How did you usher in the new year? Chances are you watched the countdown on TV with your friends & family, toasting as the mystical dial hit midnight and the fanfare erupted all around you celebrating 2018 and the fact that you didn’t have to work on Monday. Another great year has passed, and we have a feeling 2018 will be even better!
But you don’t have to tell that to the broadcast crew of the Times Square Ball Drop 2018 in New York. Going on their 3rd year of countdown webcast, Live X once again hosted and broadcasted the official live stream of the Ball Drop (sponsored by the Times Square Alliance), which reached over 2 million views in 6 hours of the program.
Here’s a clip of the video:
Now, if there’s one thing particularly remarkable about this show, it’s how flawlessly Live X was able to make it look like a traditional TV broadcast. Multiple interviews, roaming ENGs, seamless switching & transitions, and most importantly, crystal-clear video quality. So how did they do it? With the best encoders/decoders in the market of course!
Broadcasting from the middle of Times Square was going to be no easy feat, and Live X technical supervisor Nick Nagurka was well-aware. Not only was there over a million people in attendance, but with the congestion of cellular signals from a million phones stuffing 4G, you’d probably get a better transmission using paper cups for phones.
“There was no way we were going to get any signal out of there, but we needed to have roaming ENGs if we were going to produce a good show,” explained Nagurka. “That’s why it was so important to have a reliable remote point-to-point transport from our roaming camera to the broadcast truck.”
So to broadcast in the crowd, Nagurka and the production team found a different solution:
- 3x Roaming ENG camera.
- 1x Teradek Cube encoders mounted to a camera.
- 1x Silvus StreamCaster SC4200 radio on same camera.
- 1x Silvus StreamCaster SC4400 radio at broadcast truck.
- 1x Cube decoder at broadcast truck.
- Underground fiber circuit to master control room for transmission via Verizon dedicated line.
While Live X had their own stage to set up multiple cameras, the most important cameras were the roaming ENGs capturing host Jonathan Bennett as he went around chatting with attendees and general audience B-rolls. Mounted to one of the 3 cameras were two critical pieces of equipment: Silvus StreamCaster SC4200 radio and Teradek Cube 655 encoder.
Silvus StreamCaster is a powerful, military-grade variable radio which can stream AV at up to 100Mbps through RF congested areas. This was paired with Live X’s Cube 655, a scalable video encoder for point-to-point video transport.
Once the Cube encoded the video into MPEG-TS, the StreamCaster radio transmitted it via a 5.2Ghz frequency through multiple range extenders and to the broadcast truck. A Cisco switch received the data and sent it to a Cube decoder, which decoded the H.264 video and pushed it to the switcher. The final video was then sent via fiber circuit to Live X’s master control room in the Hudson Yards for distribution.
The official feed was streamed to several live platforms simultaneously: Facebook (Times Square, New York Page), Livestream.com, Twitter and Periscope.
“We’ve never been able to ingest our ENG camera feeds so quickly into the switcher before, and the Cubes were a huge part of it,” said Nagurka. “The efficiency of the encoding and how high-def the video was made it an essential part of delivering the Ball Drop to viewers at home, and helped us produce a successful live show for the Times Square Alliance.”
Live X is a New York-based live production house. Check out their portfolio on their website, as well as past case studies: