Rambert School of Ballet & Contemporary Dance Makes the Right Moves with Matrox Monarch HDX

Streaming and recording appliance lets dance school webcast performances to its international market

Webcast of ballet student’s performance | Live stream of dance students’ performanceDance performances are simultaneously streamed and recorded using Matrox Monarch HDX.

Dance is a form of artistic expression. Poetry in motion. Freedom for the body and soul. Nobody knows this better than Dr. Ross McKim, who was Principal and Artistic Director at the internationally recognised Rambert School of Ballet & Contemporary Dance for 30 years. Rambert School is one of a small group of first-level professional dance schools in the world and is located in London. It is a place of dance and choreographic innovation offering a foundation degree and BA in ballet and contemporary dance.

The Need for Streaming and Recording

A farewell celebration to honour Dr. McKim’s retirement was the impetus for the school to invest in live streaming equipment because many invitees from around the world—past, present and prospective students and staff; potential donors; critics; and interested parties from the wider dance community—could not attend in person. The school also wanted an easy means of recording and archiving the event.

In addition, Amanda Britton, the school’s current Principal and Artistic Director, wanted a way to record student performances for teachers to provide feedback and for use on websites and social media that was faster and easier than using a cumbersome DVD recording process.

Streaming and Recording Solution

After a thorough study of available products, Mark Underwood, an independent technical consultant, encouraged the school to select the Matrox Monarch HDX dual-channel H.264 encoding appliance. It provides both the streaming and recording capabilities they were looking for, is cost-effective, compatible with their existing SDI and HDMI cameras, and easy to use.

Setup for Large Events, Simple Shows

Large events like the farewell celebration are held in-house or at external venues, such as the Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre. For these, a Panasonic HE2 camera provides a wide shot of the stage and two GoPro Hero4 cameras provide alternate angles. The cameras are connected to a switcher. From the switcher, an HDMI output goes to the Monarch HDX appliance for streaming and recording. Analogue audio is mixed separately and fed into the Monarch HDX from the sound desk. The Monarch HDX keeps the audio and video in perfect synchronisation.

While one Monarch HDX encoding channel outputs an RTMP-compliant stream to a Wowza server for internet distribution, the other channel is used concurrently for recording. If the event is held in-house, the recording is done directly to storage on the network. Local USB storage or an SD card is used for external events.

For simple shows and assessments in-house, the Panasonic HE2 camera is connected straight to Monarch HDX via HDMI. Both of Monarch HDX’s encoding channels are used for recording. One output is sent to a central archive for school records while the other is directed to network storage for immediate playback and performance assessment. Some recordings are edited and uploaded as dance videos to the school’s website or to social media.

Jonathan Aloia, Technician and Maintenance Supervisor at the school states, “Monarch HDX’s GUI made setup very quick indeed, a matter of minutes. This easy configuration makes the unit great for any streaming or recording we do at external venues. The Monarch HDX does the job of two units in one!”

Ballet students training is recorded | Training session in studio is encodedTraining sessions are recorded using Matrox Monarch HDX
Dance school’s studio where events are recordedSchool’s stage where events and performances are recorded using Matrox Monarch HDX.

Nimbler New Process

Unlike the pirouettes, adages and jumps that require hours and hours of training and practice, the Monarch HDX is so simple to use that any of the students or the rehearsal director can learn to operate the pre-configured unit via on-device buttons in a moment. Student dancers with absolutely no A/V experience are able to record their own personal videos.

The new process with Monarch HDX’s H.264 encoding makes recordings available to students and teachers immediately, in a shared network location.

Monarch HDX’s versatility lets them simultaneously stream to the school’s website using Wowza Streaming Engine, ensuring every online attendee access to the performance, and record to network storage or an external drive, depending on the event’s requirement.

The Applause

As envisioned, the school streamed Dr. McKim’s farewell celebration on its website without any hitches. The quality of the streams was not compromised despite having to use a low bitrate of 700 Kbps due to the limited internet upload bandwidth of 1 Mbps at the school. Absentee invitees were thrilled to be able to view the program live and pay tribute to this exceptional leader.

Britton says, “Monarch HDX is a cost-effective and user-friendly way to live stream. It allows us to engage with an extended international market which we hope will help to increase applications from outside the UK and assist with fundraising.”

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