As SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium re-opens its doors to the public with reduced capacity due to physical distancing, it is ensuring that fans don’t miss out on the action by offering ‘TANK TV’. A convenient 24-hour live stream, ‘TANK TV’ allows viewers to take a deep dive into the world of one of SEA LIFE’s most popular exhibits, the penguins.
SEA LIFE’s much-loved penguins include a spectacular King and Gentoo colony as part of the ‘Penguin Expedition’ experience, which reflects the environment of the sub-antarctic Macquarie Island – roughly halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica – where both these species can be found.
Panasonic’s AW-UE4 Ultra-Wide Angle Integrated Camera with Digital Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) is wall-mounted in the penguin enclosure to capture all the fun of these engaging creatures. The camera was initially installed on a handrail in front of the ‘Day and Night on the Reef’ exhibit – where it attracted over 72,000 views shortly after being installed – and is being periodically moved around the aquarium to give viewers at home a charming and ever-changing vision of the diverse marine life.
Richard Dilly, General Manager, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, said: “Our penguins are among the Aquarium’s most popular animals. The species we have here are all native to Australia and its islands, and we put an important focus on understanding these birds and their habitats. Now, our SEA LIFE fans at home can also enjoy studying the behaviour of these amazing creatures.”
Penguins are inquisitive, intelligent animals, and viewers are able to see SEA LIFE keepers interact with them regularly – with activities from playing soccer with the penguins to blowing bubbles and building ice sculptures for them to enjoy. The 24-hour Macquarie Island environment is temperature controlled to around 5-6 degrees Celsius, includes a sunrise and a sunset every day, and the penguins also experience a summer and a winter which allows them to follow their natural breeding cycle.
Richard Dilly added: “The camera lets fans experience the colony close up, and it has the benefit of being unobtrusive for our on-site visitors. We’re getting a great response and are looking forward to deciding where it goes next!”
“Disruptive times such as these often yield new ways of working, connecting and delivering your products – live streaming, in my opinion, has and will become the norm. The exciting thing for us now is working out how we can continue to evolve what we do to keep fresh and engaging for our viewers, whilst also using the platform to let our guests know our doors are now back open for their next visit!”
Fast setup and high image quality to get streaming straight away
Panasonic’s AW-UE4 camera is small and compact with an easy to position head. This offers the benefit of flexibility of location – it can be placed on a rail, ceiling or wall mounted anywhere within the aquarium – while an ultra-wide 110-degree angle means everything is in the shot. The aquarium simply decides the best angle of view and positions the camera to suit.
Importantly, when no visitors were permitted during lockdown, the camera was delivered and installed by SEA LIFE’s in-house AV/IT team of two, with the aid of a brief Skype demonstration.
The AW-UE4 camera was set up within a day, linked to the network and was very quickly streaming to SEA LIFE’s YouTube account. Once installed, the AW-UE4 streamed 24/7 with no further control needed.
Mathew Alexander, Panasonic Broadcast, explained: “The camera only needs one CAT5e or CAT6 cable for power, video and control, and then you’re ready for RTMP (Real Time Messaging Protocol) streaming to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch or any other RTMP/RTMPS service. This single-cable control also makes it really easy to move the camera when you need to.”
Richard Dilly explained: “Having temporarily closed our doors to the public on 23 March, we wanted to ensure that our guests could still interact with us, learn new things and be amazed by the extraordinary underwater world – right from the comfort and safety of their own living rooms.”
During the closure, SEA LIFE was also impressed by the number of teachers who contacted them to say they were using the ‘TANK TV’ stream as part of remote learning for students while schools were closed.
High performance for commercial environments
The camera is designed to compensate for the variations in lighting and colour in the aquarium environment. A pin-sharp 4K sensor and lens means it is possible to achieve very high picture quality when streaming, while it is also simple to scale back depending on the bandwidth you want to use. In SEA LIFE’s case, the ‘TANK TV’ bandwidth was reduced as necessary to allow for the higher than normal network traffic during the COVID-19 lockdown.
As well as streaming live to YouTube, the AW-UE4 can display the same feed on any screen with an HDMI connection, so SEA LIFE also has the future option of showing this output to visitors at the penguin enclosure, or elsewhere in the building – a good way to entertain people who are waiting to get close to a display. The HDMI output can also be recorded if, for example, SEA LIFE wanted to keep it for research purposes.
Richard Dilly said: “We are thrilled by the response to ‘TANK TV’ as a way for our guests to connect with us and our animals at any time of day! Our displays are so interesting, and quite often you can miss some amazing things happening if you take just a cursory glance. I’ve personally set up TANK TV on one of my two monitors at home, so that I can work whilst having this video playing in the background.”
A broad range of applications
The AW-UE4 is built for resilience in commercial environments where web cameras aren’t an option. Its design allows it to perform day in and day out in demanding scenarios, and it can be connected to a number of ancillary display devices, with outputs for 4K or HD IP streaming, 4K or HD HDMI and 4K or HD USB.
The broad applications for PTZ-style streaming cameras can be seen by the range of customers now implementing them worldwide – which has grown from the TV and radio industry to encompass live music concerts and theatre performances, webinars and virtual panels, parliamentary broadcasts, and university education.
To catch the Penguins on ‘TANK TV’ head to: https://www.sydneyaquarium.com.au/explore/virtualaquarium/tanktv/