Live Event Focus
Now I want to focus on some practical aspects of setting up for live video workflows. The narrative will iterate from some very high-level opinions drilling down into more technical specifics. The idea is that by reading this, you will have some of my experiences in your mind as you try to deliver your live event online.
I have, over the years, produced many thousands of live webcasts. These have varied from global news events to music festivals to business briefings and telemedicine. I have used extremely primitive freeware tools, and extremely expensive high-end broadcast systems to achieve different objectives in countless scenarios.
While many guides to webcasting and live streaming are strongly prescriptive they often assume that “all events” are “pretty much the same.” Obviously the term “live video event” will typically indicate that there is a specific call to action when the event will happen, and there will be an audience wanting to receive the video “as soon as possible” as the event starts.
Unlike video on demand, the live video event requires synchronicity between all the moving parts to be exact. There is rarely scope for re-running the news event or the sporting finish, etc. Live events also critically require a good understanding of the telecoms underpinning the delivery, something that can be of significantly less relevance to on-demand video delivery. This is in part because of the pressure of the criticality of delivery of a live event, and also in part to the audience behavior: a live audience will typically generate a sudden demand on the infrastructure, and ensuring there is capacity for each viewer takes planning, adaptability and resilience for a successful experience.
All too often, as the industry was nascent in the early 2000s, brave publishers would plan a large live online event, something would fail, the threatened traditional broadcast media would jump on the experiment with cries of “the technology will never be ready,” and so on and so forth. In fact it was only through iterations around these failures that we, as a streaming sector, learned how to scale sustainably. And we did this in a period of less than a decade, where the traditional sector has taken some six or seven decades to get as far as they have - and that is far from faultless even now, and has comparatively (to the streaming sector) vast amounts of sunk capital behind it. Today, the ability to scale up to almost any size of live online event is no longer a technical issue. More often than not, if there is any complication, it is to do with rights.
... But that is a different part of the story.