Live Streaming Pointers
Show+Tell’s team provided the following points to consider when working on a live stream URL-to-DOOH screen project:
- It is best to have streams that do not require any interaction to execute. Some URLs require that a player be directed to “play” the stream, and others will timeout due to inactivity.
- Test with the same URL/stream that will be used for the event to avoid formatting, speed or other variations.
- Test with content similar to the live content. Do not use a placeholder graphic during the test. Use of video content enables accurate evaluation of bandwidth, video skewing, cropping and positioning.
- Position “backup” graphics beneath the live stream feed for display in case internet connectivity is lost, or if it is necessary to cut away from questionable live content.
- Establish direct contact with the live stream developer for fast feedback and troubleshooting. The developer can also assist with positioning content, disabling scroll bars and other details.
- Perform network speed tests during planned event times to maximize success during the live stream event.
- Set up a conference call bridge for use by all involved parties during the live stream event to enable rapid response for the need to reposition video or any other issues that may arise.
- It is best to have a dedicated URL that is not being shared for public viewing, or streamed to other DOOH screens. This will help to ensure consistent bandwidth and avoid artifacts due to URL hits by multiple users.
- If possible, have multiple camera output options available. If the live stream is being displayed on a digital video billboard, there is probably no audio available. Video of people being interviewed, for example, will lose context. In this case, a different video source could be displayed.
Early on, discuss and determine whether clean (no graphics keys), or dirty (titled) feeds are desired for airing, and plan accordingly.
Video of real-world events as they happen gives new life to signage screens. Viewers are accustomed to glancing at DOOH (digital out of home) screens for time, weather and news but, when real-time sports, fashion or other current content is displayed, they stop to watch. In digital signage terminology, the viewer’s “dwell time” increases. Streaming live events increases the value of digital signage to both the audience and stakeholders in any vertical market application, be it in retail, corporate, education, government, worship, hospitality or any other venue.
There are several key factors to consider when streaming to signage screens, including proof-of-play for ad-supported networks and DRM (digital rights management) for copyrighted broadcast feeds. When the rights for a broadcast stream are obtained for only certain portions of an event, it is best to insert rights-cleared content instead of going to a blank screen. This might be true for halftime musical entertainment or other broadcasts with multiple rights-holders. To resolve these “blackouts” or to cut in commercials, stream insertion, stream “stitching” and ad-insertion capabilities are available in solutions offered by Anvato and others.
At Times Square in New York City last fall, Givenchy displayed live video streams of NY Fashion Week events on EXPRESS Spectacular LED displays above the Express flagship store. Havas Worldwide and Posterscope negotiated the airtime purchase with ABC Regional Sports and Entertainment Sales.
Show+Tell managed live-event streaming to the Express digital boards, so I requested that company President Philip Lenger share some of the insights gained from working on this project. His team also provided key considerations for live-stream URL to DOOH screens. “The goal was to utilize technology, creativity and innovation to bring Givenchy (a French fashion house) to New York City for the first time during Fashion Week,” said Lenger. Nearly 4000 people were in attendance for the live show at Pier 26 in Manhattan. “In an effort to widen that viewership base and leave a lasting impression, the brand wanted to showcase itself simultaneously in Times Square,” noted Lenger.
Lenger’s creative team obtained graphics from Givenchy’s Paris marketing team to place underneath the live video feed. “In case internet connectivity is lost, or if the event producer/director has to cut from the live feed due to questionable content, these graphics serve as backup visuals and can be instantly displayed,” he explained.
After quality checking the files to ensure that technical specs were met for correct playback, the team met with streaming video service provider Freecaster and the video production providers to finalize placement of the video feed windows. “It was important to the client that the video not stretch or skew, but, rather, be cropped to fit the windows,” Lenger noted. “There was also a preference for clean feeds for this live stream to avoid any broadcast graphics that could appear too grainy or too small to be recognizable.”
A 10- to 30-second delay was provided so the Show+Tell team could cut the live stream if necessary. A conference bridge was open for all parties involved (production team, Freecaster, Show+Tell, Givenchy) to provide the quickest response times to address any issues.
The content was approved/moderated by Givenchy and by Show+Tell for Express. There were no advertisements or commercials displayed during the live stream. “Proof-of-play reports, along with video and photos, were provided after the event concluded for the client’s team in Paris,” said Lenger.
When streaming live to multiple screens, maintaining synchronization between audio and video is a frequent issue. Some companies are offering innovative solutions to address this challenge. Cabletime, for instance, has upgraded its MediaStar IPTV distribution systems to provide adaptively synchronized playback of live video/audio streams across multiple displays.
The expectation of “video everywhere” is fueling the demand for live video on DOOH screens. This might be a good time to take a fresh look at your clients’ signage systems to see how you can enhance them with the display of live streams of interest to their various audiences. To maximize chances for a successful upgrade, it’s always helpful to bone up on the latest developments in streaming applications and practices. The Content Delivery Summit on May 9, followed by Streaming Media East (May 10-11) at the New York Hilton Midtown bring together companies involved in all aspects of streaming media from capture to delivery. Streaming Media’s website (www.streamingmedia.com) is also a good starting point for technical and application info.