ClearCaster Customer Spotlight: Biola University

July 25, 2018 by

ClearCaster Customer Spotlight

 

Case Study Snapshot

Industry

Education

Use Case

Live lectures, seminars and events; marketing content for recruitment

Production Workflow
  • Wowza ClearCaster
  • Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro camera
  • Blackmagin ATEM switcher
  • Sony PRM-EX1 camera

 

Biola University is a private Christian college in the Los Angeles area, with about 6,500 students across eight schools. In addition to broadcasting lectures, seminars and other educational content, Biola creates marketing videos to attract new students to attend.

Since many soon-to-be college students spend a lot of time on Facebook, this is a natural platform for Biola to use to share videos about what life is like on campus. The Wowza ClearCaster™ appliance offers an easy way to start streaming this content on Facebook to massive audiences of prospective students around the world. The ClearCaster workflow is also much simpler and more reliable than the previous setup Biola was using, which involved many pieces of equipment and manual encoder configuration.

In this video from the 2018 NAB Show, David Baxter, assistant director of video production at Biola, explains how ClearCaster has improved their Facebook Live streaming workflow and allowed them to engage with more prospective students more easily:

 

Full Video Transcription

Evan Paul: Hello, and welcome back to the Wowza Studio Sessions, day two, here at NAB 2018. I am Evan Paul, director of product marketing for Wowza, and I’m sitting here today with David Baxter. He is the assistant director of video productions at Biola University.

David, could you tell us a little bit about Biola University, what you do at Biola University, and what you’re set up is from a production standpoint?

David Baxter: Sure, happy to be here, Evan. Yeah, so Biola University is a private, Christian university. We’re located in the Los Angeles area, kinda right in between LA and Orange Counties.

We have about 6,500 students across eight schools, and that includes a seminary, a film school, things like that.

Evan Paul: Very cool.

David Baxter: I lead the team that handles all of our video and photography marketing, and we do everything from promotional videos, to live streaming events, to lecture capture, to photography. All sorts of stuff. Huge variety.

Evan Paul: Very cool. So your goal is to try to get students to come to Biola University?

David Baxter: That’s our job. Number one.

Evan Paul: And you’re doing that through seminars, lectures, getting that out into the world?

David Baxter: Yep.

Evan Paul: Perfect. Okay. So, what kind of camera are you using? What’s your setup?

David Baxter: Yeah, so for our marketing productions, we’re using the URSA mini pro. Primarily, for a lot of our lectures and our live events, we’re still using Sony ex 1’s at the moment. For live stuff, we’re running that into a Blackmagic ATEM Switcher, working from there, streaming out to the web.

Evan Paul: This is going through a Blackmagic ATEM Switcher as we speak, so that’s very cool.

David Baxter: That’s great.

Evan Paul: Do you have any live Q/A sessions with that? Is that part of what you do?

David Baxter: We do some of that, yeah, and it’s something we’re trying to explore more as we seek to bring recruits to our campus without them having to visit our campus. It’s great to have people visit campus, that’s when they really see what we’re all about, but if we can get people to just get a little taste and that’ll bring them in the door.

Evan Paul: Perfect. And it’s probably fair to say that a lot of those prospective students are out on Facebook, right?

David Baxter: Yes. For sure.

Evan Paul: So that’s why you’re here today. We have a great case study of Biola University using the ClearCaster to do exactly what David was saying. But, before we get into the ClearCaster, let’s start about talking about the problem that you’re having. What were you doing beforehand and how is it not what you wanted it to be?

David Baxter: Yeah, so for our live streaming, our prior setup involved just using a laptop with a software encoder. Thunderbolt dongles, that sort of thing. It was always kinda flaky. It never really worked right. The encoding quality wasn’t super high. Some days we’d plug everything in and it would want a firmware update all of a sudden. It wouldn’t be compatible. It just wasn’t reliable. It was a pain to use.

Evan Paul: Right. Were you using stream targets to get into Facebook?

David Baxter: We were. So for each stream, we would have to copy and paste a giant, long string of text into the encoder and make sure that’s all proper. Sometimes that would have to come from our social media person, so they’d have to copy and paste that in an email. You know, a lotta last minute stuff you don’t wanna be doing right before you go live.

Evan Paul: Right. Was there a lot of finger-crossing as you went live?

David Baxter: Pretty much, yes.

Evan Paul: And then, I know closed captioning is a big part of what universities need to do.

David Baxter: Yeah.

Evan Paul: When they share a video anywhere, right?

David Baxter: Yeah, so we are under a federal requirement to include closed captioning on videos, both live and on demand, and it’s something that we have to do. It’s something that we’re learning how to do. But any of the software products that we were looking at were not able to bring in closed captioning at all. And that was a big problem.

Evan Paul: Yeah, that could be a big problem, especially with federal government.

David Baxter: Yeah.

Evan Paul: Okay so, you got in contact with WOWZA, and you heard about the ClearCaster?

David Baxter: Yep.

Evan Paul: So what does the ClearCaster do for you as a solution?

David Baxter: Yeah, so the ClearCaster makes it really easy for us to stream to Facebook Live with high quality. We’re essentially just able to plug in an SDI feed, whether that’s just a single camera we’re taking someplace, … or whether that’s just the output of our ATEM Switcher at a huge live event. Plug that right in.

