Following a European Invitation to tender, the European Central Bank selected BCE for handling the webcasting of live and on-demand monetary policy decisions press conferences.
The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank of the 19 European Union countries which have adopted the euro. The ECB was looking for a video partner to ensure the coverage of the Governing Council press conferences and other event webcasts.
BCE was selected for its advanced webcasting platform allowing content reception, transcoding, packaging and worldwide distribution.
This project benefits from the recent acquisition of Freecaster, combining expertise and know-how of both companies to perfectly answer the needs of the ECB.
Connected to RTL City, its headquarters, via dark fibre, the teleport of BCE will ensure the downlink of the ECB production feeds. With its advanced IP-based infrastructure, BCE can transcode the live content and repackage the streams. BCE’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) will then ensure the worldwide stream distribution.
“For this project, BCE will rely on three pillars, its teleport, allowing content reception from anywhere in the world, its 1000 square meters datacenter with IP connectivity and transcoding platforms and its CDN with a worldwide connectivity,” explains Baptiste Fosséprez, Products & Services Development Director at BCE. “The software technology layer will be a mix between BCE’s existing streaming solutions and Freecaster advanced solutions.”
The live streaming expertise of Freecaster grants access to new solutions such as an advanced video player. Besides the stability of the player and its classical features such as adaptive streaming and multiplatform compatibility, the system will be completely customized to ECB’s needs and will integrate a video teaser with a countdown before broadcasting and multilingual selection during the live stream.
The videos will be distributed as live stream and as Video on Demand (VoD) on the ECB website as well as on social networks including Periscope, Twitter and YouTube. The live stream workflow will be monitored from BCE’s Network Operations Centre (NOC) during each production and the ECB will have access to advanced statistics tools to both measure the audience and monitor the quality of service.
“Acquiring Freecaster was part of BCE strategy to develop its Total Video offer. The ECB project reflects perfectly the new dual expertise of BCE (linear and non-linear), with the combination of live broadcast and a VoD portal.” Concludes Frederic Lemaire, CEO at BCE.
Celebrating the 15 years of its music festival, Tomorrowland is the world’s biggest electronic dance music event, taking place in Belgium and more recently in the Alps.
Since the Amicorum Spectaculum in 2017, Freecaster has been doing the live streaming of the event. The company managed to deliver high quality video to the world, using its strong platform, a large Content Delivery Network and some innovative features.
For the 2019 edition, The Book of Wisdom – The Return, Tomorrowland asked Freecaster to live stream the event for 72 hours non-stop. To ensure the perfect continuity of the streams as well as offer to the viewers the most immersive experience, Freecaster teamed up with Fastly and Flowplayer.
Since its foundation in 2004, Freecaster has developed as a specialist in online video services for both live and on-demand high-quality content serving customers such as TV and radio broadcasters, brands, event organisers and sport and cultural events. Among Freecaster’s customers are the Belgian Public Broadcaster RTBF as well as fashion houses (LVMH group and others), international institutions (European Commission, Bundesrat – the German Federal Council) and sports championships (FIM Motocross World Championship – MXGP). Since 2019, Freecaster is a subsidiary of Broadcasting Center Europe (BCE), a European leader in media services, system integration and software development in the areas of television, radio, production and postproduction, telecommunication and IT.
“Innovation has always paved the way of BCE activities. The all-IP infrastructure leaded our company to hybrid and cloud while increasing the distribution of media content on a global scale. The acquisition of Freecaster and its integration in our workflow was a significant move to the non-linear market. Tomorrow, the engineering of new solutions will enhance the development of BCE in the digital media world,” says Frederic Lemaire, CEO at BCE.
Tomorrowland footprint reaches more than 10 million viewers with multiple artists performing at the same time on several locations at the festival. Sharing this fantastic experience with the online community is a complex task and Freecaster has managed to deliver the right solution to meet the organizer needs.
