ABSTRACT

Crowdsourced Live Mobile Streaming applications, such as Meerkat and Periscope, have seen an explosive growth in their popularity in the past few years.

Whereas these applications provide great opportunities for crowdsourcers to directly share their experiences around live events, the unedited nature of these user-generated video streams makes them less suited for enriching news broadcasts or event reports. For such cases, the ability to select and edit streams as they come in, or to communicate with reporters in the field, are primary requirements for any editorial office or newsroom.

This paper reports on the design of, and experimentation with, a crowdsourced live mobile streaming system and application for: requesting, receiving, filtering, directing, editing, and broadcasting live video streams from both consumers and professionals. This enables new forms of crowdsourced news gathering. The paper incorporates results from a number of technology validation tests and demonstrations, performed in collaboration with Dutch media partners.

INTRODUCTION

With the growing popularity of social media sites, online video services, and smartphones, content consumers are recording, editing, and broadcasting their own stories. Social media sites have evolved from text and photo streams to a rich medium for sharing audiovisual content.

More and more mobile users are capturing and sharing video content, which can largely be attributed to the increased availability of video-recording capabilities on personal and mobile devices such as smartphones and their integration with online content-sharing platforms [1]. Amateur video capturing has also evolved from a personal hobby to prosumer usage for e.g. eSports broadcasting and citizen journalism.

New crowdsourced live mobile streaming (CLMS) applications, such as Meerkat1 and Periscope2, have seen an explosive growth in popularity in the past few years [2]. In such systems, a large number of geo-distributed users publish live video streams from their mobile devices for an even larger audience to view.

As a result, the role of these mobile Internet users during live events sees a shift, from taking part in a traditional passive audience, to acting as a content creator/participator, i.e., a crowdsourcer. In particular for live events, people from around the world are offered the ability to watch what is happening through the “eyes” of the crowdsourcer.

CLMS systems offer event organizers a new and rapid way to distribute content to audiences; content that is unpolished, but genuine and real.

Most of the existing CMLS applications provide opportunities for crowdsourcers to directly share experiences around live events, but the unedited nature of user-generated video streams make them less suited for enriching news broadcasts or event reports.

Broadcasters and media outlets are on the lookout for the best method to incorporate the potentially valuable source of content into their existing networks and workflow, for augmented TV broadcasts and citizen journalism in contemporary newsgathering. Curation of these crowdsourced streams, in combination with providing context and professional reporting, are crucial aspects of such a method.

This comes with a set of functional (i), and technical (ii), challenges, e.g. (i) ensuring a low threshold for crowdsourcers with single-button streaming, filtering the incoming streams based on quality, allowing editors to ‘direct’ live streamers, making streamers feel appreciated and thereby more likely to continue streaming, and (ii) providing for reliable low-latency video streaming, a scalable backend and easy deployment, seamless switching between audio and video streams and catering for a huge diversity of sources and sensors.

This paper reports on the design of, and experimentation with, Cameraad, a CLMS system and application for requesting, receiving, filtering, directing, editing, and broadcasting live video streams from consumers as well as professionals, enabling new forms of crowdsourced news gathering.

The system features a robust and modular system design and a simple user interface for on-the-fly editing and stream selection by the video editor.

In particular, we (i) discuss the underlying design principles and use of open-source and web-based technologies such as WebRTC and GStreamer; (ii) show how we have derived and implemented a cloud-based architecture that allows for rapid deployment of the entire ingest, production and editing system; and (iii) present results from a number of technology validation tests and demonstrations, e.g. during the Grand Depart of the 2015 Tour de France in Utrecht, the 2015 Four Days March in Nijmegen, and a 2016 football game between PSV and Atlético Madrid, all taking place in The Netherlands.

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