Streaming Video and Audio, Part 1
Mar 25, 2010 3:58 PM,
By Bennett Liles
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What once took a remote broadcast truck, a production crew, and a satellite van to stream live video can now be done with a couple of people, a few pieces of hardware, and the NewTek TriCaster portable live production unit. Yamaha recently started taking its live-streaming setup on the road to record live interviews and concerts for playback on its website. Jeff Hawley, manager of marketing content for Yamaha, and Philip Nelson, vice president of strategic development for NewTek, detail the uses of streaming video and sound for corporate promotion and relate the experience of setting up Yamaha’s first live streaming concert at the Pasadena Jazz Institute, complete with tech tips on audio and video bandwidth settings and streaming formats. Hawley and Nelson take us inside the remote streaming setup and provide a description of the gear used and how it was all configured.
SVC: Philip, it’s great having you on the program.
Nelson: Thank you so much for including us in this podcast.
How the TriCaster makes things easy for Yamaha to get live streaming online at the production end….
And Jeff thanks very much for joining me here.
Hawley: Thanks for having me. I am excited to get a chance to chat and I am looking forward to filling your listeners in. I have, hopefully, some helpful tips here and there.
This is kind of an intriguing situation I haven’t done before. Jeff let’s start with you. This is about a live webcast you did on the Yamaha Hub website and you decided to do, say, a day of jazz violin, which might not be what we would normally think of as the corporate presentation, but since Yamaha is into musical instruments among many other things, this would be really appropriate. Where did the idea for the live concerts on Yamaha website come about?
Hawley: Basically the idea for doing the live concerts, directly live for real, came out of our experience with Philip Nelson, part of the crew with NewTek. They made the TriCaster broadcast unit. Last year at NAMM, NAMM 2009, we had a great opportunity: Alicia Keys was actually involved in one of our products. In the launch, and somewhat in the development of it, [we were] doing a press conference at the booth, and we decided that it would be great to do some sort of live feature at that point. [We] did a little bit of research and it ended up just through industry connections that we could get the NewTek crew out there to help us with that. So being part of the marketing content department for Yamaha and having a background on the video side of things related to Yamaha, I was kind of involved in that project and got to play wingman, so to speak, and got to watch over Philip’s shoulder as he was producing, live, that press conference. And basically out of that, it was a no-brainer to really move in that direction from the literally thousands of canned on-demand videos that Yamaha has been producing over the years, and why not do it live?
Yeah and you’ve got the site on there, the Hub, and how did that get started?
Hawley: In a nutshell, the Hub has kind of been our mad-scientist area of yamaha.com. We have a traditional product catalog sort of site where if you want to know about the line of digital pianos, you’ll find normal product page and specs and information. The Hub is something. It’s still part of yamaha.com proper. It’s all inhouse production, and we build it and code it and do all the stuff here in the building, in Glen Park, Calif., where our offices are. It really gives us a chance to get a little bit outside of the box and try some new stuff. It began really back in 2005 simply as an audio podcast that was available through iTunes. If you chart it from there, we started interviewing Yamaha artists and the collection of those interviews grew, so then we had a simple HTML page with links to the iTunes feed. Then more departments [were] added on, and then video podcasts, and then at some point it was pretty clear that we kind of had gone as far as we could with this long list of links and that something like [an actual] multimedia video player was necessary. And one thing that is a blessing and a curse is that just Yamaha traditionally and me personally like to build those things and control those sort of sites on our own. So Yamaha built Yamaha-owned space. We could have easily [gone] the YouTube route, but we thought at that point, YouTube is getting ruling. This might be big. You know, really at that time, it was already big, but not any where near as huge as it is now obviously.
Hawley: But we saw that pretty early on that to really do this right and to really have the control that we would like to have and be able to grow and try new things, it would be great if we could have this—something that we built and something where we have our, again, kind of our mad-scientist area where we could try new things. That also allowed us to build in hooks and code and things for Omniture and seals for salesforce.com so we get a lot of web analytics out of it. We can try things, see how it works, see how it doesn’t work in some cases, and send data in and send data back out and have control of that, and try new things and keep it fresh so it’s a bunch of different sorts of contents and different ways to really connect with Yamaha, and really it started out of the very early experiments and just kind of messing around with audio podcasts and exploded from there.