“The target for our customer was to expand the festival experience to the electronic community, with the opportunity to follow the main action of the festival live and experience the thrill of Tomorrowland,” explains Ray Dulieu, CEO and founder at Freecaster.
Flowplayer worked hand in hand with the developer team of Freecaster to ensure the perfect implementation of its FP8 – Native, award-winning HTML5 player within the Freecaster’s Online Video Platform (OVP). This dynamic HTML5 video player developed by Flowplayer, has a reduced size ensuring faster loading time and stability. It also features a dynamic DJ line up allowing viewers on web and mobile to switch seamlessly between the different live stages within the same HTML5 video player.
“The new version of our video player, with the multi-stream features, allows live streaming, live switch from one stage to the other and gives a clear view of what is coming next,” adds Ray Dulieu.
Freecaster’s OVP streamed four live stages on Tomorrowland’s website, app and on partner networks as well as five radio feeds for selected internet radio networks. During the two weekends of the festival, the OVP was monitored using Freecaster’s monitoring dashboard. Thanks to data provided by Fastly, Mux and Touchstream, the interface gives a detailed overview of the traffic statistics. Freecaster’s engineers can access to the dashboard remotely, solve issues immediately ensuring the best viewer experience.
To deliver the best experience to millions of online viewers, Freecaster teamed up with Fastly. The company edge cloud platform enables the delivery of live video over common HTTP streaming formats, including Apple’s HLS, Microsoft’s HSS, Adobe’s HDS, and MPEG-DASH. For Tomorrowland 2019 it ensured the live stream of 3PB with a 250 Gbps average transfer rate (Freecaster, September 2019). Fastly’s fast and globally distributed network provided the viewers with instant video streams, without buffering nor interference. During the event, Fastly’s Network Operations Centre provided Freecaster with Live Event Monitoring, daily reporting and dedicated on-site support.
“Fastly’s network speed and self-service features helped to considerably improve the performance of our live streams for the largest dance festival in the world. Fastly also provided a dedicated team of network engineers to monitor the event from their Network Operations Centre, ensuring any issue that could arise would be addressed quickly. Offering more than peace of mind, it allowed our teams to focus on other areas of the delivery workflow during the event,” concludes Ray Dulieu.
Tomorrowland, the world’s biggest electronic dance music festival, has joined forces with Freecaster to deliver high-quality, real-time video of each event, to be enjoyed by a global live audience online. We promise customisation, hands-on support and for our clients to reach unlimited audience worldwide. Since 2017, Tomorrowland enriched the online experience using Freecaster’s multi-channel video player to allow viewers to choose between different stages streamed simultaneously in the same video-responsive multi-bitrate video player.
Freecaster enjoys working for clients such as Tomorrowland who continuously raise the bar. In 2019, Freecaster worked intensively alongside Flowplayer and Fastly to provide a seamless 72-hour, non-stop live streaming service.
“The target for our customer was to expand the festival experience to the electronic community, with the opportunity to follow the main action of the festival live and experience the thrill of Tomorrowland.” Ray Dulieu, CEO and founder at Freecaster.
Seamless multi-channel streaming
Tomorrowland is a massive event, a world of different experiences with multiple acts performing live at the same time. It was essential for Freecaster to convey this experience and choice online by offering multi-channel live streaming. We received four video feeds onsite at the festival, as well as a dynamic DJ line up allowing viewers on web and mobile a seamless switch between the different live stages within the same HTML5 video player. Freecaster’s Online Video Platform streamed live on Tomorrowland’s website, app and on partner networks. We also delivered five radio feeds for selected internet radio networks.
The platform was supervised throughout the two weekends of the festival using Freecaster’s monitoring dashboard fed by data from Fastly, Mux and Touchstream. The interface gives a precise overview for the monitoring engineers, shows traffic stats (impressions, unique visitors, countries, and more) and can be accessed by Freecaster remotely anywhere in the world. This close monitoring and flexibility ensures the platform is stable and any issues can be promptly addressed, resulting in a seamless customer experience.
