Monday 28 December 2015

Hardknott Stream - Work in Progress

It is perhaps something of a debilitation, but it is a fact that I have numerous and varied interests. Photography, for instance, has that superb crossover between creative and technological. Just to add that little bit of extra fascination, with the modern invention of moving pictures, the talkies, colour reproduction, digital photography and now that greatest of all man's invention, the internet with which one can inflict delight the general public with creative genius.

Because I work with beer, and run my own brewery, I am constantly on the look-out for new and interesting ways of getting closer to the people who like beer, and hopefully convince them to drink Hardknott. We've made various videos, some more successful than others, all taking a surprisingly long time to put together. I enjoy doing it, but it does make me wonder if the effort is worth the benefits, if I were to look at it from a pure business point of view. Of course, there is the broader activity of beer communications, which I enjoy and in itself often becomes a distraction from what I should be doing, and part of the incentive to write this blog.

More recently I've become aware of the ability to live stream video to the internet. Not a new thing in any real terms, but as super-fast broadbandbecomes more available, even in our outcast places, it becomes technically more practical. Specifically YouTube have recently created a service that appears to be available for us to live stream moving pictures, along with sound, for anyone to watch.

Muk-Bang has taken off in Korea, it seems. A bizarre spectacle where someone, usually a young attractive specimen, eats various food for an on-line audience. Often referred to as food porn, which leaves me unsure if the format is appealing to people who want to feel good about eating, when they feel they shouldn't and so seeing young attractive people eating makes them feel better about themselves. Perhaps it is actually some sort of sexual fetish. It is best we don't delve too deep into the psychology there, else we may be distracted from my own plans. However, I do have the thought that perhaps, with people deciding to "detox" in January, I could just get frazzled in front of the camera and keep the beer world turning. You can all sit and watch us on the internet, with your carrot juice safely in hand, whilst we guzzle down beers to compensate. That way we'll all feel good.

One of the things that attracts me to the format is the ability for our audience to interact. My concept is to have topical beer items, or at least vaguely beer related, and monitor all our social media timelines for incoming comments. We can then react to your input, so helping us to get closer to you, the beer drinker. Whichever, I expect it'll be a bit of fun.

So, last Wednesday, the day before Christmas Eve, we did a little technical test to see if we could broadcast a live video signal and put together some sort of "beer show" - it worked, after a fashion. We had numerous technical issues, largely due to the super-fast broadband not being as super-fast as we expected. However, it happened, after quite a bit of effort, and we learnt a lot.

Undaunted2 by some of the difficulties, we are going to run a proper "pilot" broadcast on Wednesday 30th December 2015 at 19:30 (that's 7:30pm, in old fashioned time)  - please call in, watch what we are doing, say "hi" on twitter3, or whatever, and feedback any comments on the show. Good or bad, whatever, we cannot improve if we don't get your input. If nothing else, we'll run the @Hardknott twitter timeline on the side of the screen on some shots, just so you can see that it really is live4.

The channel can be accessed via or


1Our normal broadband, with around 12Mbit/s download, which is normally quite fast enough to watch iPlayer, only has a 500kbit/s upload speed - this really isn't quite fast enough for video streaming at any reasonable quality. We have yet to decide to invest in the locally available FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) - so we are trialling in a local business centre to see if it is viable. They still only have 1Mbit/s upload, but it's just about OK, if we set all our video settings just right.

2Yes, you are right, we are actually seriously daunted by the difficulties we face. However, there is no point pissing around, we might as well get on with the job and suffer the consequences if it makes us look silly. So, if we are going to do it, we must put across a bullish and forthright attitude. A faint heart, and all that.

3Tweet us @Hardknott to see your comment come back on the video feed. Please, don't use abuse or whatever, we of course will reserve the right to block you. And we can switch off the sidebar at any time we wish.

4You may experience a delay, typically up to 30 seconds, due to our streaming software getting its act together, the interwebby thing uploading and then downloading the data plus YouTube's servers processing. We've had it down a low as 10 seconds, which I think is fairly amazing when you realise the data crunching and transfer that needs to happen. If the delay becomes too long, have a look to check it isn't your end. Sometimes the receiving computer can buffer and you need to pull the time-bar at the bottom of the screen until it is at the end and showing perhaps -1 second.

A further technical hitch possible at the receiving end is if you open in the Hardknott site, and then navigate to YouTube (it is my recommendation that you open in YouTube) and still have the Hardknott page open you may have two version of the same stream on different delays. This will cause an echo and possible deterioration of your system's performance. Close one of the windows!

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