Facebook Live Streaming That Works for Video Production ProfessionalsOctober 23, 2017
It’s Monday morning at BeyondPix Studios: a premier video production services provider in downtown San Francisco. This busy organization provides studio space and broadcast services for live correspondent reporting, commissioned by national, global and affiliate news organizations. For Albert Leung, the broadcast center manager, the day starts quietly at 2 a.m.; by 10 a.m., the calendar is jam-packed and the studio is buzzing with activity.
The dark control room is glowing with the light of monitors, buttons, control panels and other equipment that covers every wall and surface. A large window opens up onto the adjacent studio space, where a guest-interview segment is being taped for a major global news network. The guest sits in front of an attractive, televised background image of the Golden Gate Bridge, and his notes are displayed on slides on a monitor in front of him.
Whether serving the biggest names in global news or local network affiliates, BeyondPix uses advanced production workflows, including professional-grade cameras; lighting; microphones and sound mixers; and video routing and switching equipment. The feed from the studio plays on a giant monitor directly in the center of the control room, and videos from other sources are displayed along the bottom of the screen, including the final, produced news product; the commercials being cut in; and satellite feeds from affiliates and correspondents.
Every Second Counts In Live Broadcasting
The production studio is busy around the clock, with guests coming and going at all hours of the day and night. Some guests only shoot one segment; others film segments for various markets back to back, and Leung cues them via earpiece as to which market affiliate or on-air personality is up next.
One thing is common among all guests, however: Time is of the essence, and Leung must ensure video feeds are sent to the right places at just the right moments. He’s so busy that sometimes the studio gets double-booked, and he has to scramble to turn over the set in time. There is no margin for error in the news business, and with back-to-back bookings, there’s even greater pressure to deliver.
Professionals Struggle to Manually Configure Encoders for Facebook Live
Remote production studios and affiliate broadcasters are experts in the news, television and video space—but the technical intricacies of streaming media are very different. These professionals are not streaming experts. Delivering a high-quality, reliable stream on Facebook Live shouldn’t require them to become industry experts, or learn a new trade.
However, unless you’re a highly technical streaming engineer, configuring an encoder is often a game of trial and error: You’re forced to try different bitrates, keyframe intervals, profiles and codecs until the output of the video stream meets your self-defined criteria. And when something goes wrong, it’s nearly impossible to determine the exact cause. With little indication as to why, the stream just doesn’t work.
Streaming to Facebook Live presents additional challenges, since the platform doesn’t let you experiment with different (or your “favorite”) codecs, profiles and image sizes. Facebook Live’s requirements include a 4000 Kbps maximum bitrate; a maximum 720p30 resolution; and H.264 video and AAC audio encoding. But most professional web broadcasts and video streams are significantly higher-resolution (1080p30, or even 4K Ultra High Definition).
The only way to get a high-quality stream that meets broadcast specifications is to leverage the enhanced Facebook Live API—but again, this requires specialized knowledge of streaming technology.
Wowza ClearCaster Changes the Game for Professional Broadcasters
When we brought our Wowza ClearCaster™ appliance to this multipurpose production studio, a world of possibilities unfolded. We connected ClearCaster to the network, and then to a monitor in the control room that showed the video feed from the studio.
After initiating our live stream, the countdown clock displayed on the monitor, cuing the go-live moment with frame-specific accuracy. The Talent View on the monitor displayed comments from our test viewers, and Live Reactions floated across the screen in real time. Watching Leung’s reaction, however, was the best part. Before his eyes, the problem of streamlined Facebook Live syndication was solved.
If you’re a broadcast center manager, ClearCaster was created to meet your needs. Designed in collaboration with Facebook, this rack-mountable device automatically configures stream settings to fit your optimal condition and use case, and even adjusts in real time as network conditions change.
This means you don’t have to learn the foreign language of codecs and bitrates; all you need to start streaming is an SDI or HDMI output. Connect ClearCaster to your network, perform a one-time-only device registration, pair it with your primary Facebook account and you can start and stop streams in seconds—all within the Facebook user interface.
Best of all, the simple pairing process can be repeated as many times as necessary. This is important when serving talent who want to broadcast from their own Facebook account; it allows you to offer a value-added service in a quality capacity, increasing the likelihood of repeat engagements from clients.
ClearCaster Brings Big Benefits to Broadcasters
Wowza ClearCaster brings huge opportunities for professional broadcasters, taking the guesswork out of configuration and creating a streamlined path for integrating Facebook Live into advanced production workflows. This allows you to focus on what’s most important: getting your broadcasts to major customers on time and within budget.
With Wowza ClearCaster, you can provide high-quality, reliable Facebook Live broadcasts that just work. Simply plug it in, and your streams will meet specifications and arrive on time, every time.