Wowza LIVE from NABMay 8, 2015
This was a momentous year at NAB for Wowza and featured a number of “firsts”:
- It was the first time we offered unlimited use of Wowza Transcoder, Wowza nDVR and Wowza DRM with the Wowza Streaming Engine Pro core product.
- It was the first time we introduced Wowza Streaming Cloud, our cloud-based professional-grade streaming service with no-commitment, pay-as-you-go pricing for live streaming to audiences of any size on any device.
- It was the first time we gave out orange Wowza cowboy hats at our booth party.
- And it was the first time we live streamed our customer and partner presentations from our booth at NAB.
Since we are in the business of live streaming, we thought there was no better way to debut our Wowza Streaming Cloud service than to use it to stream our own presentations at NAB.
Keep in mind that Wowza is not a video production or live streaming production company. So, we thought we would share the top five lessons we learned from our own live streaming event at NAB 2015:
Lesson 1: Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth.
The number one reason a live streaming event fails is because of poor or unreliable Internet bandwidth. Our customers often have to resort to wireless bonding solutions to deal with the unavailability of reliable Internet in remote locations, stadiums or concert venues. NAB, IBC, and other trade shows are also notorious for poor Internet connections and wireless interference.
For that reason we decided to purchase a dedicated 10 Mbps Up/Down connection provided by the venue (we could have bought an island in the South Pacific for the same price). This Internet connection was also used for the Wowza Streaming Cloud demos in our booth.
We conducted several Speed Tests the day before and on the morning of a live stream. We had reliable Internet bandwidth, and in the interest of not overloading it we decided to set our Wirecast software encoder to stream in HD at 720p at a bitrate of 2 Mbps for video and 128 kbps mono for audio. That way we had plenty of overhead should the bandwidth fluctuate.
We started a Wowza Streaming Cloud live stream and kept the recommended transcoder settings to create 5 bitrate renditions. These renditions are automatically encoded by the cloud service and delivered to the viewer through the player using Adaptive Bitrate Streaming (ABR). ABR Streaming works by detecting a user's bandwidth and CPU capacity in real time and adjusting the quality of a video stream accordingly.
We also configured Wowza Streaming Cloud to push the highest quality of the live stream from the cloud to our YouTube Live channel. That enabled us to not have to push additional streams from our venue and take up additional bandwidth.
Lesson 2: You Live and Die by Your Equipment
Any video producer knows that you are only as good as your equipment. The same is true for live streaming. When I say “equipment”, that not only means your camera, it means your encoder and live streaming service provider as well.
For our live stream we captured the raw video and audio feed from our JVC GY-HM650 camera using the BlackMagic Intensity Shuttle Thunderbolt capture device. We then used Telestream Wirecast Pro as our software encoder and production tool to add effects such as lower thirds, graphics, music and more. We encoded the stream in HD at 720p at a bitrate of 2 Mbps for the H.264 video and 128 kbps for the AAC audio.
The final step was to simply download a configuration file from Wowza Streaming Cloud, import it into Wirecast and we were ready to stream.
From a production perspective, we setup our camera to capture the XLR audio feed from the soundboard we were using to capture and mix the presenter’s wireless lavalier microphones for the PA system. We used IP cameras mounted in the booth as additional camera sources, and also used the Telestream Wirecast Desktop Presenter software utility to capture the presenter’s computer screen and pull it into Wirecast as a video source.
Truthfully, the results were much better than I expected. The live stream events ran back-to-back for over 2 hours at times, and Wowza Streaming Cloud worked flawlessly. I had several users testing the performance in Europe, New Zealand and on both the East and West coasts of the United States, all with great results. When it comes to equipment and your live streaming service provider: test, test, test.
Lesson 3: If You Build It They Won’t Necessarily Come
We recently had a Wowza consultant who was producing a live stream for a customer who was expecting an audience of over 100,000 concurrent viewers. The customer invested in their own Origin/Edge infrastructure and CDN contract to be able to handle the demand. On the day of the event they maxed out at fewer than 1,000 concurrent viewers. Although it is crucial to plan for how to scale your audience, choose a solution that can scale without hurting your bottom-line, and that can handle 100,000 viewers, but only charge you for what you use.
Another key point to keep in mind is how to market your event and monetize your live stream? With Wowza Streaming Cloud we were able to live stream to a white-label player on wowza.com and market the event to our existing user base. However, we were also able to easily push the stream to YouTube Live and other live streaming services to reach a larger audience. Think of additional ways you can distribute your live stream ahead of the event, whether it’s through your Facebook page or partner web sites.
Lesson 4: Engage Your Audience
We were lucky enough to do joint customer presentations with Duke University, TV2 Norway, Southeastern University, Kaltura, and Field59. We also hosted several of our Works With Wowza partners, including Microsoft Azure, Sony, LiveU, Epiphan, JW Player, Telos Alliance, Matrox and Telestream. However, schedules are constantly changing during trade shows, and we quickly realized that when you commit to live streaming these presentations you need to make sure they start and stay on schedule
Your live streaming audience isn’t at your event, and you need to have a plan in place to communicate with them throughout the live stream and on your web page. It is also a good idea to have additional chat support for sales and support. Define your goals for your live stream, and make sure you follow through so you don’t leave your audience hanging.
Lesson 5: It’s Not a One-Man Show
Is it possible to have one person run the entire production and live stream workflow? Yes. Should you? Probably not. You need to make sure the presenters are prepared, demo machine setup, PA system and audio levels correct, multiple cameras setup, Wirecast live streaming and produced, Wowza Streaming Cloud channel running and more.
The final production will be better off for it.
Live streaming really is at your fingertips
With a mobile live streaming setup that allows me to use my laptop, a software encoder and a pay-as-you-go live streaming service, I was able to share our live event with a global audience from NAB at an extremely affordable cost.
In fact, Sony used Wowza Streaming Cloud to live stream their own NAB Press Event, allowing them to stream directly to their web site and Facebook page as well.
Do something you've never done before. That’s how you learn. Sign up for a free 30 day trial of Wowza Streaming Cloud and get up and running with your own live event stream.
Here are some additional details on the equipment we used for our live stream:
Encoder: Telestream Wirecast Pro
Hardware: MacBook Pro
Model: Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013
Processor: 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7
Memory: 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR
Graphics: Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB
Camera: JVC GY-HM650 ProHD Mobile News Camera Features
HDMI Capture Card: BlackMagic Intensity Shuttle Thunderbolt