And that really is more applicable to certain business, certain types of outfits than others. Since Yamaha is into so many different things—I mean, mixers, musical instruments, all kinds of things—it would seem that, particularly the musical instruments, you could tune in and actually have just a fun time while you are advertising your wares while the people are watching and they could just have fun just while they are watching the instruments being played.
Hawley: Sure, and certainly that is a bit of a rare situation where we can talk about our products, but the person talking about our product is a world-famous musician or an industry-known or famous engineer talking about how our mixers work and demoing a mixer using music that’s cool, that’s a Yamaha artist, and again, having all of the connections as well and kind of crossing through different sorts of product groups. It also makes it neat that we can do a Yamaha podcast using Yamaha mixers, the Yamaha outboard gear, Steinberg interfaces, which Yamaha also is very involved with and owns and kind of runs a lot of the Steinberg side of things as well. So, again, a bit of an interesting situation when we can talk saxophones and have everything involved in the production more or less be Yamaha behind the scenes as well. So a lot of angles to go at with it and yeah, it’s definitely a lot of fun and not too difficult to make things interesting as far as the content goes.
Streaming Video and Audio, Part 1
Mar 25, 2010 3:58 PM,
By Bennett Liles
And you picked the NewTek TriCaster to do these things. And of course, there is hardware like this all over the place and there is no shortage of competition. Why did you select the NewTek TriCaster for these live concert webcasts?
Hawley: The obvious answer is that that was kind of the first one that we saw; we already had a working relationship with the NewTek crew and got to see what it could do literally on the fly in a very stressful situation where we’ve got, “Let’s put this thing together,” kind of Little Rascals almost: “Hey, we’ve got some costumes in the barn.” We really hadn’t planned for months in advance of Alicia Keys showing up to do the press conference. It was a little bit of a late notice all around that this was going to be the case. So it was a great real-world example of what can be possible with the TriCaster on short notice [and] some cameras. We were able to get a nice jib setup there, and we had camera crews around that were doing the traditional just taping.
The shows were all for our website at that time; it was all on demand. We would shoot it in the morning, then we would edit it throughout the day and into the night. While everyone else is partying after hours of the tradeshow, we’re in the back of the booth in our little makeshift production area sitting in [Apple] Final Cut, hoping to get content from that morning live that night. It just kind of was a perfect storm of sorts where, wow, if we could make this happen—to be able to just be live and take a little bit of that production or take all of the postproduction out—that’s the way we really need to be going. Obviously we did some research online and did a little asking around, and one thing that was clear in that initial research is that I didn’t really want to go the Livestream free route, necessarily. We didn’t want to do the low-tech webcam on a MacBook. Obviously there is strength there, and there are situations where that makes a lot of sense, but being Yamaha and knowing that we have the resources to do this right, it seemed that there were really some strong reasons from a tech standpoint to go with the TriCaster—to have a dedicated streaming service connected—and so I contacted the NewTek people. We literally had the delivery of the TriCaster on a Friday and we broadcast live on Sunday. So we locked ourselves in once again knowing that the stakes were high and had faith in the TriCaster, and obviously, faith in our web team and somewhat in myself. I am a marketing guy [with] a musician background, but basically in a couple days, [I] went from zero to hero—switching the show, calling the shots on the TriCaster, literally—with kind of one day of reading the manual and messing around with it.
And this was at the Pasadena Jazz Institute?
Hawley: Yeah, that’s correct. That was our first big event, and the thought was, “Well let’s get a crew there; once again, let’s just do the normal route. We’ll tape it, we’ll come back, we’ll do a lot of postproduction, and we’ll put it on the Hub as on-demand.” In kind of ramping up to it we realized, “Let’s give it a shot. It seems like it’s going to work. We’ve got the green light from our web guys, and kind of the backing of the powers that be as far as internal Yamaha management that this seems like a really cool idea. Let’s make it happen,” and that’s what we did.
What kind of latency are you dealing with on live webcast? Is there anything that you really noticed?
Hawley: In our early tests with the TriCaster, we were really surprised. [With] my little bit of research and little bit of reading around and kind of guessing at what this would be like once I actually had the unit here, I figured that it would be a much longer latency. Really when we’re at the shows, generally, I will try to have a MacBook or a run-of-the-mill, consumer-level computer, not a monster connection of any kind—just, “Here’s a MacBook; this is kind of the average viewer machine that I assume would be watching the stream.” I have the live stream going, and then on a separate connection, if at all possible or on wireless, something that is not going to interfere in any way with my TriCaster connection, I will have that other computer there. And it really at most times is just a matter of maybe 5 seconds of latency. [It’s] kind of neat actually, and sometimes fun to show off as people are standing behind you as you are doing a live show to move the live control bar and see a cut and then watch a couple of seconds later on the live site to see that happen. Kind of neat thinking this is going from here, up over through a streaming server, around, over, and back through all the places that this data is going, and returning back to the computer—that all happens really in just a matter of seconds.
