Case Study: Streaming With a Bang!

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During the summer of 2008, CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, had the whole world holding its breath when it switched on its Large Hadron Collider (LHC), aimed at re-creating in the laboratory physics conditions similar to those prevailing a billionth of a second after the Big Bang.

At the end of March 2010, CERN attempted, for the first time, to collide the LHC's proton beams at the record energy of 7 TeV, 2.5 times more powerful than the previous world record from Fermilab. The event was streamed live by Groovy Gecko, and the organisation decided to ask the company to do the same again this time, allowing physicists, enthusiasts, and anyone with even a passing interest to log on and watch the show.

A New Era

The LHC is a particle accelerator used to study the smallest known particles. This latest round of experiments saw the experts at CERN colliding proton beams at record energy levels, with the aim of providing answers to unresolved mysteries, such as dark matter, antimatter, and the existence of the Higgs boson.

Not only are these experiments of great importance to physicists across the world, they also generate some public interest, which is one of the main reasons CERN chose to provide a live webcast in this way.

Streaming Live

CERN chose to build its own creative design around the technical player and playlist code provided by Groovy Gecko. This gave the organisation full flexibility in terms of its interface requirements and ultimately led to a clean, good-looking, technically seamless integration.

As always with a live stream, it was important to ensure everything was set up for a seamless streaming experience. Before the start of the experiments, Groovy Gecko set up the webcast page to take the live feed. The company then established and tested the encoder settings and streaming into the player to ensure it was running smoothly.

As is the case with many other companies, security is an extremely important issue to CERN. Groovy Gecko spent a significant amount of time and energy testing the firewall penetration prior to going live.

CERN decided to use its own hardware for encoding, and Groovy Gecko provided the CDN publishing points for CERN to place into its encoders. In this case there was no geoblocking, but Groovy Gecko did place URL security on the streams in order to ensure that other sites could not "deep-link" the streams.

The event itself saw a total of four flash streams for the internet, as well as streams to various mobile platforms via Wi-Fi and 3G. A video postcard using cutting-edge adaptive streaming technology was also produced via a satellite signal acquired by SatStream, the satellite streaming experts. The adaptive streaming technology (Adobe's Dynamic Streaming) essentially makes multiple quality streams available from a single link and adapts to changing conditions in real time automatically, without any buffering.

The Result

By anyone's standards, this was a very large and successful webcast with a record 2.2 million streams from more than 700,000 unique visitors. The Groovy Gecko Insight stats package also produced vital specialist information for CERN to gain a greater insight of its demographic.

The event was a very good scalability test on all fronts, demonstrating how an integrated approach to delivery over multiple platforms can work seamlessly technically and be appropriate for viewers. Being able to stream to mobile phones was a real value-add for CERN as well as acting as a valuable test-bed for future events. Groovy Gecko expects 2011 to be the year for mobile video.

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