Whitehorse Productions and StreamGuys collaborate for live performance video streaming

Posted in Streaming on Dec 16, 2010

The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, generally referenced as “The Greene Space,” regularly hosts broadcasts and live tapings of signature WNYC programs including Soundcheck, Radiolab and The Leonard Lopate Show. Recent and upcoming live performances, listed at www.wnyc.org/thegreenespace, include national artists such as Elvis Costello, Regina Spektor and Leon Fleisher. Whitehorse Productions, Inc. is a New York City video services company that specializes in digital video production and post, location production, permanent installations and other professional video and integration services for broadcast, commercial and corporate clients. In 2008, Indira Etwaroo, executive director of The Greene Space, contacted us for consultation on the design of a cost effective video production facility. We worked closely with the Greene Space Team to develop a unique 21st century highly automated television production model that minimizes labor costs while maintaining state of the art production values.

After its 2009 opening of the Greene Space, Whitehorse was retained to provide video production services, crews, training and ongoing design strategies to match the growth of the facility. Since then we have produced more than 150 long-format shows for WNYC, WQXR and other Greene Space clients. Past performances include Sting, Roseanne Cash, David Byrne, Wyclef Jean and Lou Reed. Our video production workflow for live events connects with the StreamGuys infrastructure, and has served more than 50,000 viewers worldwide during the 2009/2010 season with the capacity to support many more.

Streaming Strategy

New York Public Radio has long been a proponent of streaming media. The broadcaster offers live streams and on-demand podcasts of its WNYC and WQXR radio broadcasts, as well as an all-digital web-based classical music channel called Q2. Streaming media provider and content delivery network StreamGuys has provided the streaming platform, world-class service and data integrity for all of New York Public Radio’s online audio content since 2005. Management at New York Public Radio understands the long term vision of digital media and entertainment distribution via the Internet and has included live television and Video On Demand as core elements of the business model going forward. Therefore the relationship with our streaming media provider/CDN is a critical element of our strategy for success going forward.

Production Workflow

The Greene Space television system is a full high definition 16:9 chain based around a SMPTE292, 1080i SDI backbone. Four Sony BRC-Z700 robotic camera feed a Panasonic AVS400A eight-input SDI switcher. The video is output to Sony HDW-1800 CineAlta HDCam and Sony HVR-1500A HDV recorders.

A ViewCast Niagara GoStream Surf encoder is the bridge between the on-site production system and the StreamGuys streaming platform. The encoder incorporates the Flash H.264 codec, encoding and streaming the video at 768 kbps for delivery to StreamGuys. We typically employ a three-man crew for each event; I usually serve as director and chief engineer, along with a separate switcher operator/assistant director and a robotic camera operator/director of photography.

Smaller events like talk shows and corporate shoots may only require a one- or two-man crew. When needed we can bring in one or two additional camera operators for larger entertainment events requiring additional production values.

Streaming Infrastructure

StreamGuys has established a streaming platform for The Greene Space that is ready to go on a moment’s notice. We typically notify StreamGuys in advance so they are available to assist if needed.

The streaming platform includes individual Wowza Media server banks that provide redundancy and additional capacity for high-traffic events. Many of The Greene Space performances and shows garner a lot of attention — particularly daytime events that are announced live on WNYC and/or WQXR. StreamGuys consulted on the ViewCast encoder configuration. The encoder broadcasts to each server bank individually; StreamGuys picks up the live stream and broadcasts it in the Flash H.264 protocol for standard definition video, and AAC for audio. The quality of the encoded signal is very high, and the encoder supports both 4x3 and 16x9 aspect ratios. (Most broadcasts are 16x9.)

The ViewCast encoder is robust enough to process multiple outputs and archive simultaneously. Archived video streams are uploaded to the StreamGuys platform; StreamGuys subsequently delivers the on-demand file to the Flash player on The Greene Space website. The Flash player incorporates a load balancing application, which directs viewers to the server with the smallest load.

StreamGuys also has the ability to set up a live stream in the event someone from the Whitehorse crew is unavailable to initiate the process. The ViewCast encoder is accessible from a web browser, giving StreamGuys easy access to the operation. An added bonus is that StreamGuys can keep track of the concurrent number of viewers for each broadcast, providing New York Public Radio will real-time statistics. StreamGuys processes log files for all of the Wowza nodes, building statistics for hits, number of visitors, play duration and geographic location of the audience.

Working with a streaming media provider/CDN has enhanced our ability to produce a high-quality live stream. StreamGuys provides plenty of bandwidth through big pipes and a robust backbone. They are always available for testing prior to events, and also assist us when streaming live events from remote locations like the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Princeton University and the Borough of Manhattan Community College among other sites. It has made for an ideal partnership between broadcaster, video producer and streaming media provider.

See some our work at www.wnyc.org/thegreenespace/

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