April 27, 2018 by Ellen Camloh
Picture a lone presenter at the front of a function room, on stage in an auditorium, or in a corporate webcast.
The speaker stands behind a podium and clicks through a slide show. The presentation appears in a giant screen over the speaker’s shoulder. Each click adds a new line of bulleted text, a pixelated transition, a stock photo, or a dense bar graph showing quarterly results.
And with every click, the audience’s attention becomes more magnetically drawn - to their smartphones.
It’s not hard for most people to imagine this scenario, since it’s something employees, sales people, students, conference attendees and customers have sat through since May 22, 1990 when Microsoft made its first acquisition of a digital presentation program designed to replace overhead transparencies.
This is the phenomenon known as Death by PowerPoint. Mark Alamares sees it as a threat to brand engagement – one that he’s seeking to root out and eliminate from companies around the world. He’s like an ethical hacker for corporate live production.
And he views NewTek TriCaster® as the engine to drive his cause.
Alamares is the CEO of Mobeon, a specialized media production company with studios in Southern California and in Tokyo – locations that reflect Alamares’ multicultural background as an American born in South Korea.
The company’s offerings also reflect his background: his team creates programs with advanced technologies such as AR, VR, and MR (augmented, virtual and mixed reality); 360-degree panoramic video, and motion capture – formats with roots in video game development, thanks in large part to Alamares’ early career.
“I come from a video gaming background, with a lot of pop culture-oriented influences,” he says. “Things like comic books, video games, music, Japanese anime and manga,” eventually leading him to ply his tech skills in game development.
Because his interests (and his upbringing) bridged two cultures – and two continents – Alamares established relationships in the US film industry, where he made introductions that helped Japanese artists license their works for motion picture development.
That gained him entrée into Hollywood, he says, and there – with his experience in game technology – he became involved in postproduction of effects-heavy projects, as a VFX producer and creative consultant.
So it makes sense that the media studio he now runs is so focused on bleeding-edge, gaming-influenced technologies. Until he reveals two crucial factors.
One, his customers aren’t big-budget feature films, television studios or game development companies – they’re corporate event managers and enterprise communication departments.
And two, he left the VFX production field because the sheer computing power required to process and render a finished, effects-heavy project made delivering projects far too slow. He wanted instant results.
He wanted to go live.
No Going Back
“I didn’t like postproduction, it was a very arduous process.”
Alamares had all too much experience with the arduousness of visual effects – or VFX – from both game development and film production. Whether simple or sophisticated, most projects had to go through the same process of preproduction, modeling, painting, lighting, rotoscoping, animation…and if anything turned out wrong, you might not know it until after a very long rendering process.
“I liked the idea of streaming,” says Alamares. “It’s real-time, it’s out there, and when it’s over, you’re done. There’s no going back.”
That provides a lot of challenges, he says, because there’s no second chance in streaming. But the very notion sounded compelling to him. “I wanted to see instantaneous results. That’s why I thought streaming was the answer to producing content.”
Mobeon geared up its facilities over time with in-studio, mobile, and flypack live streaming capabilities, using a wide variety of equipment to meet its budgeting and client requirements—with TriCaster systems taking center stage in many different configurations.
“We use the full TriCaster line for our all our clients, from the [small form-factor, 4-input] TriCaster Mini all the way to a [4K/UHD 16-input] TriCaster TC1. It’s important that we take advantage of the full line to accommodate whatever the particular type of stream or message that customers want to get across,” says Alamares.
And he says that’s the true advantage of the solution: “Some brands want custom experiences, so that’s something that we create for them to achieve their objectives. We can choose the right TriCaster system according to the scale and the level of sophistication that’s needed for any production.”
That flexibility is important; it means he’s able to personalize every production for clients, rather than give everyone a one size fits all, paint-by-numbers production – which certainly gives him an advantage in a crowded field.
“The tools for streaming used to be a lot more expensive. They’re becoming much more competitive, so there’s a lot more competition entering the market,” says Alamares.
To differentiate Mobeon from the others, he says, “we always need to create something that’s unique.”
Gaming the System
As Alamares gained momentum in his business, he also envisioned ways to integrate his experience in video games and bring it into streaming. He realized during his live streaming projects that most corporate customers wanted more effective ways to communicate with their employees, customers, and other audiences.
