ClearCaster Customer Spotlight: City of Corona
May 16, 2018 by
Case Study Snapshot
Live event broadcasting; government broadcasting
|Production Workflow (Summarized*)|
*For a detailed breakdown of the production workflow, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting citizens to participate in government can be a challenge, whether at the national, state or local level. When it comes to civic engagement, it’s important to reach constituents where they already are, using the tools they’re already familiar with. Recognizing this, the Information Technology team at the City of Corona, California decided to start streaming coverage of town hall meetings on social media.
However, the City initially struggled with latency and reliability issues when broadcasting to online destinations. When they upgraded their production studio, they also upgraded their previous Wirecast-based system to the Wowza ClearCaster™ appliance. Now their live streams draw record numbers of viewers who are more engaged than ever before.
City of Corona Struggles With High Latency and Hardware Issues
At a time when verifying the legitimacy of online information sources is more important than ever, it’s crucial for government institutions to have a strong presence on social media. By reaching citizens on the platforms they’re already using, local, state and national government entities can cut through the claims of “fake news” to provide accurate information, get them involved in local politics and engage with directly with their questions and concerns.
Like many government institutions, the City of Corona holds regular city council meetings, which are broadcast live on TV. And like many government institutions, the equipment and production workflow the City was using was woefully out of date. After Kyle Edgeworth joined the City’s Information Technology team as Deputy Chief Information Officer in 2016, they decided the system needed an update.
Initially, the team implemented the Granicus legislative content network (which happens to be built on Wowza technology). This allowed them to post agendas and live-stream some council sessions.
“That worked well, but it wasn't focused on where our constituents were, where they were actually getting their information and how they wanted to access that information,” Edgeworth describes. “There's a large group of people that were engaged on social media, and that was a place where the City wasn’t really engaging our constituents.”
Edgeworth recommended that the City start live-streaming council meetings on platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube, where citizens were already spending their time. In fact, they noticed that even the DIY streams council meeting attendees posted to Facebook Live from their smartphones got higher engagement rates than the official live broadcasts the City was sending to Granicus. The time had come to implement a workflow for streaming council meetings to social media destinations.
Given the decaying state of the old system, the City of Corona decided to gut their old broadcast system and control room, and did a complete, modern-day rebuild, spanning from late November 2017 to February 2018.
Master control room at City of Corona, before
Master control room at City of Corona, after
“As part of our refresh of our council chambers, we built in a system where we can make sure we would be able to engage with our constituents,” says Edgeworth.
Edgeworth served as the primary manager in the redesign and project manager in the initiative to start streaming on social channels. In their first streaming workflow, the team used Wirecast software to simulcast to Facebook Live and YouTube, with the MacBook Pro laptop they were already using for editing and post production pulling double-duty as an encoder. However, the team quickly ran into a common streaming problem: Using the same hardware for both live video encoding and post-production can put too high a CPU (Central Processing Unit) burden on the machine, resulting in high latency, buffering and technical issues.
“Even though it was on a video-editing computer [that was] brand new, it still was having a lot of latency issues,” Edgeworth says. “Our bandwidth was more than capable, but the actual hardware itself was very finicky on how we had to run the broadcast—it was very interesting.”
Another major issue: Wirecast didn’t support closed captioning, which all government broadcasts are required to have by law. To their dismay, the team found that even though captioning was set up properly on the production side of the workflow, Wirecast was stripping all the embedded captioning out upon ingest and sending a non-captioned stream to social channels.
Server rack, before and after
After struggling through a few broadcasts with the Wirecast system, Edgeworth started looking for other options. When he discovered the Wowza ClearCaster appliance, he was immediately intrigued. He signed up for a demo, and the City purchased the device right away.
ClearCaster Delivers Exponential Growth in Civic Engagement
The City of Corona team was impressed with how quick and easy it was to implement ClearCaster into their advanced production workflow; run the initial configuration; and start streaming to Facebook Live. The previous workflow was technically complex, requiring Edgeworth himself to get each broadcast up and running. But ClearCaster’s ease of use allows him to hand off streaming to other team members, saving valuable time and effort.
