Indiana’s Purdue University uses Matrox for lecture capture

Distance education facility selects Matrox Monarch H.264 encoders to record and live stream engineering lectures

Consistently ranked in the top ten programmes by U.S. News and World Report, and recently gaining the #5 spot, Purdue University’s prestigious online masters in engineering programme provides working professionals the flexibility they need to complete their studies.

Striving to give its distance students a genuine on-campus experience, the school captures every engineering lecture held in its classrooms, Monday to Friday, between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. These are then delivered as digital lectures via video on demand. Distance students are able to watch a live stream of a lecture in real time, or download a high or low-resolution video within 20 minutes after the class ends, thanks in big part to the Matrox® Monarch encoders.

Researching Encoder Options

Carl Black, Purdue University’s multimedia production manager, was tasked with researching hardware encoder options to live stream lectures in their new engineering distance learning facility. With a goal of finding an easy way to stream live video, and needing a scheduling mechanism, he hoped a standalone appliance would meet his requirements versus adding another computer and having to configure the hardware and software. This is when he came across the comprehensive Matrox Monarch HD H.264 hardware encoder—priced under $1000, it met all his criteria.

Close Examination

Distance students on the “digital campus” face the same challenging curriculum and exams as in-class students. Digital lectures, through exceptional streaming and recording, help replicate the vibrant in-class experience and assist them in learning. 

To produce these digital lectures, each engineering classroom is equipped with two pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras that feed audio and video signals via SDI to a video switcher located in an operator room. A production engineer from the operator room produces the audio and six video sources—two PTZ cameras trained on the lecturer, one document camera, and two laptops and a computer with presentation material—to be sent for lecture capture. The resulting output from the switcher serves as the input for the Monarch HD encoder. Every lecture being unique, it is captured and streamed at different resolutions and bitrates, to suit the varying needs of the distance students.

Purdue University’s multimedia setup for lecture capture


Rigorous Testing and Assessment

Playing a pivotal role in Purdue University’s contemporary multimedia production setup, the Monarch HD sends a 1280 x 720, full frame rate, RTMP stream to a Wowza™ Media Server while simultaneously recording at a higher 1920 x 1080 resolution to a network mapped drive. As Monarch HD can record MP4 or MOV files to a locally attached SD card or USB drive, or to a network mapped drive, the recording bitrate is not tied to the streaming bandwidth limitation and can be set much higher. For instance, when streaming at 2 Mbps, the recording bitrate can be set way above, at up to 28 Mbps. Since the Monarch-encoded files don’t need transcoding, they are immediately ready to be transferred to the appropriate watch folder/server to provide higher-resolution digital lectures than the stream and archive.

With the support of Monarch HD’s application programming interface (API), the Monarch HD Dev Tools, a sophisticated automation scheduler application developed by Purdue University controls the operations for scheduled events. For ad-hoc recordings, a third-party controller starts and stops the operations by making API calls to the Monarch HD encoders.

Pass with Flying Colours

“When we moved to our new engineering facility, we wanted to upgrade to an all-in-solution,” says Joshua Brown, multimedia production engineer at Purdue University. “The Monarch HD encoder makes it possible to have a recording completely ready to go and at our disposal as soon as the lecture is over. It simplifies streaming and archiving, and offers tremendous flexibility.”

The school’s successful online platform through streaming and video on demand (VOD) of lectures has opened up new opportunities and strengthened its bottom line through a wider network of global applicants. Working professionals now have the freedom to learn at their convenience—resulting in better retention, a lower learning curve, and a generally more rewarding distance learning experience.

Continuing Education

Purdue is in the process of exploring the Monarch LCS, an H.264 encoding appliance specifically designed by Matrox for classroom lecture capture. With dual inputs supporting SDI and HDMI, an inbuilt scheduler, and several layout options, the Monarch LCS lecture capture appliance can provide even more flexibility for Purdue University’s ever-growing distance learning initiatives.

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