Editor's Note: This post is a translation of an article by Avishai Bessa originally published in Hebrew on June 4, 2013, on Geektime, Israel's leading tech blog.
An Israeli startup is offering a new approach to producing and preparing live broadcasts over the Internet. All the work is done on the cloud, with potential savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Meet Connesta.
Name of Startup: Connesta
One-line pitch: Creating a live event that integrates video and audio sources in the cloud, and broadcasting the event over the Internet.
Use of Windows Azure: The company uses Windows Azure’s VM solutions to run its processing platform and its service platform for creating live events.
A Technology Gap That Costs Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars
The transition to broadcasts of high-quality content, including HD in all its variations and the 4K on the horizon, has introduced a sizeable deficiency and a gap in the field of live broadcasting. For continuous live broadcasting, a company requires a very complex deployment including broadcast vehicles, expensive cameras, microphones, cables, and more. Incidentally, this is the main difficulty preventing many TV channels from purchasing new equipment that will upgrade them to HD broadcasting, a difficulty that doesn’t exist on the Internet.
The equipment currently in use ranges in cost from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions. The rent for a broadcast-ready production vehicle can reach tens of thousands of dollars for one day of broadcasting. In addition, when live content from the field is broadcast with graphics, commercials, and text, a directing crew are in a special control room watching the feed and deciding which content goes on the air from moment to moment - quite a complicated production effort.
A Cloud-Based Platform for Managing Live Broadcasts
Connesta Ltd. is an Israeli company devoted to boosting the progress of live broadcasting. Connesta mainly targets the Internet’s live broadcasting market and clients who would like to transmit content live over the Internet to their readers or viewers. According to the company’s CEO, Eli Doron, for some years this industry has been unavoidably heading towards the day when all live video broadcasts will use the Internet, a trend that is already visible on networks such as CCTV (China Central Television) and others that are now broadcasting exclusively through the Internet.
The company has developed a cloud-based mobile production platform called the Cloud Control Room, which enables a director to be far from the actual filming location. Using the virtual control room from anywhere in the world, the director can decide which content to air, when and where, with no need for a production vehicle or a customized office. The broadcast feeds can come from a variety of different sources compatible with the platform, including live video footage from smartphones or video cameras, graphics, YouTube videos, and more.
The Cloud Control Room can integrate audio and video from any number of different sources such as professional cameras, home cameras, mobile phones, video files, graphics, subtitles, logos, etc. These sources can be located anywhere on the globe (or in space).
For the director, one particularly interesting feature of the company’s system is a split screen showing an unlimited number of feeds (video, stills, or graphics). Advertisements can be added simultaneously, even if they are of a different content type altogether. The system also provides for broadcasting the audio from a feed without including its video, or vice versa, by means of complete volume control per feed.
Some differences between Connesta’s system and its competitors are the ability to record the broadcast’s content, the ability to broadcast different content to different targets simultaneously, and integration of content from social networks such as Instagram and Twitter. The director can use a filtering system to determine which pictures or tweets go on the air. The company’s business model, which is based on a monthly fee for use of the system, is also considered different from what has been customary to date, since instead of an outlay of hundreds of thousands of dollars for expensive equipment, it offers a pay-as-you-go program.
Connesta was founded in June 2011 by Eli Doron, who founded Radvision in 1992, and Liron Levi Doron. It numbers 10 employees, and its offices are in Petach Tikva, Israel. In its first round of financing, the company has raised $1.2 million to date from angels, including Nathan Hetz, Shlomo Ben Artzi of UCLA, and Inon Axel, CEO of Kasamba. The company is currently working with clients such as mako.co.il, the Weizmann Institute, Netanya Academic College, Bar-Ilan University, New York University (NYU), the NBA, churches in Salt Lake City, and other clients in North America.