WASHINGTON–It was a story that made international headlines: For the first time in 70 years, a pair of bald eagles nested in the Washington D.C. metro area, and to everyone’s delight, two eaglets hatched on live streaming video.
The online stream via an “eagle cam” was somewhat of a history maker as well, as it’s rare for nature lovers and even scientists to see nesting bald eagles so up close, and in high definition, for that matter.
To obtain the closeups, the American Eagle Foundation, which sponsors the project, contracted with video streaming services provider Piksel, to livestream the growing family from their nest at the United States National Arboretum.
TWO CAMERA VIEWS
Two IP PTZ cameras capture the eagles with two views—one that focuses on the nest–perfect for seeing two new born birds up close–and one with a wide angle of the nest and the tree it occupies.The video feed is transmitted over a closed network at the National Arboretum to Piksel’s own live encoder, where from there the feed is encoded and sent to their cloud-based streaming platform.
Piksel’s platform can handle 250,000 hits per minute, which came in handy when it was needed. The buzz started when the eagles, nicknamed “Mr. President” and “The First Lady” returned to their nest after settling it last year, then it peaked once their eggs started to hatch in real time–the day of the first egg hatch “supported in excess of 958,480 viewers and 2.6 million plays,” according to an announcement from Piksel. Since February 15, Piksel reported that the live stream portal had “over 18.75 million video plays and 6.7 million unique viewers.”
Director of Live Engineering at Piksel, Robert Coletti, says the broadcast still takes a lot of care and monitoring to ensure a quality live broadcast for users. “To deliver on this, we provide proactive monitoring and support for the entire solution,” he said. “This includes our 24/7 monitoring center in Atlanta where the streams are monitored for quality and performance around the clock.”
The multiformat 720p stream features adaptive-quality support for a variety of devices, according to Coletti.
Like many non-profits promoting a message or cause, multimedia marketing is a big part of AEF’s operations. “The nest in D.C. is a crucial part of our awareness campaign to further our conservation message, so being able to share this view of nesting behavior with the public is really important to us,” said Al Cecere, president of the American Eagle Foundation in a press release .
For the past two years, the AEF has also set up cameras overlooking a bad eagle nest at an undisclosed location in northeast Florida, according to their website. This eagle pair, dubbed “Romeo and Juliet”—like their counterparts in Washington D.C.–are raising their young on live-streaming video, as well. In addition, the AEF has live cams of nesting non-releasable bald eagles at Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
The AEF also does periodic promotion videos of its own non-releasable bald eagle named “Challenger.” Challenger often captivates crowds during the national anthem at NFL games. Videos of Challenger can be viewed on the AEF YouTube page.
Piksel has partnered with other environmental-focused organizations in the past for similar projects. The streaming service has live streamed deep-sea explorations in partnership with Ocean Exploration Trust, and more recently streamed the Jason Project’s Penguin Cam (which has since ended), that captured the hatching of African Penguins in Pittsburgh’s National Aviary.