Building a successful online event platform on AWS
Authored by Michiel Droog, co-owner and managing director, and Tim Smid, senior product developer at Invitado. The content and opinions in this post are those of the third-party author and AWS is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this post.
Invitado Visitor Management has been a specialist in the event registration industry for almost 15 years. Built on AWS, the Puerto Registration System has been relied on for conferences, fairs, and other in-person events. With the pivot to online events early last year, our new event platform Transmisión Livestreams has successfully managed more than 200 online events. We were able to develop the platform at unmatched speed, largely due to a creative and effective combination of services offered by AWS.
“When in-person events were no longer possible due to the pandemic, we wanted to be able to offer our customers an online alternative,” says Michiel Droog, managing director of Invitado. “That became Transmisión Livestreams.” Years of experience in the event industry were used as the foundation for the development. Adding interactivity to streams, and the ability to hold interactive breakout sessions, is the difference-maker for online events broadcast through Transmisión.
First, we had to decide where to build the platform. Per Tim Smid, senior product developer: “The technically optimal transmission of streams and the processing and broadcasting of webcam footage was completely new to us. Based on our experience with Puerto and a survey of all available options, we agreed that Amazon Web Services was the best technical supplier for this challenging project. The ease of use, proven reliability, and extensive configuration options of the AWS Media Services were critical to that decision. With AWS, we were able to develop what we envisioned: a state-of-the-art and reliable streaming platform.”
Transmisión Livestreams overview
To use Transmisión Livestreams, participants log in to the event portal via a unique and personal URL. These personalized e-mails are sent by the Puerto Registration System using Amazon Simple Email Service, in most cases a few hours before the event. After a quick technical check, the participants automatically follow their personalized program based on their selections and attributes in our registration system. Puerto Registration System is hosted by AWS on redundant Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) servers and a Multiple Availability Zone (Multi-AZ) MySQL Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), enabling Puerto to easily handle spikes in registration traffic.
During sessions viewers can participate interactively with text chats, video chats and Q&A. Users can also participate in live quizzes and polls or create wordclouds together. These interactions, which run via a websocket connection, can be added by a moderator to streams and to smaller-scale breakouts. In addition, participants can video chat 1-on-1 with participants of their choice, or randomly, during timed sessions in our Chat carousel.
Streams via Amazon Interactive Video Service
Initially, the service was built using a combination of AWS Media Services. However, when Amazon Interactive Video Service (IVS) launched in mid-2020, we were able to simplify our workflow. Amazon IVS combines all necessary elements for a stable and fast distribution of streams in one easy-to-use service. With Amazon IVS, we generate and distribute multiple output resolutions (from 160p30 to 1080p60), based on the HD-stream we deliver. With the right settings, ultra-low latency from studio camera to participant can be achieved. The Amazon IVS player and API enable us to create a great user experience for viewers and moderators in Transmisión.
Breakouts and more via Amazon Chime SDK
For smaller-scale sessions in which the speakers participate via their own webcam, we set up video calls with Amazon Chime SDK. Speakers or participants can share their screen to broadcast slides or give demos. Amazon Chime is also used for 1-to-1 communication. The smart integration of Amazon Chime calls into Amazon IVS streams turned out to be one of the most important USPs of our platform.
Webcam users in an HLS stream
AV producers and event organizers are all very enthusiastic about the way Transmisión makes it possible to include the footage of webcam users in a stream broadcast. “To be able to achieve this without delays and echoes, we set up a separate Amazon Chime call,” explains Smid. “The studio can communicate with a webcam user in what we call a ‘stream room’.” Video and filtered sound of the participant at home is sent to an output, which can be processed by the AV producer in the stream or by sending it to a display in the studio. Droog adds: “Via the raise hand function in the platform, participants can indicate that they want to contribute to the broadcast. A moderator approves the requests and establishes a video call between the participant and the studio. In this way we ensure even more dynamism and interaction.”
Endless outputs can be created in Transmisión Livestreams, such as results of a poll or a quiz, or to visualize the home audience in the participants matrix. For this matrix, the live webcam footage from different Amazon Chime calls is combined into a large grid.
The future of events
“Of course we can’t wait for real-life events to be possible again. Until then, we will be extremely busy with Transmisión Livestreams,” says Droog. “Online events are certainly here to stay; some organizers will opt for a hybrid form. It is difficult to predict in what proportions, but with our solutions and proven flexibility we are ready for it anyway.” More information about the services we offer can be found on our website.
Invitado Visitor Management, based in Rotterdam (The Netherlands), is market leader in visitor registration and specializes in online events. The team consists of project managers, developers, a UX designer and a copy writer.