Florida International University (FIU) is among the top 10 largest universities in the US. Serving a culturally diverse student body of nearly 54,000 students, FIU is spread across two main campuses and other locations in Miami.
Every aspect of student life can be found on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus (MMC). Built on an abandoned airfield, MMC spans 342 acres and is a city in itself, offering housing, dining, and entertainment options.
Centrally located at the heart of the Graham Center is the Pit, an open forum where student groups meet, announcements are made, and events such as homecoming reveals and pep rallies are held. Known on campus as the home away from home, the Pit hosts more than 500 events per year.
Recent renovations to MMC included modernizing the Pit. A new array of speakers, a 3×3 video wall, as well as LED lighting were integrated into the venue. The remodeling created a lively and engaging atmosphere, one that Rigoberto Campos, AV project manager at FIU, wanted to share with students unable to attend. The goal was to provide a similar experience to being there in person.
ABOVE: 3×3 video wall in wood frame
Events often attract hundreds of students to the Pit, but many students still miss out due to the university’s large campus. Campos, contacted A.R.T. (Audio Reinforcement Technologies); a professional lighting, video, and control systems contractor, to help find a solution that would allow remote students to view events happening on campus.
Paul Bell, vice president at A.R.T., determined that streaming would be the most effective approach. Having previously worked on various projects at FIU, Bell knew he required a quality encoder that would fit into the university’s existing Crestron infrastructure. The encoder also needed to be capable of pushing RTMP streams to FIU’s existing CDN (Content Delivery Network), Wowza Cloud.
Bell had been visiting Matrox at InfoComm for many years, and already knew Monarch encoders supported Crestron’s control module. “As a certified Crestron Integrator, I was already interested in Monarch HD due to its Crestron control module. Wowza then recommended Monarch encoders as compatible hardware. After that, the choice was simple!” Bell recalls.
Live webcasts give students commuting between campuses and remote students the ability to tune in from home, or even watch from their phone while on the go. The Pit is equipped with an HD camera that is set up to get an overall shot of the audience and performers. The camera feeds directly to a Crestron DM matrix switcher that connects to the Monarch appliance via HDMI. There are two different types of audio; the presentation’s audio is captured from a mic, and the applause and questions from the audience are captured from an ambient mic. “For a well-rounded experience, we take the submix output of the audio sources into the Monarch HD, resulting in a very similar experience to being there in person,” explains Campos.
Monarch HD sends RTMP streams at 1080p at 10 Mbps directly to Wowza Cloud. Wowza then automatically connects, transcodes, and pushes webcasts simultaneously to Facebook Live, and a designated page on the school’s website where viewers can tune in and watch.
Live webcasts give students commuting between campuses and remote students the ability to tune in from home, or even watch from their phone while on the go.
Full HD recordings are saved locally to an SD card as H.264 MP4 video files, and are mostly used for archiving purposes at FIU. Alternatively, recordings can also be stored on local USB drives or network-mapped drives. Monarch HD provides the ability to create split files while recording; particularly useful when recording for extended periods of time, if storage capacity is reached, or something happens to the power, the event is saved up until either of those possibilities occur. Monarch HD’s ability to stream and record simultaneously in two independent processes, gives operators the choice to record at a higher bitrate than what is being streamed.
For larger events, the school creates highlight reels which are then posted to the Graham Center’s Facebook page. The Diwali Dance Festival, one of the most important holidays of the year for Hindus, received more than 8,000 views within the first two days of being published on Facebook.
Campos is more than pleased with Monarch HD’s performance in the Pit, and has since purchased several Monarch HDX dual-channel H.264 encoder appliances, capable of streaming to Facebook Live and YouTube directly. Both Monarch HD and Monarch HDX are now in various classrooms across campus.
FIU and A.R.T. plan to further expand by building a giant matrix for the entire campus. This will give the events team the ability to stream presentations, lectures, and events to overflow rooms and classrooms across campus, expanding audience reach, and improving school spirit.