Covering Live Events with Streaming Video at KAMU, Part 2

In this edition, SVC wraps up the conversation with Wayne Pecena of Public TV station KAMU at Texas A&M University. 1/24/2011 6:16 AM Eastern

Covering Live Events with Streaming Video at KAMU, Part 2

Jan 24, 2011 11:16 AM, with Bennett Liles

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Texas A&M University holds a lot of big events and public TV station KAMU sends it all back to the studio with Streambox encoder/decoders. KAMU engineer Wayne Pecena is here to give us the details on the streaming operation, his control room and studio next up on the SVC podcast. Wayne thanks for being back with me for Part Two from public TV station KAMU at Texas A&M University using the Streambox SBT3-9300 encoder/decoders for back hauling various live events around the campus. Having worked at Georgia public broadcasting for many years myself it’s always great to talk to somebody from another public TV outfit. And you have a substantial network there broadcasting over the air to the local community as well as around the campus. So when did you start using the Streambox hardware?
Well our first actual use was in the fall of 2009 actually in early October when President Obama visited the campus as part as a Points of a Light event that was held here. The George Bush Presidential Library is located at Texas A&M and that brings us a lot of notable people to campus. [Timestamp: 1:40]

And of course in a university environment there’s nothing like a high-profile visit by some very notable person to serve as an opportunity for a possible equipment purchase of this or that kind of hardware item that you’ve been wanting to get and try out and use on other things too. It’s a “we got to have this to cover this thing” and “OK well go ahead and get it.” While I was reading about that I also spotted an event that happens at Texas A&M called the Aggie Muster that you cover or a group of events. What’s involved in that?
Well Aggie Muster is an annual event that occurs on April the 21st each year which is also Texas Independence Day but basically Aggie Muster is, if you read or look at the history or the tradition and by the way Texas A&M is very rich in tradition and the tradition says if your within a 100 miles of another Aggie you get together, you share a meal, you share memories of your time in the A&M College of Texas, as the original name was, but there’s about 400 Aggie Muster events around the world and the one in College Station of course is the largest and it is a time again to share a meal, reminisce about your times here but one of the, probably the most moving parts of it to me, is the roll call where those fellow Aggies that have fallen during the past year are honored and recognized. [Timestamp: 3:15]

I’m sure you run through a full range of emotion between that and all of the celebrations that are going on with all the tradition connected with it. You’ve also got a studio and control center and in Part One we didn’t talk much about that but that would be on the receiving end for most of these live streaming feeds. What goes on in the control center and how many people are manning that facility?
Well we have a full time staff of approximately 35 people and at various times we have probably at least that many student or part time workers which are typically limited to 20 hours a week and their times vary depending on our different projects. We do have high definition studio production capability and we do a variety of events from local programs some educational based others just simply public affairs. Like a lot of public television stations we do fund raising events which means the call banks and the pleas for money and sort of thing during festivals. [Timestamp: 4:27]

Covering Live Events with Streaming Video at KAMU, Part 2

Jan 24, 2011 11:16 AM, with Bennett Liles

I know it well.
We do an annual auction where of course we solicit different products and services, donations from the community and that goes on for about every night for a week or so and we even “rent out” the studio for various events. Some of the local high schools have video production classes but do not necessarily have true studio facilities so they produce some programs in our facility. There are several academic uses all the way from producing some of the classes that air on our station to the meteorology department doing the lab aspect of a TV meteorology class that they offer. [Timestamp: 5:17]

And you’re doing a lot of distance learning operation in support of academic classes that are offered at Texas A&M. Are you using the Streambox gear for those projects at all?
In all honesty, to date the Streambox has not had what I would call a major…it’s been used primarily more for our broadcast things all though there have been a couple of events where we bring in someone, let’s say from a remote location, into the studio environment—that’s primarily where we have used the Streambox. [Timestamp: 5:5] As far as the production aspect of it, I guess it’s like a PBS News Hour type of format where you have a head and shoulders shot of a remote guest joining in on a studio panel discussion?
That’s correct. I look at the Streambox as my…that is my satellite truck or my ENG truck. [Timestamp: 6:07]

A lot of outfits are looking at it that way and what you can do with it without the tremendous investment you have to make in shooting stuff up and down to satellites. It’s light, easy to carry around and very simple to set up and operate.
It certainly is, particularly one of the advantages of the university environment we have not just in College Station but at the other campuses throughout the system within the state is a robust IP network that ties us all together so the transmission medium or that path is basically free to us. It’s not like we’re buying satellite time. [Timestamp: 6:44]

So when you’re doing a live event from a remote location how do you handle communication between the crew people at the various ends of it?
We have used basically its telephone either landline or as we’re doing today have used voice over IP and of course the good ol’ cell phone. [Timestamp: 7:03]

And when you’re doing an operation in support of classes there, what type of classes do they offer as telecourses at Texas A&M?
Well there’s been a variety of them. Some of the ones I think that are in works right now are updating some anthropology classes. The classes that tend to be done through the broadcast are those that are geared to fairly large—tend to be lecture classes oriented toward large audiences and so forth. Agriculture at A&M is certainly a big area. There’s numerous agriculture classes but those are the ones that come to mind right now that we’re doing. [Timestamp: 7:41]

And when you’re doing those obviously you can’t afford to have big chunks of program material drop out in the middle of things. You mentioned a robust IP network of course being very basic and fundamental of this, how do you find the advantages of the Streambox ACT-L3 compression to what you may have used before?
Well since we…this is the first high definition and result high bandwidth I don’t know that I can make a direct comparison but we have found particularly when we get off of campus that the ability to dial in different levels of error correction has been advantageous to us. And of course one of the selling points in the looking before this was actually acquired was the efficiency, I guess, of the ACT-L3 compression in terms of quality and bandwidth. [Timestamp: 8:35]

And at the receiving end, what formats can the SBT3-9300 units output?
Well the box actually is really pretty versatile. We are really pretty much using our system in a…well we are using it for high definition with a 1920x1080 format however the box certainly is configurable through the menus—certainly is capable of various SD formats, is various…gosh there’s a whole chart of various HD and SD formats that it supports with PAL as well as NTSC. [Timestamp: 9:14]

And what can it do on the audio side?
Audio, it supports certainly AES audio. It supports analog audio and in our case how we’re using it is we’re using embedded audio. [Timestamp: 9:27]

Are you using that remote web base management feature on it?
Yes we do. Of course it’s one of those…I started to say black boxes but sort of a silver box that sits back in the rack room and any of the configuration work we do is done through that web interface and of course there’s always the remote one and everything we do there is done remotely through the web interface as far as configuration and also certainly monitoring the parameters performance during an event. [Timestamp: 9:59]

And with all the newer gear it seems like there’s more and more going on behind the scene so it can be easier to set up and operate. I appreciate you being here Wayne. It’s Wayne Pecena from KAMU at Texas A&M University using Streambox hardware for live TV remotes and thanks for being here to tell us about it.

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