Schools Embrace IP-Based Video Distribution

Huntsville City Schools in Alabama use a NewTek TriCaster 460 to stream live presentations.

ALEXANDRIA, VA. — “Video-over-IP” simply means packaging live and recorded video content as digital data files, so that these files can be transmitted across local area networks, the Internet and other IP-based networks. By doing so, video producers can move video files over the same computer networks that already carry their e-mail and Web pages.

The financial benefits of using video-over-IP are substantial.

“In an IP-based A/V distribution system, there is no need to run new cabling, and the IT professional can control most aspects of the system over their existing infrastructure,” said Tony Dowzall, president of Gefen, a Chatsworth, Calif.-based manufacturer of video products. The IP system is more scalable, he added, with new video sources and displays connecting to the customer’s existing LAN using network cables.

“For routing applications, the possibility to support and maintain a single infrastructure for standard data as well as video data is very attractive from a cost standpoint,” said Dan Maloney, Matrox Video’s technical marketing manager. “For distribution and broadcast, IP is a real game changer: With the simple addition of a Monarch HD [appliance], a fully produced live event can be viewed by anybody, anywhere in the world, via live streaming.”

After tornadoes tore through Huntsville, Ala., in 2012, Huntsville City Schools wanted to build a mobile command post vehicle. The downside: Unless disaster struck, the command vehicle would sit idle in the city’s parking lot.

This is when Jonathan Crowe, video operations manager of the Huntsville City Schools TV network, ETV, had an idea.

“We could use a Ka-band satellite uplink—which is capable of moving broadband data at 20 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up—to transmit live TV from around the city, or around the southeast,” Crowe said. “So that’s we did. Today, our emergency command post vehicle serves as a TV remote production truck for ETV, except when it is need to coordinate emergency operations in Huntsville.”

NewTek’s TriCaster family of computer-based switchers, which can stream directly to the Web, are central to ETV’s remote coverage capabilities.

“We use the TriCaster 460, which can support up to four cameras at a time, to produce live broadcasts of local high school games,” Crowe said. “The video is streamed out of the 460 and right into the Ka-band satellite uplink, where it goes back to our headend for transmission via cable TV. It’s fast, affordable and high-quality—and more importantly, the vehicle is always being used!”

Classroom at HEC MontrealSIMPLE STREAMING
HEC Montreal, the renowned Canadian business school, has a history of broadcasting and recording its lectures, conferences/conventions and seminars. Initially, the school shot its events using Sony EX3 XDCAM HD cameras connected to a switcher, with the converted output being fed to a computer via FireWire.

This approach only supported streaming. To capture video, HEC’s crew had to use the computer’s video card to record the video internally, and then back it up on an attached external Sony DVCam recorder.

To simplify and improve this process, HEC is now beta-testing a Matrox Monarch HD appliance for streaming and recording on-campus events. HEC has configured its Monarch appliance to stream at 1 Mbps and record to a removable SD card/USB drive at 4 Mpbs.

“Using the Matrox Monarch HD for video-over-IP has significantly simplified our video recording and streaming process,” said Jayson Dénommée, HEC’s AV support agent. “We can load the Monarch with presets keyed to specific locations and types of shoots. This makes it easy for new staff members to setup a shoot quickly and accurately.”

HEC Montreal uses a Matrox Monarch HD (small box below switcher/mixer) to stream and record presentations.

Once the beta test is done, HEC Montreal hopes to integrate Monarch HD appliances into its day-to-day coverage of regular classes. The system may also be used to record the thousands of student-led presentations done in class each year, so that students can review their performances online after the event.

“Frankly, the possibilities of the Monarch HD and video-over-IP technology are limitless,” said Dénommée. “We are excited to see what we can do with it.”

There are many good reasons for video producers to add video-over-IP capability to their facilities. Flexibility is one big video-over-IP plus.

“Compared to traditional video delivery, video-over-IP allows you to choose between a multiplicity of IP-based distribution options,” said Will Waters, NewTek’s product specialist. “You can use your LAN, the Web, Wi-Fi or high-speed mobile telephone networks to move your content around the world.”

The ability to serve vast audiences is another video-over-IP benefit. For instance, “Monarch HD is designed to deliver video to media servers such as Adobe Flash or Wowza, which would in turn distribute to an audience of any size over the Internet,” said Matrox’s Dan Maloney. “With the simple addition of a Monarch HD, a fully produced live event can be viewed by anybody, anywhere in the world via live streaming.”

One cool feature: Matrox appliances write H.264 video files to drives located anywhere on the network, which can be accessed in turn by anybody on the network.

“Whether the need is for archiving, for VOD delivery or for storage of video assets for later use in post-production, easy access to files by those who require them is much more efficient than delivering tapes via ‘sneaker net,’” Maloney said.

Video-over-IP also integrates easily into an existing production facility.

“Since most broadcast production facilities are already equipped with very high-speed networks and network cabling, it is usually a very simple process,” said Gefen’s Tony Dowzall. “In most cases, it is preferable to transport video over dedicated network segments, to avoid network congestion. Cabling is generally high-quality and robust security is usually already enabled in these facilities, allowing existing hardware to be used.”

Mindful that adding new devices to a crowded network can be time-consuming, Gefen has created the Syner-G software suite.

“Among other features, it eliminates the previously challenging situation of locating a device amidst a sea of similar IP addresses,” said Dowzall. “In terms of hardware solutions, Gefen’s Matrix Controller allows easy configuration and operation of a distributed video-over-IP system, and simplifies the separation of video and control traffic for optimized video transmission and security.”

RUSHWORKS makes a range of video production equipment. Although these units are not built as video-over-IP devices, integration with third-party products makes it easy to add this capability to them.

A case in point: “Folks who use our VDesk or REMO integrated PTZ production systems for producing ‘live’ events will use the Teradek Cube 105 to encode the SDI output and output for IP transmission to the Cube 305 receiver at the station,” said RUSHWORKS President Rush Beesley. “The signal is decoded to baseband into the routing switcher or production switcher for the live broadcast.”

Video-over-IP can also work with RUSHWORKS’ A-List broadcast automation and streaming system, which supports to four SD/HD playout channels (each with embedded audio) in a single box.

“If the customer has their production studio and master control in one location, and needs to send one or more signals to a transmitter a hundred miles away, we recommend the NTT MPC 1010 transport stream encoder,” Beesley said. “It's a 2 RU chassis with mux, and supports up to four individual channel modules for SD and/or HD encoding, and has static PSIP with optional inputs for dynamic PSIP generators. The multiplexed stream is delivered as ASI over IP to the ASI input of the digital transmitter, where it is demuxed for multi-channel transmission.”