Alpha in 2019
To be fair: 2019 has been a messy year for Alpha Audio. Certain things have gone very well, others not at all. That’s life… and thats running a business. In 2019 we had a large video project for the Smart Living Academy. As a result, we recruited an intern for six months. And well: that didn’t work out… at all. It neither for the intern nor for the person who supervises them (your editor in this case). This does not alter the fact that 2019 was an excellent year in terms of growth and development.
We expanded the camera arsenal with an Atomos recorder, new lenses (85mm, 1.4 Zeiss portrait lens: our ‘beauty shot lens’), 24-70 2.8 and an extra metabones adapter for the 2nd camera (already purchased earlier). The lighting has also been expanded and we have a live-stream set-up at the end of 2019. More about that later.
As I said, 2019 started out a little messy. But around high-end we shifted our focus. High End was super nice, as usual. It’s always nice to talk to colleagues and have a bite to eat with friendly characters from the industry!
Storage and Live Streams
Video takes up a lot of space. A lot…! Just like all other media companies that work a lot with video, Alpha is constantly fighting the storage limits. We wanted to tackle this space-beast once and for all. We need a scalable solution.
Now we’ve been running Synology-servers for a long time. And it works great. But the flexible rackmount solutions are very expensive. That is, if you want a bit of a fast model (the so-called “+” models). We have a DS1618+ at home and at the office. Great products, but not rackmountable and not easy to expand. The expansion bays are dangerous. Anything can go wrong. In short: we’re going to build it ourselves.
Now we have been running a Unraid server for a while. But not very serious. It contains some data, but nothing critical. A shame, because it is a nice and safe platform. In short: that has to change. We have ‘up-beefed’ the Unraid server with two SAS controllers, 1TB ssd cache in RAID-10 and a new housing that allows 24 drives (in the picture, eight drives…). The housing on the pictures had serious airflow-issues; don’t buy it… it’s horrible. The new Unraid-server is lovely. Now there is one server for all data. And the Synologies are mainly for synchronizing data between authors and editors.
Around that time, we also took the first steps towards live streams. We wanted a formula in which we could show how we work: 100% transparency. At first we didn’t talk about music sharing. That will come later.
The first set-up was with IP cameras from Dlink. Vigilance series. Very good cameras: sharp, 4K, good colour, etc. However, there’s a problem with mixing IP cameras (with guaranteed delay over the network) and live sound. Throw some ordinary cameras in the mix and you get severe lip-sync problems. Now this can be partly corrected, but not easily if you mix sound and images from the IP cameras and the normal cameras.
Now we mainly stream via our Panasonic cameras and a Blackmagic capture card. Data is transmitted over an HDbaseT network. More about that later.
Switch test with readers
The first real test we broadcasted completely live is the Switch test with readers. That was a test with no less than ten switches that we tested in two batches of five models. Everything was tested blind. That makes this test doubly special, because not only was everything assessed blindly: the test was also broadcast live! Definitely a milestone for Alpha Audio.
In 2019 we had 1.9 million unique visitors to the website. Unfortunately just under two million… …no champagne.