WinterFest’20 | are you online-ready?

WinterFest'20 header image

WinterFest’20 on 01 August will go ahead as an online event. It is possible that some – or all – future events will proceed with at least some online component. For now, we are preparing for the situation where SummerFest’21 is also impacted by Covid-19 related regulations.

The purpose of this page is to find out if you are online-ready. Below is some important information about what you will need.


Discord

Discord is a cross between social network and communications app. Think of what you’d have if you merged Zoom with Twitter and Youtube. Our choice stems from two key factors:

  1. There is a versatile set of features within the application architecture which lends itself very suitably to our vision for an online event – more so than any other platform we’ve seen so far.
  2. Whilst Discord is targeted at the gaming community, it is used by other types of social organizations too. Within our metal community there are a substantial number of gamers, and a survey indicates that 42% of respondents are already using Discord.

  3. For first-time users, Discord is well-established across computer and mobile device operating systems. Whilst it can also be used in-browser (without having to download it), best performance comes from using the downloaded app.

    Official download links:

    • Windows (clicking on this will begin download automatically)
    • Mac (clicking on this will begin download automatically)
    • Android (link will launch Play Store)
    • iOS (link will launch itunes App Store)

    If you need help with using Discord, visit our tutorial page for all the quick-start basics. If you’re new to online events and live streaming, we’ll focus the remainder of this page on the other things you need.


    Internet requirements

    Here is the short-form list of requirements:

    1. Connection type: ADSL or Fiber are preferred
    2. Download speed: 4Mbps minimum / 10Mbps recommended
    3. Upload speed: 2Mbps minimum / 5Mbps recommended
    4. Data consumption: 2 – 6 Gigabytes (average estimation)

    If you don’t have these, don’t panic yet! If you don’t know what some of it means, also; don’t panic. We’ll cover everything below in long-form and why it matters.

    Connection type

    Is your internet connection fixed or wireless?

    Whilst fixed (ADSL or Fiber) connections are preferred, the answer to this question is not a make-or-break for you to participate. Plenty of people will do great with wireless. In some cases even better than fixed lines.

    Fixed connection

    ADSL or Fiber are considered an added advantage not necessarily because they’re faster (modern wireless connections can be pretty fast too), but because they’re generally known to have more stable download and upload speeds. Stability is great for streaming, and especially if you’re streaming in two directions.

    Two directions? The difference is that attending WinterFest’20 will not be like simply watching YouTube or Netflix. You’ll be participating, which means you’ll be receiving and sending data. Like you’d be doing if talking on Whatsapp or Zoom.

    Wireless connection

    Wireless includes connections like LTE (high-speed service via cellular network, widely known as 4G or LTE+ being dubbed 4.5G) or the more conventional cellular network 3G, and other types of connections. Maybe you’ve got a dish on your roof and get beamed directly from your ISP’s tower? Or you’re out in the bush and rely on Satellite? Those are generally good too, provided the weather plays along.

    As mentioned, wireless can be pretty fast; but it can also be pretty slow. The annoying part is that speeds tend to fluctuate between fast and slow more than with a fixed connection. This may vary from user to user, so you’ll have to do some checking about your service area and if it is good enough to enjoy WinterFest’20 properly.

    How good is your package from your ISP (internet service provider)?

    If you’re relying on a cellular network, then service is automatically selected depending on the device itself (is it capable of 4G?) and the service network coverage (is your nearest cell tower 4G enabled?). Typically, cell networks fluctuate between 4G and 3G service as demand and congestion in the area surrounding a tower dictates, and any 4G enabled device will also be 3G enabled, so service continues regardless, even if just slower when things switch for a while. Users might find that they drop out of voice and video calls regularly and/or get erratic signal quality. The ratio between download and uploads speeds could be mismatched and unreliable too. Not always, but the chances are greater. You might be lucky where you are and receive consistently good service.

    Did you know that you can do an internet speed test of download and upload speeds quickly and easily right now?

    Open your browser and type into Google Search “internet speed test”. Use the one-button tool you are presented with. It doesn’t matter what kind of connection you are on. Try it.

