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LiveU Lends a Hand With The Ocean Cleanup's San Francisco Launch

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"It was incredible. I, myself, I was on a boat with our field reporter, Rachel Richardson, and we were following the system from about Alcatraz until it got to under the Golden Gate Bridge, and you could look up at the Golden Gate Bridge and it was just unbelievable, the support. There were people with signs, people waving, clapping, horns, cheering. It was an unbelievable experience!” recalls Dan van der Kooy, senior video producer for The Ocean Cleanup.

What he’s remembering is the start of the expedition to rid the Earth of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a day his organization has looked forward to for years. This ecological disaster area is finally getting the cleanup the world needs, and, thanks to live online video, more than three-quarters of a million people watched as the project got underway.

The Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit based out of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It was dreamt up by Boyan Slat, now 24 years old, who was in high school when he came up with the idea to use a passive system to collect ocean plastic. In 2013, he founded The Ocean Cleanup.

What grew out of that high school student’s imagination will change the world. The Ocean Cleanup is staffed by engineers, marine biologists, scientists, and computer modelers, all of whom bring their expertise to the project of cleaning the world’s oceans and preventing new plastic from entering. It now has 80 team members. For years, they’ve been creating prototypes and running tests. They tested a 100-meter-long system in the North Sea in 2016, and just this July ran tests in the Pacific Ocean. After refining their concept, they were finally ready to begin.

This is an aerial shot of The Ocean Cleanup’s System 001 in its final stages of assembly in Alameda, Calif. On Sept. 8, 2018, the system was towed through the San Francisco Bay toward the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to begin the process of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic. Photo courtesy The Ocean Project/LiveU

The result is System 001, a 2,000-foot floating pipe with a screen underneath it. System 001 started on its way Sept. 9, 2018, towed out of San Francisco harbor and headed for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. For the people at The Ocean Cleanup, it was important that the world be there to watch this moment.

All Eyes on San Francisco

Once it’s in place, System 001 will passively collect plastic in its net. It will take on a U-shape as its guided by wind and ocean currents. Periodically, a ship will come collect the garbage and haul it back to land.

System 001 isn’t the final step in this massive effort. It’s also a test. Once the team has studied its progress, they’ll create and launch 60 additional systems. These will float around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and nibble down its size. The organization expects they’ll be able to clean half the garbage patch in 5 years.

While System 001 looks low-tech, it’s not. For example, a camera built into one of the pods on the stabilizer frame lets the team in Rotterdam monitor plastic collection. That’s how they’ll know when to send a cleanup boat.

An army of people came to watch the System 001’s maiden voyage, as it was towed by Maersk Launcher, an ocean liner on loan from Danish transport and energy conglomerate Maersk. van der Kooy was on a boat following it, and found San Francisco’s support overwhelming. The organization had gotten a tremendous amount of press leading up to that moment.

“Yeah, everyone—local media, international media, CNN, CBS. Every major media outlet covered this event. We had a media boat and had, I don’t remember the amount of media that was on the boat, but that’s where Boyan Slat was,” van der Kooy says. “It was 5-minute blocks of interviews nonstop throughout the entire day for him. In fact, throughout the entire week. He’s been nonstop with the media.”

A snapshot of The Ocean Cleanup live-stream production equipment. All live shots were transmitted using LiveU LU500 and LU600 portable transmission units and two LiveU quad servers to receive the feeds. Photo courtesy The Ocean Project/LiveU

Supporters at home were able to cheer the project on thanks to live video capture equipment donated by LiveU. The Ocean Cleanup had seven cameras positioned throughout the Bay Area, including on a drone. It had cameras on land, boat, and the Maersk Launcher. It had a camera on the System 001 itself. Before they could reach fans, those feeds streamed to a control room in Alameda, Calif., built in a former Naval Air Station.

The live event was emceed by on-air host Kari Lundgren, as well as Ocean Cleanup communications strategy officer Rachel Richardson. While van der Kooy wasn’t able to see the streams going out, he was in touch with the production team throughout.

The event streamed live to YouTube and Facebook, with YouTube generating more than 250,000 live views and serving 1.5 million minutes of coverage, while Facebook counted 506,000 views, 5,600 shares, and nearly 48,000 reactions.

Charitable Contribution

Not only did LiveU make the streaming possible, it did so for free. LiveU provided seven LiveU LU600 units with HEVC, as well as two LU2000 quad output servers. Besides providing the hardware, it donated outside support to keep it all running. The launch had one onsite LiveU technician who provided setup, installation, and integration before the event, and support throughout. Camera and network setup was completed 2 days beforehand, with a few test runs scheduled after that.

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