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This is what made it all possible - One day I woke up and decided I could build a two-way interactive streaming media television station. I've been working in streaming for almost ten years, and prior to that I worked in broadcast and cable television. There was a time back in the 80's that if you were watching TV late at night in Denver there was a 50% chance you were watching one of my commercials. I did lawyers, car lots, truck stores, furniture palaces, restaurants, furriers and, oh yeah - car lots. I never really knew what "rich Corinthian leather" was - but apparently a lot of the cars I sold had seats covered with it.
Here it is - the nerve center of - It's a radio station, a TV studio and an internet communications hub all in one!

So I decided first we would take the cheap route and see if we could make things work on the low down. I mean - anybody can achieve a goal by throwing lots of cash at it, but can you make it happen without the big bankroll? There's the skill. It takes no brains to sign a check. It takes brains to make things LOOK like you signed a check when you didn't even cover a lunch at Burger King. So I decided I was going to try to use the Windows Media Encoder as a digital switcher. (For those of you not interested in inspired stories of geekdom, save yourself now. Go to YouTube and type in "hooters" - see you in a week or so). We had a few cameras knocking around that we used for various shoots and they all had firewire inputs, so I was off to the races! Firewire a whole buncha cameras into a fast box and I'd be in seemless switching in no time at all. Oh - how wrong I was.

The first challenge was getting all these cameras to be recognized by the firewire controller - normally, you just plug 'em in, turn e'm on, and the computer makes a happy "bboing" tone and something comes up like "You've hooked up a firewire camera - would you like to capture some video?" No, I want to shred cheese - that's why I plugged this thing in. Of course I wanted to capture video - but the little "bboing" came and went in the night without a single cry. Just a mournful "bonk" - that's kind of like Microsoft for "you screwed up, man." ...and then the worst news of all, in the lower right corner: "A device has failed to install correctly,
Three functional centers rolled up into one - streaming, switching and communications with the outside world. We were not operating in a vacuum!

 your device may not function properly." There is no cure for this. If you ever see this on a computer you own - thrown out the computer, sell the camera on eBay and resign the next 20 years of your life to the preservation of the Knights Templar. You'll make more headway with the Knights than you will after you've heard the "sad bonk".

So, it was back to MicroCenter for more cords, more junction boxes and then on to Radio Shack for adapters galore and some of those real cheap little RCA switchers for audio. Ever try to figure out how to delete a firewire device that has not installed correctly? Easier to shit a basketball (or have baby - but what would I know about that) then spend days digging around in old boxes trying to find the "install software" for a camera you bought six months ago. Thats' the new scam - the cameras won't install via firewire or USB unless you have the disk that came wiht the device. Did you lose that disk? Too bad - they'll see you another. For my "semi-pro" JVC it was amere $200 - so I made a deal with a guy on eBay: he would dupe off the disk and send it to me, and I would send him $20. Sweetheart, huh? He got the $20 - I got a blank disk. To this day he hasn't sent the "replacement" and I never could figure out how to get that one camera hooked up correctly.
Getting it all together was only half the battle - it took three weeks of pissing around and testing and re-plugging and all sorts of hair-pulling nightmares to get everything to talk to everything else correctly.

So, we're going to use the Windows Media encoder as a software based switcher - we tried a bunch of switches without broadcasting and they went smooth as could be - totally clean, Jean. So comes the night of the big show (well, the beta, anyway) and we can see the encoder screen inside the booth. Every time there's a switch between the camera I or Trash freeze up like we're made of solid ice, daddy-o. Not to cool on the switcheroo scene. I'm freezing and gagging in mid sentence (and it's not just my stage fright, either) but we decide to continue on because the show MUST go on and all that crap. You can watch it in the archives, it's pretty funny - in a sad, technically screwed up way. I decide the only way this is going to work is if we get s set of nice-ass mikes and a real-life video switcher (and not one of those "home pro VHS" idiot units that leave jaggy marks at the top and the bottom of the screen) so I begin to do my homework on that.

It's been a couple of years since I worked in TV, and prices have gone down while features have grown up - so I looked all over the web (camera places, bulk video warehouses, discount buying helper engines, cheap video stockpilers and EVERYTHING in-between) and I come up with this pretty cool unit that switches four video sources, has a small audio mixer built in for remote shows and is overall a pretty spiffy device for about a cool grand. I decide I'm going to be a real smart guy and break my golden high-tech buying rule: if a real complicated electronics device is what you seek - buy it from some local guys with a discount. Don't try to "save big" on super high-tech items because if the thing is DOA out of the box (and you'd be surprised how many are) if it's something a local retailer will carry - get it THERE and pay a few bucks more, it'll be worth it if the thing is french-fried from the start.
It's not just getting it to look good - it's got to sound good too. Yup, that's a dbx vocal compressor plus 32 tracks of EQ on each individual audio track. We can hear what we sound like back through the headphones and see what's going out over the wire on our Television.

 Then you can just march your rightiously pissed off ass in there and say "I opened the box and it blew up. Gimme another one" and nine out of ten times the zit-faced teen manning the exchange counter will go "Ok, dude - I got a pile of like 20 of these things" and hand you another one, problem solved.

BUT, noooooo - I had to be super, duper, uber smart and not only mail order the hip device, but I mail ordered a "blem" to save $150 bucks. I figured - well, if it was just a missing knob or a doink on the cardboard - that would be fine, because - after all, this is a "work" piece of gear, not just personal, lusty gratification. So the item shows up - the box looks good - no rips tears or other obvious attempts to finish off the device with a crow bar. It doesn't have the instruction book, but who reads that anyway. I pulled the multi-knobbed beauty from it's cardboard prison and laid it on the table. Fingerprints - and lots of them. By the looks of it - I got the floor demo that had been turned on and off thousands of times by ten-year-olds eating ice cream cones, but I know not to judge a book by it's cover. You can however, judge a switcher by the fact that it makes some really hideous noise and then all the buttons light up and stay lit up - that you can judge and there's not a jury in the land that will convict you - that thing was as dead as a Kennedy brother and nothing we (as mere mortals) was going to do was going to bring that thing back to life. So I did another stupid thing - I called tech support.

