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Case Study: Microbrewery Taps Flash For Live Coverage of Annual Cycling Event

StreamGuys utilized the Wowza Flash streaming server for the Ft. Collins event. The Wowza server was relatively new technology at the time, with New Belgium being one of the first clients to use it with StreamGuys, a preferred technology partner of Wowza. The Wowza team was extremely helpful with technical support as initial deployments began, with a quick learning curve.

The Wowza server was a very cost-effective alternative to the Adobe Flash Media server at the time, with a unique feature set that includes TiVo-like fast-forward capabilities (Fast Play) and the ability to re-stream Shoutcast MP3 stations in the Flash format. New Belgium estimates that the choice of using the Wowza streaming server cut its costs in half.

The end-to-end signal flow begins with the hardware rack solution. Two types of hardware build-outs are available: single-channel and aggregate platforms that require more than one live channel or a mix and match of streaming services, such as podcasting or on-demand streams.

The New Belgium event required only a single live channel. The brewery opted for StreamGuys’ more economical managed infrastructure for this application instead of a customized hardware rack solution. This allowed for a plug and play configuration using an existing bank of streaming servers for single channel live and on-demand applications. The approach allowed New Belgium to take advantage of a fully managed, single-channel streaming service with a la carte services to match the format and bandwidth requirements.

The Wowza software server was installed on a StreamGuys hardware node and lit with a single channel, otherwise referred to as a publishing point. A Linux OS hardware platform was used to ensure stability of the live single-channel stream. The Wowza server can be configured for multi-channel streaming in more expansive applications by simply lighting up additional publishing points.

The New Belgium team crafted the live player for its website, led by Aaron Reid, Web Creative Designer for New Belgium Brewery. StreamGuys provided a 512Kbps connection on a Flash stream to ensure outstanding video quality for viewers.

Reid was also in charge of producing the live video for the event, filming the proceedings as he rode his bicycle through the five mile bike parade. A Panasonic DVX100 handheld video camera (Reid steered with one hand and filmed with the other) filmed the video for the live stream, with a bike trailer hitched to the rear of his bicycle to contain the ancillary equipment.

The camera communicated with a Windows XP Pro laptop via a FireWire connection, and the laptop included a Sprint DVB-O wireless broadband card and a booster antenna for signal strength. The live video was streamed using the On2 Flix Live software encoder, and Reid had two uninterruptible power supplies connected to the solution to eliminate downtime.

Streaming and Monitoring
While capable of uploading at 700Kbps, StreamGuys recommended the Sprint broadband card upload at 300Kbps to avoid overloading New Belgium’s upload link while supporting viewers limited by 300Kbps speeds. The 300Kbps upload speed also compensated for video quality limitations of the wireless card, an essential component due to the mobile nature of the broadcast.

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