“The new version of our video player, with the multi-stream features, allows live streaming, live switch from one stage to the other and gives a clear view of what is coming next.” Ray Dulieu, CEO and founder at Freecaster.
Advanced live video player
Freecaster selected Flowplayer to provide a unique experience for Tomorrowland’s live streaming audience. Flowplayer worked using FP8 – Native, its award-winning HTML5 player. Building the player completely from scratch, Flowplayer has succeeded in adapting to the HTML5 world of today’s web. The player size is reduced to a minimum, significantly enhancing stability. The small codebase results in faster load-time and fewer possibilities of errors.
Flowplayer worked in close collaboration with the developer unit at Freecaster, implementing FP8 together with the Freecaster platform. Deep shared understanding provided the basis for a joint roadmap to meet the high standards of Tomorrowland festival and deliver the best possible performance and user experience. Together we reached more than 10 million music fans, live streaming worldwide.
CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) helps Freecaster multiply traffic for live streaming events. Freecaster joined forces with Fastly to deliver global live streaming of Tomorrowland 2019, and used Fastly’s edge cloud platform to live stream 3PB with 250 Gbps average transfer rate (reported by Freecaster, as of September 2019). Fastly’s fast and globally distributed network ensured all video streams played instantly, without buffering or interference, while independent, real-time functionality meant that Freecaster had control over configurations.
In the build-up to the event, the Fastly and Freecaster technical teams collaborated over a dedicated Slack channel and numerous scoping calls. During the event, Fastly’s Network Operations Centre provided Freecaster with Live Event Monitoring, daily reporting and dedicated on-site support.
“Fastly’s network speed and self-service features helped to considerably improve the performance of our live streams for the largest dance festival in the world. Fastly also provided a dedicated team of network engineers to monitor the event from their Network Operations Centre, ensuring any issue that could arise would be addressed quickly. Offering more than peace of mind, it allowed our teams to focus on other areas of the delivery workflow during the event.” Ray Dulieu, CEO and founder at Freecaster
Discover BCE’s online video solutions for both live and on-demand high-quality content serving customers such as TV and radio broadcasters, brands, event organizers and sport and cultural events.
Live streaming massive events such as Tomorrowland and the fashion weeks, BCE has acquired a leading position on the market with a solid player, multiple features and global delivery.
Thanks to BCE’s Online Video Platform (OVP) and services, the customer can create video platforms (VoD, Replay, PayTV, etc.), manage and distribute its content, monitor and analyze its audience.
Produce and broadcast with StudioTalk
StudioTalk is an all-in-one solution to produce shows, manage content, add special effects, control sets and broadcast your programs on any existing platform. Experience live production and 360° distribution through an easy touch interface and powerful system.
Thanks to an intuitive Graphic User Interface and a touchscreen, the customers are able to control cameras, feeds and studio sets.
An automated mode can let StudioTalk work on its own to ensure seamless production and broadcast.
An advanced Content Management System is built-in and can easily be connected to your workflow.
Encrypt the content with BCE DRM.
Itstored, BCE’s cloud backup and storage solution
With S3 (Simple Storage Service) protocol being a worldwide standard, BCE ensures the protection of the files as well as its immediate availability as itstored is directly connected to the customer workflow.
The customer can perform unlimited actions on your content with a single, flat rate
Thanks to BCE’s bandwidth, The customer can access your content at any time
With more than 22 PB, the customer can backup all its content
The content can be stored on two redundant datacenters
Discover as well BCE’s recent system integration projects for Groupe M6, BNJ, RTS and Antenne Reunion, the remastering of Baywatch for Fremantle, BCE’s DRM services and our 4K Broadcast services of Altice and Luxe.tv.
Flashback on the first IP-based broadcast centre with state-of-the-art platforms and numerous innovative production and distribution applications to answer the needs of today and tomorrow media players.
