ClearCaster Customer Spotlight: Live X

February 5, 2018 by

Wowza ClearCaster Customer Spotlight

Case Study Snapshot

Industries

Live event broadcasting

Streaming service provider

Use Case

Live streaming/broadcast services and consultations for high-profile clients

Production Workflow
  • Cameras: Blackmagic Design Ursa Mini Pro 4.6K, Blackmagic Design Micro Studio 4K Camera
  • Lenses: Canon L Series, Canon CN-E, Tokina Cinema, Venus Loawa lenses
  • Robotics: Vinten Vantage System
  • Switcher: ATEM 2M/E Broadcast Studio 4K with 2M/E Broadcast Panel
  • Graphics and Playback: LiveFX Custom 4K Key/Fill Graphics System
  • Lighting: Arri L7C and L5D fresnels, Litepanels Astra 1x1s LED Panels and Bricks, KinoFlo Freestyle LED Panels, Litepanels Gemini Panels, Vintage Edison Bulbs
  • Encoders: Wowza ClearCaster™ appliance for Facebook Live; AWS Elemental 4K Encoder for YouTube Live; Haivision KB Series Encoder for Periscope/Twitter

 

ClearCaster case study on Live X’s regular Facebook show, “Ready Take Live”

 

 

When it comes to streaming technology, the team at Live X are experts. As a professional live broadcast and streaming services provider, Live X has used just about every workflow and encoder on the planet, and has been streaming on Facebook Live since before the API was released.

Live X provides professional video services to high-profile clientele whose streams are “too big to fail.” For example, the Live X team streamed to 32 Facebook Pages at once for Vox Media’s SB Nation NFL Draft show; went live for the Democratic National Convention in 2016; and built Warner Music Group’s streaming studio. They were also the first to stream on Facebook for popular live-news network Cheddar, and were broadcasting from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange the day Facebook announced the Live API.

Oh, and they live streamed one of the biggest events of the year—the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square—using the Wowza ClearCaster™ appliance. (More on that later.)

These big-name clients need fail-safe broadcasting to Facebook Live. Averaging nine live streams a day, Live X sought a solution that worked every time to deliver the highest possible video quality to the world’s largest social network. But every solution they tried was found lacking, until they found ClearCaster.

 

Only a Best-of-Breed Facebook Live Encoder Provides the Best Video Quality

Wirecast. Elemental. Vmix. Teradek Core. Teradek Cube. You name the software or hardware encoder, and Live X has probably used it when delivering a live stream or building a studio for one of their high-profile clients to broadcast on Facebook Live. But none of these solutions delivered the high-quality video they needed for Facebook delivery—that is, at least not without manually fiddling with encoder settings for hours on end.

Corey Behnke, producer and co-founder at Live X, says that most streams you see on Facebook Live simply don’t look that great—even when they’re done on behalf of big-name brands and personalities. As Behnke describes, Live X was already well familiar with the importance of using a dedicated encoder, and they always strive to use best-of-breed products. But nothing they had tried quite lived up to their high standards.

When your stream absolutely, positively can’t go down, not only is it crucial to use hardware instead of software, but you also don’t want to use the same machine for production and encoding due to limited CPU (Central Processing Unit) availability.

“Sometimes I don’t want to encode on the box I’m switching on, because it taxes it,” Behnke says. “For 50 to 60 percent of workflows, I’m a huge fan of hardware switchers and specialized encoders.”

Behnke trusted the Wowza brand, having used Wowza Streaming Engine™ software and the Wowza Streaming Cloud™ service when building client solutions in the past. As more Live X customers began to request Facebook Live as a streaming destination, he decided his team needed to try the dedicated encoding and delivery solution Wowza recently released.

Initially, Behnke was skeptical about the value of an appliance dedicated solely to Facebook Live, when his clients often need to deliver to multiple destinations. After using ClearCaster to broadcast their service division’s regular Facebook Live show, “Ready Take Live,” his concerns completely dissipated.

“You’ve turned me around completely,” Behnke says. &ldquldquo;After the success of Ready Take Live, and everything we’ve experienced, I’m pretty much going to use ClearCaster in all our workflows. The number-one reason is because of the quality of the encode. … It’s ridiculous.”

 

The Easiest Way to Boost Facebook Live Engagement and Reach

One thing that continually frustrated Behnke and his team about other solutions for streaming to Facebook was that they never knew the exact moment they were live, so videos tended to start with a long period of dead air: up to 20 seconds.

Not only did this fail to convey the level of professionalism Live X and their clients strive for, but the Facebook algorithm also gives less weight to posts in which the content doesn’t start right away. Factor in paid boosts, and they found themselves in the tricky situation of high price tags for content that appeared lower than they wanted in viewers’ News Feeds.

When the Live X team realized ClearCaster provided a frame-accurate countdown clock, cuing the exact moment broadcasts went on the air, they knew this would change everything for the better. Not only would this increase visibility for their Facebook Live videos, it would also keep viewers engaged right from the beginning.

