Aloha from London, Washington, Seattle, Auckland… Live via IP, connecting an audience to the world.

“Live via satellite” became the catch-cry Australians used when something special overseas happened on TV.  It was innovative technology that broke down the distance barriers between us in Australia and the rest of the world.

In the 70‘s there was Elvis and “Aloha from Hawaii” and the Montreal Olympics. In the 80’s TV personality Don Lane talked live to prominent entertainers like Abba, Kiss and Robin Williams.  In the 90s local newsrooms crossed live to breaking stories in London and New York…

The funny thing is that today in the 21st century “Live via satellite” still resonates with Australians!

“Live via satellite” was to be the key line on an invitation being prepared for senior public servants to attend special briefings in Canberra.

Picture 1: A great conversation between two people; one in Canberra, the other in London. Live via IP network.

But we were using something far more mundane to link our audience live to overseas speakers – an IP network.  Yes, the same IP network we use every day for emails, paying bills and PC updates.

The agency working on the invite favoured “live via satellite.” In their minds it had much more pizzazz then “live via the IP network.”  I can relate to what they were saying, but a strong element of why we were using IP to link with overseas was to show:

  • How great a live high definition video conferencing is for face to face meetings
  • How easy it is to utilise your existing IP network for this great experience, something we do everyday

“Live via satellite” didn’t correctly describe what the audience was experiencing; here on stage was a face to face discussion with someone overseas. The same thing anyone could do from their own office.  They simply needed to book a video conference room at both locations, turn up at the designated time, press a button and have a great face to face meeting.  The next best thing to being there in person.

Picture 2: Sharing a great face to face conversation with an audience of 200 senior public servants in Canberra.

So what we were doing was embedding the “Live by satellite” feeling, but without the highly specialised TV crews, the TV studios and satellites.

It was also a lot easier to pull off than the live holograms we showed a few years earlier (see my earlier blog Much ado about holograms…).

Picture 3 – David Thodey on stage, Dr Hugh Bradlow on stage via hologram. Holograms used the same equipment, camera and network, but used very sophisticated staging, and remote studio.

We were using a lot of the same equipment, cameras and IP network as the live holograms, but without the very specialised hologram projection system in front of the audience.

Plus our remote speaker could walk into one of 500+ standard high definition conference rooms around the world and connect to our Canberra audience.  We didn’t need to setup a special all black hologram studio or have the remote speaker rehearse; a very important issue given there was no rehearsal time for some of our VIP world leaders.  They literally walked into a room in London, Washington and Chicago and started their presentation with our Canberra audience.

Picture 4: With some of our VIP speakers we didn’t have opportunities to rehearse; they just walked into a room convenient to their location and started their presentations. In this case from Chicago.

The only difference between this on stage experience and our day to day office experience was that we integrated our HD video conference unit into the audio visual systems in the venue.  On stage the HD video conference unit was designed for 2 – 3 participants at both ends; integrating into the venue AV allowed us to share this personal experience with a room of 200 participants.

Picture 5: taking a standard room based HD Video Conference unit and putting it on stage.

Picture 6: Integrating the HD Video Conference unit with the audio visual equipment so we could share the face to face experience with 200 attendees.

HD Video Conferencing on stage does miss some of the great spectacle of a live hologram.

But it missed nothing in the interaction between the on stage moderator in Canberra and our overseas speakers.  As an audience member I found some of the conversations riveting; loosing none of the immediacy of watching two people have a great conversation; one on stage in Canberra, one live via an IP network.

Picture 7: Another great face to face conversation, one person in Canberra, the other in Chicago. With 200 attendees sharing the experience.

Much like the old days, we were connecting overseas and something special was happening in front of me, but the technology was quite invisible to the experience; just what bringing people together should be like in the 21st century.

A very big acknowledgement to our partners and staff who helped put this together:

  • Staging Connections – who ran the entire infrastructure of the stage, lighting, projection and sound
  • Team Telstra – the Telstra staff from all across the organisation who helped make these briefings the success they were.

About Stephen Powell

Stephen's talent is in demonstrating highly sophisticated solutions to complex issues, and breaking them down into a simple approach that anyone can understand and appreciate (even his mum). He believes that creativity is about connecting ideas from different fields and applying them to enrich life - gets very excited in showing this at work and play.
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