The Birth of Streaming Video

The Beginning of Video on the Internet

In 1999, a Baltimore-based IT solution company, Condor Technologies, reached out to me to see if I could assist them with their client, the University of Maryland Medical School. UMMS wanted to stream a live video of a Historical Clinical Pathologic Conference (CPC). CPCs are a teaching tool that medical institutions use that offers an overview and then a discussion of a patient’s health, possible disease state, and recommended treatments. The historical CPC was led by Dr. Philip Mackowiak and takes a famous person from history and shares the case presentation with a historian and medical doctor. They are challenged to guess who the historical person is and what their disease might be. 

The Streaming Video Production Challenge

Now, keep in mind that YouTube didn’t launch until 2005, six years later. Streaming video over the World Wide Web was PRIMITIVE! My company at that time, SOBO Productions, reached out to our network to figure out how the get the job done. We connected with MCI, the second-largest telecommunications company at the time, which was piloting a streaming video platform. The MCI engineers successfully streamed one-to-many production, where a live presentation could be shared over the web. They had never worked with video producers and were excited at the prospect of sharing a multi-camera production.

Davidge Hall​Now, with the production and streaming video team in place, it was time to focus on the location. Davidge Hall is a historical building that has been continuously used for medical education since 1813. It is beautiful but limited in modern comforts like a beefy electrical grid and DSL, the high-speed internet of the ‘90s. We worked with the IT team to arrange for temporary power and DSL to be brought into the historic hall. 

The day before the live event, the IT, video production team, and expert from MCI got busy setting up the power, DSL, lights, three cameras, communication equipment, and temporary control room for the production. The plan was to switch the three cameras live and feed the signal to the MCI tech, who streamed the signal to Houston to then distribute to viewers. The entire plan was cutting edge for 1999, and everyone worked hard to lock down as many variables as we could for the live event the next day. Keep in mind that HD digital video was only introduced in 1998. 

University of Maryland Medical Center’s 5th Historical Clinicopathological Conference

The day of the event arrived, and all stakeholders went into action. The historian and doctor were mic’d up, camera operators and a floor director took their positions, and we crammed into the small hallway, aka control room, to make history. The director instructed the camera crew and called the shots, the technical director switched the three cameras, the audio engineer managed the microphones, and the signal was fed to the MCI engineer and his magic box that was feeding the audio and video signal over the DSL to Houston. I held my breath, waiting for the video signal to come back over the internet. There was a delay of over 40-seconds! We quickly realized that we couldn’t listen to the live event and the streaming video. “Do you have headphones?,” the director shouted at the MCI engineer. He quickly put them on to remove the confusion of listening to the delayed streaming video signal. 

The live streaming of a 45-minute+ Historic CPC worked! Many lessons were learned, and viewers around the country had varying success viewing the HCPC due to their internet speed. After a short celebration with the production team, the job of striking and packing up all the equipment began.

The Historical CPC

The HCPC was super interesting too! The presentation of the case began, “A 65 year old man is seen because of fever, headache, sore throat and vomiting.” The doctor and historian both correctly guessed that the person was Pericles and hypothesized that the disease was Typhus or Smallpox. Here’s more information if you are interested: Pericles CPC.

Looking Back at Video Production

As I look back over my four-decade career, I am proud to have transitioned with each leap of technology: analog video to high definition, nonlinear editing, the Internet, streaming video over the Internet, interactive education, storytelling and multimedia via websites, content marketing, podcasting, and digital advertising. What a journey! I can’t wait for the next horizon.

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