Ravensbourne University London is using Amazon Web Services (AWS), including AWS Elemental Media Services, to bring live broadcasts of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) productions to schools across the United Kingdom. Designed to encourage interaction with young audiences across a range of viewing platforms, such as classrooms and auditoriums, the RSC’s free Schools’ Broadcasts are generously supported by Virgin Media and feature real-time Twitter questions and answers and graphic overlays.
Ravensbourne University London is a specialist creative university, dedicated to preparing its students for successful careers in digital media and design. It offers courses that give students experience using modern broadcast technology in real-world production scenarios. Since its collaboration with RSC began over six years ago, the university has streamed Shakespeare’s works to hundreds of schools, including those in remote locations with varying bandwidth accessibility.
“Both students and schools are responding positively to the program, and it is a great example of what’s possible when technology, creativity and education converge. AWS cloud services have been instrumental in bringing this experience to students,” Richard Manning, Associate Senior Lecturer, BSc (Hons) Digital Television Technology, School of Media. “With AWS Elemental solutions and cloud-based media services at the center of our streaming workflow, we no longer receive reports of buffering issues, even in rural areas where Internet connectivity has historically been patchy or broadband access unavailable. We now expect to bring the experience to even more schools, including those that may have initially given up due to connectivity challenges.”
In a collaborative workflow, RSC provides Ravensbourne with captured live content of theatre performances, while second-year television students at Ravensbourne are responsible for turning the performance into three parts including live Q&As with the crew and actors across a range of viewing platforms and regions.
Earlier this year, after finding its existing setup could be improved with consistent quality and detailed viewership analytics, Ravensbourne turned to AWS for its greater scalability and ability to deliver multiple high-quality versions of each stream. The university introduced AWS Elemental Media Services, the Amazon CloudFront content delivery network (CDN), and Amazon CloudWatch monitoring and management service into its streaming infrastructure.
“The AWS team met with us and spent a lot of time diving into our workflow and challenges. They proposed a number of solutions, helping us find a more efficient and affordable way to get this content to schools while also giving our students exposure to the kinds of technology they’ll be working with in the field after graduation,” shared Manning. “Their team was incredible, and took an authentic interest in what our students were working on and trying to achieve. The intuitive nature and functionality of the technology were also high points.”
AWS Elemental Media Services play an integral role in the program, providing affordable access to cloud-based services that support the creation and delivery of high quality streams to each school, and the flexibility to scale, without the traditional upfront capital investments required for similar productions. The AWS Elemental MediaLive service supports the creation and delivery of video streams. The AWS Elemental MediaPackage service is used to create a playlist for each school’s CDN and automatically adjusts video quality to match each school’s connection.
Beyond the broadcasts, the workflow has also proven a valuable instructional tool for Ravensbourne professors. Instructors can easily set up a stream and demonstrate how the system works, showing monitoring points via Amazon CloudWatch.
“It’s a fantastic resource to have at our disposal on so many different levels. Our students are able to dive deep into the workflow to get real-world experience, and we can give them a more holistic understanding of the process and technology from a theory point of view,” said Manning.
Founded in 1877, The Washington Post is a world-renowned news publisher and recipient of multiple Pulitzer prizes. Known for its commitment to political journalism and international coverage with 24 correspondents in 18 bureaus around the world, The Washington Post’s mission is to serve as the first place readers turn for breaking news and investigative journalism. The publisher also differentiates itself as a technological innovator in the publishing industry, including its embrace of the newest digital technologies to drive journalistic excellence and improve the overall experience of its subscribers.
The Post's Arc Publishing platform was developed as an internal suite of tools, initially to bridge the gap between the historical print publishing mission and the new demands created by digital and mobility trends. Showcasing what it takes to be competitive in the news business today, content from Arc is delivered in parallel to print pages, web, mobile apps and a wide range of social media platforms. Over time, the portfolio of tools in Arc has expanded to include management of copy, photos, and analytics, as well as video through the Goldfish Video Management System.
Starting in 2014, third parties began using the Arc Publishing platform and it is now used by the Los Angeles Times, Canada’s Globe and Mail, the New Zealand Herald, and smaller publishers such as Alaska Dispatch News and Oregon’s Willamette Week. These news organizations use Arc to ensure that subscribers get a responsive, reliable experience when they visit a site on a desktop or mobile device while maintaining their own distinct look and feel. In total, the platform routinely supports 95 million visitors with 1 billion monthly page views.
Arc Publishing is now reaching beyond the world of newspapers by licensing its technology to broadcaster Raycom Media, which has relaunched more than 40 of the company’s television and radio stations on the Arc platform. Arc now enables Raycom to bring news, information, and entertainment content in real time to millions of viewers on their preferred devices. Raycom is one of the largest media companies in the U.S., with stations in 44 markets and 20 states.
“The Arc platform enables fast and seamless integration not only for news publishers but also for large digital brands worldwide, and we’re excited to extend this to a major national broadcaster like Raycom Media,” said Scot Gillespie, CTO of The Washington Post. “Arc’s live and on-demand video capabilities, combined with its superior multi-site support, give Raycom a powerful platform suite with which to achieve their digital publishing goals.”
