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Live Broadcasting on an Access Budget

Leightronix's 'PEGCasting' does it over IP

Inside the master control at TV-21
At TV-21, the educational access channel of the Toms River (N.J.) Regional School District, we serve a community of about 100,000 people in four towns. Our district is comprised of more than 20 buildings, including 18 schools.

by Michael Bucca, technician for TV-21

This past school year, we purchased the Leightronix Nexus video controller to automate our station’s master control using server-based technology. The Nexus has created a new, tapeless workflow for our station.

More recently, we were tasked with finding a solution to broadcast our high school “Game of the Week” live to TV-21. With facilities spread across 10 miles, we had an uphill battle to accomplish any video linkage. We wanted to find a cost-effective solution, yet we knew any technology to provide live SD video linkage would be expensive and out of the range of our budget. We investigated fiber-optic lines between multiple schools, line-of-sight microwave transmission and even cutting-edge cellular technology. The problem in every case was cost. These solutions started anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000.

Video-over-IP solutions were an option we had begun to consider. Our school district’s network was very robust with many locations available with connectivity. Our chief concern was maintaining broadcastquality SD video. In early 2009, we learned of the Leightronix PEGVault. This device allows encoding of high-quality SD video from a remote location into MPEG-2 and have it delivered via TCP/IP to a Nexus controller, ready for broadcast.

TV-21 in Toms River, N.J., serves 18 schools In 2009, Leightronix began to advertise a process called “PEGCasting.” In this process, the PEGVault begins to encode the MPEG-2 file and buffers it for a minimum of two minutes. Then the Nexus begins playing the file back as it continues to receive it. The end result was a next-to-live, full-quality broadcast over our cable station with a twominute delay.

The workflow for setting up a live broadcast is straightforward. The only equipment we have added to our existing remote broadcast set-up was the PEGVault, a small five-port router, and a laptop. Our composite video source, analog audio source, and Ethernet connection are plugged directly into the PEGVault. We use the router to allow the laptop and the PEGVault to work over a single CAT5 drop.

The software for PEGVault is mostly contained within a Web browser environment. The Nexus controller software, WinLGX, runs simultaneously. WinLGX allows for complete control of our station from anywhere within our TCP/IP network. The Nexus’ Web interface also allows for complete message board and graphic overlay control for a total remote master control interface.

We schedule our game to air at a given time, and the software allows us to operate the station to switch to our live feed at the right point. We begin our game’s production at the moment we begin PEGcasting. Two minutes later, when we get to the point when we are ready to hit air, the Nexus automatically reads the clip from PEGVault and begins broadcasting on our channel. On TV-21, we look as if we hit air exactly at the right moment, even though we are really two minutes into the game. The on-air results are excellent.

There are bandwidth requirements to be able to use this method. The network must support upload bandwidths of at least 4-5 Mbps. Without that, the risk of losing connectivity is high because the buffering of the clip is insufficient. Only at one location did we have to lower the quality of the video to accommodate bandwidth. We tend to broadcast on our school’s network at night when there is lighter traffic.

This methodology has opened us to a whole new world of applications. Now, with a minimal setup, we are able to broadcast from almost any location in our district to our entire community. This set-up and transmission method has offered consistency and quality. We did not want to settle for a “streaming” quality broadcast signal, and Leightronix has delivered a methodology that works so well with educational budgets and constraints. It is something that can help dozens of school districts or any type of access television. It sure helped us.