Amazing how much stuff it goes through and comes out looking as good as it does. Phil Nelson, from NewTek, let’s get you in on this. You’re the TriCaster expert. Can you anticipate the latency you’re going to have on a particular webcast?
Nelson: The latency of the live webcast is actually determined by the Internet and how many servers your show bounces through as it gets from the venue to the end user. So general latency on the Internet can range from 10 seconds to 30 or 40 seconds.
Jeff, what kind of bandwidth did you need for this?
Hawley: Well, that’s kind of the funny part: I consider myself pretty well-versed as far as nonlinear editors; I am fine in Final Cut—I kind of get it. I have some audio background and get that. When it comes to web IT streaming, really when it starts getting even medium complex, I am definitely not tech-savvy. So it’s really cool for me to kind of run it by the NewTek staff—“Hey we’ve got this; we want to do it. What do I need to do?” “Well, just make sure it is a reliable connection, do a port test to make sure that the TriCaster is seeing it or is going to be able to see it.” So since we didn’t actually have the device there days in advance to do that test, I went to the venue and just using a standard-bandwidth sort-of-website test, connected my laptop, went out, everything was cool. We ended up using the point-of-call Internet connection. Basically the Jazz Institute is a bar, a glorified bar, so your standard bar point-of-cell Internet connection was what we ended up broadcasting through. It literally was what their point-of-cell system was connected to. I unplugged it, plugged the Tricaster in, [and] we were good to go.
You recently used the Tricaster of the NAMM show, I believe, and had it mounted on sort of a rolling cart. How did things go with that?
Hawley: Yeah, that was pretty neat. In case you have never been to NAMM before, it is a little bit of a strange challenge really for production for a lot of reasons. There is not a lot of readily accessible Internet drops, so obviously if we are doing live broadcasts that is a concern. It’s kind of like a huge retail space in the sense that you can’t just run cables wherever you want. There is a lot of traffic control sort of issues where people would be trampling your cables and running into your cameras on tripod, so basically we got to thinking about it and the Yamaha booth space is roughly football field size—it’s huge; it could cover all of our products. So our solution was let’s just have a couple drops that we run Ethernet cable under the carpet in advance, have the Ethernet plugs kind of incorporated into our booth fixtures, have it all hidden so it is out of site, and let’s put the TriCaster on a cart.
Now Philip, you were at the NAMM show, right?
Nelson: Yes sir.
Did you see the rolling cart and all that stuff that Yamaha had?
Nelson: Yes, Yamaha had a great idea, seeing how they used TriCaster at the booth at NAMM. They put the TriCaster on a rolling cart and had Internet access set up, prewired at certain locations all around the show floor. And wherever the action was happening in the Yamaha showroom, the Tricaster could be rolled into that location, two cameras set up, and within minutes, they were streaming live to the Web. Whether it’s a press conference, a talk from the president of Yamaha, or artists performing live in the Yamaha showroom.
Yeah, they seem a lot of uses for it. I mean any company could figure out things to do with it, but a company that is in to so many things as Yamaha is, particularly musical instruments, you get your products demoed right there online and most people get tuned in and just have a good time watching.
Nelson: The good thing about streaming in a tradeshow like environment like Yamaha used it is only so many people can be in that showroom at a single time and with the power of live Internet streaming, you can take that event that is happening with maybe 50, 100, 200, 300 people in your showroom and take that to a worldwide audience and have thousands of people watching these events because in every industry travel budgets are being cut—especially in tradeshow travel. A lot of times the client you want to reach might not be coming to the tradeshow. It might be the owner of a music store not the expert on a particular instrument and so with the power of live streaming all the people that are back at the office or back at the store can now attend virtually attend NAMM with the executives.
Quick and simple setup. It’s been great having you both here on the Corporate AV podcast doing live remotes and on-demand streaming with the TriCaster with Jeff Hawley from Yamaha and Phillip Nelson from NewTek. Thanks for being with me; we will see you in part two.
Hawley: Well, thank you for having me.
Nelson: Yeah, no problem. Thank you. It’s been fun.