An Amazing Sensación, Unhindered by COVID-19

An interesting thing happened when a global pandemic landed directly in the path of an opera composed by a Spanish national hero. This is the story of how millions of people from various geographies, speaking different languages – but all with a love for opera – connected via technology to celebrate the beauty of culture and composition.

March 11, 2020 started out as any other ordinary Spring day should. The headlines of the day continued to raise awareness and some concern over the COVID-19 virus that was running rampant in Wuhan, China. The world watched, not knowing how this would play out. As the day played out and turned into night, the impact of the virus’ spread in the US was felt as the NBA shut down its season. Thursday March 12th would be a day unlike any other for Videon CEO Todd Erdley. “At 6:30pm, I received word the company had to shut down as a decree from the Governor of Pennsylvania. We had no idea what was going to happen at Videon.”

The next day, an interesting thing happened halfway around the world. If I told you that a combination of technology, music and a global pandemic would create an event with such human interest that it resonated with people all around the world, you might look at me with your head slightly askance. And you would be right, but a global pandemic will change things we once thought were fairly predictable.

Music and movement uplift people around the world

Months of preparation had been spent perfecting the music and movement. Thousands of people had purchased tickets. But, thanks to COVID, the event was not to be. The Taipei Opera’s historic performance, a Taiwanese premiere of El amor brujo (ballet) and La vida breve (opera) by world renowned Spanish composer Manuel de Falla was to be held at Taiwan’s national opera house (the Taichung National Theater) on March 21. COVID-19 had other plans, of course – and the event was canceled. However, the performers were allowed to have one dress rehearsal the night prior. Ren Egawa, CEO of Rexcel, and longtime partner of Videon, had planned to be there. But local authorities and health officials ruled that out, as no one beyond the performing company and theatre staff were allowed inside the venue.

So amid a growing pandemic and an uncertain number of months ahead, technology and a bit of ingenuity enabled the opera to be viewed, live, by over 10,000 remote viewers in real time. Overall, the performance has since amassed more than 50,000 views from people around the world after just a month. Before the pandemic, no one could have predicted this much interest and from across the globe. Delivering a Taiwanese premiere of the Spanish music masterpiece brought in viewers from Spain, France, Italy, various countries in Latin America, and America, to watch a performance held in Taiwan which, had it been performed live, would only have amassed an audience of a few thousand. Still, Videon CEO Todd Erdley found the performance to be just what the doctor ordered. “I’d been following news of the spread of the coronavirus, and was beginning to think about what the implications might be to my family, the company and our customers. The emotions associated with not knowing if the company would survive let alone our colleagues and their families would be safe balanced against seeing a world wide audience watch the opera made the live streaming of the opera something I will never forget.” Despite the proverbial grey clouds gathering, Erdley says the music and movement were a much needed lift.

The lift was felt halfway across the world, too. “I told everyone in Taiwan this: Rexcel and Videon gave our performance the wings to fly. And fly it did… landing in Spain’s Andalusia where Manuel de Falla was born and caught the attention of an Andalusian conductor who is one of the principal conductors at the Ballet Nacional de España and a proponent for Falla’s music,” says Dau-Hsiong Tseng, Taipei Opera’s Music Director. “Thanks to this livestream, he was able to witness our production’s serious approach and respect for Falla’s masterpieces even though Taiwan is thousands of miles away from Andalusia, and naturally we became good friends. The stream brought miracles beyond imagination.“

Technology meets simplicity

A key component in making this event fly was the simplicity of setup and operation. Of particular note is that neither Ren nor any of his staff were able to enter the opera hall to setup the equipment that would provide the rehearsal stream to the audience. They had to physically hand the devices to security, in hopes that personnel inside could make it all work. Rexcel Simple livestreaming as a service (LaaS) powered by Videon’s EdgeCaster offers an unprecedented simple setup that reduces the complexity and cost associated with high-quality livestreaming. Rexcel Simple LaaS pre-configures and pre-tests multiple EdgeCaster encoders matched to the number of camera feeds that the organizer plans to use to multi-stream to a YouTube account or content delivery network (CDN) of their choosing. This setup allows each remote audience member to select their preferred camera view during the live event. The key takeaway here is that video technology is now so simple and yet sophisticated that non-technical people such as a Opera conductor or staff can operate and provide a world-class experience.