The 36,000 square meter IP-based facility supports 24/7 broadcasting of more than 35 channels, among those RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg, Chamber TV, Luxe.TV (Luxembourg), RTL TVI, Club RTL, Plug TV (Belgium), RTL4, RTL5, RTL7, RTL8, RTL Z, RTL Crime, RTL Telekids, RTL Lounge (Netherlands), RTL9 and AB Groupe movie channels and Altice Group channels (France), RTL Hungary (Hungary) and Love Nature, Love Nature 4K, Blue Ant Extreme, Blue Ant Entertainment (Singapore).
The broadcast centre was three years in the making and features an end-to-end IP infrastructure and well-conceived data IT network that manage mostly HD (and some 4K) content and channels.
“IP-based platforms allow us to rapidly setup new channels,” comments Costas Colombus, Technology Projects & Support Director at BCE. “Whereas it is for continuous or ephemeral channels, we are able to give a fast answer and start broadcasting the content worldwide.”
The new broadcast centre is located in in the centre of Europe. All the radio and television production facilities and playout centre operations employ the latest IP-enabled equipment from technology suppliers like Arista, Grass Valley (GV), Isilon, Juniper, Lawo, Harmonic.
Advanced research and systems integration
All of the equipment and systems were installed and tested by BCE. When plotting out goals for the new building, BCE engineers wanted the new infrastructure to be both future-proof and able to adapt to new workflow challenges as needed.
When it first began to consider replacing its traditional SDI systems in 2014, the available IP technology wasn’t suitable for real-world deployments or mission-critical broadcast use, and most solutions were proprietary. The process resumed in 2015 with six months of intensive interoperable testing. For BCE it was critical that the IP solution had the same quality of service and reliability achieved in the SDI world, but with an increased level of scalability, stability, propagation delays and synchronization.
Working with engineers at The Institut für Rundfunktechnik GmbH (IRT) research centre, BCE began looking at the SMPTE 2022-6 IP spec as a way to connect all of the disparate systems and have them communicate as a fully networked system. This would streamline the production of content and get it to the right TV, radio, and web platform for its own purposes, as well as support the numerous playout and other services it provides for major U.S. content distributors like CBS, NBC Universal, Warner Brothers Television and others.
Laurent Seve, Marketing Manager at BCE, said that when their team began researching different ways of implementing IP technology, they recognized that what was needed was a facility that was significantly different to what had been done in the past.
“The new facility is flexible enough to handle all types of content creation and distribution projects,” Laurent Seve said. “The collaboration between the IT and broadcast teams led to new types of workflow methods and allowed to get the most out of the systems.”
Technology provider Grass Valley was brought in to help test a series of IP workflows. Fiber-optic cabling, which is bandwidth-friendly, supports the various systems and connects all floors of BCE. There’s also lot of Cat6 cable installed throughout the building for things like data networks, online access and a variety of control (KVM) functions.
“The IP-technology allowed the move to a fiber-based cabling infrastructure,” said Alain Prim, Technology Projects Manager at BCE. “All the areas of the building are connected through a reduced amount of cables which are able to transport a far higher number of services. The multiple changes in media services are now easier to manage without the need of modifications in the basic cable or hardware structure.”
Indeed, BCE is now responsible for the playout of over 35 regional and international channels, from its Luxembourg Network Operations Centre (NOC). This NOC also manages transmission sites, located on remote sites in Luxembourg and Germany. Online and available 24/7, the NOC team ensures the continuity of BCE’s and its customers activities by answering all queries and taking targeted actions.
Thanks to the IP solution implemented, the NOC can fully operate, and control BCE’s Teleport located miles away. All the antennas, uplinks and downlinks, receivers, etc. are remote controlled over IP by the NOC.
The core of the production activities features a 1,000 sqm datacentre with one-megawatt capacity and 366 floor-to-ceiling equipment racks that store and distribute the content (and metadata) internally and outside the building. In-row water-cooled airflows keep the systems at optimal temperatures.