We got to the Facebook Live Create Page, choose the ClearCaster encoder from there, and basically hit go live. It’s very simple.

Evan Paul: No more stream targets, right?

David Baxter: No, no more stream targets. It’s great.

Evan Paul: And you know it’s gonna work.

David Baxter: Yes.

Evan Paul: Every single time.

David Baxter: For sure.

Evan Paul: That’s great. Close captioning works?

David Baxter: Yeah, close captioning works. We actually have a rack that we built that we’re able to wheel around to our events. We do things in all sorts of different venues across our campus, so we have the close captioning coder in there, we have a record deck, and the ClearCaster of course. It sends captions right through and we know it’s gonna be there.

Evan Paul: What do you do for bandwidth on that one?

David Baxter: For that we just plug into ethernet across our campus. Being on a college campus, we have lots of bandwidth so that’s not a huge problem.

Evan Paul: That is a very good thing. Part of the benefit of the ClearCaster is its integration with the Facebook Live API, which allows a frame accurate count down clock to start. Have you been using that?

David Baxter: Yeah. That’s super useful for us. Even looking back on some of our older Facebook Live streams, when we weren’t using the ClearCaster, we’ve seen people that watch it on demand, the first ten seconds that they’re watching is someone sitting there going am I live? Am I live? What’s happening?

But with the count down we know exactly when it’s gonna start so our content is able to start at the exact moment. We actually find that more people watch Facebook Live stream on demand, later, after the fact, than watch it live.

People are scrolling through Facebook so fast, if you don’t capture their attention in a second or two, if it just looks like nothing is happening, you’re gonna lose them.

Evan Paul: That’s right. So, when you’re watching it on Facebook Live, the ClearCaster goes to 1080p, have you been noticing that? Have your users been noticing that?

David Baxter: Yeah! It looks great. It’s a rock-solid encode. The motion looks great. The quality is really there. I don’t have to think about how much bandwidth we actually have. It just works essentially. I don’t have to think about setting targets, and bit rates, and making sure that lines up with Facebook’s specs and all those sorts of things.

Evan Paul: One of the unique features of the ClearCaster is the Talent View, which is something that we can show to your talent and the comments that are coming in through Facebook. They show right there. Are you using that?

David Baxter: Yeah, we use that on certain events, stuff that is a Q/A or interactive-type format. We did one Facebook Live with our Center for Marriage and Relationships. Essentially, a live podcast where people were able to ask their relationship questions, live, of our two hosts.

Evan Paul: That has got to be interesting.

David Baxter: It was. And so the two hosts were able to see the Talent View, see the questions rolling in, and then we had a second monitor set up for our social media people and other producers there, just to be able to look and see what was coming in at the same time while they’re watching the event.

Evan Paul: Makes it very engaging and dynamic.

David Baxter: Yeah.

Evan Paul: Yes. Perfect. You mentioned the rolling cart.

David Baxter: Yeah.

Evan Paul: So, on a big campus like Biola, I’m sure that’s gotta be important, right?

David Baxter: Yeah.

Evan Paul: So tell me a little bit more about that. Is this just kind of like a rig you’ve made?

David Baxter: Yeah, it’s just a really simple road case but it works well for us. We essentially can roll into any venue across our campus, plug into power, plug into ethernet for the ClearCaster and our caption box, plug in an SDI and we’re good to go.

With our old solution, we had to deal with laptops and dongles and stuff that are just all over the place, but to be able to wheel that in … Some of the Facebook Lives we’ve done in classrooms. There’re classes that are happening five or ten minutes before we’re starting, and we’re able to set up in just a few minutes. It’s worked really well.

Evan Paul: It’s probably pretty impressive. As we start talking about the results of the problem, it’s probably pretty impressive to have such rock-solid stability on top of ease of use.

David Baxter: Yeah.

Evan Paul: How often does that really happen?

David Baxter: Yeah.

Evan Paul: So, let’s talk about the results a little bit. What do you think the ClearCaster has done for you from an easy-to-use perspective? Does it allow you to go to Facebook Live more often?

David Baxter: Yeah. We’ve been using it a lot more often. Kind of as I said earlier, we feel we’re still in a little bit of an experimentation phase, as far as Facebook Live, trying things out, figuring out what works, what doesn’t.

Evan Paul: You and everybody else.

David Baxter: That’s true. Having the ClearCaster has made it easy for us to try thing. Like I said, we just roll it in, make it work. It’s also helped the quality of our streams. Before, our social media folks were just holding up their phone to do Facebook Live, and this works a lot better. We can bring in professional audio and it makes it look nice.

Evan Paul: Do you think that’s more engaging on Facebook Live?

David Baxter: We think so, yeah.

Evan Paul: A video from a phone?

David Baxter: Well, especially, people can hear and … Yeah, it helps.

Evan Paul: Audio is a good thing.

David Baxter: Yes.

Evan Paul: Awesome. Have you had any reliability issues with it at all?

David Baxter: No. It’s been great.

Evan Paul: Perfect. This is a great example of how you can us ClearCaster across a university setting or any other type of campus. We hope you enjoyed our time today and thank you, David, for coming. We appreciate your help and support.

David Baxter: Yeah, thank you.

Evan Paul: And thank you everybody for tuning in to this Wowza Studio Session.