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SMW '19: Wowza Talks ClearCaster Expansion

Read the complete transcript of this interview:

Tim Siglin: Welcome to our very first interview here with Streaming Media West 2019, being held this year in Downtown Los Angeles at the Westin Bonaventure, actually an iconic hotel here in the city. In the last couple years we've come to you from Huntington Beach down by the water. But this year, we decided to move right up into the heart of the entertainment capital, Los Angeles. Today, I've got with me Tim Dougherty. And we've done an interview before a couple years ago. Tim, you're with Wowza. What's your title?

Tim Dougherty: I am Director of Sales Engineering for Wowza Media Systems.

Tim Siglin: And I think the last time we did an interview was around a product that was sort of a Facebook Live-only called the ClearCaster. Tell the audience what the ClearCaster was and what it is now, because it sounds like it's expanding.

Tim Dougherty: Sure, sure. The ClearCaster was a device that was a collaboration between Wowza and Facebook. In a nutshell, it automated everything that had to do with getting a broadcast-quality stream into Facebook Live. We celebrated the fact that ClearCaster customers could-- and they still can--enjoy 1080p. They go into a special broadcast center. It's just a wonderful, rich way to get a stream into Facebook. The whole foundation of the device was built around pairing with a Facebook account. So we were talking about features like frame-accurate start. Remember when Facebook Live, you know, people were learning how to broadcast there, there was a lot of, you know, "Is it on?" And so we put some features in there to avoid, or to diminish that, actually. Very high quality, very adaptive device. The collaboration that went on between Wowza and Facebook, particularly with regard to their API, leveraging a GraphQL development platform, it ignited what I think is a very powerful evolution. It didn't just stop. It started as a Facebook Live component. And it still continues to have that built into it today. But it does have other capabilities, as well.

Tim Siglin: And what are the other capabilities? 'Cause I know when it first came out, people were saying "Hey, I like it, can I use it for this platform or this platform?" So is it expanded platforms, is it expanded features?

Tim Dougherty: It is, in every sense of the word, both. I had the privilege of going out with our sales team, supporting them, getting it in front of broadcasters, big name broadcasters, independent. We tried, we got out there in front of everybody who we thought would be interested in this product. And while they very much embraced and celebrated the Facebook Live connectivity, they all wanted can I send this to Wowza Streaming Cloud, can I send this to YouTube, et cetera et cetera. And fortunately, that message resonated with our product team. And what I've seen in the last couple of years is a device that has expanded to of course include RTMP broadcast, SRT broadcast. It also can, it actually if you need it to can produce an MPEG-TS out. Very versatile, and the reason for that is it's built on Wowza Streaming Engine. It's not an instance of Wowza Streaming Engine. You can't log into it, you know, it's not configurable. It's our private build of that. And I don't want to get too far into the technology because I'd immediately get out of my depth. But it does have some very unique capabilities.

Tim Siglin: But it's essentially a perpetual license version of the server sitting within a hardware box that you sell, or would you say private build?

Tim Dougherty: We sell the product as a hardware component, and then there is a renewable, there's a renewable support that you can choose after a period of time to work with.

Tim Siglin: So broadcasters liked the idea of Facebook Live but liked the idea of going beyond just Facebook Live. What's Facebook's take on that? You know, you've created it as a tool for Facebook. And now if you're talking about YouTube and other platforms?

Tim Dougherty: You know, it's interesting you would say that. And I'm somewhat speaking from a distance on what they really think, but my observation having had enough proximity to what Facebook thinks, they want us to be successful. We have in no way spoken less about Facebook, it doesn't just go to Facebook. We haven't been negative about that. In fact, I feel like the folks I've talked to at Facebook and those who are in that crowd, so to speak, they want us to be successful. They appreciate the fact that this device can go to other services. And it's more than just an encoder, Tim. I'm putting my sales cap on a little bit. But the coolest thing about the ClearCaster is it's stateless, meaning it gets 100% of its configuration from the GraphQL API. So you go into ClearCaster.Wowza.com. You can define every detail of how you want to stream just like any other encoder, or you can use our highly refined and tested presets. So it removes the need to be a video engineer. It enables the developer to tightly integrate the device with their own platform. For example, there's a company I'm sure you know of StreamShark. They are aggressively integrating the ClearCaster into their workflow so they can support these encoders. When they have a customer call up and say I don't know why it's working, we have this vast log data. Vast log data, I want to say, I'm getting fouled up on my words a little bit. But it's just we can keep an eye on every aspect of the encode, everything from network to target bit rate to variable encoding. So it sets a target, say four megabits per second, and if the network degrades, you can actually see in a graph what the encoder, the ClearCaster deciding to do. I think the adaptive nature of the ClearCaster, the controllability, the stateless, so anybody can take it, put it into their workflow. We're working with a very very large government streaming organization that wants to field these to scale because they can control what's happening at the encoder right their in their center.

Tim Siglin: And that brings up sort of a natural final question. Somebody decides they want multiple ClearCasters. What kind of management tools are in place to handle multiple instances or multiple devices?

Tim Dougherty: That's a fantastic question. When you log into your account, it's very synergistic in the sense that if you have multiple ClearCasters, you can have them in parallel. It's almost like a juxtaposition. You have broadcasts, and then you have devices. So you can go into a broadcast at the click of a pull-down menu choose ClearCaster One, ClearCaster Two, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago. And that's it. Remember, these things are stateless. So you choose it, it shoots the instructions down. It's remarkably responsive. If you're sensing any excitement in my voice, it's genuine. I really believe in this product. I look forward to it continuing to expand and grow.

Tim Siglin: Good, awesome, well and we look forward to doing future interviews with you. And again, this is Tim Dougherty with Wowza Media Systems. We'll be right back with our next interview.

Tim Dougherty: Thanks, Tim.

Tim Siglin: You're welcome.

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