Video Essentials

Streaming Live From Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center is the world’s leading performing arts center. Located on 16.3 acres in New York, the Lincoln Center complex comprises 12 resident organizations, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; The Juilliard School; The Metropolitan Opera; New York City Ballet; New York Philharmonic; New York City Opera; School of American Ballet; Film Society of Lincoln Center; Jazz at Lincoln Center; Lincoln Center Theater; Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Together, the 12 institutions present thousands of performances, educational programs, tours, and other events each year on the Lincoln Center campus.

As the chief technology officer of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts-the organization responsible for numerous aspects managing Lincoln Center facilities, as well as being the world’s leading presenter of programming-I am responsible for ensuring that the Lincoln Center is supported by state-of-the-art technology at a level of excellence commensurate with the caliber of events that we host. One of our technology centerpieces is the full HD production environment at the Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. A key component of our HD capabilities is live and on-demand HD encoding and streaming using Digital Rapids’ StreamZHD.

Equipped with four robotic HD cameras, Alice Tully Hall is linked to the facility’s data center through a single-mode fiber infrastructure. Communication Specialties’ FiberLink product is used to interface the fiber infrastructure with HD/SDI signals. The data center is the hub of our HD operations, housing our HD servers, routers, encoders, and other related equipment. Here, a StreamZHD system receives source content over HD/SDI and encodes it for live or on-demand external distribution. Resulting on-demand files are hosted for audience distribution in our own streaming environment; live streams are typically distributed through CDN services from Incited Media, depending on audience size.

Lincoln Center’s streaming capabilities recently supported the worldwide debut performances of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, the epilogue to the acclaimed Tectonic Theater Project play. An onstage preshow event was streamed through StreamZHD to audiences in theaters worldwide. More than 150 theaters across all 50 states and 14 countries-reaching audiences as far away as China-watched live or time-shifted streams of the preshow speeches and introductions. Streaming was then suspended as live readings of the new play were performed at each theater, with the original cast delivering the Lincoln Center performance. Following the performance, streaming from Lincoln Center resumed with
a live, interactive Q&A session. Questions were submitted through Twitter, with answers streamed to the participating theaters.

Streams were provided in three different bitrates for maximum audience accessibility and encoded in the H.264 compression format for viewing through Adobe Flash. We chose the Flash platform for its ubiquity, with its deep market penetration and as its accessibility across multiple operating systems. In addition to three concurrent live streams, we also simultaneously created three equivalent file-based archives. In addition to allowing us the option of making them available on-demand at a later date, these archive files supported the time-shifting requirements of those theaters (mostly in different time zones) that chose to hold their performances later in the day rather than simultaneously. Files of the preshow event were uploaded to a server by FTP during the live performance and downloaded by the theaters for their subsequent presentations; similarly, files of the postshow Q&A were distributed by FTP. The StreamZHD system produced all six outputs (three live and three archived) simultaneously
in real time.

StreamZHD was recommended to us by our systems integrator, HB Communications, and installed as part of our overall HD deployment by a team. We built this project with replication and budget in mind. We didn’t want to create monolithic infrastructure or workflow that we couldn’t sustain and reuse for other projects within our operational budget, both in human and technical terms.

The ability to stream at HD quality over the internet is phenomenal. Our streaming of the Laramie event was very well-received, and we look forward to using StreamZHD to support future events. High-definition streaming and our HD production capabilities are key benefits for artists, performers, and groups holding events in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, and StreamZHD is an important part of making that happen.

Rob Tarleton is chief technology officer at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.


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