He also realized that the technologies he used for video games were, by their very nature, highly engaging; but they used various resolutions, different frame rates, and non-broadcast connections. And that was a problem.
“But with NewTek NDI®, we could solve for it. NDI provided the missing piece,” he says – because NDI’s video over IP technology can identify any kind of IT source connected on a network, and bring anything that looks like video directly into the program, regardless of its native format.
This changed the game for Mobeon’s productions. “The video game industry is powering all the innovation that’s going on in V/R and A/R and everything else,” says Alamares. “We saw how NDI could integrate those technologies into corporate communications, too, and that was the direction we wanted to take.”
One of the ways the company uses NDI for live production is interfacing a real-time video game engine with the live streaming program. Think realistic walk-throughs, data visualizations, lifelike graphics and animation that’s actually taking place during presentations, in full choreography with the live action.
A recent example is a production for automotive brand Acura. “We streamed the world’s first augmented reality race,” he says. “We produced a stream that allowed us to – and also track the movements of a car via GPS.”
All the components of the live presentation were done over the network using NDI, from the GPS of the car to the video transmission to the audio transmission; then interfaced with virtual reality graphics from a game engine, all composited together in real time – inside the NewTek TriCaster – for the live stream.
“Our goal was to align the innovation of the Acura brand with something that had never been done before, and create some brand recognition for them in developing a cutting-edge presentation for the company’s entirely live activation,” Alamares says.
“We used our NewTek solution for that stream, because we were able to connect all the different components, hardware and software, into the TriCaster with NDI. And we were able to switch it and broadcast it on the different platforms simultaneously – all done live.”
Connection to Reality
For sheer audience engagement, that’s a far cry from PowerPoint. Mobeon is making it attainable for brands across the enterprise landscape.
“The companies that are trying to make an impact with their brand and visibility are the ones that are coming to us for creative ideas. They’re the brands that want to create much more attention, something that has the potential to go viral,” says Alamares.
That’s something that Mobeon was able to achieve, by incorporating never-before-seen elements in a live stream – or as he says it, “mixing all these different components that technically shouldn’t even work together.”
He calls it a cacophony of different technologies coming together, with streaming, IT sources, GPS tracking, video, audio, and the real-time Unity game engine.
“Without TriCaster, we would have had to Frankenstein different hardware and software from various manufacturers, and that would have been risky,” says Alamares. “Some of them may not be as reliable as others, on top of not being fully compatible, and there’d be a lot of R&D involved in testing what works and what doesn’t work.”
Other brands had tried to stream augmented reality experiences live. But it was difficult to make their toolsets work appropriately for a live stream. Without having the right mix of technology expertise and tools, “they resorted to post producing the footage and then tried to pass it off as live, which came across as inauthentic,” he says.
For him, the integrated components of the TriCaster system represent a set of capabilities that are known to work well with each other, unified not only in a software interface but in the larger live workflow. “The thing is, with NewTek’s tools, it just makes things much easier. We were able to make this happen live, and stream it successfully.”
If that success made viewers happy, it made the client overjoyed.
“Yeah, they were ecstatic,” says Alamares. “They got the viewership that they wanted, they reached all their creative goals and their engagement goals as well.”
A Unifying Hub
“When we’re helping companies communicate to their audiences,” he says, “we’re also looking at ways to use IT to communicate with other systems, so they can do that more effectively. Whether that’s various inputs coming from cameras in different locations, on premises or in another country, or different types of systems.”
The advantage he gets from TriCaster, Alamares says, is that especially with NewTek NDI adding sources over the network, it can connect the widest variety of elements into the same workflow. “It’s kind of a unifying hub that brings together the disparate media and technology and hardware and software our customers need.”
What’s more, he believes the true potential for interconnecting even wider technology sources with systems like TriCaster TC1 is still unrealized, because the applications for IP video with NDI have just begun to scratch the surface.
Mobeon has started down the path already, by connecting with real-time video game engines and mixed-reality race courses, and any of the countless other IT innovations that Alamares sees coming onto the scene all the time. “But there is still so much that we will be able to do with it, we’re only just beginning,” he says.
For now, Alamares says he views the TriCaster as the engine that drives live streaming production. But his corporate customers may see him using it for another purpose: to deliver the end of Death by PowerPoint.
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