Monarch HD streaming and recording appliance aids behaviour analysis research in psychology clinic’s observation rooms
Small, private, cozy rooms. Cameras on. Lights on. As senior psychology students delve into the secret minds and emotions of their patients, the interactions are streamed live to distant observation rooms where supervisors unobtrusively view the sessions in progress. At the same time, they are recorded to a secure, remote network location for later review.
UQAM is a French-language public university in Montreal, Canada with international outreach that provides unique programs and advanced research often linked with social concerns. The Centre de Services Psychologiques (CSP) clinic offers one such program where senior students acting as interns consult with real patients. Every session in the CSP’s 23 consultation rooms is recorded for medico-legal policy adherence and training purposes.
Since the consultations are considered medical acts, privacy is a main concern for the center. With their prior recording setups in every room of an analog SD camera connected to a DVD writer or a game capture device with a USB key, privacy protection was not assured. Other problems included faulty DVDs and USB devices, poor quality audio and video, and accidental loss of data, which made for an unreliable media system. These issues impelled UQAM to consider new ways of acquiring and managing their media.
“We checked out the specifications of many devices, ranging from in-computer encoder cards to self-contained devices and found the Matrox Monarch HD interesting for this project. We initially looked at it as an equivalent to the game capture devices, since it could record directly to a USB drive and had a fairly unbeatable price point. We soon realized, however, that its remote recording capability was the key to solving our privacy problem,” said Dominic Besner, Director of Operations, Audiovisual and Multimedia Technical Support at UQAM.
In each consultation room, a Panasonic AW-HE2 camera is plugged directly into a Monarch HD. For audio, a Louroe ASK-4 Kit 500 microphone is fed into the analog audio input. Monarch HD is linked to the physically-closed network by which it communicates with the server. Since the rooms are small, cable length from the camera to Monarch HD is usually within 10 feet. The CSP clinic is outfitted with two observation rooms, each equipped with a Mac Mini PC running VLC player. The computer is connected to the network and loaded with 23 desktop shortcuts corresponding to the 23 consultation rooms.
The project was challenging for the UQAM AV team as it involved the simultaneous streaming and remote recording of 23 media streams onto a centralized media server. As early adopters, they did not have prior experience with streaming and recording appliances. Monarch HD’s flexibility to stream and simultaneously record video in various independent bitrate combinations, handle different resolutions and output RTSP as well as RTMP streams gave UQAM a wide choice of workflow possibilities to test and select the most appropriate configuration. They accomplished the configuration task quickly by using the Monarch HD presets.
Students operate the Monarch HD units with ease using the on-device Stream/Record buttons. Monarch HD sends streams over the network via RTSP to the media server that resides on the closed network. From the privacy of the two observation rooms, supervisors monitor the live sessions in as many rooms as needed by simply clicking on the corresponding shortcuts.
UQAM records at 720p 30Hz which it considers the right balance between file size and picture quality. This setting is never changed. Each session is an hour long and the recorded file is saved to a secure network location. The recordings are watched exclusively in the observation rooms. No media goes out of the local closed network and even the computers’ USB ports are disabled to prevent downloading on a USB drive.
Monarch HD proved to be the perfect device for the CSP project. It lets users benefit from a great quality media file, which is available in its entirety, only to the right people, immediately after the event. UQAM has also used its Monarch HD units for other purposes including as a multi-camera lecture capture system and for recording graduation ceremonies.
Besner commented, “For us, Monarch HD is the ideal solution as it is now in operation for more than two years and we rarely hear about it or get calls for support. In our business, that is a very good sign meaning the system does what it has to do, day after day, year after year. It was a great first shot for us in IP media recording. It’s now part of our design toolbox.”