The following sections describe how to use Handbell Stadium as a simulator for ringing online with other ringers, having familiarised yourself with Solo Practice.
Setting up a Voice Channel
- If you wish to ring online, you will need to contact some other ringers with Handbell Stadium and motion controllers and arrange a time to meet up online, agreeing the communication platform to be used.
- Any communication platform that supports voice can be used, such as Skype, Zoom, Teams, Meet, Facebook Rooms. The recommended platform is Discord, a platform used by gamers and video streamers. It has features that make it particularly suited to the purpose, and there is a ringing server for it already set up which you can join and use for free with no time limits.
- Video can be used too, but this will put additional strain on your computer and internet connection that is unnecessary. Most platforms allow you to start without video, or turn it off.
- The remainder of this help assumes you are using Discord.
Using Discord for your Voice Channel
- Click on Discord Changeringing Server to join the Changeringing server on Discord.
- You can use Discord in a web browser, or download the app. The latter is better if you are going to use it frequently.
- When you join up, you are placed in the #general-chat-stadium channel that can be used to chat to other members and ask questions.
- On the left hand side you should see a list of channels. These are grouped under General, Handbell Stadium, Ringing Room and Muster.
- You can expand the Handbell Stadium group and collapse the others by clicking on the heading.
- Click on the #announcements-stadium for information messages.
- The other channels marked with a loudspeaker are voice channels (also known as voice rooms). You join a channel by clicking on it and your Discord name and icon will appear underneath. If other people are in the same voice room you can talk to them.
- Clicking on another voice room will move you to that room, so it is very easy to move between the various rooms at a practice session.
- When finished, click on the x against a telephone at the bottom to leave all voice rooms.
- You can use any unoccupied voice room for your band. For a practice, with unknown numbers of people, you can use the rooms named Practice #1 etc. If you want to limit the number of people in the room you can use those labelled Minor #1 etc for 3 ringers, Major #1 etc for 4 and so on. This prevents others joining your voice room while you are ringing.
- If you can't hear, or others can't hear you, click the cog at the bottom of the channel panel and go into Voice & Video to check that Discord is set up for the input and output device you are using. A headset is best, because it avoids any feedback from Handbell Stadium via your microphone.
- For more help on Discord, you can download this guide written for us by Dave Jones.
- Once you have established voice communication with your band, you can set up Handbell Stadium.
Setting up Handbell Stadium for Online Ringing
- The first thing to do before starting Handbell Stadium is to make sure that your default output device on your computer is setup to your headset if you are using one, as Handbell Stadium uses the default output device to play bell sounds.
- Launch Handbell Stadium and go into Online from the menu.
- Enter the name of the Handbell Stadium server. To reduce latency, servers are available in different geographic regions:
- You do need to be on the same server as your other ringers, so for international ringing you should agree which server to use.
- Enter your name. This needs to be unique for the ringers currently on that server. You will get a message if the name is already in use.
- Click Connect. If the server is up, you have internet connectivity and are using a compatible software version of Handbell Stadium then the lobby screen should appear.
- If it says Incompatible Version then download the latest version of Handbell Stadium from here.
- The Lobby contains a list of ringers online down the right hand side, and a list of active rooms, if any, at the top.
- There is a text chat you can use in the Lobby to communicate with the other ringers not already in a room.
- Nominate one of your band as the organiser. They click on Create Room and give it a name that others will recognise.
- The organiser will then be put in the room with their two bells.
- After a few seconds, the room name will appear in the list on the lobby screen.
- The other members of the band click on the room name to select it, then click Join Room.
- All of your band should now be shown in the Handbell Stadium room.
Handbell Stadium Server Name
Choose the server that is closest to the majority of your band
uk.handbellstadium.org - UK and Europe
nz.handbellstadium.org - Australia, New Zealand and Asia
us.handbellstadium.org - North America
Organising the Band
- The organiser (who created the room) has some functions that are not available to the remainder of the band.
- Once everyone is in the room, the organiser clicks on the Pair button. A dialog box allows them to:
- Enter a Performance Title in place of the room name.
