Innovation from necessity: streaming university lectures with Canon PTZ cameras

How Canon's multi-cam PTZ systems are bringing a new era of education to IULM University of Milan.
A Canon CR-N300 PTZ camera on a tripod, with a desk full of other AV equipment in the background.

IULM University of Milan, Italy, has installed a multi-cam recording system using two models of Canon PTZ cameras, the CR-N300 shown here and the CR-N500. "With this setup, the university can stream all the main events in its physical spaces, with less use of internal resources and less planning required," says Canon Italy's Simone Cavalcoli. "It is able to manage events simultaneously at the same level of quality that an external professional service usually provides." Photo courtesy of IULM University, Milan

"We've tried to evolve the way we are teaching. From a bad situation, we were able to find some good solutions," says Professor Angelo Miglietta, Vice Rector at IULM University of Milan, Italy. He's reflecting on how the university adapted to the demands of teaching throughout the global Covid-19 pandemic, with Canon PTZ cameras playing an integral role. "It accelerated tendencies we had before. Now some courses will be held only online, not because we're trying to save money, but because it is much more effective."


IULM offers graduate and postgraduate degrees spanning arts, business and communication, including PR, languages, interpreting, tourism, marketing and media. It brings together cultural heritage and professional skills, representing a "meeting point between the academic world and the labour market."


By bringing a range of Canon pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) cameras on board, IULM is now offering students improved online learning options, with recorded lessons and livestreamed events including inaugurations and graduations. "We wanted to find a way to save time and involve fewer employees in video production, to be more effective, efficient, and run more events at the same time, with a lower human resources cost," says Professor Miglietta.


The university's multi-cam system of 4K UHD cameras includes six CR-N300 cameras, three CR-N500 cameras and one RC-IP100 controller to operate the cameras remotely across the main auditorium and additional lecture theatres, providing an enhanced and professional output for years to come.

A view of the campus at IULM University of Milan.

The installation at IULM encompasses Canon PTZ cameras in multiple buildings, including CR-N500 cameras in the main auditorium, "where we will record and stream the next inauguration of the academic year, our open days, our graduation ceremony, concerts and plays," says IULM's Professor Angelo Miglietta. "Also, Canon's 4K PTZ cameras have given us a huge boost in quality, so we can offer a better service to all our clients when we hire out our auditorium to third-parties." Photo courtesy of IULM University, Milan

Elevating a recording system with the CR-N500 and CR-N300

With so many of IULM's offerings centering on the power of communication, high-quality outputs were vital. "During our first meetings with IULM it was clear this wasn't only about photos, or videos, but the full Canon imaging ecosystem," says Simone Cavalcoli, Pro Sector and Industries Business Development Manager at Canon Italy. During the preparatory phase, each IULM department met Canon experts to discuss its specific needs, and PTZ cameras emerged as a clear frontrunner.


"Canon's PTZ solutions offer the possibility to share what is happening in the university with those who are outside, whether it's a lecture, concert, awards ceremony or public debate," says Simone. "It's about removing physical boundaries, giving access to all the cultural events taking place in IULM and letting the university reach a larger number of people."


The two kinds of cameras are being used in two distinct setups. The three CR-N500s are installed in IULM's main auditorium, to stream graduation ceremonies, galas and performances, while the six smaller CR-N300s are used for lectures in smaller rooms, both in fixed positions to cover the speakers and movable ones to cover the audiences.

"The CR-N300 system is so light, we have installed two cameras on the ceiling in each room, while keeping the third camera on a tripod," explains Professor Miglietta. "The Wi-Fi functionalities, along with NDI compatibility, allow us great flexibility." Both models support a comprehensive range of streaming and control protocols such as NDI|HX and RTMP/RTMPS, allowing for seamless connectivity when streaming.


The Canon CR-N500 has a 1-inch CMOS sensor capturing 4K UHD video via a 15x zoom lens, and the industry-renowned Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system. The CR-N300 boasts the same precise control system as the CR-N500, in a smaller device equipped with a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and Hybrid AF – and also offers 4K UHD capture.

A technician wearing white gloves cleans the sensor of a Canon camera.

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The system has significantly streamlined the recording process, Professor Miglietta says. "In the past, filming our lectures involved one or two manned cameras, a video mixer and a long setup. It was a very lengthy process and four or five people were involved each time. With the NDI functionalities and the pan, tilt, zoom commands embedded in profiles, now we can get in the theatre and be ready to start events in just a few minutes, using only one employee. It is so much more effective, with lower costs – something every manager likes to see!"

