completely mobile, I highly recommend using
a tablet for the main mixing surface because of
its larger screen real estate. That said, phones
make surprisingly good cameras. The thought
that I could switch multiple cameras, do video playback, have overlays and lower-third
graphics, and push my stream online—all with
my phone—is something I would have never
thought possible just a few years ago.
Of course, it’s tempting to use your phone because it’s essentially free. You already have it.
Camcorders, cameras, and lenses all require additional investment, come with varying learning
curves, and—most of all—take up space in your
traveling kit. The downside of relying on your
phone for the same task is that it already does
so many things. And each of those things takes a
bit of processing power, which leaves less for the
heavy lifting of processing HD video, doing overlays and transparency, and compressing for your
delivery network—not to mention the streaming
traffic of pushing an HD video feed across data.
Moreover, instant messages, texts, alerts,
phone calls, pop-ups, overlays, and all that can
literally stop your live broadcast cold by pushing it into the background. If you have no other
choice, set your phone to “Do not Disturb” and
disable as much as possible. If you can afford a
dedicated device—even a used one—that’s the
better way to go. Load only the video app on it.
Use it for nothing else. You’ll be a lot happier.
Buying a Phone as a Dedicated Camera
If you decide to buy a new or used device, the
first thing to consider is compatibility. As iOS
continues to get updates, you need a currently
supported device. For iOS 11, that’s an iPhone
5s or higher. I started building this kit during
the iOS 10 era, so the iPhone 5 was still included, but now that’s orphaned. The OS is the first
thing you need to consider as the apps will continue to develop, and orphaned hardware may
be left behind too soon.
Your next consideration is the quality/cost
slider. Do you run out and get six of the newest iPhone x models with super-big capacity for
$1,150 each? You’ll surely use them the longest,
and you’ll know you’re getting the best camera
Apple has to offer. But this is web video. It will be
dumbed down to a 2Mbps stream, and Facebook
will stream it at 720p even if you shoot 1080p.
Honestly, the latest cameras are overkill from
an image-quality standpoint.
I find the iPhone 6 or 7 to be a nice middle
ground if you are starting new. I started with the
iPhone 5 and then 5s, so I chose to pick up some
new iPhone SE models, brand new, for $99. Consider that you could get 10 SE units for the price
of one x, and imagine the variety of shots you
could get with that many cameras. That makes
for a much more interesting program than having only one shot that may look a smidge better
on the live stream.
There is, of course, no single right answer for
which phone to buy. But I do recommend choosing a phone that has a headphone port, because
if you need a wired LAN connection, that uses up
the Lightning port. Two ports are certainly better than one in terms of flexibility and total number of connections you can jack into one device.
Both Teradek and Switcher Studio offer “free”
versions of their apps that enable you to go online from your phone. You can have a video clip
with some music for the beginning and the end
of your show. You can incorporate full-screen
slides. You can do titles and corner logo “bugs”
that overlay the image. And, even with one device, you can technically include two camera angles because you can flip the camera from rear-to front-facing while broadcasting.
Teradek’s Live Air:Solo even lets you add a
second device to the mix. So, doing a two-per-son interview is very easy, as you can point your
iPad at one person, and point your phone at a
second person. Then you can easily switch/mix/
wipe between them. Teradek’s Solo also has a
built-in title generator, which is handy, but limited to only a few designs. Still, it’s better than
nothing. Plus, it even lets you slide in the graphic while using a different transition to switch between cameras.
So, for the most basic apps, Teradek’s Live:Air
Solo is the clear winner for me, unless you
need one other unique feature that a different
Teradek product has—remote audio. Teradek
can take audio from the second camera (or any
camera in the big app), so if it’s the on-the-field
camera, it’s very convenient to have the audio
and video come into the phone together on the
video mixing app. If you’re going to be using
multiple wireless mics independent of the video
feeds, then this is not an issue.
Stepping up, Teradek offers Live:Air, but that’s
being replaced with Live:Air Action, which is a