From your seat you can see the stage clearly, and see the heads and arms of those in the front row moving feverishly, but what has really got you excited is the sheer volume of the crowd as they sing and clap and jump up and down.
That’s because there are more than 100,000 people here at this concert.
Well, that depends on how you define “here.”
You see, there are actually only a few thousand bodies sharing the room with the band. The other 95,000 people are watching from home, and from remote dance clubs.
What you’re hearing is their voices and footfalls being broadcast into the concert hall and back out again to your laptop via video conferencing.
What you’re attending is a live performance streamed over the internet. But this time the reactions and energy of the disparate remote crowd is being fed back into the physical venue and mixed with the physically present crowd in a loop made possible by two-way communication that beats any live stream you’ve witnessed before.
Video Conferencing for the Masses
By now most of us have watched the live stream of a concert over the net on a service such as Periscope, Meerkat, or even good old Youtube. Heck, if you’ve ever watched a live performance on TV you actually aren’t all that removed from what those other services provide–they just don’t have to pander to the large-scale advertising requirements that dictate what gets aired on commercial TV.
What’s common about all those platforms is the one-way flow of information. You are forever one step removed from the action, unable to contribute apart from the odd chat messaging function that will let you comment much like the way a Twitter feed plays out during the Super Bowl.
But if we could find a way to open up the microphones and video cameras of those watching at home and incorporate that into the show, well, then you’d really start making some noise.
Such cross-venue participation has been experimented with before, perhaps most spectacularly with a European performance group that combined dancers from several locations across the continent into a single show.
There’s obviously a lot of planning and high-end tech involved in that performance, but a recent collaboration by two commercial operators could open the door for new technology that combines event streaming and video conferencing into a more reliable and accessible format.
Video Conferencing Meets Event Streaming
Video conferencing and telepresence specialists Pinnaca announced in late August they would partner with Onstream, a corporate provider of live and on-demand streaming media to create a new brand called Event Streaming.
The joint venture will combine the two firm’s specialities to cater for online learning, large-scale business meetings, training and personal development seminars, and high-level corporate announcements.
While that list of targets is clearly commercial In nature, and an extension more of Pinnaca’s cloud-based video conferencing roots than Onstream’s more progressive native-based mass streaming, it does raise the hope that the two will find a way to improve how end users interact with the key figures in a live streamed event.
Such a product/service would likely begin with a browser-based platform free of the need for downloads or account creation, something Onstream’s service already provides. And it would have to be built around an improved version of the current voice triangulation and face-finding technology that can identify and zoom in on the active speaker regardless of which venue they occupy, because the sheer scale of the audience is about to explode.
It would also need to include a better way of synchronizing multiple incoming audio feeds into something discernible, like people sharing a song in a crowd, rather than something cacophonous, like seven television channels playing at once. Something like the ultra-fast internet 2 connections music conservatories currently use to let musicians collaborate remotely.
But once those leaps are made, and once the technology becomes widely accessible, then you can start getting interactive with some really large live events.
Rock ‘n Roll Video Conferencing
For starters, you could line the walls and balconies of concert venues large or small with video screens backed by a more powerful video conferencing service, and use them to beam in the ambiance and images of remote audiences.
The venue itself need only supply a single line out as the enhanced audio would be captured in-house just as the artist’s sound is through a central mixing desk.
So, a venue which once held five or six thousand could now play to an audience limited in scale only by the number of screens and connections that could be maintained. It’s a nice way for artists to save on venue fees and make some extra money by selling cheap tickets in the form of secured video links to internet users.
Perhaps a rotating cast of remote audiences could be pumped into the auditorium, letting people all over the world join the event. But the basic point is this extra noise then gets funnelled through the live venue and back out into the ears and eyes of those watching remotely. Their voice is heard, and they hear the voices of all those joining in by video conference.