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TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
FROM: ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER/CITY CLERK
SUBJECT: FORMAT OF CITY COUNCIL MINUTES AND PERMANENT ARCHIVAL OF VIDEO AND AUDIO DIGITAL FILES OF CITY COUNCIL AND PLANNING COMMISSION MEETINGS
1. Authorize the City Clerk’s Office to prepare summary minutes for all televised City Council meetings and detailed minutes of all non-televised City Council meetings.
2. Continue to use Real video stream files as the permanent video and audio record of City Council and Planning Commission meetings.
3. Direct Staff to present an overview of the City Council’s discussion to the Planning Commission and seek the Commission’s preference whether or not to migrate from detail minutes to summary minutes.
October 17, 2006 City Council Meeting – Presentation of Staff Report – Format of City Council Minutes
The Assistant City Manager presented a staff report to the City Council, dated October 17, 2006, titled “Format of City Council Minutes” that included a recommendation to authorize the City Clerk’s Office to prepare summary minutes for all televised City Council meetings and detailed minutes of all non-televised City Council meetings. The City Clerk’s Office has been preparing detailed minutes of City Council meetings since October 2001. With the advent of webcasting and archived media on the Internet, it is time to rethink the mode of recording and reporting Council actions to the public.
After significant discussion, the City Council decided to continue the item and requested Staff to provide additional information regarding the City’s video and audio record of City Council And Planning Commission Meetings, including:
1. The life and reliability of audio and video media;
Overview of The Use of The City’s Video Stream Technology
Since mid-2001, Palos Verdes on the Net (PVNET) has provided live webcasting of City Council meetings and on-demand video-stream replays of City Council and Planning Commission meetings from the City’s website, which allows for complete and unedited viewing of City Council meetings. As a result of the collaboration with PVNET, the City was one of the first municipalities in the United States to provide video streaming of City Council meetings over the Internet. Commencing in August 2002, PVNET began to link video clips from the meeting to each item listed on the Council agenda. Council members, Staff and members of the public can access the City’s website at any time of the day or night and watch the entirety of the Council’s discussion on a given agenda item. Internet users must have Real Player software installed on their computer to view video stream files. A free version of Real Player can be downloaded from the Real website (www.real.com) via a link placed on the City’s website.
Real Video Streaming System - Permanent Video And Audio Record Of City Council And Planning Commission Meetings
The Digitizing Process
The video of the live Channel 35 broadcast of every televised City Council meeting is captured and directly digitized (encoded) into the Real “.rm” format using the Real Video Workstation. Cox Communications also tapes City Council and Planning Commission meetings for later re-broadcast and provides the City with a recorded DVD-R (usually on 2 disks) using the City’s DVD deck attached to Cox’s broadcast mixing equipment at Hesse Park. The recorded DVD-R is used to digitize Planning Commission meetings and City Council meetings that are not broadcast live. Upon completing the digitizing of the Planning Commission meetings and City Council meetings that are not broadcast live, video stream files are appended and saved as one large file. The beginning and ends of the video stream files are trimmed as necessary to provide a smooth transition for viewing. The video stream files are temporarily stored on a hard drive of the Real Video Workstation to enable further editing.
Additionally, the video file segment for each individual City Council agenda item is digitally cut, annotated and saved with appropriate file name that coincides with the agenda item. Upon completion, the video stream file of the entire City Council or Planning Commission meeting and the digitally cut City Council video files for each respective agenda item are then copied onto the Real Streaming Video Server. The digitally cut video files are linked to their respective agenda item on the City Council Agenda webpage to enable easy access and viewing. The FY06-07 budget for the Information Technology program includes $3,540 for the video-streaming services that are provided by PVNET.
The digitized video files of Planning Commission meetings are not currently cut and linked to each respective agenda item. If the City Council wishes to do so, Staff estimates that the additional cost would be about $1,800 to $3,600 annually.
As described previously, City Council and Planning Commission meetings can be viewed in their entirety from the Rancho Palos Verdes Video webpage of the City’s website. Also, replays of RPV CityTalk shows, Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) and other video content created by, or for the City have been digitized and are available to view from the Rancho Palos Verdes Video webpage of the City’s website.
Management of the Real Video Stream Files
The video files are backed up weekly using a removable hard drive back-up system that is rotated and stored along with all other data files at Iron Mountain’s data storage center in Gardena, California. The annual cost of Iron Mountain’s off-site storage service is about $3,800. The City’s cost of the removable hard drive back-up system dedicated for the City’s website, mail server and the Real streaming system is about $9,000 annually.
City Staff permanently archives the recorded DVD-R along with other permanent paper documents. Because the Real video files serve as the permanent audio and video record of City Council and Planning Commission meetings, no further archival action is necessary for the DVD-R recordings.
