Virtual learning has quickly become an essential offering across education in the last year as universities around the world transitioned from in-person and hybrid learning models to full virtual setups during the global pandemic. On the collegiate level, AV teams rapidly adapted, researching and adopting new live production and streaming technologies to not only support remote instruction but also to future proof their live event production and delivery workflows. In overhauling its audio and video broadcast network, FHNW Academy of Art and Design at the FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland designed its upgrade around AJA’s BRIDGE LIVE multi-channel live video contribution, backhauling, streaming and delivery solution, which enables the AV team to easily stream and transport high-quality, low-latency video originating from 3G- or 12G-SDI equipment via the SRT protocol over the public internet.
“We’re an art and design university, and one of a few in the region, so quality is crucial, as is giving students exposure to modern tools of the trade. By nature, art and design are experimental, so for our students and staff to be able to export their work freely – whether animated content, moving picture designs, documentary films, cinema projects, or some other media – we’d knew that we’d need an open network,” shared FHNW Academy of Art and Design Head of Media and Broadcast Infrastructure Suresh Surenthiran. “Early on, I requested the network be hosted on a separate firewall from other university operations, especially for media distribution, a decision that has allowed us to exponentially grow the quality of video our network can support. We can easily move uncompressed 8K and HDR across the network, and with the help of BRIDGE LIVE, we now have a robust network supporting broadcast quality content in 4K and multi-channel HD, which is crucial as projectors and displays continue to grow in size.”
Spread across six on-campus facilities, the network is connected via fiber and managed from a main control room, where most equipment resides. It’s designed as a training base for students and to demonstrate the quality of content that is achievable with the right workflow. In addition to supporting the transmission and archiving of high-quality media projects developed on creative workstations that students use for video editing, VFX, 3D art or other projects, the network also provides the foundation for all of the university’s video production and distribution, whether for instructional and training purposes, conferences or other applications.
BRIDGE LIVE powers a majority of these video productions. For most projects, the team uses active inputs on its Riedel media network device with multiple sources coming in, and simply selects the input they want to transport through BRIDGE LIVE. “All of our buildings are fully cabled, so we can easily route signals to BRIDGE LIVE for streaming to our website or through Vimeo and SRT Streaming via 3Q. It’s our bridge between broadcasting and webcasting,” Surenthiran shared. “For live venue content in particular, BRIDGE LIVE is great in that it allows us to manage four parallel video streams in different languages. We’ve also found overall that it solves a lot of pains, and its UI is robust yet easy to navigate. I love how it provides so much functionality in one box; it’s a solid machine, and the HDR function is very well done.”
With 2020 presenting incredible challenges and unexpected scenarios, including limitations on the number of staff present in the building and supporting remote work, Surenthiran found the BRIDGE LIVE combined with the AJA U-TAP essential to responding quickly. “U-TAP touches most of our webcasts and video conferences that require bringing in remote feeds,” he shared. “Using it, we can take the SDI signal from whichever conferencing platform an instructor or video participant is using (i.e. Zoom, Webex, Facetime, Skype, etc.) and bring the live feed into our video mixer, where we can then manage it and transport it for delivery to the CDN using BRIDGE LIVE. BRIDGE LIVE provides a dashboard to connect our team to the conference participants.”
Uncertain of what the future will hold, Surenthiran remains confident that his workflow is futureproof, but that doesn’t mean his work is finished. He concluded, “We’re closely paying attention to emerging developments that might improve our pipeline, from artificial intelligence and machine learning to the cloud. Cloud technology is proliferating quickly, but for most universities, standard streaming equipment is 3G- or 12G-SDI capable, and it isn’t currently easy to bring content from those devices into the cloud. That’s where BRIDGE LIVE fills a niche. It’s allowing us to easily stream and transport high-quality, low-latency video streams originating from 3G- or 12G-SDI equipment over the public internet securely, and that’s invaluable.”