- Change the ringer assign to each pair.
- Assign one or more ringers as conductor.
- Change the Ping balancing delay. The default of Auto should be suitable for most purposes, but if you are experiencing ping balancing delays of over 50ms, you may want to try fixing it at 50ms.
- Clicking Done updates the room so that everyone is on the assigned pair.
- If you are ringing for any length of time, the organiser should also click Start just before you start ringing. This will lock the room preventing anyone else inadvertedly entering your room from the lobby.
- Note that if no changes are rung for 10 seconds, it will auto-stop and start should be pressed again when ready to go again.
- You are ready to ring.
Improving the Ringing Experience
- Online ringing relies on a very large number of components parts making up the whole system from your own computer configuration
at home through your local internet connection through to a server and out again through everyone else's internet connection to
their computer configuration. Only if all of these are working at their best will you get a good ringing experience.
The following tips should help you improve this.
- Handbell Stadium is written in a system for 3D gaming called Unity. It places significant demands upon your computer, especially graphics. Using an up to date computer, with high performance graphics will give best results.
- To give you an idea of how your computer is performing, in options set VSYNC off, and set FPS to its maximum of 250 frames per second and Graphics Quality to High Quality. Then start Handbell Stadium ringing a method in practice mode on autopilot, and look at the numbers at the top right of the screen.
- These represent the variable and fixed frame rates within Unity measured in Frames per second (FPS). The first (the variable frame rate) is used to render and refresh the images on your screen. The right hand (fixed frame rate) is used to control time-dependent activity, such as ringing the computer's bells at the correct moment. It is essential that this remains constant at 100 FPS.
- If you have a very high performance computer with a dedicated graphics card, it may be able to achieve the maximum frame rate you have set, so it will show 250.0 (or close to it) and 100.0.
- If your computer is showing a variable frame rate of less then 40.0 FPS, or the fixed frame rate is not 100.0 FPS, both numbers are highlighted in Red.
- In this case you need to reduce the load on your computer. This can be done by changing the Graphics Quality to Balanced, or Performance. Reducing the Screen Resolution in Handbell Stadium may also help.
- When running Handbell Stadium it will also help if you have as few programs running in the background as possible, such as browsers, email clients and other applications. If you are using Discord, then you will need its app or browser window running, but you can close all other browser tabs. You could also run Discord on another device such as a tablet or phone, although this can introduce further issues with feedback.
Your local network
- We have observed that one of the biggest contributors to increased latency is WiFi. This is affected by the distance your computer is from the access point, and any other devices using the same access point. Significantly it seems to be prone to brief spikes that cause delay in transfer of swing and strike information.
- If you can attach your computer to your router by cable, or by a powerline network extender that has a plug in port if in another room, that can improve the consistency of your network connection significantly.
- To test this out, launch Handbell Stadium and click Online. Connect to the server and create you own room.
- Below the FPS numbers discussed above, you will see a Ping Balancing figure, and below that your own Ping value. The Ping is the round trip time for a message to be sent from Handbell Stadium on your computer via the Handbell Stadium server and back again. The term ping comes from the submarine technology that used sonar to detect nearby objects and determine how far they are away. You want your Ping to be as low and stable as possible.
- Activity by other devices on your home network can also affect your ping, such as streaming video. If you do the test above while such activity is in progress, you can determine whether it is having an impact.
- The type of internet connection you have can affect your ping too. It is not bandwidth that we are particularly interested in, as Handbell Stadium does not send large quantities of data, but the speed of transmission is key. Broadband speedtests will usually tell you what ping value you are getting from your ISP as well as the bandwidth (how many megabits per second). The best connections are Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) as you then get end to end transmission at near the speed of light. Next is Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), which means that the last leg of connection from your nearest cabinet in the street is over copper cable. Then there is Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) which will be copper cable from your house to your nearest telephone exchange. All of These types of connection are then shared with other customers, and that can affect the variability in speed of transmission. The number of customers sharing a line is called the contention ratio, and this is dependent upon your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Changing to an ISP that gives you a lower contention ratio can also improve your service.