Real video is the most popular video streaming format in use over the Internet today. Real has been a long-term competitor in the growing market for audio (especially music) and video access over the Internet. Because of its long-standing market presence, Staff expects that the Real format will continue to be a video leader in the future. Although it’s not possible to predict technology changes in the future, as well as changes among the companies, Staff believes that the Real format will be supported for some time in the future. When a new version of the Real Network encoder is released that causes a significant file format change, conversion software can be used to convert all existing archived digital video files to the newer format or even to a different format altogether. Although several versions of the Real streaming and user video software have occurred since the system was implemented in 2001, conversion of the existing video files has not been necessary.
The Real Video Streaming Server and Real Video Workstation are owned by Palos Verdes on the Net. PVNET has estimated that its cost of operating the Real Video Streaming Server and Real Video Workstation is about $7,333 annually. The City helps defray PVNET’s cost by paying approximately $3,100 annually for software and server maintenance services.
Consideration of Other Formats For The Permanent Video And Audio Record Of City
Staff has periodically assessed migrating to other formats (i.e. mpeg) or the Granicus service for video streaming. The Apple QuickTime “.mov”, and “.mpeg” are two other common formats for streaming and playing digital media. Conversion between formats can be performed using professional video and audio software tools. The Apple Quick Time format is less popular and would not be completely compatible with the City’s other technology systems. The Granicus service would be more costly then the current Real streaming system. Staff believes that it does not provide any video streaming enhancements compared with the current Real system at this time. The mpeg format is the standard used for television broadcast. If the DVD-R recordings of City Council meetings were digitized using the mpeg format, the video files could be used for broadcasts on the City’s Channel 33.
The file size of a broadcast quality mpeg format file is about 10x the size of the current Real video-streaming file. The migration to the mpeg format would require backward conversion of 5 years of existing video stream files currently maintained in the Real “.rm” format. The backward conversion would require about 50-100 hours of services to convert the Real files to mpeg and re-link them to the website agenda files. The migration would also necessitate the conversion of some, if not all, of the streaming hardware and software. The storage capacity of the video streaming server and the City’s back-up systems would have to be significantly increased. The immediate and long-term cost of additional hard drive storage that would be required for mpeg files is significant, but not easily determinable. The back-up process may have to be performed incrementally due to the significantly larger mpeg file size, possibly probably requiring additional staff time. Two sets of video files of the same meeting would likely be required; one of broadcast quality and another video-streaming file that would be lesser resolution, therefore smaller, to enable efficient downloading and viewing over the Internet. Staff recommends retaining the Real format as the permanent video and audio record of the City. Notwithstanding the cost v. the benefits of migration, meetings that are recorded in DVD-R can always be digitized for broadcast using the PSG C500W and B1000 broadcast management system operated by the General Manager of the Channel 33 program.
Consideration of Preparation of Summary Minutes of Planning Commission Meetings
During its discussion of minute formats and digital video and audio permanent file records at its meeting on October 17, 2006, the Council considered the preparation of summary minutes of Planning Commission meetings as well. The City Council may wish to consider the benefits of detail minutes of Planning Commission actions for matters under consideration by the Council. With the City Council’s direction, Staff will present an overview of the City Council’s discussion to the Planning Commission and seek the Commission’s preference whether or not to migrate from detail minutes to summary minutes at a future meeting.
The written minutes are the official record of City Council meetings and are permanent records of the City. Likewise, the Real video stream files serve as a reliable permanent video and audio record of City Council and Planning Commission meetings. If the City Council so chooses, the City is in a position to
discontinue the City’s current practice of preparing detailed minutes and switch back to summary minutes. If the City returns to summary minutes, the City Clerk’s Office is prepared to transcribe detailed minutes for Council meetings that are not recorded for broadcast and can prepare detailed excerpt minutes from past meetings when so directed by Council.
The City spent $20,941 for professional services to prepare City Council minutes in FY05-06. Preparing summary minutes would significantly decrease the current cost of contract professional services by at least half and possibly more. Although there is no direct fiscal impact, it would also significantly decrease the turn around time for the preparation and adoption of draft minutes.
The Real video stream system is already is the standard media for video and audio replays of City Council and Planning Commission meetings and is not expected to add any additional cost.
Attachment A - Specifications for Real Streaming Video Server and Real Video Workstation
Attachment A - Specifications for Real Streaming Video Server and Real Video Workstation
The specifications of the Real Streaming Video Server hardware include:
- Dual Intel Pentium 3 733MHz processor;
The specifications of the Real Streaming Video Server software include:
- Microsoft Server 2000 software;
The specifications of the Real Video Workstation hardware include:
- Intel Pentium 4 3.2 MHz processor;
The specifications of the Real Video Workstation software include:
- Microsoft XP Pro;