcam as your default, always-on setup can save hundreds of dollars a month compared to a live video stream that is always on, even when there's nothing much happening at the temple. Plus, live still images are much better quality (of the Deities, for example), than live streaming video over the Internet. (Live streaming video should really only be used during important program times at the temple, such as the morning kirtan and lecture programs. Having it on at other times of the day is like leaving the lights on, or a water faucet running, and thinking "nobody is paying for it so we might as well..." when in actuality, your server bandwidth is costing you $1 for every four user hours.) A typical Shoutcast live audio stream consumes only 11 megabytes per user hour, compared to 68 megabytes per user hour for live video.
  • User friendly choices. In our experience, web audiences like to have a choice of watching high quality periodic live still images (say, for example, of your temple deities), while listening to a kirtan or lecture via streaming audio on their smartphone, or on their computer with Windows Media Player, iTunes, or WinAmp.
  • Better quality when it matters. Streaming audio, because it uses less data (bandwidth), is more reliable and steady compared to streaming video that has a tendency to stutter, stop-and-go, pause to buffer and then reload when it encounters bottlenecks in Internet transfer speed. When a steady audio stream is important, such as during the morning program, lecture, or major festival, having a separate audio stream broadcasting ensures your listeners get a smooth, good quality audio broadcast experience.

Equipment Needed

A computer, broadband Internet, and a USB microphone... or higher quality microphone with XLR to USB converter. (See "Microphone Systems" suggestions at the bottom of this page.) $200 SAM CAST encoding software. A monthly / yearly hosting plan to host and distribute your live audio stream, such as is offered by Primcast.com. (ISKCON temples can get free streaming on Krishna.com's web server, if we agree to host you.)

You'll connect sound from your temple room via dedicated microphone, to a laptop or desktop computer connected to the Internet. On your computer, the Shoutcast software will turn the incoming audio signal into a digital audio stream, uploading to a Shoutcast server such as http://www.primcast.com/shoutcast. As an example of their service plans, for up to 100 simultaneous listeners you pay $25 per month with a traffic allowance up to 250 gigabytes. $2.60 additional per 10 GB of traffic overages. (You see how user hours of bandwidth consumed start costing money!)

If you are an ISKCON temple we may be able to host your live audio stream on Krishna.com's Shoutcast server free of charge. Contact us.

If you operate your own Internet server, you can host your Shoutcast stream there.

If you're paying for a hosting account on a shared web server, ask your server administrator about Shoutcast streaming audio options. Most likely you'll have to pay extra, if they offer the service. Depending on the cost, it might be worth the $25 per month to host your live audio stream with people who specialize in Shoutcast streaming. (Or free with Krishna.com, if we decide to host your stream.)

When your Shoutcast hosting account is set up, you'll receive a URL link that represents your live audio stream. Users can click on that link which will open the live sound stream in their web browsers, WinAmp, iTunes, or Windows Media Player software, or within so-called "Internet Radio" apps on their smartphones. You can seamlessly incorporate your "listen" link into your existing website. It works like a regular link.

Step-by-step Tutorial

  1. Sign up for a Shoutcast streaming account at http://www.primcast.com/shoutcast. Start with an inexpensive plan with low simultaneous listener limits and see how it goes. 24 kbps quality for mono live sound stream of lectures and kirtan is fine. Eventually you may want to upgrade to 48 kbps for better quality.
  2. Write down the account information, such as upload IP address, port number, password, mount point, etc., which you will receive after signing up.
  3. Purchase, download and install the "SAM CAST" software from http://spacial.com/sam-cast. (We used to use a free encoder but have switched to the above SAM CAST software for reliability.)

  4. Follow the tutorial on how to configure SAM CAST to upload your live audio stream from your computer to a SHOUTcast compatible server. Enter the information you received from Primcast (or from us at Krishna.com) into the corresponding fields to configure SAM CAST to upload the stream to the Primcast server.

    Configuration Example

    Bitrate: 24 kbps
    Mode: Mono
    Sampling rate: 22050
    Auto start encoder after 5 seconds.
    Auto reconnect encoder after 15 seconds

    Server Type: ShoutCast
    Server IP: 69.46.78.12 (replace with Primcast IP)
    Server Port: 8090 (replace with Primcast Port)
    Password: (your account password)

    Station name: Alachua Temple Live (replace with yours)
    Genre: Alternative
    Website URL: http://www.krishna.com/alachua (replace with yours)
    List on public station listing checked.

  5. Connect a microphone to your computer. Ideally, this microphone can be permanently positioned near one of the loudspeakers in the temple room, or anywhere it can pick up the ambient sound of the temple room and still reach your broadcasting laptop or computer. (See the recommendations for Microphone Systems at the end of this tutorial.)
  6. Select your microphone (or soundcard input) as the sound source in SAM CAST settings.

