Matrox products playing key communications role at CERN physics research center

When it comes to discussing particle physics at one of the most prestigious nuclear research organizations in the world, dialog between contributing nations and scientists is key. That was certainly the case for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which sits on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva.

The research facility is home to some of the world’s largest and most sophisticated research equipment, such as the Large Hadron Collider, a 16-mile particle accelerator buried 320 feet underground that is used to analyze the way particles interact with each other.

With 260 conference rooms in its facility, CERN was looking for way to provide a ring-side view to those watching from a room or from oversees — a way to capture and deliver the message being delivered by both the speaker and the presentation material simultaneously. Previously CERN had been using a PC, two capture cards, encoder and software to share similar online via video conference. But the organization said that setup was providing cumbersome and was at times unreliable.

Wanting to simplify the streaming process, the group began looking for a standalone appliance that was capable of independently stopping and starting the streaming and recording process — particularly when it came to keeping viewers connected during long, continuous webcast that have short downtimes between presentations.

[Read: Carmel-by-the-Sea Webcasting Council Meetings With Matrox Monarch HDX]

The solution for Marek Domaracky, senior video manager at CERN IT department, was a Matrox Monarch HD H.264 encoder appliance that could maintain an uninterrupted stream, while at the same time starting and stopping recordings. For one, the Monarch HD enabled CERN to capture the presentation itself — not the setup and transition between speakers.

At CERN, auditoriums have been equipped with two Monarch HD appliances, each connected to a switcher via HDMI. Some of the auditoriums have an SDI camera; in those cases they are hooked up to a Monarch HDX unit capable of accepting signals from HDMI or SDI sources. In both cases, a mixer is used to control the volume of all the presenters’ microphones. Output from the mixer is then sent to the speakers in the auditorium and a second output is sent to Monarch’s analog stereo input.

The Monarch HD Application Programming Interface allowed CERN integrators to develop a web interface to control recording operations remotely, Domaracky said. “For us, remote management was key. There can be two-to-three webcasts taking place at the same time and not enough technicians to be present in every room. The Matrox API allowed us to create a solution to this problem.”

From a remote office, an operator observes the live webcasts throughout the day, and determines when to start or stop the recordings via an API-based web interface. The Monarch appliances push daily webcasts in RTMP to a Wowza Media Server installed at CERN while high-profile events are sent to the Limelight Networks Content Delivery Network to reach larger online audiences.

Through the API, Monarch was set up to record conferences directly to a shared storage on the local network. When lectures are conducted off-site, they are saved to attached USB storage and transferred to the network at a later time. Recordings are then uploaded to CERN’s in-house video portal, which gives viewers control over watching full screen of the presenter, the lecture notes or a side-by-side view.

As a result, viewers worldwide can tune into any live webcast, such as the announcement of the Higgs boson discovery in 2012 which earned the scientists who proposed its existence the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics. This webcast yielded 50,000 views simultaneously and almost a million views on demand.

“Matrox Monarch encoders have helped us to continue and improve on our mission of furthering knowledge both within the scientific community and the general public,” Domaracky said. “We have a very thorough selection process and the Matrox products met our stringent requirements both in terms of specifications and cost.”

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