Another milestone in scientific communication

The Banff International Research Station (BIRS) has announced that its new physical meeting space at the beautiful TransCanada Pipelines Pavilion in Banff Canada,  is now accessible to the scientific community in virtual space, via live video streaming and high quality video recordings, produced by a state-of-the-art automated video production system. This is a first step in our collaborative effort with the “Mprime network” and the other mathematical sciences institutes, towards building and coordinating a national Internet infrastructure supporting mathematical research and education, including a unified video capture, video streaming, video archiving, and video storage service for the world’s mathematical science community.

In January of 2012, BIRS installed a system of cameras, microphones, and automation technology in its main lecture hall in order to fully automate the production, recording, broadcasting, and distribution of high-quality lecture videos. An overview of how it works is posted here. Since then, our Technology Manager, Brent Kearney,  has been busy writing software, adding features, and tweaking the behaviour of the system. BIRS participants now have the ability to record and broadcast their lectures at the touch of a button.

Plans for the future

In the immediate future, we will be busy addressing imperfections of the new system, and adding needed supporting software such as online scheduling.

Further into the future, we would like to add some interactive features that allow remote parties to participate in workshops. Sophisticated video conferencing integration has been part of the plan from the beginning, and remains a priority.


BIRS alone will be broadcasting 25-30 lectures per week for 49 weeks of every year. Each lecture has the potential to open up new threads for research. Future authors working with these ideas will be empowered to provide precise citations to video archives of lectures inspiring their research. The citations to video lectures that appear in subsequent publications will contribute to a biblio-metric metadata stream demonstrating research impact. BIRS will be collaborating with the other institutes to define a unified video capture, video streaming, video archiving, and video storage service for all interested mathematical institutions.

In the meantime …

You can watch BIRS lectures live on the website, at: Recordings will also appear on the BIRS home page a few minutes after the lecture ends. Details about how to effectively use the BIRS live stream, including the schedule for upcoming talks, can be found at the following URL:

As a work in progress, you should expect the occasional hiccup. We love to hear your feedback or suggestions, since we consider this initiative a collaborative effort as we are building it for the benefit of the world’s scientific community .

System Requirements: The live stream should work on any modern computer or mobile device that supports Flash or HTML5 streaming video. It has been casually tested and works with Microsoft Windows IE 8 and 9, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, iPhones, iPads, Playbooks, and some Android phones. Please let Brent know if it does not work on your device.

The live video uses dynamic streaming to automatically scale the video quality up or down based on your connection speed. Switching to fullscreen mode, or attempting to advance the play position, will force a re-evaluation of your bandwidth constraints. In it’s highest mode, the stream displays 1920×720 resolution HD video at 1800kbps and 30fps. In its lowest mode, it plays on most mobile devices at 320×180 resolution at 400kbps and 24fps. There are two modes in between.

Many thanks to all past and future contributors to this important new resource for the world’s scientific community.

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3 Responses to Another milestone in scientific communication

  1. colliand says:

    This is fantastic news! Thanks to BIRS and Brent for making the research activities at the Station visible to the world. It is great news that the Institutes are working together to define a unified platform for sharing and archiving videos.

  2. Pingback: Banff, mathematics, networks, and live streaming « FrogHeart

  3. Pingback: Weekly Picks « — the Blog

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