Streaming an event live has become common in recent years. Codecs, equipment and the Internet have adapted well to the needs of the corporate community. But when the team responsible for putting together this year’s Wolters Kluwer Technology Conference decided to have a virtual conference and stream content back and forth between 10 cities simultaneously, more than a few eyebrows were raised. Wolters Kluwer, a worldwide publishing and software company, wanted to cut expenses as much as possible yet still provide a quality event for its employees. The steering committee realized that just cutting travel expenses alone would save the individual business units hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ten cities around the world were “host” cities for the conference. All of the keynote sessions would originate from the Hilton Hotel in New York City, where quality had to be excellent. In addition to New York, the other cities would be origination points for the afternoon breakout sessions. Each city would have four “conference” or meeting rooms set up to receive the afternoon breakout sessions from other cities. The biggest challenge was to find a low-cost way for each of the remote locations to transmit their sessions. The system had to be simple enough for an amateur to operate successfully.
Traditional teleconferencing systems were eliminated early because of cost. We found an economical system in New York-based Livestream. In addition to the company’s live streaming and storage capability, its streaming software had the ability to push a live camera shot of the presenter and a PowerPoint presentation simultaneously. The company also provided a separate webpage/channel for each encoding location.
Setup and testing in New York
Rather than rent video equipment in New York and produce the keynote sessions ourselves, we decided to farm out the encoding and live video production to the company’s live production crew. They were able to interface with PSAV, the hotel’s preferred AV company. PSAV operated the house audio and presentation switcher. They also rolled prepared videos for sessions in the main ballroom and provided a video feed of the screen content to the company. Livestream’s crew combined the PSAV feed with live shots from two HD cameras in their video switcher. The feed from the streaming company’s video switcher fed their encoding computers. The New York Hilton’s telcom people provided a 10MB/s private VLAN for the New York live feed. (See Figure 1.)