So as the curtain dropped at the end of the rehearsal, and despite the uncertainty of what lay ahead – an interesting intersection of opera aficionados, technologists, and viewers who needed some levity – an opera united them all, if only for a short time.

The opera that keeps on giving

The Taipei Opera’s 2020-2021 season is set to begin at the end of this month on September 26th. To the surprise of many, but to no one reading this story, is the news that they have been chosen to open the season by performing El amor brujo and La vida breve – this time with a full orchestra and audiences. But that’s only the beginning of the phoenix-like rise of this event. The connection between the Taiwanese opera company and the Spanish national ballet that was forged by the pandemic rehearsal is breathing life into the ‘reboot’, if you will.

The principal conductor of the Spanish national ballet will be flying from Madrid to Taipei to participate in this gala event, and will conduct the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. Further, both Spanish and Taiwanese personnel will be shooting a documentary for viewing after the gala. Both films will be merged to create a complete documentary film.

There will be a limited in-person audience, and as you would expect, this gala will be livestreamed and Rexcel and Videon are excited to help deliver this to a global audience. Given the interest in the rehearsal, the opera house has chosen to double the upstream bandwidth from 20Mbps to 40Mbps, which will provide for two 4K simultaneous livestreaming channels. Each will be set to 20Mbps to showcase EdgeCaster’s ability to deliver optimal video quality.

So as we globally emerge from this pandemic, it seems these are the stories that help form and shape us for the days ahead. In this case, the intersection of the human elements, technology and beautiful music and performance serve to show us that better days are ahead, while also helping us to recall the challenges we’ve faced. We look forward to the challenges and moving video.

Authored by Matt Smith

Matt Smith is a recognized digital media industry evangelist and thought leader, having spoken at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, IBC, and various other shows.  He’s served in a variety of roles in the industry during his career, with stops at Comcast, Brightcove Anvato, Envivio and others.

Near-Instant Volleyball Streaming with the Videon EdgeCaster

Videon’s EdgeCaster made viewing the FIVB Volleyball World Cup easy

The women’s tournament of the 2019 FIVB World Cup was streamed live from Yokohama, Japan last September and drew an estimated audience of more than 30,000 peak concurrent viewers and over 500,000 unique viewers. The event provided a perfect showcase for Videon’s EdgeCaster ultra-low latency (ULL) encoder working in a live streaming video workflow using Amazon Web Services (AWS).  

As the international governing body for all forms of volleyball, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) stages the World Cup every four years as a qualifying event for the Olympic Games. For the 2019 World Cup, the FIVB wanted to apply ULL to optimize the viewer experience and create a parallel OTT workflow for the linear television broadcast of the tournament. FIVB’s chosen solution was ULL-CMAF technology powered by Fuji Television and AWS, leveraging an EdgeCaster HEVC/H.264 video encoder.

The EdgeCaster was at the heart of the FIVB ULL video streaming workflow.

The low-power, small-form-factor Edgecaster provided direct output of HLS/DASH CMAF-formatted signals (EdgeCaster also enables traditional RTMP workflows along with many other common streaming formats). Through AWS Direct Connect, the HLS/DASH/CMAF output was ingested by AWS Elemental MediaStore, which was the origin point for delivery by AWS CloudFront to end-user devices worldwide.

The results speak for themselves.

Volleyball fans were able to watch FIVB World Cup matches using the iOS, Android, or HTML player of their choice with a stable latency of only three seconds while sharing the experience on social media. The FIVB provided multiple synchronized camera angles to create an immersive experience, enabling viewers to watch multiple screens and follow featured-player chase cameras. Wide-angle and ceiling views further enhanced the traditional broadcast experience.

It’s not just for sports.

While a live sporting event is an ideal application for ULL workflows, it’s not the only one. Imagine corporate town halls with interactivity between a worldwide workforce and the presenter or any event that can leverage social video engagement to create a deeper connection with viewers. The use of standards-based, scalable technology allows for this wide range of live events to achieve distribution and engagement never before realized. 

