When Fit4Life was organizing it’s 4th annual Marathon in Accra sponsored by Zain, they asked the Ashesi University Computer Science department to provide technical assistance to stream the event live on the Internet. Given only a short time to successfully implement the project, the CS Department took the challenge and started working on the task. And on September 26, 2010, the day of the event, the Accra International Marathon (www.aimghana.com) was successfully streamed live on the web from Accra to the world.
The first thing team of CS faculty and students did, once we accepted to take the challenge, was to find the right platform and tools for the job. To successfully stream an event live over the internet, five things are required: a camera to capture the scene, encoding software to convert the video to the right format for streaming, an adequate connection to internet, media server, and viewing software at the audience side.
The team started by setting up an Adobe Flash Media Streaming Server with encoding software. Server needed enough capacity to stream the video. We expected to have at least 5 streams from 5 locations along the route of the Marathon, and we also expected hundreds of potential viewers. This meant the server hardware selected needed to be powerful. After much analysis the team decided to use an online streaming service that allowed the team to set up multiple secure streams that could be viewed online.
Along the marathon route the team set up three cameras connected to laptops with wireless modems provide by Zain, one of the largest mobile telecommunications providers in Ghana. The camcorders chosen all had a webcam mode that allowed them to stream video to the laptops. The cameras were placed in strategic locations to capture the runners at key milestones during the event.
Once all the main components were ready, the webmaster of the Accra International Marathon website created several web pages where the streams from each camera could be viewed. Once all elements needed for the setup were ready, the team tested the configuration in the lab to make sure it all worked.
On the day of the event members of the team assembled at 4:30am and individuals were deployed along the route of the marathon. In the end, the Accra International Marathon was successful streamed live on the internet. This exercise proved that even with a simple setup, without the need for complex equipment and satellite links, it is possible to reach a global audience. As the mobile communications infrastructure in Ghana is expanding and improving many new possibilities for streaming media will emerge.