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First off, forgive me if this isn't the most appropriate forum for this; none of the forums seemed specifically suited for my questions, so if there is a more appropriate forum, I'd appreciate it if a mod could move it.


I work for a large Anime convention ("work" being a not-paid-but-still-an-employee-as-far-as-the-provincial-government-is-concerned thing), and this year I was tasked with providing an i-mag setup for our main events room (~2000 seating capacity) on a tiny budget (~$4500, and that's the only price I'll put here) with limited advance notice. What I'd like to do is post the details of my setup as I did it this year, and ask advice for next year.


What I did was mostly rental, as I couldn't afford to buy much with my budget. The components were:


Two BenQ SP920P projectors, which are 6000 lumen XGA dual-lamp DLP (purchased and amortized over 3 years for budgetary purposes, everything below this is rented)

Two da-lite 180" rear-projection 4:3 screens on either side of the stage

Two Sony NX5U cameras

One Canon XF305 camera

One Roland V1600HD HD-SDI mixer

One DataVideo dual-screen HD-SDI monitor rack

One LCD computer monitor for mixer preview

One desktop PC for video playback and SD/CF card dumping and audio recording

Two HD-SDI to HDMI adapters to get video into the BenQ projectors


How everything was connected:


~300-400 feet of RG6 cable was run from the mixer to the projectors carrying HD-SDI. I paid the venue to handle this since I lacked the cable to do it myself (in hindsight I could have gotten our audio production company to run this for me for free). They dropped it from the ceiling to my mixer (~25 feet high), ran it on a catwalk up there with a distribution amp halfway, split it, and dropped a line to each of my projectors on either side of the stage.


~25 foot coax cables carrying HD-SDI from the three cameras to the mixer


I ran audio feeds to/from the production company's mixer to the desktop computer, both to send them audio, and record it on our end (with audacity, which didn't go quite as smoothly as I'd hoped). I also used the composite video output from the mixer into one of the venue's distribution panels in the floor and had them transport the audio/video to two other rooms (our green room, and our overflow room).


I think that about sums it up. All told, this did more or less fit in the budget that I mentioned, and it went relatively smoothly, except for a few issues:


1) 180" screens were way too small. Close-up shots provided decent i-mag, but wide shots were smaller than the eyeball view of the stage

2) 180" 4:3 screens showing a 16:9 image is wasteful and throws away a lot of the projector's brightness

3) 6000 lumens (really 4500 for the 16:9 image) was not bright enough

4) The screens are kind of too far away from the audience in the rear of the room

5) Dumping footage to the computer after every event and recording with audacity was a hassle, and some mistakes were made (I'm missing direct-feed audio from one of the concerts)


So, before you tear me apart for how amateurish this setup is, please keep in mind that I'm not a professional, this is not my "real" job (I'm a software developer), my budget was too small, and I had little prep time for this. I did the best I could with the budget and my limited expertise. Despite the issues I mentioned above, it did work out pretty decently all told, even if the i-mag wasn't as effective as it should have been. The feed to the overflow room did work great, for example. But because of my inexperience, I'm eager for any advice and comments on what I did wrong this year, and how I can do it better next year.


So, despite the fact that our event just ended, I'm starting to think about next year, and how to address the issues I had above. I'm confident I *can* get a bigger budget next year (I'm hopeful for 2-2.5x the budget, if I'm lucky).


One of the reasons why we did this ourselves is that the quote we got from the production company handling our main events room was outside our budget (which is why I had to do it on a limited budget in a short timeframe), and I wasn't involved in that negotiation. This coming year, I'd like to work with them more closely, doing some of the rental and possibly setup/manning through them. But in general, I still want to have an idea of what sort of thing to plan for, what sort of hardware I should be using, that sort of thing.


One big thing is that we may want to increase seating capacity next year, since ~2000 wasn't enough for our biggest event. If we do expand this next year (probably to 2500-3000 seats), we'll probably have to go with a slightly narrower room (175ft -> 125ft, I believe), which means people are sitting farther away. One thing that was suggested to me was delay screens midway down the audience... Basically, my questions are:


What sort of projector can I expect to rent that is bright enough for a 220" 16:9 rear-projection screen for an affordable amount considering my probably budget next year?


Is there any better and affordable way to record this stuff for a room that has dozens of events over the course of three days without breaking the bank?


If our video booth is at the rear of a room, being even farther from the stage, the distances involved are potentially way beyond the reach of HD-SDI or ethernet... How do I get video 400-500 feet affordably? HD-SDI with multiple reclocking distribution amps? HDMI or HD-SDI over fibre (sounds expensive)?


Any other thoughts?


EDIT: For clarity, our venue this year was room 517cd of the Palais de Congrès de Montréal (floorplans and measurements available at http://www.congresmtl.com/en/planners/level5.aspx ) and next year we'd probably be either the same size or potentially 517bcd or 517abc)


EDIT2: One thing that I've been considering doing to save money is to ditch digital and HD and just run everything over composite video, using the venue's distribution network to get the signal where it needs to go without degredation). I can rent an Edirol V-4 mixer for about 7% the cost of renting an Edirol V1600-HD mixer, as awesome as the V1600-HD was to work with.
 
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