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Making Live Video Events Work with MTV

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Anyone who's struggled putting together a small live video event should hear war stories from Rob Roskin, senior manager for video operations and emerging technologies at MTV. Roskin sat down for a red carpet interview at the recent Streaming Media West show in Los Angeles to talk about putting the MTV Video Music Awards online.

Working at Los Angeles's Nokia Theater, Roskin's team output 10 live streams of the ceremony, plus pre-show coverage at a hotel. The team input video from 20 cameras, including robotic models. Video was edited and encoded at a nearby offsite facility.

Roskin's team output video for the Apple iPhone and iPad, Android devices, and Flash for the desktop. Viewers were able to click on a map to pick which camera they wanted to view, mix their own stream from six options, or else just watch MTV's mix. For his team's hard work, MTV streamed to around 50,000 concurrent viewers.

One thing Roskin has learned is that you don't deliver major events using an in-house budget. Sponsors are a must.

"In order to do any show -- this might be slightly editorializing -- but to do any show where you have 20 cameras and 10 feeds, and stuff pre-show/post-show, all this stuff coming in, it's hard to do that on a budget that your boss will give you. A lot of times you need marketing to step in and kind of do the heavy lifting," said Roskin.

While MTV had to create and stream around 150 renditions of its videos for the event, Roskin revealed that most of the data isn't saved. Keeping everything would take up too much room.

Years of experience have taught Roskin how to stream live effectively. For example, while the website offered previews of the six optional streams, it only delivered low-res thumbnail views, in order to use as little bandwidth as possible. Running six full videos on a site at the same time creates performance problems, he said. The site is coded to shut down the thumbnail streams first, if congestion occurs.

The editing team for the VMAs included eight people, each working on their own segment. By splitting the show up, MTV is able to offer clips about 15 minutes behind the live feed.

While social media is a hot buzz word, MTV doesn't take user suggestions during events, and keeps chats limited to viewers talking to other viewers.

"So many people would have so many differing ideas," said Roskin. "We have our agenda too, and we can either -- you can't please everyone, right? So we either just stick with what we're doing or we start trying to please everyone."

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These Streaming Media Red Carpet Interviews are sponsored by Front Porch Digital.

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