    At the time of writing, the test for my fixed line showed 9.3Mbps download and 7.1Mbps upload. My cellular service was better with 25.3Mbps and 6.9Mbps. Not bad! Either of these would be great for WinterFest’20.

    For wireless, to know if service is good enough in your area for WinterFest’20, the line speed test alone won’t be enough. You might get good results at the moment you do the test, but if congestion on the network increases later, then service quality will drop. The simplest way to know if the service for your area is good enough is to use it regularly – like, if you’re currently doing video calls via Whatsapp or Zoom with friends and family – do those work fine any time of day/week without hiccups? If this quality of service is unpredictable, it would be better to go to a friends home (Covid-19 social distancing regulations depending) who has a fixed line connection on the day.

    Fixed line services are generally more predictable. If you’re on ADSL or Fiber, your ISP has you on a set package consisting of certain Download and Upload speeds. Just a caution: these can be deceiving to the layman! For example, if you’re subscribed to a 5Mbps connection, the ISP might only be referring to your download speeds (which, for viewing streaming content, is perfectly adequate). It is possible that your upload speed is much less, like, perhaps only 20% of that, being 1Mbps. In other cases, your package might be evenly matched. For example, at M4A headquarters we currently use what our service provider calls a 10/10 package, which means 10Mbps download and 10Mbps upload, as opposed to the former example which would be called a 5/1.

    Download Speeds

    Most homes with fixed lines these days tend to have at least a 4Mbps download speed. This should be okay for a standard quality WinterFest’20 experience. At least from a receiving-of-data point of view if you only want to watch streams and other peoples’ interactions.

    Cellular networks can achieve impressive speeds; up to 300+Mbps. However, as mentioned, these fluctuate dependent on how many other devices rely on the tower in your area. Sometimes what is often super fast can also be crippling slow. There is very little that we can do on our end to change that, but we can advise you on how to still participate in WinterFest’20 if/when you hit the speed bumps (we’ll be making some content about this asap).

    For fixed line users, don’t be too hasty to invite loads of friends around to use your internet. How fast is your download speed? Keep in mind that for every device which connects to your router, it eats up the same volume of capacity as your own. A 5Mbps line is fine for one user, but it won’t cope very well with, say, three. To be on the safe side, plan for at least 5Mbps for every user/device. So if you have a 20Mbps line, then don’t add more than four users, for example; plus, make sure your upload speed matches too!

    Upload Speeds

    This is the critical one for you if you really want to participate in an overall enjoyable experience. Upload refers to data which you yourself are transmitting from your device into the internet. In other words, if you are creating a voice and/or video stream for others to watch (which also applies to one-on-one voice/video calls).

    Ideally, you should have a good download and upload speed to use the internet properly in this modern Covid-19/post-Covid-19 era.

    For a single user, roughly 1.6Mbps (let’s just say 2Mbps to be safe) upload speed should be sufficient for a fair quality delivery to your viewer/s. If, for example, there are two of you relying on the same home network, both doing video chats, then your upload speed definitely needs to be above 3Mbps. Moreover, if a person has a huge capacity at their home, they could invite several friends over for this purpose exactly (dependent on Covid-19 social distancing regulations at the time). Just make sure you don’t get more users than available speed, or else everybody’s quality of service may become wobbly.

    Data Consumption

    Uncapped? Great! Skip this section.

    For others, how much data are you likely to gobble up? Well, we’ve stated an estimate of anything between 2 to 6 Gigabytes average, because this will differ for everybody.

    See, some people might log on for many hours of the duration of the event. Some might only stick around for one or two hours, or to engage only with the band of interest or whatever, then leave. Some people might get very social and participate all night in video chats, where others might enjoy more to watch mostly from the sidelines (not activating their cameras or microphones).

    Depending on what kind of user you are, you could easily use much less than 2Gb, or considerably more than 6Gb. Our advice is to budget for 6Gb or more. WinterFest’20 is on the first day of August, so if you’re not on an uncapped plan, at least any extra data you bought can be used later in the month for other stuff. It would be terrible if you arrived to WinterFest’20 with low expectations (ie: only 2Gb) and then found it to be quite fun and cut short. At least WinterFest’20 will be free to all – your only cost is the data you use.