“Our team is easily getting the meeting running in a matter of seconds,” Edgeworth says. “[ClearCaster] was simple, easy to set up and we were streaming with closed captioning right out of the gate.”
Using ClearCaster has eliminated other common problems with their previous workflow, such as dropped streams, connection errors and out-of-sync audio. But best of all, it has enabled the City of Corona council members and staff to engage with citizens and promote participation like never before.
“The stream has been consistent—no drop, no lag, the audio sync is perfectly on cue and we haven't had any complaints from any of our constituents. Now we are able to look at engaging with our constituents, versus trying to maintain a connection.” —Kyle Edgeworth, Deputy Chief Information Officer at the City of Corona
With the Wirecast-based workflow, Edgeworth says, the average number of viewers for a given council meeting was in the single digits. But viewership has grown exponentially since they began using Wowza ClearCaster in terms of peak live viewers, minutes viewed and total video views.
“Right after we started streaming through Facebook Live with ClearCaster, our initial meeting had some 30-odd viewers. ... Every meeting since then, we've received higher and higher amounts of viewers. We're reaching a much broader audience in a matter of seconds by streaming [to Facebook], and that has been a great success for the City of Corona and its citizens.”
|City of Corona ClearCaster Live Streams|
|February 7, 2018||March 7, 2018||March 21, 2018|
|Peak Live Viewers||33||55||85|
|Average Watch Time||1:15||1:33||1:19|
Unlike with previous broadcasts the City delivered to Granicus or to public television, these Facebook audiences aren’t merely passive viewers.
“We're actually getting people starting to engage in the meetings on Facebook. They're ... asking questions, communicating with the city; and it's become much more apparent that this is definitely where our constituents are at, and [is] what they’re wanting to see from the City,” Edgeworth says. “We plan to continue our engagement and start providing a dialogue back and forth with the City’s citizens, so it's not just a place where citizens can [have a] voice, but where they can also be heard.”
The City will have the option in the future to deploy the ClearCaster Talent View display directly to council members’ seats, using their desktop second screens. This display would allow members to see questions and feedback from online constituents and respond during meetings in real time, just as if these citizens were there in the room.
For Government, an Investment in Quality Equipment Is an Investment in Community
With budgets often strained, the bottom line is important at all government institutions. For the City of Corona, implementing ClearCaster into their council chamber workflow saves valuable man-hours that translate to saved taxpayer dollars—all while providing a live broadcast that better meets the needs of the constituents footing the bill. The benefits the City of Corona has realized through ClearCaster include:
- Simpler meeting preparation that any staff member can handle.
- Faster go-live time for council meetings.
- Exponential growth in viewership and participation for live streams of meetings.
- The opportunity for council members to directly engage with and better serve their constituents.
As a result of this success, the City of Corona plans to start leveraging the new simulcast functionality of Wowza ClearCaster to reach citizens on additional online platforms, including YouTube Live.
The City of Corona admittedly has a more robust setup in its council chambers than the majority of city governments. But Edgeworth says that with the proper funding allocation, other cities can implement their own professional production workflows, whether this is done in-house or by outsourcing production to a third-party provider. What’s more, the investment really pays off in terms of civic engagement —which, is what government broadcasting is all about.
Platforms such as Facebook Live have built-in functionality for engagement, such as live commenting and the ability to easily share broadcasts. But the value of the City of Corona’s investment goes beyond the standard social features: Delivering a high-quality video stream with audio that’s clear and in sync actually causes more viewers to not only tune in, but to keep watching.
“Before we did our upgrade, we were providing a standard 480p output, the cameras were terrible, and no one really watched because it was so difficult to see,” Edgeworth explains. “If we want engagement, we need to understand what citizens want. … Now that we've upgraded, ... it looks a lot cleaner and crisper, and people are watching and engaging more.”
Edgeworth strongly encourages other local government entities to make the investment in technology, because it truly is an investment in the future of their communities.
“With cities or counties or the public sector in general, money is a challenge, and so … they might be shy in investing in technology. I think, especially in the case of ClearCaster, it was a small investment, while the benefit of our investment has paid huge dividends to our constituents and to the city in engagement; it’s an overall win for everyone.” —Kyle Edgeworth, Deputy Chief Information Officer at the City of Corona