With EdgeCaster, all types of organizations can take full advantage of the many opportunities that arise when live streaming is truly live.

 

Enabling Low-Latency Interactive Streaming Applications for Worldwide Audiences

For media organizations to launch interactive services that increase audience engagement and grow their subscriber base, it is vital to overcome two significant obstacles: high latency and unsynchronized video.

To date, the conversation around latency has typically focused on the narrow, specific parameters needed to achieve very low latency within a room or between two buildings, primarily in KVM-type applications. That’s not going to change for workflows moving video from one to few, or even one to 1,000 devices. However, what happens when scaling up to send video from one point to half a million viewers all around the world, or more?

Until recently, traditional broadcast has been the only way to reach such an audience. But broadcast infrastructure can be costly to build and limited to a relatively small pool of content providers. The combination of robust cloud services with new streaming formats, encoding technologies, and media player solutions offers a compelling alternative designed to simplify, and perhaps even democratize, the launch of interactive services.

A powerful example of this combination incorporates Videon’s Edge Compute Encoders, AWS Elemental MediaStore and Amazon CloudFront from Amazon Web Services (AWS), and NexPlayer’s Android and iOS player SDKs. Along with CMAF (the Common Media Application Format for segmented media), HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) and MPEG DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) formats, these technologies from Videon, AWS, and NexPlayer create opportunities to efficiently and effectively scale worldwide, with ultra-low latency.

CMAF is key to this model because it enables video streams to be broken into smaller segments, which supports dramatic reductions in latency. For this reason, we’ve been working with AWS over the past year to test CMAF workflows with AWS Elemental MediaLive and Amazon CloudFront to ensure that our low-cost edge compute encoder works seamlessly with the AWS Cloud to enable low-latency streaming worldwide at scale. We’ve likewise partnered with NexPlayer to ensure its player supports a CMAF, HLS, and DASH workflow. NexPlayer has gone one step further by adding synchronization into the mix, and that element will enable a truly unified interactive live video experience.

Thanks to our work with AWS and NexPlayer, we already have reference customers working with proof-of-concept implementations and planning live deployments. From live auctions to live sports, this new model of synchronized low-latency video delivery at scale will support an array of new, exciting, and profitable use cases.

By the way, you can read the official announcement about our collaboration with AWS and NexPlayer here: https://www.avnetwork.com/news/nexplayer-videon-leverage-aws-for-low-latency-and-synchronized-ott-video-delivery.

AWS Elemental Blog Features Videon Low-Latency Solution

AWS Elemental recently posted a blog on their site about low-latency streaming. It states: What if every broadcaster (no matter the size) could achieve less than 4 seconds of latency at scale? An entirely new set of applications would become possible. It goes on to explain how this is possible with the AWS Elemental and Videon. Click here read all about it.

https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/media/low-latency-live-streaming-with-videon-and-aws-elemental/

The Bandwidth Problem

We have been on a multi-week exploration of the dynamic changes happening in streaming. We have talked about the evolution of video standards. We have talked about the workflow. So where does this one word, bandwidth, come into play? Let’s walk back a bit to see just how big of a problem bandwidth is.

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4K: Revolutionary, Evolutionary, or What?

As you likely know, Videon has been in the digital video business for over twenty years and with that comes a lot of exposure to a lot of different technology.

I recently got back from a major industry trade show (NAB – National Association of Broadcasters) and I wanted to share with you my observations and thoughts regarding technology and market trends associated with the ongoing evolution of digital video solutions. To start this, let’s first think about the revolution and evolution of digital video by rolling back the clocks to the start of time in the world of digital video.

 

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It’s All About Workflow. Duh!

 

We recently attended the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB trade show. It was a huge coming out party for the overall 4K workflow as the number of announcements regarding pricing and products showed a very, very, very interesting trend. Remember back to the blog post about the biggest changes in video in the last 20 years? NAB represented that evolution in a big way for 4K. To understand, let’s think through what is needed to make a true 4K workflow.

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