    Hardware | Computer | Smartphone

    And, of course, none of this means anything unless you have a device of some sort.

    Computer devices that can be used include:

    Laptop computer – is most ideal because it’ll likely already be equipped with webcam, light, microphone and speakers. Also, you don’t have to hold it in your hands! If WinterFest’20 is as great as we’re aiming to make it, people will spend several hours with us.

    Desktop computer – is not always ideal, because unless you bought these items separately, you’re missing a critical piece of hardware, such as a webcam, lights, microphone, or a proper speaker system. But if you’re all set with these, then your desktop is perfect. If not, it’s not hard to find inexpensive add-on devices to bring you up to spec.

    Smartphone – is ideal because most of them (provided not too cheap) already are built for exactly this sort of thing with decent mics and cameras. If you’re wanting to do some video chat’s, just make sure you’re in a place with okay lighting, else you’ll just be a dark block on somebody else’s screen. You might want a stand of some sort to keep your hands free (or just something to lean the phone against).

    Tablet – is basically just an up-sized smartphone in this context. A bigger screen would definitely be a win!

    Other handy hardware tips

    Online socializing is brand new to a lot of us. There are some things we’ve already learned that you can think about if this is new to you too.

    Hands-free – if you’re not using a laptop or desktop computer, then you might want a stand or something to hold your smartphone/tablet for you so you can get comfy, hold a drink, etc. You might find you’re in the event for many hours. If you don’t have some kind of pro stand for your device, just get a couple of books or something you can lean it against, and have a table or something within easy reach. Play around a bit in advance to find something you’ll be happy with.

    Lighting – many devices don’t have onboard lighting. Remember, for yourself and everybody, WinterFest’20 will be enhanced if it’s more of a visual experience. Let people see you! Don’t be shy to get a little creative. Since it’s essentially a party, you might not want to be in a brightly lit room with a boring white wall behind you. Get into a comfortable space, and think about comfortable lighting; but that also makes you feel that you look good, the same as you might do if going out for real. If this means borrowing a desk lamp from another room and planting it somewhere strange to get the desired effect, why not do it? Have fun, but be visible. If you’re not well-lit, it’ll be the same as spending the whole night in the darkest corner of the nightclub. Then again, some people prefer that 😉

    Microphone test – okay, this is usually the task for the performers, but this time you need to do it too. Try a few calls in advance of the WinterFest’20 date. Speak with people by using your hardware and ask them if it sounds good. Maybe the sound of your voice is muffled or too faint using the device you’ve got. It’s best to figure this stuff out beforehand and find solutions. If, for example, your laptop mic sux or is damaged, maybe consider a high quality USB mic, or a headset of some sort. Maybe if you’re using a smartphone on a table or stand, you’re not close enough and need to re-think how you’d like to position it?

    Speakers / headphones – you’re going to want to hear things clearly. The onboard speakers of most devices will be terrible for this kind of experience and probably bad for your ears too. If you’re using a smartphone, you might get more out of the whole experience if you use a headset of some sort. Do a little research on what you can buy for this. It won’t need to be top dollar stuff.

    Another important thing to think about is: are you going to be alone whilst doing this? If there are more than one of you in the same space and all trying to enjoy WinterFest’20 at the same time, but using your own devices, it could get messy. Speakers and microphones of multiple devices at the same time will cause unpleasant echoe and feedback loops. In that case, either ensure that everybody in the same space uses a headset so that each person’s sound is isolated from the next, or that you all just pile in on the same device as a shared experience.

    Home router & computer – if you’re using a fixed connection via a router, then be advised that you can get better upload speeds and quality if you use a physical cable connection (ethernet) between the router and your computer rather than wifi. This is particularly important for bands and merchants, but useful for anybody who wishes to improve their upload quality (ie: showing yourself on video). Of course, most home users prefer wifi because it’s tidier than having cables all over the show, but if you can, make an exception for the occasion.