Across K-12 and higher education, video is becoming a vital communication tool for connecting with staff, students, parents and the community, especially amidst a global pandemic. At the same time, high-quality video production and streaming tools are becoming more accessible. With these developments, more campuses are opting to take their video production capabilities up a notch – whether investing in select pro gear, such as an affordable USB 3.0 video capture tool like AJA U-TAP to ensure a more engaging distance learning stream, or installing a complete broadcast-grade studio. Selecting the right technology to meet specific needs can seem daunting, but following a few simple steps, the process can be much more manageable:
1. Find gear that is easy to learn and use
Professional production equipment ranges in complexity, so when building out a production-grade solution or studio for your campus, it’s important to strike the right balance between user-friendly and industry standard. High school campuses like South Carolina-based Spartanburg High School have found success with solutions like the AJA HELO H.264 streaming and recording device. “AJA HELO makes it easy to send all of our live streams where they need to go,” explains Spartanburg High School Technology Coordinator Adam Babcock. “We love that we can log in remotely, change all the configurations and stream to nearly any CDN we want, so we can be up and running in no time, which has been essential given the uptick in virtual content we’ve had to distribute this year with the pandemic.”
Even in higher ed, having a plug-and-play streaming device is proving integral to sharing sports and live performances with audiences who otherwise couldn’t attend, especially with social distancing and COVID-19 venue capacity restrictions. University of North Texas (UNT) College of Music, for instance, is using HELO to stream live student musical performances to its website and YouTube channel. Blair Liikala, Director of Recording, UNT shares, “I demo a lot of encoders and HELO is like a secret weapon used by a lot of schools and athletic departments. In its price range, HELO is one of the top hardware encoders that offers automation, a web interface for remote control, and the dependability that AJA equipment is known for.”
2. Evaluate your cabling and connectivity needs
Think about your production needs. Are you looking to support instructional streams from the classroom, or will you need a central control room and video transport solution that’s able to carry video shot in a range of campus venues like a stadium, arena or performing arts center? Outside of your online live stream, will you need to feed that video back to on-premises displays, such as a stadium jumbotron or concession stand displays? All of these factors will dictate the bandwidth and connectivity demands for your particular setup.
For more simple streaming setups, like for distance learning and training, a teacher could easily use standard internet connectivity to stream a high-quality lecture to a CDN using AJA HELO, or utilize an Io device like the AJA Io 4K Plus with multiple HD feeds when paired with streaming software like Wirecast or VMix. If planning to combine presentation materials (i.e. a Powerpoint) with live stream instruction, a scan converter like AJA ROI (Region of Interest) could prove incredibly helpful.
On the other hand, some schools may require a larger scale production setup that supports video transport over long distances, in which case, fiber connectivity may be beneficial. Emerging tools like AJA’s BRIDGE LIVE multi-channel video encoding/decoding/streaming/transcoding 1RU device can also lend a hand, meeting a range of video production and streaming needs with support for a variety of codecs, containers and protocols. UNT takes a hybrid approach to streams with more than 1000 performances a year across six campus facilities with an SDI and IP video infrastructure. AJA Ki Pro Ultra 12G devices are employed there for high-quality multi-channel HD or single-channel 4K/UltraHD recording over 12G-SDI for simpler cabling. To further streamline production, the university is considering incorporating AJA’s new OG-DANTE-12GAM openGear-compatible 12G-SDI embedded audio to Dante IP audio bridge to its setup.
3. Think like a pro
When choosing any solution for your campus, aim to achieve high production value. Talk to video production and broadcast professionals about the tools they’re using in modern pipelines or consult with an AV integrator. This is especially vital if you’re looking to provide students with real-word experience. Selecting gear that is industry-standard will allow students to get their feet wet in live production and streaming, which can be invaluable for getting a head start on a future career, or at minimum, provide them with the experience required to run a content channel on a site like YouTube.
AV Systems Integrator Digital Resources has built many on-campus studios and understands the demand for hands-on experience well. “Whether a student plans to go to college or enter the workforce after high school, there’s value in getting on-the-job experience, and there’s no better way to learn the tools of the trade than in a real-world setting,” explains Tim Bock, director of marketing and sales, Digital Resources. “We’re helping schools bring that broadcast studio experience to the classroom, including all the standard production equipment, and AJA gear is always a part of our designs. It’s a staple in most modern studio environments, easy for students to learn quickly, and highly affordable, which is ideal for schools with tight budgets.”
Thinking like a pro also means thinking ahead. Formats and standards are constantly evolving, so when it’s time to upgrade, it may just be worth investing in 4K and HDR technology to futureproof. Although there may be more upfront costs, it can save time and money in the long run. Plus, there are benefits to working in 4K and HDR gear now, even if you’re delivering in HD, such as a higher quality picture. Future proofing is a consideration for AV professionals like Liikala, who explains, “Each time we do an upgrade, we want to ensure our facilities are equipped with the latest production standards to broadcast the highest quality video and audio content for our student performances. AJA equipment has been integral in this pursuit.”
Even though video production and streaming needs may vary based on the particular campus and its activities, ensuring a high-quality, low-latency feed isn’t rocket science, wherever the end destination. By adopting intuitive tools and remembering the steps outlined above, you can be up and running in no time. For more details about technology that can help improve your school’s live production and streaming strategy, visit: www.aja.com/solutions/streaming.