“Numerous customers selected our datacentre for its flexibility, its advanced infrastructure and the access to numerous services,” comments Xavier Boschian IS&T Director at BCE. “As a result, we have already built a second datacentre and are looking to extend the platform to welcome more customers.”
System and content security
Securing the operations of its customers is BCE’s priority, the new IP workflow of RTL City facilitates connections setup to remote sites for disaster recovery (DR) platforms.
Data is handled with the utmost care and stored in BCE’s storage facility. Whereas it is administrative, financial or media content such as videos and audio, BCE holds several solutions including a 20 Petabytes nearline Digital Library, online and offline solutions as well as S3 cloud backup and storage (through its flagship solution: itstored).
There are also three diesel generators for backup power, with UPS technology everywhere for system resilience. In fact, every piece of equipment is connected to two independent electrical power supply paths—with intelligent sensing and monitoring that will automatically connect the device to a third backup supply if two live and active electrical supplies are not detected.
Linked via dark fibre to BCE’s headquarters, the DR site features emergency workstations, playout platforms for the premium channels, a digital library with several Petabytes and a datacentre.
Flexible production and remote control
Due to its IP backbone, several production studios can share control rooms if necessary, with one control room controlling various productions at once. There are also several audio mixing rooms, and advanced lighting grids in the production stages.
About 30 post-production suites support a number of radio and TV channels as well as other outside client needs. These are based around GV edit stations with networked Isilon storage.
All the radio studios have voice-activated broadcast cameras in them so that when a particular on-air talent is talking, the appropriate camera goes live. The system has proved to be very flexible for full spec broadcasting on a main channel as well as generating a web stream.
“We have always anticipated the merge between IT and Broadcast technologies and decided to stop talking about new solutions and change the complete workflow of our activities to IP,” said Andreas Fleuter, Technical Infrastructure & SLA Director at BCE.
IP backbone makes the difference
While the internal network can be expanded as needed, the initial deployment is based around the VSF TR-03 protocol for distributing video over IP, using SMPTE ST 2022-6/7 and AES67 redundant IP streams. This includes multi-level routing support of the VSF TR-03 protocol for audio breakaways.
The building’s architecture supports 10Gbe, 25Gbe and 40GbE connectivity. GV provided an end-to-end IP routing system to meet this, complete with full SMPTE ST 2022-7 redundant hitless operation and seamless recovery from interruption to one IP link. GV also supplied a massive routing matrix that can handle 1036×1584 2022-6 video flows and 1180×1728 AES67 (each x8 AES3) audio flows.
Other GV IP technology in use includes its Kahuna IP production switchers, IQ-Edge IP processing systems, IP routing control systems and multiviewers. These are fully networked to a Lawo Virtual Studio Manager (VSM) control layer that manages all of the IP signals and tells the routers where (and when) to send them. There’s also a GV monitoring system that collects data from the IP sub-system, along with a direct interface to a Skyline Communications DataMiner network management and monitoring layer.
Evolution and Revolution
With the new IP infrastructure in place, any room or machine in the building can be accessed and used by any other with just a few router settings. In addition, operators at RTL City can now launch a new channel in a few days, as opposed to the 4-5 months it took previously.
“Technology and innovation are in BCE’s roots,” comments Tun Van Rijswijck, COO at BCE. “This all-IP infrastructure was meant to break the barriers and open to new linear and non-linear developments. Our recent acquisitions and innovations strengthen our conviction that we are on the right track.”
As a matter of fact, since the opening of RTL City, several channels selected BCE as their technological partner: Altice launched a multiplayout control room broadcasting numerous channels over Europe including a Live sport channel in 4K over IP and Blue Ant Media (BAM) launched Love Nature in HD and 4K in multiple languages.
With the acquisition of Freecaster, BCE enriched its portfolio with new hybrid solutions directly connected to the Cloud. Freecaster’s platform was perfectly integrated in BCE’s IP workflow, granting access to live streaming solutions, reaching new horizons with social network but also delivering OTT solutions, VoD portals, replay platforms and more.
