LinkedIn Corp is the world’s largest professional network. It has more than 610 million users in more than 200 countries worldwide. LinkedIn recently introduced LinkedIn Live, a live professional networking platform.
LinkedIn wanted to build a media network to support development of major new initiative LinkedIn Live. The aim was to use real-time streaming between its New York venue and control rooms on the West Coast. This would enable the company to produce content for sales and marketing, internal corporate communications, and other ventures. Ideally, camera feeds are transported efficiently between studios and a central production facility in different geographical locations.
LinkedIn has invested in significant media production facilities. These include its Sunnyvale, CA, headquarters, several studio locations in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Manhattan covering the East coast. The company planned an upgrade to its production facility in New York City’s Empire State Building and saw an opportunity to take the leap into remote production.
Gary Schneider, Manager, Broadcast Systems Engineering and LinkedIn’s Lead Media Systems Architect explains.
“We have a media operations team based in the San Francisco Bay Area, a video production studio in Sunnyvale, and editorial in New York. A networked approach would mean that events could just as easily be staged in the New York venue, controlled in the Bay Area, and streamed live over the platform. Our vision was to build a model where we could remotely manage operations from a central location.”
Schneider spent four years spearheading the initiative.
The first phase of the network was point-to-point between NYC and Sunnyvale. The next step was to scale this out. The solution had to permit media transport between multiple sites at no latency.
The leap from standard video conferencing to broadcast quality was another goal. Schneider tackled the problem with the help of Richmond, California-based AV integrators David Carroll Associates. DCA specializes in designing, installing, and maintaining integrated systems, tailoring every solution to the needs of each project.
Acting on the advice of DCA, LinkedIn tested various media transport technologies and selected Net Insight’s Nimbra.
“Net Insight’s IP tunnelling technology is what really sets them apart,” Schneider declares. “It really simplified media transport across a corporate network. Additionally, the Nimbra Vision platform allows us to manage all the Net Insight products from a single screen. While other vendor products may have similar capability, nothing operates with the performance of Net Insight.”
Another factor in LinkedIn’s selection was the technology’s ability to maximise resources.
“We were limited in bandwidth resource,” Schneider relates. “However, with Net Insight’s JPEG2000 compression I can get excellent quality and more streams. Operating with uncompressed video I can only get two streams, but with Net Insight I can get eight or more.”
In most cases, LinkedIn is streaming four video feeds from NYC to Sunnyvale. Two of these feeds – a programme feed plus multiviewer feed – return to NYC. A Nimbra 680 is installed in Mountain View, CA and a Nimbra 640 is located at the New York venue.
“The solution enables us to produce shows with the host in New York interviewing people in Sunnyvale,” says Schneider. “The seamless interactivity is amazing. There is no noticeable latency. Although the cameras have round-tripped to Sunnyvale and back you could have done IMAG (image magnification) in New York. It was amazing. It blew everyone away.”
LinkedIn Live events that have used the new video over IP workflow include ‘Transform Her’. This is a diversity show about female business leaders, produced in Sunnyvale from New York. ‘Live with Marketers’ was also staged in the NYC studio and featured marketing professionals conducting interviews in an Oprah style.
Previously, production of those events would have required deploying two complete teams. “We would have had to travel eight people and ship all of our gear from the Bay Area to LA, Schneider says. “That’s where the economy comes from with the Nimbra system. When we do that same event now, we rent one rack and send two people.”
Linkedin benefit from a consistency of content and branding. “That’s because the same control room and team is used for any production,” he says. “We leverage our capital investments in these control rooms. We don’t have to send large teams out on the road. We’re saving on travel and entertainment costs.”
Moving forward, LinkedIn plans on utilizing the reliable and high-quality Nimbra for other locations. This starts with its EMEA headquarters.
“We’re building a studio in Dublin to come online in about 18 months using Net Insight hardware. We’ll have a technician in Dublin, but management of productions will be remote. That is what the Net Insight gear will allow us to do.”
Additionally, Nimbra 400s are being used as a flypack enabling any office to participate in a LinkedIn Live event.
“We want to upgrade the quality of our videoconferencing,” Schneider explains. “To do that I obtain network address space in every office. I just plug in the Nimbra 400 via ethernet and take full control over the network remotely. It really is that simple.”
Now that the media network supporting LinkedIn Live is operational, Schneider is pleased with results.
“My vision was to achieve seamless production across multiple studios around the world all unified through a central control room. This is exactly what we are building.”