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Renowned acting school gains streaming capability with Matrox

Guildford School of Acting (GSA) has selected the Matrox Monarch HD appliance to stream live theatre performances and as a recording for archive service.

GSA is the arts and performance hub at the University of Surrey, one of the most highly regarded theatre schools in the UK. GSA trains performers and technical theatre artists and produces around 40 public-facing live events every year in genres including theatre, musical theatre, dance, music and performance art.

For the launch of its musical, Comrade Rockstar, GSA wanted to be able to stream the event live to guests worldwide. With the Monarch HD, GSA is able to stream the two-hour sold-out show to viewers around the world, almost doubling the audience for the show.

Chris Watling, digital media specialist at the University of Surrey commented: “We had looked at other disjointed systems – for example, adding recording devices into our setup, but really wanted the simplicity of an all-in-one solution that the Matrox Monarch HD presented. We were looking at taking away the computer from the streaming process; having a dedicated box that can stream and record was attractive to us as it frees up other resources and reduces set-up time.”

The 18m x 18m Ivy Arts Centre theatre has a 48-port Category 5 patch bay for connecting to cameras and other devices. A JVC GY-HM150E camera is attached to a grid and a host of other cameras are added as needed.

GSA webcasted Comrade Rockstar to external audiences using Monarch HD’s RTMP protocol, at around 8 Mbps (including high-quality audio). For streaming within the building – to dressing rooms for example, so that the cast can see how the show is progressing and not miss their cues – RTSP protocol was used. Here the bit rate was set lower at 1 Mbps to ensure stream reliability since quality was not as paramount. Being GSA’s first major foray into live streaming, they experimented with different streaming providers; originally thinking of YouTube, they settled on HitBox due to problems with access to YouTube in Germany.

Besides streaming, GSA also uses the Monarch HD in its theatre as a recording-for-archive system. The Monarch HD’s versatile developer application programming interface (API) was used to easily automate the recording of shows. Previously, GSA had to manually deal with hard-to-access cameras connected to the ceiling grid for recording. GSA also records all practise-based assessments in the school, which are archived and shared via its lecture capture and virtual learning environment (VLE) platforms. Currently on the lookout for a more flexible system to capture classroom activity, GSA is evaluating the Matrox Monarch LCS appliance, which is specifically designed for lecture capture.

With the Monarch HD’s API, GSA has automated its streaming and recording schedules. Watling remarked: “The Matrox Monarch HD has helped to take the mystery out of streaming. No longer do we need to dedicate a complex computer-based solution to our streaming setups. We can approach streaming proposals with confidence and also use the recording features of the Monarch HD to add further value. This means that we can capture and distribute more content with less work. We are also able to leave people who are non-tech savvy in charge of capturing our performances and even running a basic stream themselves.”

Matrox streaming and recording