From an early stage, The Post chose to move away from the monolithic approach used by its prior content management system. With the use of AWS, the Arc Publishing platform takes full advantage of a microservices-based architecture with Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) enabling rapid, automated deployment of new features and updates. Utilizing a custom development platform, also built on AWS, Arc Publishing completes more than 50 deployments per day to help media companies continually enhance viewers’ experiences. AWS has also helped The Washington Post expand Arc into a multi-tenant architecture, scale rapidly, and take full advantage of new innovations such as AWS Elemental Media Services.
The Arc Platform’s Goldfish Video Management System heavily leverages the suite of AWS Elemental Media Services and gives system users complete freedom to pick and choose how they want to present both live and recorded video assets in a single, integrated workflow. AWS Elemental MediaLive, AWS Elemental MediaConvert, and AWS Elemental MediaStore enable Arc to support video version management, captioning, and coordination of different video streams across multiple devices.
One of Arc’s key differentiators is its seamless integration of live stream sources and digital publishing functionality which help provide automated workflows for live video distribution. Arc enables easy and efficient clipping, cropping, and publishing of live video stream segments even while the stream is running. For live content, Arc uses an on-premises AWS Elemental Live encoder, which acts as the video source for the AWS Cloud. All Goldfish assets are then published and delivered globally through the Amazon CloudFront content delivery network (CDN).
The flexibility of the platform, including the extensive use of AWS Elemental Media Services, has enabled Arc’s team to create turn-key solutions that can scale up and onboard clients overnight. In addition to powering all of Raycom’s sites in less than six months, Arc launched iOS and Android apps for the same 40 stations in the same time frame.
By offloading the creation of publishing tools and the hosting of sites, media companies can concentrate on journalism and videography rather than the technical requirements of getting content in front of readers and viewers. "Arc’s value proposition is essentially let us run the content management system (CMS) for you. You focus on differentiation,” added Gillespie.
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Pac-12 Networks, the sports media production arm of the prestigious Pac-12 Conference, is on a mission to transform the sports fan experience – reaching more viewers, at more locations, and on more devices. Their new approach takes advantage of AWS cloud technologies, including AWS Elemental Media Services, to re-imagine core master control production workflows as well as content archive, personalization, and monetization. The innovations demonstrate that higher-quality services can bring greater fan engagement and enhanced advertising revenue. By tying together a standardized video encoding source that feeds a comprehensive cloud production workflow and distribution network, Pac-12 Networks stands at the forefront of a fundamental change in how colleges produce sports media.
AWS is powering live broadcasts of 850 games for Pac-12 collegiate sports over the 2018-19 season. By moving the Pac-12 broadcasts onto a standard cloud platform powered by AWS, every aspect of the media workflow can be enhanced and made more flexible for production and syndication. Pac-12 Networks is connecting its 10Gb multi-venue contribution network to AWS using a 1Gb AWS DirectConnect. AWS Elemental MediaLive and AWS Elemental MediaPackage services prepare all live streams for delivery in Apple’s HLS format to IOS, Android, Web, Chromecast and Apple TV devices.
“We’ve chosen to go all-in on the world’s leading cloud to drive digital transformation across the entire organization, and to enhance our innovation and workflow processes so that we can bring new offerings and better experiences to market faster,” said Mark Kramer, Vice President, Engineering & Technology at Pac-12 Networks. “Video quality has been absolutely gorgeous during the game for linear broadcast and TV Everywhere audiences. It was a huge positive transition for us – a new level of experience, years in the making.”
Taking the new cloud-centric approach, master control – the brains of Pac-12 Networks’ operation – uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Glacier as petabyte-sized primary archives for all recorded content, and as the basis of an automated ingest workflow. The ability to call on unlimited amounts of Amazon S3 storage as required liberated other aspects of the production workflow, to enable, among other things, the creation of a new live-to-VOD capture feature. Because of the seamless use of this cloud workflow, AWS Elemental MediaTailor now provides a straightforward option to perform server-side ad insertion for both live and on-demand content, creating a whole new basis for content monetization. Other AWS services at play in the Pac-12 cloud infrastructure include AWS IAM, Amazon CloudFront, Amazon EC2 Autoscaling, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) and Amazon Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) to provide a secure, highly effective backbone for TV everywhere service delivery.
In the future, automated processing of the same assets with AWS Machine Learning services adds the potential for a whole new range of service enhancements, including automated gameplay highlight clips, and real-time closed captioning for broadcasters. Another potential future application involves AWS Lambda, a serverless application model that uses less compute for processing clip and highlight generation. In this workflow, the second a game is over, Pac-12 Networks would have all assets, such as game highlights, directly accessible for streaming and syndication partners. As a result, a wide variety of highlight options could be made available to fans, offering a much richer post game experience.
“As we standardize on AWS machine learning and media services, we’ll be able to usher in a new era of entertainment for collegiate sports enthusiasts,” continues Kramer. “Our fans will benefit from highly reliable and personalized viewer experiences, even in times of rapid traffic spikes like conference championships or rivalry games, and our internal teams will be able to experiment with ease using AWS services to rapidly test new ideas. The unmatched breadth of functionality, agility, and security that AWS provides has been, and will continue to be, instrumental to our success in the cloud. The way viewers expect to consume games is completely changing. Without AWS, we couldn’t meet our fans’ needs.”