Livestreaming the Moroccan Solar Challenge 2021

Solar car in the desert
© Jorrit Lousberg (@lightatwork)

Stream My Event is a regular sponsor partner to the Vattenfall Solar Team, a Dutch student team that designs and manufactures solar cars to participate in world-class solar racing competitions. The biggest one is the bi-annual Australian-based World Solar Challenge, which is a 3000 km race from Darwin to Adelaide.

Floris Porro provided a detailed account of his team’s experience with Video Transport in “searing desert heat, dust, wind and mountainous terrain”.

In prior installments of this challenge we came up with innovative solutions to do live streaming from the moving car convoy, using a ThinKom satellite antenna and Silvus mesh-based IP radios to link up vehicles. With several cameras in multiple cars we were able to put together a captivating livestream of the entire challenge from start to finish.

In 2021, the regular World Solar Challenge was unfortunately canceled. Instead the team decided to participate in the Moroccan Solar Challenge, which came with its own unique challenges.

The change also meant there was no room to send equipment or a team to facilitate the livestream on-site. However, the company didn’t want to give up and decided to help the students to come up with a barebones livestream setup so there would at least be some kind of online presence.

The first initiatives focussed on using OBS with SRT and bouncing via an online server, but it proved very unreliable. As it was not possible to rely on remote desktop working all the time, it would have been hard to remotely control OBS if the connection were to drop and auto-resume didn’t work properly.

That’s when we reached out to you, Medialooks, to see about using Video Transport for the project. We already knew that VT holds up perfectly in controlled environments and decided to just go for it.
Solar car in the town
© Jorrit Lousberg (@lightatwork)

VT Publisher was running on a “hilariously underpowered” student laptop in the chase vehicle behind Nuna 11 – the award-winning solar car. This was transmitting to a high-performance streaming PC in Delft running VT Receiver, where the team used OBS to mix the livestream and re-broadcast to YouTube.

We’re overall quite happy with the performance given the extreme circumstances. Though it was clear that VT is primarily designed for circumstances that are not quite so extreme or hectic, we still had major benefits in some of the overall design choices. Like for example the fact that interrupted streams are designed to automatically resume where possible (they did in about 50% of cases after interruptions), is a majorly helpful feature.

The web interface to control VT Publisher remotely is another example of something that proved to be instrumental, as remote desktop control turned out to be far too unreliable.

Whilst VT excelled in delivering good quality image where internet quality was decent, getting the stream through under intermittent connections did require constant attention, and best results were achieved by using a variation of techniques to get the video into OBS – switching between simply receiving with VT Receiver and outputting NDI to OBS, getting the preview link from VT Publisher and opening this in a web browser, and even blowing up the low resolution thumbnail from the Control Panel (actually used on air a few times).

Overall, we recognize these circumstances were absolutely extreme. No budget, no tech personnel on-site, consumer hardware, etc. We’re super happy that things worked at all, even if not always. We were the only team to have a livestream and again became the focal point for information during the event, because our dashboard was the only place with an actual live view of the race happening. It was really fun to try and push VT to the absolute limits and I think we fairly achieved that. Mission accomplished.

This experience has provided our team with valuable insight into how VT might be used in the future under similar extreme conditions.

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