"Hello, tech support (sound of drinks being mixed, long suck on a joint, razor blades chopping on glass). Can I help you?"
"I don't know" I said "Can you?"
"I can try, maybe, who, what, uh, how, uhhh (sounds of beer chugging contest, needles piercing skin)...your name"
"Yes, my name - here it it" I spelled out my name slowly.
"Ahhh, I think I got it - can you start again at the point where you spell your name (sounds of group sex, Amsterdam hash bar)...hehe"
Doesn't look blemished to me. But the guys at the call center were definitely having far too good a time to be working at a call center...

...anyway, after three or four hours of respelling my name and listening to the great party going on in this guys pants I decided he probably had enough information to send me a new unit. Sounded like HE needed a new unit. Finally, as we got ready to part ways I said "Don't I get a number or something?" Talk about a loaded question. He laughed insanely and read off a 47 digit alpa-numeric and then hung up. I knew this was going to be trouble. Not only does customer support at this place party like it's 1999, they seemed to have left out all the stuff you're used to - you know, asking for a serial number, a credit card number, North Carolina Hunting License number - anything. I knew I'd never see my box again. I inked the RMS (I knew they'd gotten that part right) in big red letter s in the box and sent it back.

Days ticked by like the prison calendar in some old movie, when suddenly - a reprieve from the governor - a NEW SWITCHER. Not one that hadn't been mixed on before - But a factory fresh unit that had never seen the light of non-industrial age America! I paid $150 less than the new one and GOT the new one. I love it, Max Stoner, the help desk hippy, had somehow managed to press the wrong (or right ) combination of buttons and I had a brand new switcher for the cost of a "blem". And to this day - that's the happy switcher that powers - to this day - KickStartTV.

Now, in working with a whole bunch of cameras - it became pretty obvious that this multi-camera business wasn't going to work unless we worked on getting a bunch of preview monitors so we could see what we were doing before we switched to that camera. We had 4 cameras - one pointing towards the digital clock on the wall with a sticky note attached to the clock that says "Show Starts at 7pm",
It's got to sound good - so we're mixing everything with a Yamaha board because it gives us the control we need to switch multiple audience members in and out of the mix on the fly.

 one that is a fixed camera pointing at me, one that's pointing at Trash and one in the hands of an overqualified intern from the Art Institute of Colorado who was thrown into the mix for our amusement. On to eBay I went - I figured I could find a band of old Sony 9 inch monitors for a couple of hundred bucks and I'd be done. I was done all right - done in at $1500 bucks for three VERY ugly looking monitors. I just couldn't bring myself to do it - it was time to build something from scratch. So I typed in the words "monitor" and up came 14,345 responses.

Several weeks later I had found the deal - it was a set of three LCD monitors originally built to go into the back of car headrests so you could quiet down your sniveling brood as you drove across this great country of ours. The guy wanted - seriously now, 30$ each for them brand new in box. I used an eBay coupon I had and they were delivered right to my door. Seriously, these were from a now defunct company called "Movies 2 Go" and they came brand spankin' new in three boxes a few days later. I knew I'd have case mounting nightmares later - but for the time being it was just enough to know that we were in possession of three LCD monitors to make me feel very - how can I put it, close to being real.
You gotta be able to see it to be able to switch it - so we made our own master switcher out of LCD monitors and an empty computer case and power supply.

The next day during lunch Wally and I decided it was time to go to MicroCenter again and pick up a computer case to house these puppies in. I measured them and knew I was in trouble - they were 5 and a quarter wide by 3 something from top to bottom - none-standard if I ever heard of. So I went to the computer cases section and looked it just about every new case that was there. I had competition - there was a guy who was obviously buying the last case of his life - I could because he looked at every case three times, had the clerk take them down, place them on the floor and open them up. Each one, three times. Meanwhile - I eyeballed something that I thought might fit - caught the eye of ANOTHER clerk, and had him bring me my new case. When we left the case aisle, the guy with the case obsession was asking a question about the supposed buoyancy of his case were there to be a global flood.

I got the case back to the shop, stopped home to pick up my dremel tool (because I knew there was going to be some cutting of plastic involved in this project that was rapidly spiraling out of control. So I took a few of the front panel covers off, then a few more, and finally I had all the front covers off. These monitors had little boxes that they fit into, that actually got mounted to the back of the car headrest. They LOOKED like they might just snap into the front of this computer case, but I knew the odds of that were way to slim, until "CLICK" - they locked in like
We're converting signals all over the place so we can see what's going out over the air before it actually does, making it so much easier to figure out what the hell is going on.

 they were made for this box. "CLICK" "CLICK" - the other two mounted in filling the front panel 100%. The odds of these fitting perfectly where like a billion to one - but fit they did - just like they were made for the case. All I had to do was get the pwer supply rigged up and I would be set to go. This was looking too easy. Well, it was. I wired everything up all according to the power supply instructions and turned it on. Nothing happened - then a whirring started (the fan coming on) the case glowed blue(always a good sign) and then I decided to turn one of the little monitors on. POP - the whirring cycled rapidly down and the blue went to black - every time I turned on a monitor, the whole thing shorted out.

I decided to call my mechanical genius nephew, Colton - who not only knew what these things were but he knew how to fix them.

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