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Compact Upload Solutions Create a Live Video Revolution

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"Traditionally, the large live streaming productions happen at a location where there's a need to bring in connectivity -- whether through outside broadcast trucks or through VSAT -- that were costly," said Dom Robinson, principal at D2 Consulting, as he opened The Live Streaming Revolution session at the 2011 Streaming Media Europe. The conference is currently taking place at London's Olympia 2 convention center

"At Global Mix, we had a broadcast truck that was costly," continued Robinson, "but with some of the technologies from these gentlemen on stage there are ways to set up outside broadcast for less than the cost of the seats in our van."

The companies represented -- Bambuser, LiveU, Thomson Reuters, and MiniCaster -- represent various parts of the live news and entertainment production and distribution chain.

"Our tools really took off during the Egyptian election day," said Hans Eriksson, executive chairman for Bambuser. "We saw 10,000 videos come up on a single day, when no external news crew trucks were allowed into the country. We're primarily a consumer play, enabling consumers to do live content from a number of locations."

LiveU has a compact backpack solution:

"LiveU introduced the satellite uplink truck-in-a-backpack a few years ago," said Ariel Galinsky, vice president for business and corporate development at LiveU. "But we don't use a truck, we use cellular data connections from a backpack. We support newspapers as well as major broadcasters."

"In the Egyptian revolution," Galinsky added, "we were used in Tahrir Square to broadcast when no broadcast trucks were allowed in. Our units see 20 to 25 antennas around, allowing it to hop over the more congested ones, so as to be able to deliver from less-used antennas. In a cellular crisis situation, we agree that we're not yet into the satellite level of quality, but in many areas we can deliver 1080p video content from the backpack."

A representative from MiniCaster said the TV.1UE/MiniCaster launched as part of the live streaming revolution.

"We can connect to Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, and satellite," said Michael Westphal, CEO and co-founder of MiniCaster, "using SD-SDI or HD-SDI, at a price of €2,600. We believe there will be a long-tail for live video in the very near future and products like ours will be used to broadcast from remote places."

The Reuters representative on the panel provided a newsroom-centric perspective on these remote solutions:

"Even if it's shaky or amateur, we see the value of the moving picture from remote locations as a sales opportunity," said Andreas Heidoetting, global head of webcast technology for Thomson Reuters. "Everyone remembers the pictures from the Arab Spring, even if they don't remember the words of the headline, and the video captured during the Egyptian demonstrations was compelling."

"When is good good enough for direct-to-web versus good enough for the newsroom?" asked Robinson.

"The issue is no longer quality, and we prioritize the voice over the video," said Bambuser's Eriksson, "so that even the thinnest connection can provide live breaking coverage. To compensate for the limited connectivity, we store all the frames on the handset and then upload those later to synchronize to the audio. We don't see ourselves as a replacement for the broadcaster, but as a complement. In Tahrir Square, we had video coming from windows around the square, and many content publishers and news agencies asked for our content based on the uniqueness."

Heidoetting, from Reuters, said It depends on the content.

"For news content, quality is not the key," said Heidoetting, "but for sports the quality is much more important. Context plays a big role: is the content unique, is it easy to get at a quality and price that are acceptable, and can I as a journalist validate that it's genuine content? The latter is a problem in the self-publishing approach if there are no editors or experienced journalists familiar with the geography in question."

Eriksson summarized a potential shift in the markets to crowd-sourced content, driven by the technology:

"I think we're about to see how we're going to crowd-source content from major news," he said. "More and more, it will become an issue of how to contact and contract with those who are at the scene," said Eriksson.

That topic led Robinson to ask at what point the mobile phone with embedded quality at 1080p would replace the news crew.

"You still need curation and editors to determine the legitimacy of the content," said Westphal. "It's not only the device itself, it's the entire team for news gathering that's needed, both in the field and back at the central newsroom."

"Pull back the lens," added Heidoetting. "We all know that automation is key in all processes. Over the last fifteen years we've moved from having eight people on a news gathering crew to two people. We don't really care how it's being done, in terms of the technology, but we do want to reduce it down to one person."

"In another 15 years, it may not be a full-time person but a combination of trusted sources," he added.

Westphal countered that the drive toward one single person may not work in many cases.

"In the traditional media, they like to bring down costs," said Westphal. "But, I think we need experts to capture quality content when it is possible to do so. That's what differentiates the expert from the average person with a camera."

To view the entire session, scroll down:

The Live Streaming Revolution

Moderator: Dom Robinson, Principal, D2Consulting
Hans Eriksson, Executive Chairman, Bambuser
Ariel Galinsky, VP for Business and Corporate Development, LiveU
Lippe Oosterhof, CEO, Livestation
Michael Westphal, CEO & Co-Founder, TV.1EU/miniCASTER
The Arab Spring came to most viewers not via traditional broadcast technologies but via smartphones, and more and more tools are appearing on the market that allow for broadcast-quality streaming via 3G networks. So what are the technological and market implications of a world where all one needs to deliver news is access to a cellular data network? Our panellists will discuss and debate the topic.  

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