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University of Manchester live streams graduations in UHD

After three or more years of hard work, it’s no surprise that students want to share their graduation celebrations with their friends and family. For the University of Manchester, with a student population hailing from 160 countries, live streaming graduations across the globe has provided a fantastic opportunity for relatives to participate from wherever they are. 

Twice a year, the university’s Media Services team delivers live coverage of more than 40 ceremonies in the summer and 25 in the winter which are streamed via the university’s YouTube channel. For the most recent set of graduations, the team took on the challenge of not only producing its coverage, but also streaming in UltraHD. Media production co-ordinator, Scott O’Neil, explains more about the solution the team selected to help them deliver to such a high standard.

“Media Services is a central support team for the entire university and our work is incredibly varied; from producing content to supplement lectures and distance learning in our in-house studio facilities, to travelling with research teams all over the world to capture their work, as well as producing promotional videos to attract the next generation of students. 

“Naturally, working for such a prestigious institution, high production values are crucial. But of course, we always have to be mindful of budgets and making sure all of the equipment is working as hard as it possibly can.

“The university’s graduation ceremonies have always been a keystone in our production calendar. Ten years ago, we were one of the first universities to produce content in HD, and we’ve taken incremental steps towards UltraHD. That has meant considering a live video solution that can handle the higher resolution workflow with minimal delay, and can also deliver consistently throughout the two full weeks.

“All of the ceremonies take place in Whitworth Hall, a grade II listed, wooden-panelled, neo Gothic building that seats up to 600 people. Even then, space is at a premium, so we also have an overspill area set up with monitors showing the live feed from inside the hall.”

“It’s always tricky to design and implement AV setup in older buildings and it can require some clever thinking. One advantage we do have is the mezzanine level above the main stage. This is where we located our broadcast gallery, streaming desk and a top down camera position covering the speakers on stage. 

“We also have a raised podium position to the side of the stage, which houses two more manned camera positions. These do the heavy lifting during the ceremony, capturing the moment each student walks up to collect their degree and reactions from the audience. Our fourth camera is positioned at the back of the hall, which gives us a nice wide angle shot. 

“We use B4 optics on three out of four camera positions, and use the Atem Camera Control for our CCU to manage colour. 

“We made the decision to use optical fibre, which helps reduce cabling around the venue, while maintaining a stable pathway for UltraHD signal transmission as well as talkback, tally and comms through to the broadcast gallery. 

“The team produces a live mix for YouTube using a purpose-built portable production unit based on an Atem 4 M/E Broadcast Studio 4K and Atem 1 M/E Advanced Panel. The streams follow a similar editorial structure and we book-end each one with some of our pre-recorded promotional videos about the university. 

“As well as the UltraHD stream, we also create copies of the final program mix using the Blackmagic Duplicator 4K, which we then make available to parents and family. Previously we would head back to the studio, create a DVD edit for each of the ceremonies, so the process was really intensive. The SD cards have proven incredibly popular.”