From a Trickle, to a Stream

00676_00770In December, I wrote a column on how Bates College went from Zero to Streaming in 10 Days. The article was a hit and I turned it into a webinar forInfoComm. This week I spoke at the NERCOMP (@NERCOMP) annual conference. I shared the stage with Aaron Coburn and Marcus DeMaio from Amherst College.  We each gave a short introduction to what we have done with streaming at our institutions.

There was a lot of good information shared and attendees, either online or in person, walked away immediately ready to implement a plan at their institution.

What struck me about both of our presentations was the theme that streaming does not need to be expensive or complicated.  At Amherst College, Marcus and Aaron rent server space from the Amazon Cloud. On that server they runWowza.  The Amazon service allows them to “rent” the server only when they need it.  Therefore, costs are kept dramatically low. They indicated that over the course of a weekend, with several athletic contests, and several hundred viewers, their total costs were around $200.

As I mentioned in my column, we use Mirror Image, a CDN out of Massachusetts (and they have the accents to prove it). Our costs for this service are rather low as well, about $300 per month, and the service is infinitely scalable. We had an audience member ask about whether we have ever looked at a service like LiveStream. This person indicated that they too had very reasonable costs. The point is don’t let the research you did a few years ago influence your decisions now. Costs for streaming bandwidth today falls in just about everyone’s budget.

Another similarity between Amherst College and Bates College is how we handle the streaming of our athletic contests. We have each put together an inexpensive package that we send out with trained students. The contents of the streaming package vary a bit between the two institutions, but serve the same purpose. We each include a laptop with a DV input. We each include a handheld mini DV camera that gets plugged into the laptop. At Bates we have a USB mixing board and a set of headsets with boom mics. This allow us to do playbyplay of the action. We use free software (Flash Media Encoder Live) to do our encoding and send a stream to our CDN. We purchased this equipment new, and it cost under $2,000 total per package. However, for someone looking to do some initial experimentation, this package could be put together with equipment you already own.

Again, the theme here is very straightforward — you can do good quality streaming in a very tight budget. At Bates, our streaming started as a trickle, with doing a small event every few months. Now we are supporting anywhere from three to 10 events per week. A trickle has quickly become a fast moving stream, and it is very exciting.

As always, I am very interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences! Are you supporting streaming at your institutions? As an integrator, are you finding new and profitable ways to get your clients into the streaming business? Get in touch and let us know what you think.