  7. Press the "Start" button to begin broadcasting.
  8. Use the "Sound Processing" tab to control the sound broadcasting volume, adjust as necessary.
  9. Now go to another computer and check to see if you can hear the broadcast. Use WinAmp or iTunes or VLC on that computer. Type the listen URL of your broadcast (which will have been supplied to you by your Shoutcast server hosting company) into your browser window, or into WinAmp or iTunes via the "File / Open URL" menu in those programs.
  10. Once everything works, send us an e-mail with your listen URL so we can add it to the Krishna.com webcast listing for your temple.

Microphone Systems

1) Simple, inexpensive method: Buy an inexpensive computer microphone at your nearest electronics store, along with a 16-foot (5-meter) USB extension cable. This works if your broadcasting computer is able to be located within 16 feet of the temple room. (You may have to drill holes into a wall to run the cable in such a way as makes sense.) USB technology is not intended to be used with long cable lengths. 16-feet (5 meters) is the maximum supported cable length, after which you will need active USB repeater cables, with total length of repeater cables not to exceed 80 feet (24 meters).

A word of caution: Don't expect miracles from cheap USB microphones. Kirtans (kartals) are often way too loud for these sensitive mics, which are designed to be used for speech (one-to-one Internet telephony / Skype chats). You may have to glue foam or a cotton ball over the tip of the mic to make it less sensitive, or experiment with the Sound Processing settings in SAM CAST.

2) Higher quality method: Run one or more chorus microphones suspended from the ceiling of your temple room. For example, place one mic near a loudspeaker. The other near an area where it will pick up the response of the audience during kirtans, and questions during lectures.

Recommended microphone: Audio Technica PRO-45 overhead hanging "choir" microphones, at $90 a piece. (Or any similar mic. It can be a regular mic hanging from a cable - doesn't have to be a chorus mic.)

The XLR end of the cables from these condenser mics connects to an analog-to-digital converter connected to your computer, that also powers the mics with 48V phantom power.

For single mic setups we would recommend the SHURE X2U, an inline XLR to USB adapter for connecting any good quality microphone directly to a computer's USB port. One advantage is that XLR mic cable can run up to 300 feet (90 meters) in length without much signal degradation and radio interference, whereas USB cable lengths (for cheaper USB-only mics) are limited to 16 feet (5 meters). Since the SHURE X2U (or similar) converter does not have a built-in compressor / limiter, you may need to use a software such as Stereo Tool to even out the spikes in loud kirtans and prevent distortion. See the Wikipedia article on software compressors... the bottom of the article has various recommendations of software.

For two microphone setups we recommend the MOTU UltraLite-mk3 Hybrid audio interface, available for $550 from most online music stores. The real beauty of this box is that you can remotely control the volume of the microphones from anywhere on the local area network, or Internet. For instance, at Krishna.com, we can remotely connect to the laptop at the Alachua temple using "Remote Desktop" software, and then control the MOTU UltraLite-mk3 audio interface, individual microphone channel volume, faders, effects, compressor / limiter (to prevent distortion during loud kirtans), save presets of all configuration settings for kirtan / lecture, etc. This is a very useful feature for the person who manages the broadcast. You can be at work, say, at your office somewhere else in town, and when you notice that the volume is too loud, or distorting, or not loud enough, you can adjust the broadcast remotely.

Live sound equipment suggestion(NOTE: The Presonus Inspire box in this image has been discontinued. So we've upgraded and replaced it with a MOTU UltraLite-mk3 Hybrid audio interface.)

3) The seemingly obvious but NOT recommended method: Run an audio cable from your temple sound system mixer "record out" to your computer's microphone (line) input jack. Problems with this setup: a) No sound when the mixer is off. Visitors to your site will hear dead silence even when there are arati ceremonies going on in the middle of the day, unless the temple sound system is switched on. b) Line noise, hum, buzz from ground-loop issues between the electronics powered at the mixer end, and the electronics used to broadcast the sound. Plug all equipment into the same power outlet (set up your broadcast station next to the temple sound system) to resolve this issue. c) Prone to volume problems. Pujaris, volunteers, etc, at the temple generally have access to the sound system, adjust knobs, volume sliders, and you have no remote control over the broadcast volume. When the broadcast is too loud or too soft, you need to physically go to the temple room to make changes. We used to have this setup at the Alachua Temple Live webcast, and abandoned it in 2005 in favor of a separate system independent of the temple sound system.

As of September 2011, we use two choir microphones, one suspended near the main loudspeaker of the temple sound system, one hanging above the heads of the devotees, to pick up live sound. Both microphones connect to a MOTU Ultralite mk3 audio interface, that connects to a LENOVO ThinkPad quad-core laptop computer. The laptop is housed in a locked, but vented, wooden cabinet in the temple room. The laptop connects to the Internet via DSL broadband modem on a static (fixed) IP address, so we can log in from anywhere on the Internet to remotely access the laptop and control the live sound broadcast volume. The MOTU Ultralite interface comes with "Cue Mix" software, which includes digital compressor and limiter, to automatically limit some of the loud spikes during kirtans, to minimize distortion.

If you have additional questions, please contact us.

Happy webcasting!