BlueFrame Technology Achieves Cost-Effective Streaming at Scale With WowzaJuly 18, 2018
Case Study Snapshot
Live event broadcasting, streaming service provider
Production software and streaming services provider, primarily for sports client
|Wowza Streaming Engine, vCloud content management system
Production Truck (Recommended Equipment):
BlueFrame Technology offers production software; broadcast and content management; and end-to-end streaming services (from venue to viewer) for customers largely in college, amateur or niche professional sports. Many of these clients are new to streaming, and are just starting to increase bandwidth to their sports facilities. Given this, when developing their solutions, BlueFrame needed to balance a rich feature set and the ability to deliver in suboptimal network conditions with ease of use.
By building on Wowza Streaming Engine™ software, BlueFrame Technology is able to strike the perfect balance between robust, reliable and user-friendly in their product and service offerings. Best of all, Wowza technology provides flexibility and cost savings that allow BlueFrame to easily scale their solutions along with their client base.
Powerful Products and Services Meet Ease of Use
Sports broadcasters rely on a number of features and integrations in order to communicate key information and enhance the experience for end viewers. Some of the features the BlueFrame platform supports include:
- Instant-replay capabilities.
- Graphics packages clients can use within live and on-demand broadcasts to customize colors, logos, messaging and more by team, as well as to provide a standardized look and feel across all the schools in an athletic conference or association.
- Data integrations, such as in-stream scoreboards that match the in-venue information, or crowdsourced statistics for individual as well as conference and association games.
They also offer a broadcast and content management system, vCloud, that includes support for white-labeled web players, pages and portals where clients can host their live and on-demand broadcasts. In addition, BlueFrame offers white-labeled native applications for iOS, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku.
BlueFrame Technology CEO Ben Kant explains that their clients run the gamut from small colleges to professional broadcasters, so their technology must be able to support a wide range of use cases.
“We deal with really a full spectrum of broadcasters,” Kant says, “so we do end up in situations where we’re trying to make … our platform and production software both feature-rich and easy to use, and still robust to the different networking and infrastructure situations that we end up in. We basically see it all.”
Luckily, Wowza Streaming Engine offers a rich suite of developer tools, including APIs and SDKs, and is endlessly customizable, making it easy for BlueFrame developers to build the specific features clients need and create a specialized end-to-end streaming workflow.
According to Kant, clients who use both the Production Truck software and the vCloud streaming service are relieved of the hassle of managing and manually configuring many aspects on both ends of the streaming workflow.
Some of the benefits of using Production Truck and the streaming service together include:
- No need to copy and paste RTMP URLs.
- Automatically selects the appropriate configuration for their outbound bandwidth conditions.
- Eliminates the need to understand encoding parameters, codecs and streaming protocols.
- Connects client workflows to a content delivery network (CDN).
- Selects the appropriate streaming format for content.
- Provides players and portals that integrate with client websites.
- Offers native applications for mobile devices and smart TVs.
- Allows clients to monetize live streams by implementing and configuring a paywall; providing the technology to display ads; and/or by bringing ad markets to the client’s content.
Enabling High-Quality Delivery to Any Device
Not only must the products and services BlueFrame offers support robust streaming capabilities, they must also be able to deliver them seamlessly to a wide range of destinations. This requires media server software that can ingest, process and deliver content for any platform and device—which is where Wowza Streaming Engine comes in.
Whether the client is using a free, software-based encoder or broadcast-quality hardware at the venue, a Wowza Streaming Engine software instance running in the cloud can:
- Ingest a single source stream while minimizing upload bandwidth.
- Transcode streams for high-quality delivery to any user at their optimum bandwidth.
- Adaptively deliver those streams at scale to any internet-connected media player or device.
This meets the needs of many BlueFrame clients who may be streaming from areas with congested or poor-quality networks, such as schools without a rich technology infrastructure, or packed arenas with fans competing for bandwidth.