“The best part about [ClearCaster] is that you can start your Facebook Live show as soon as you are live. I’ve never seen a live video or VOD on Facebook that starts right when the talent does. ClearCaster makes this possible—that’s a game-changer. … Eliminating the minutes of slate from the top of the video should make the video gain more reach and engagement.”   —Rob Baynard, producer at Live X and host of “Ready Take Live”

The ability to actually start a broadcast at the moment of going live, and for on-screen talent to know when your stream is on the air, brings Facebook Live streaming to a whole new level of professionalism, and “you actually can’t overemphasize that fact,” Behnke says.

This has huge implications not only for live streams, but for VOD (video on demand) assets, as well. Many of Live X’s clients host a regular Facebook Live show, but still get the majority of their video views from VOD—often up to 60 percent of an asset’s total views.

“If 60 percent of your views are coming from VOD, and your player doesn’t play immediately, it’s playing dead air,” Behnke says. “And of course you can trim the video and upload it, but now you’ve lost all the views on the video; … you’ve lost your comments; you’ve lost your views; you’ve lost your engagement.”

The Live X team was also impressed with how easy it was to get ClearCaster up and running and to use it for future live streams. Gone are the days of manually adjusting encoder settings to fine-tune the quality and performance their clients need for massive global audiences; ClearCaster is truly a “plug and play” solution.

“All you need [are] power and internet,” says Rob Baynard, producer at Live X and host of the “Ready Take Live” program.

“It is nice how easily you can pair it with any Facebook account and choose it as your encoder,” adds Craig Babcock, assistant producer and associate technical director at Live X.

Live X Studio Uses ClearCaster for Its Facebook Live Equipment Setup

One of the greatest successes Live X has experienced using ClearCaster has been with their “Ready Take Live” show. On this weekly Facebook Live program, Baynard shows their tech-savvy audience all the cool products they regularly receive.

Designed to fill a lack of editorial content in the industry, as well as to promote Live X as an innovative and diverse organization, Ready Take Live features product unboxing, demos and reviews of new broadcast and streaming products. The team was so thrilled with ClearCaster that not only are they now recommending ClearCaster to all of their Facebook Live streaming clients, they’re also using it for their own flagship production—and Live X named ClearCaster the Best Encoder of 2017!

According to Baynard, the countdown clock and the Talent View are the most critical success factors in implementing ClearCaster. The fact that he, as the host, can see exactly when they’re live, and that the staff in the control room staff know exactly when to drop slate and cue him to start the show, has an immeasurable impact. What’s more, the ability for Baynard to see comments from followers through the Talent View and respond to them in real time helps him host a more streamlined, professional show.

Live X built their in-house master control room and studio with an all 12-G SDI infrastructure, which delivers up to 4K 60p resolution throughout the chain—in fact, they are the only studio in New York that offers this. ClearCaster is now a permanent part of their advanced workflow, delivering high-quality broadcasts to Facebook for “Ready Take Live” and other special programming.

Live X Facebook Live production workflow and control room setup

Live X Implements ClearCaster in Full 12-G SDI Workflow

“We chose the Ursa Mini Pro cameras to work with an ATEM 4K switcher, because it’s the only 12G camera to switcher product on the market. As an added bonus, the ATEM allows us to control focus, iris and color correction on the cameras via a Davinci Resolve Micro Panel we have mounted just above the switcher. The large Super 35 4.6K sensors of the Blackmagic cameras really come to life with integrated live Davinci Resolve color control.

“Our proprietary 4K graphics system allows us to use proper Key-Fill 4K graphics and playback over 12G-SDI, using a custom interface we developed for some of our clients and decided to use it in our facility as well.

“The talent lighting is all LED, with RGB color control to allow us to create some cool effects in the studio. We also have RGB LED cubes and table as a part of the set, along with a 65″ on-set monitor.

“Our baseline for the show is 2160p/30. We are super happy to be able to give the Clearcaster our full resolution program on one 12G-SDI line and let it worry about the rest.

For our Elemental 4K encoder, we have to convert from 12G to Quad-Link SDI. We have to convert to 1080p for our Haivision encoder, but it is a very robust encoder in its own right.”

—–Rob Baynard, producer at Live X and host of “Ready Take Live”

 

As mentioned, Live X even used ClearCaster to live-stream the official Times Square ball drop on New Years Eve using Wowza ClearCaster—an event that’s too big to fail, and where even a second of buffering could mean audiences miss the 2018 countdown. With this professional setup behind their streaming, the team knew they could deliver this important broadcast to audiences all over the world.

 

When Facebook Live Streaming Is Too Big to Fail, Use ClearCaster

Live X has experienced many benefits by switching to ClearCaster for Facebook Live streaming, most notably:

  • Vastly superior encode quality.
  • The ability to know the exact moment their broadcast is Live on Facebook, through ClearCaster’s frame-accurate countdown clock.
  • Better audience engagement and reach for each video.
  • Improved ease of use, including speedy setup and eliminating the need to configure encoder settings.

This has helped them deliver live streams that meet their high standards for quality and performance on behalf of some of the biggest names in media, entertainment, sports and fitness. We can’t wait to see the streams the Live X team will produce using ClearCaster in 2018 and beyond.

“This is truly the most innovative thing to happen in live encoding.” —Rob Baynard, producer at Live X and host of “Ready Take Live”