Case Study: Cutting the Edges at the MTV EMAs

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[This is a vendor-supplied case study. Streaming Media accepts submissions from vendors based solely upon their relevance to our readers. -Ed.]

The MTV Europe Music Awards (EMA) are MTV's annual award celebration for the European region, and are held at a different major European city every year. MTV has been live-streaming the event on the web since 1996, and with its viewership turning more and more towards online media, the significance of the EMA web show grows steadily from year to year.

In 2009, the MTV EMAs ( celebrated their 15th anniversary and came back to Berlin, where the first EMAs were held in 1994. This year, MTV pursued a 4-hour web show live from the EMA venue, the O2 World. The web show was, for the first time, produced entirely tapeless and in HD 1080i, and netted more than 1 million views.

EMA Web Strategy
The EMA web offering aims to give viewers a "behind the scenes" look beyond the traditional TV formats. It allows viewers to engage with the concept, as well as with one another. Finally, it allows MTV to reach additional viewer segments beyond the traditional TV distribution.

MTV provides specific EMA microsites in 18 language versions. These allow users to cast votes for their favourite artists, read up on the latest developments around the awards, watch previous footage, and watch the live streams. Having traditionally integrated a custom chat into the live player, MTV opted to integrate Facebook chat widgets this year. The stream was integrated further into MTV Europe's 12 national Facebook setup.

The Challenge
After producing several earlier MTV EMA web shows, MTV approached MES ( with the following requirements: besides streaming the main show live in multiple bitrates and country-specific versions, two web shows were to be produced from multiple floors in the venue. The shows required inserts as well as GFX, and on-demand packages needed to be produced and put online as quickly as possible. For the first time, the production was to be run completely tapeless and in HD 1080i.

MES' offering was based on EVS XT[2], Ikegami HDK-79EX3 fibre camera systems, Panasonic AVHS450 vision mixer, custom-built HD encoders, Final Cut workstations used for editing and playout, and lightweight Sony PMW EX-3 XDCAM EX camcorders for ENG. MES technical crew consisted of cameramen with assistants and operators responsible for EVS, vision mix, sound and encoding, respectively. MTV staff included producers and operation managers, director, editors and network technicians.

The Production
In the days leading up to the show, several packages were produced with German MTV moderator Joko Winterscheid, who gave tours of the venue and interacted with fans. These clips were shot on the Sony camcorders and edited on-site on the Final Cut workstations. They went online ahead of the show and also served as inserts for the Red Carpet Show between celebrity appearances.

On show day, the 4 hour-long live webcast kicked off with the Red Carpet Show hosted by In addition to providing the streaming, MES produced two live web shows from the MTV EMA venue. MTV's Joko and singer Joss Stone. Audio, video and intercom were multiplexed and sent to the production room via the venue's inhouse fibre system. Using the EVS, the program feed was delayed live by 30 minutes to close the gap to the main show. This meant that the show's timing needed to be perfect to the second so that the feed could cut over directly to the main show. The show was further distributed via SDI signals to video cubes along the venue, as well as to MTV News for further editing.

Exactly 30 minutes after the Red Carpet Show finished, the gigantic main show began. In parallel, the second "All Access" show from several floors further up commenced, which was shown in the live stream during TV ad breaks. Backstage host Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy handed the "Best Worldstage Performance" and "Best Push Act" awards, and stars stopped by for interviews, helped themselves at the bar and used an interactive Twitter Wall. The importance of the All Access show was underlined when, as part of the main show, host Katy Perry checked in to get thelatest gossip from Wentz.

Live Streams
The live streams were shown on MTV's national EMA microsites as well as on MTV's 12 national Facebook pages. They were powered by a total of eight dual-quadcore live encoders that pushed up to three bitrates each, ranging from 450Kbps to 1.6Mbps. In total, 16 parallel H.264 streams were sent out (including country-specific and backup streams), which were distributed by Akamai and Level3.

As the 155Mbps network uplink was shared with the rest of the show production and press, as well as with the VOD uploads, MTV implemented traffic shaping to guarantee adequate upstream bandwidth for the live streams.

On-demand Package Production
The on-demand package production needed to be designed so that packages could go online shortly after they aired. Due to the large amounts of data involved, it was critical to measure and optimise transfer times between the different systems such as EVS, Mac workstation, and Windows-based encoders as well as external storage. As the content rolled in, it was pre-segmented by the EVS operator and then pulled in as ProRes 422 on two Final Cut systems for  editing. The completed packages were sent to a VOD encoding cluster via Gigabit ethernet, which produced a set of high-quality reference (3Mbps) and medium-quality (800Kbps) H.264 clips with real-time encoding performance. The medium-quality clips were automatically uploaded to MTV's VOD repository with Akamai in order to quickly provide a first version of the clip that
could be integrated into the EMA microsites. The high-quality reference clips were sent to a local Signiant server that forwarded the clips to MTV's content repository  and to a remote encoding cluster operated by MTV, which transcoded the clips into further bitrates.

All in all, the 2009 MTV EMA web show production was a challenging but fun project. By far the most difficult aspect of the project was to realise the production workflow within the given firm timeframe-timing the production to the second, quickly relocating to a different floor between the two shows, and producing the on-demand clips with a short turnaround time. At the end of the night, 5TB of video data had been produced-provided to MTV as a compact takeaway package-and the stream had accumulated 1.03 million views.

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