This is a common user scenario, Kant says, adding that “contribution is a major pain point for our customers.” To better address this challenge, BlueFrame has integrated Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) into their Production Truck software product, and they are implementing it for their vCloud service, as well.
Supported by Wowza Streaming Engine, SRT is a technology that provides greater stability and higher quality for streaming in suboptimal networking conditions. It accounts for packet loss, jitter and fluctuating bandwidth to maintain maximum reliability and deliver professional-grade video over any network connection.
To serve the needs of sports clients, BlueFrame must also offer technology that supports simulcasting. This allows clients to broadcast on multiple online destinations at once, such as their own website; Facebook Live; YouTube Live; and native apps for both mobile and smart TV (also known as “over-the-top,” or “OTT”) devices. Thanks to the flexibility of Wowza Streaming Engine, the team at BlueFrame was able to build custom modules to support simulcast streaming.
Custom modules that integrate with the vCloud content management system are also used for stream health monitoring and analytics. These allow both the BlueFrame support team and the client to keep an eye on broadcasts and note any errors, drops or buffers so they can correct the problem (which usually originates at the venue, due to network interruptions) as quickly as possible.
In addition to SRT, another way BlueFrame is addressing the issue of high-quality delivery that’s also cost-effective for clients is by using the GPU acceleration capability within Wowza Streaming Engine.
GPU acceleration offloads much of the computing process from the central processing unit (CPU) to the graphics processing unit (GPU), which allows the cloud server to process faster while reducing “jittery” behavior—and reduces the computing load on the CPU by up to 90 percent. This allows higher frame rates and higher-resolution video to be delivered to end viewers, Kant explains.
BlueFrame and Wowza: Cost-Effective Streaming at Scale
Kant describes another benefit of using GPU acceleration in Wowza Streaming Engine. By helping BlueFrame use resources more effectively, it reduces the need for the number of both Wowza Streaming Engine and server licenses—making it more cost-effective to run their services, and pass these savings along to their clients.
BlueFrame was in a unique position when the company was founded, Kant says, because he and his partners bought the technology from another organization that went out of business. When they took over, the infrastructure of the technology was already running on Wowza Streaming Engine. Kant and his partners figured: If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Many existing clients were already using the streaming service, Kant says, so when BlueFrame launched, they focused sales and marketing efforts largely on this service, as well as on helping organizations create networks. This is a common practice during athletic conferences and season championships, when multiple schools, associations and other content creators will aggregate their broadcasts into a single network or platform.
The ability to host multiple users on the same network has allowed BlueFrame to easily and affordably scale streaming along with a growing user base, which has almost tripled in just a few years.
“We have continued to use Wowza [because] it’s really a good fit from a scalability standpoint for our business,” Kant says. “It made it very cost-effective for us to run our service. And even as we scaled up to hundreds of clients, we’ve been able to take advantage of the pricing model of Wowza to scale with us.”
BlueFrame and Wowza: Future-Ready Streaming Technology
By building on Wowza Streaming Engine and taking advantage of capabilities such as SRT integration and GPU acceleration, BlueFrame has realized the following benefits:
- All-conditions broadcasting, offering reliable, high-resolution streaming even for clients in low-bandwidth or poor-quality network conditions.
- The ability to create digital broadcast networks for streaming-service clients, aggregating multiple clients (e.g., schools) on a single platform. This provides a common destination and branding for athletic conferences or associations, while saving on local bandwidth, video processing and delivery costs.
- Low barriers to entry through the Wowza pricing model, allowing BlueFrame to scale cost-effectively and pass savings on to clients.
- Products and services that are feature-rich and robust enough for various networking and infrastructure scenarios, while also being easy to use for clients who are not streaming experts.
- Higher frame rates and better audio and video quality, while also saving on compute resources.
Given these advantages, BlueFrame plans to stick with Wowza, and is exploring the possibility of leveraging Wowza low-latency technology to offer faster streaming to end users. Whatever the future brings for BlueFrame Technology, Wowza will help them achieve their goals and continue to grow their client base.