Technology has met governance in Midlothian, as the City Council recently began broadcasting its meetings on the internet.
Starting with the Oct. 22 meeting, after a couple of dry runs, the Council has been streaming meetings live on the city’s website, and video is also being archived for later viewing.
“We hope that everyone will take advantage of this new technology to stay informed on Council actions,” the city stated in a post on its website. “Of course, everyone is still invited to attend the meetings in person especially, if you wish to express your thoughts or opinions on a matter being discussed. This is a giant leap forward in increasing residents’ access to their local government.”
Midlothian recently partnered with Swagit Productions, LLC to live-stream indexed City Council meetings. With three cameras in the Council chambers, residents are provided with a high definition and dynamic viewing experience.
The council in July approved a contract with Swagit which included a one-time initial cost of $44,986 for video hardware, broadcast equipment and services, plus an annual managed service package of $11,940.
In December, the council amended the agreement, expanding it from 25 live-streams per year to 50 and increasing the annual fee to $17,340 per year. The increase will allow other Midlothian municipal bodies, such as the Planning and Zoning Commission, to live-stream and archive their meetings as well in 2020. The Dec. 17 P&Z meeting was the first to be live-streamed and archived.
Swagit, which is headquartered in Dallas, specializes in providing streaming video solutions to governments all across the United States.
Locally, Swagit’s clients include the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court, which also live-streams and archives its meetings; and the Waxahachie City Council, which had been producing its own live stream since 2018 with mixed results. Swagit took over the Waxahachie live stream last May.
In the instance of the Midlothian City Council, the video includes lower screen graphics, to help identify who is speaking and on camera, plus full screen graphics of digital presentations.
The broadcast of the council meetings is hands-free, meaning it doesn’t require the city to staff a production team, with the help of Swagit Productions and their Avior hands-free broadcast solution.
As a meeting is being recorded, Swagit’s video department controls the Avior system from their Dallas headquarters — switching between cameras (for views of the podium, presentation slides, and dais), while also directing and controlling those cameras through selective panning, close-ups, and wide shots.
City Council meetings are held the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. The meeting videos are indexed with the agenda and archived for accessible on-demand viewing.
Once a meeting is archived, the on-demand feature allows viewers to choose which meeting agenda items or conversations they wish to watch, and then jumps directly to that specific point within the video.