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Case Study: Going Mobile With Webcasting

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Dallas-based webcasting production services company NetStreamLive provides high-impact streaming media presentations and services for a broad range of corporate, enterprise, educational, and entertainment clients, from livestock auctions to the National Menopause Society. Digital Rapids, StreamP portable media encoding and streaming solution, controlled by a Dell D820 laptop, is at the heart of NetStreamLive’s streaming and on-demand encoding capabilities.

NetStreamLive executive producer Patrick Holloway began his production career in 1987 focusing on audio, progressing into DVD authoring before making the leap into web streaming near the turn of the millennium. Deploying early technology at a challenging time in the internet streaming market, Holloway still succeeded, landing large corporate webcasting clients including Alcatel and a major Finnish mobile phone manufacturer, for whom NetStreamLive now produces at least eight live event webcasts each year.

NetStreamLive recently expanded its roster of services with their first Mobile Broadband vehicle. The modified 4WD Ford Excursion provides secure satellite network communications (powered by Intelsat) in the field, enabling NetStreamLive to offer webcasting productions from remote locations with no dependency on the location’s existing bandwidth or connectivity—a significant advantage at sites without permanent internet connections or with inadequate bandwidth for the streaming events.

Webcasting on the Go
Back in 2004, with their early webcasting hardware and software obsolete and not upgradeable, Holloway set out to find a new solution that would meet NetStreamLive’s growing requirements. He discovered Digital Rapids StreamP-500 at the NAB trade show, and found it superior to competing solutions.

Portability was critical to Holloway. "Because we focus on live, remote webcasting, we need to be as portable as possible. The StreamP units are very handy for traveling, especially to foreign countries, as we can simply pack the Digital Rapids unit in a suitcase, with no heavy equipment to transport. Portability is even more critical now with our Mobile Broadband vehicle, which allows us to bring our own bandwidth to each location."

NetStreamLive’s Mobile Broadband vehicle features full production capabilities including switching, character generation, and audio mixing. StreamP can be fed from a third-party video feed in cases where separate production facilities are also deployed, or from NetStreamLive’s own production chain. If production must be done within a venue, StreamP is used inside the building for encoding, with a Wi-Fi bridge from the venue to the truck’s satellite connectivity providing delivery and avoiding cumbersome cable runs.

"We’ve done events where our truck is simply supplying network connectivity, and the service provider doing the encoding laments lugging a full-sized system around for encoding chores. We just smile and look at the backpack we carry StreamP in." Such were the circumstances when NetStreamLive helped webcast the 2007 Miss Texas pageant, providing encoding and connectivity while Internap delivered the video.

Holloway also found that the advantage of StreamP’s portability was matched by its exceptional output quality. The hardware-based preprocessing at the heart of StreamP’s superior quality—including motion adaptive de-interlacing and 2D and 3D noise reduction—provides performance benefits as well, reducing the workload on the laptop’s CPU and increasing the efficiency of the compression engine, thus enabling faster on-demand encoding and more simultaneous live streams.

The Mobile Broadband vehicle was used during the Texas gubernatorial elections in 2006, webcasting speeches through the final week of the campaign from multiple cities and locations. NetStreamLive also recently provided services for the 2007 AFI Dallas International Film Festival, where NetStreamLive provided Microsoft Windows Media (WMV) content from the festival to the AT&T Blue Room content destination portal, supplementing AT&T’s own coverage. Footage from interviews, panel discussions, and "red carpet" events was edited by post- production company Post Asylum, then encoded in StreamP for delivery to Blue Room.

The form factor and portability also come in handy when Holloway travels to South America to produce webcasts for clients there. "Countries like Brazil make it very hard to get a visa if you are doing a job that a local could do," he says. "So you can’t show up at customes with a half-dozen large cases when your visa says you’re there for ‘consultation,’ which is the preferred explanation."

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