“Freecaster is a strong asset for BCE, on one hand it answers our customers’ expectations for new OTT solutions and extension of our content delivery network and on the other hand it opens new markets like sports, institutional, music and fashion related customers.” Adds Tun Van Rijswijck.
On the production side, BCE created a new solution (StudioTalk) facilitating the launch of new programs. StudioTalk is geared up with PTZ cameras, microphones, digital branding and a touchscreen interface to manage the content, the production and the delivery. The solution gives an affordable alternative to cover events that were not financially viable before.
The results are clear, radio goes visual, television shows production is easier, events are covered anywhere, ephemeral studios are installed everywhere… BCE is steering the market to video and screen multiplication.
“Innovation has always paved the way of BCE activities. The all-IP infrastructure leaded our company to hybrid and cloud while increasing the distribution of media content on a global scale. The acquisition of Freecaster and its integration in our workflow was a significant move to the non-linear market. Tomorrow, the engineering of new solutions will enhance the development of BCE in the digital media world.” Concludes Frederic Lemaire, CEO at BCE.
Viewers around the world will receive a month of programming in celebration of Asteroid Day, the official United Nations day of education and awareness about asteroids, thanks to a partnership between SES and BCE. The broadcast will feature pre-recorded and live High Definition (HD) content from Asteroid Day’s global programmes and events throughout June 2019, building to June 30 with coverage of over 2,000 events occurring in 190 countries.
As partners in the Asteroid Day initiative SES and BCE have teamed up to bring a month-long global broadcast of the related events to audiences around the world. BCE will produce the 6 hour live production out of Cercle Cité in Luxembourg city and provide all the playout services from its media centre in RTL City, for HD distribution over satellite as well as IP networks. The online distribution will be taken care of using BCE’s Freecaster Live Streaming solution, which will enable both live and VOD viewing on social networks and websites. For the satellite distribution, SES will broadcast the programming on five satellites to create a truly global footprint for Asteroid Day, a testament to the reach of SES. In Europe, Africa, and Asia the programming will be delivered Free-to-Air via satellite to Direct-to-Home (DTH) viewers, while in Latin and North America it will be integrated into the packages of multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) via satellite.
The programming will culminate on 28 June with Asteroid Day LIVE, a 24-hour live broadcast produced by Asteroid Day and sponsored by SES, BCE and the Government of Luxembourg. The marathon show will be hosted by prominent journalists from the BBC and CNN, who will be joined in studio and around the world by renowned astronauts, expert scientists, technologists, and researchers in planetary science.
“Luxembourg is home to a space industry and satellite telecoms infrastructure connecting Europe and the world,” said Marc Serres, CEO of the Luxembourg Space Agency. “The expertise and valuable support of leading companies such as SES and BCE play a key role in making Asteroid Day an international success and enable all of us to have a truly global conversation about space and asteroids.”
“BCE thrives with innovation and technology,” said Xavier Thillen, Head of Digital Media Operations at BCE. “Information is in our roots; we believe that instructing the world about asteroids has become an imperative. To do so, we are enthusiastic to use our state-of-the-art IP-based playout centre to broadcast this planetary event and reach the world with SES satellites fleet.”
“At SES, we value technology as a tool to positively impact and transform lives,” said Ruy Pinto, SES Chief Technology Officer. “We are proud to be a partner in this global awareness campaign to learn about asteroids, both the impact hazards they may pose and the resources they may one day yield. By leveraging multiple satellites, we are using the power of our global reach to deliver this important programming to millions of TV homes.”
Broadcasting Center Europe has been selected to ensure the event coverage of the ING Night Marathon 2019 (Luxembourg) on June 1st, 2019.
Additionally, BCE will use its Freecaster solutions to live stream the event on websites and social networks. The player will allow the viewers to follow the production or to select themselves the camera they wish to follow.
Stay tuned and follow the ING Night Marathon online!