Two Canon CR-N300 cameras stand on tripods in front of the audience in an auditorium, with a Canon RC-IP100 remote camera controller on a table between them.

As well as 4K resolution, Canon PTZ cameras incorporate proven focusing systems for flexibility and speed of focusing. The CR-N300 shown here features Hybrid AF, excellent in low light situations, while the CR-N500 has Dual Pixel CMOS AF, including Face Detection and Tracking AF, which helps ensure that subjects are always in focus.

An operator using the RC-IP100 remote camera controller, with two Canon PTZ cameras at the sides of the table at the back of an auditorium.

With support for a comprehensive range of streaming and control protocols such as NDI|HX and RTMP/RTMPS, Canon's PTZ cameras are designed to work seamlessly together, and up to 100 cameras can be operated remotely from a single location using the RC-IP100 remote camera controller shown here.

4K future-proofing and advanced camera control

Staff at IULM are long-time Canon users, starting with the Canon EOS C100, Professor Miglietta says. "It was a perfect camera because it allowed us to get cinematic images even in unpredictable scenarios. We shoot a lot of interviews on the go and the EOS C100 saved us in countless situations." The team have now upgraded to the EOS C70, which was a smooth transition thanks to the continuity of the Cinema EOS System. "Its quality is terrific, and it has the same ease of use."


The university is outfitted with a wide range of other Canon equipment – from mirrorless cameras like the EOS R to Cinema EOS setups with both RF and Cine Prime lenses, XEED laser projectors for digital output and imageRUNNER ADVANCE DX multifunction printers running uniFLOW software.

Maintaining premium image quality was a key consideration when selecting the new cameras, including the capacity to record in high resolution to future-proof the university's archive. "For us the importance of picture quality is growing every year," Professor Miglietta says. "The industry is moving so fast, we need to be up to date. 4K live streaming isn't very popular yet, mainly because of the necessity to update your hardware, but we need to be ready for the future. A 4K recording will be pleasant to watch for a long time, while seminar recordings we made seven years ago at 720p are now looking extremely dated."

A Canon CR-N500 PTZ camera set up to film a live music performance, with a keyboard player on stage in the background.

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The new system also generates more engaging videos, thanks to the ability to remotely pan, tilt and zoom using the RC-IP100 remote camera controller and mix between different camera angles at the touch of a button. "It is crucial to make precise and pleasant camera movements, especially when shooting concerts and theatre performances," Professor Miglietta says. "Also, some of our lecturers have a tendency to walk around in the classroom or main theatre. The RC-IP100 allows us to react to their unexpected movements, which is very effective, and the ability to access all of the camera's parameters with just a few touches is a great innovation."

A Canon imageRUNNER ADVANCE DX multifunction printer.

The PTZ cameras join a wide range of other Canon equipment already in use around the university, including imageRUNNER ADVANCE DX multifunction printers. Photo courtesy of IULM University, Milan

A Canon XEED laser projector with ceiling mount viewed from below.
A Canon EOS C70 video camera on a tripod recording a person delivering a presentation in front of a whiteboard.

Canon XEED laser projectors (top) are used for digital output, and EOS C70 video cameras (below) for cinema-quality recording of interviews and other events.

Remote learning and the future of education

The university plans to build out a hub from which to remotely operate its PTZ cameras, ensuring a seamless central production base. "With the technology Canon has offered us, we'd like to create a control room where we can access all the PTZ cameras in our campus via NDI," Professor Miglietta says. "We have seven different buildings at IULM, and building number eight is about to come. Being able to record lectures and events without splitting our team will be incredibly useful to us. We will work in a system using this technology and adding on different pieces of that mosaic."


Recordings and livestreams are currently on offer to existing students and their networks, but the university sees wider applications for its audio-visual outputs in the future. Now that IULM is creating higher-quality multi-cam recordings, there's the capacity for fully remote learning for those outside of the existing student body.


"We were already considering offering some recorded classes, like Coursera, but we weren't motivated to find the solutions to make this possible, because it was business as usual," says Professor Miglietta. "You accelerate into innovation when you are under pressure, and because of the pandemic, we understood this opportunity we already had embedded in our business.


"A consequence of being resilient is that you must react, maintaining your identity but evolving. It is a Darwinian world – and we must adapt. We are planning to offer non-attending students the possibility to take part in our lessons and our programmes. It's a new value proposition we are considering within our business, thanks to these new technologies."

Lucy Fulford

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