Catch The 365: Fearless Live Video Streaming, by Bus!

To launch Microsoft Office 365 in the UK, Inner Ear was asked by digital PR agency 33 Digital to produce live video streaming coverage of the day. Pretty standard stuff, right? Except this launch was taking place on board a classic Routemaster bus. While it was driving around central London. What could possibly go wrong?

We love a challenge. In fact we thrive on them. And there were so many interesting challenges involved in achieving a smooth day’s broadcasting from the vintage bus. Inner Ear’s head of video for the project, Andy Brown, explains exactly what it takes to do live video streaming “on the move”…

Andy Brown (Head of Video) preparing for Live Video Streaming Production by Inner Ear

All Aboard the 365!

At the end of January 2013, 33 Digital pioneered the idea of driving a Routemaster bus around central London. Bloggers, celebrity speakers and day-to-day techies would all share information on how they use Microsoft 365. All of this would not seem very 2013 unless someone could share this event while it happened. I worked with the Inner Ear Stream Team (Matthew, Shaun, Dougal and myself) to push the event across the world via live streaming video over the internet.

We’ve been helping clients of all kinds stream events more and more over the last three years. We consider ourselves very well equipped with kit and knowledge to produce live video streaming from pretty much anywhere! From Danny MacAskill at the Riverside Museum to theatre in the Scottish borders, Shetland Jazz Festival and Blair Castle in the highlands. And now a bus driving around Central London. Everyone at Inner Ear, like me, is always pushing boundaries. Because, we love helping clients stream events they never thought could be possible.

Catch the 365

Rigging Live Video Streaming on a Bus

In London, we climbed onboard the #CatchThe365 (to give the activity it’s #hashtag) to set up for live video streaming. We rigged three cameras and a couple of mics downstairs and connected them to our audio and vision mixers upstairs; where we set up mission control. To give the cameras some length we rigged up the BNC cables (for video) and paired them with ‘talkback’ kits. This enables the camera operators to speak to Shaun, our vision mix operator. He can then help with direction, framing and positioning of shots.

We had plenty of electrical tape and cable ties. Everyone, including camera operators was going to be hopping on and off the bus. We never want trip hazards, especially live on the internet (although think of the YouTube hits). The HD video signal was then fed into our streaming computer and sent to a dedicated (our favourite streaming service provider in 2013) channel to broadcast publicly online.

Setup and Testing

In order to supply the WIFI signal to broadcast the live video stream we needed a very special mobile broadband device. We used a box, made by Viprinet, supplied and supported by Prodec Networks. It bonds 3G (and since early 2013, 4G too) signal of three SIM cards to create an internet connection strong and reliable enough to handle live video streaming in HD. A very cool gadget and something we could not have done the job without. Plug and play with an ethernet to your main streaming computer and you can stream around central London!

The great people at Prodec even tested the Viprinet box at several of the locations we would be visiting to make sure we’d be fine.

Andy at 33 Digital Offices

On the morning of the job, we arrived at Marble Arch at 8am just as the morning commuters were beginning their journey to work. I was main camera operator. So I started to set up shots and plan out the day before we hit the red button. As always, planning ahead, thinking of what may happen and having shots in mind can help so much.

Going Live

Filming began after 9am with our presenter, Zoe Cunningham (an experienced broadcaster and technology blogger), doing a piece to camera to introduce the #CatchThe365 activities to the live stream audience. Then we were offski! We made our way slowly from Marble Arch to Leicester Square. Then we had two hours filming and live video streaming everything that happened on board.

We had a magician, a small band and talks from Will Greenwood, Tess Daly and a selection of “mummy bloggers”. As always, we had contingency plans which took into account all the equipment and their importance in the daisy chain. However, we consider about one unknown: the old Routemaster bus breaking down.

All Change!

Breaking down in central London on a busy Wednesday morning meant we had to abandon ship (or bus). At the request of the driver, it was “all change please!” And then, at the request of 33 Digital, we swiftly moved all the kit to a hotel near Leicester Square. And then we could carry on with the live streamed talks. Meanwhile, the bus was waiting to be jump-started and would then moved to Leicester Square to continue the public engagement side of things.

Striking down gear from the broken down bus was fast. Cable runs were carefully pulled back upstairs and power supplys switched off as we packed up moved on. The biggest challenge of the day was resetting the kit ready to go in under 30 mins at our new location. Thankfully, we are well used to that kind of challenge. Everyone knew what goes where and we hadn’t left anything on the bus! Improvising and problem solving are part of the job. After all the talks were finished it was time to break down for the last time and grab a drink.

But, Really, Live Video Streaming on a Bus!

The 33 Digital team were very happy with how we worked and adapted to the changing situations and although it would’ve been nice to carry working on the bus all day, running with a wee spanner in the works keeps you even more on your toes. I guess working with technology (this time old Routemaster bus technology) is the same as working with kids and animals on live TV. It comes with risks!

Doing a job like this has opened up the door to lots more ideas behind on-the-go live video streaming jobs for clients as we know it is possible and we are more than comfortable doing it. Next time let’s go for one of those new eco-friendly red top buses.

Delivering this unique form of HD live video streaming helped to launch Microsoft Office 365 in the UK in an innovative and memorable way. Inner Ear specialise in this combination of creative concept, media production, live video streaming production. The team work on location and in the studio on a wide range of projects and can offer many other digital media services, tailored to our client’s needs. Get in touch to discuss how we can create and use live streaming to help build your brand, extend your reach and engage your audience.