Overview

Comworks are an organisation specialising in media services and event broadcasting. A solution was required that would allow events to be broadcast live on the Internet. The size of the audience could vary depending on the size and popularity of the event. It was important that the latest adaptive bit rate streaming technology was used to ensure end users received the best user experience depending on the capabilities they were viewing the stream on and the available bandwidth.

The requirement is for a mission critical system that needed to perform in real time.

 

Challenges

The quality of the broadcast needed to be as high as possible, preferably 1080p HD however a number of other streams needed to be available to satisfy users who didn’t have the available bandwidth to view such a high quality stream or the hardware capability (older smart devices).

The requirement to make available such high quality streams this meant that the solution serving content to end users would need to handle a potentially large data throughput.

With a number of customer devices being used to view most media nowadays it was also important that the stream was viewable on all major platforms. Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Phone, Android and iOS.

As an existing event management system was being used to host the event it was important that the player provided could easily be integrated with this and work seamlessly.

 

Solution

With some research and collaboration with Steve at Comworks, Microsoft’s Smooth Streaming technology was chosen as the vessel with which to broadcast media. Smooth Streaming is an adaptive bitrate streaming solution which allows multiple bitrate streams to be broadcast allowing the viewing client to automatically switch to the most suitable bitrate for their situation (device capability and available bandwidth).

Due to the unknown number of viewers that could make up the audience for an event the solution had to be scalable enough to handle many Gbps in throughput at any point in time. This meant that typical server deployments and the associated bandwidth requirements would be far too costly and cumbersome to be sustainable. Thankfully using cloud computing and Amazon’s “Cloudfront” CDN this is all possible. The use of cloud computing also meant that the solution could quickly be deployed for each event and removed to ensure ongoing costs were kept to a minimum.

Taking into account the different viewing platforms used by an audience and their varying support for playing adaptive bitrate video within a browser, a responsive browser based solution was developed that ensured a suitable player was provided depending on the viewing platform. All platforms could use the same portal to view the media but using scripting and a combination of Flash, HTML5 and Silverlight the right player could be dispatched for each audience member automatically.

 

Conclusion

This solution has received very positive feedback from Comworks and their customers.

Since its development this solution has been used to broadcast a number of events, one in particular for a large well-known multi-national technology organisation with approximately 4000 viewers during the event. The solution handled this perfectly well and provided an optimum viewing experience for the audience.

Improvements can be made going forward to the look and feel of the player as well as providing a full blown event management solution to allow an event to be handled in its entirety.