Producing Live Events: Master Tip 9: It’s All About the Bandwidth!

Total Webcasting is a webcasting service provider out of New York that produces dozens of events a month, and thousands since its inception in 2007. Total Webcasting is unique in that it produces virtually all events for its customers, while owning the streaming server and content management system used for live and on-demand delivery, providing the complete “glass-to-glass” experience. Through their experience, the company has mastered the art of the problem-free webcast. I’ve been after company president Robert Feldman to share his tips with my readers for years; he’s agreed to share his top ten in Letterman order. This is number nine.

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Don’t believe everything you are told about the host facility during the initial planning call, particularly regarding the logistics of ingress and ingress and Internet access. Our TW Mediacart (left) is portable but on wheels so stairs are a big hurdle. We learned the hard way that some coordinators at hotels and conference centers don’t think two or three steps are a problem or worth mentioning. But at 6am when we typically show up for a webcast, there is no one around to help you carry your equipment in.

In NYC and DC where we do most of our jobs, parking and getting inside the building from the street is challenging so walking it ahead of time with no equipment can save you a lot of aggravation on the day of the Webcast.

Then there is the all-important Internet connection. Of all the ‘single points of failure’ (SPF) this one will really ruin your day.

Although site visits prior to a webcast might be tough to arrange, we try visit each new facility simply to check the internet connection. Be sure to ask if your connection is dedicated or shared. While shared connections are cheaper, there’s no way to tell whether it’s shared by a few people or a few thousand. More than once we were in a major hotel and right after lunch the internet connection slowed down to a crawl. It’s too late at this point to do anything about the fact you and the entire hotel are on the same connection. 

If you’re the client, recognize that unless you acquire the more expensive dedicated connection, you can’t guarantee that the outbound video stream will get through, potentially compromising quality of service. If you’re the service provider, you better make sure the customer understands this point, and get it in writing, because if and when the video stops, the finger will inevitably point at you. 

Whether dedicated or shared, when you do a site visit, ask to plug in to the jack you will actually be using (it should go without saying that you should never, NEVER webcast over a wireless network). While Speedtest.net is good for a quick snapshot, try uploading a large file to your CDN as a prolonged test. If you let it go for 15 to 30 min, you will learn what the real upload speed is.

Editors note: While ingress won’t be a problem for all producers, bandwidth certainly will be, and Robert is telling it like it is. Note that Ethernet provided by the facility is only one option. You can check out more in my article Video for the Long Haul: Exploring Backhaul Options, which covers cellular muxing, satellite, and fiber. These are definitely worth checking out if you’re staring at a massive quote for dedicated connectivity from the hotel or conference facility.

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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