COMPUTER WITH SOFTWARE MIXER ($100+)
You can use your computer to capture and stream
video, but you’ll need a capture device to input your
video into the computer and software to encode and
deliver it to the service. Although there are cheaper,
game-oriented capture devices available, a device like
the Magewell USB Capture HDMI Gen 2 HD capture
dongle will give you high-speed, low-overhead input.
For simple productions, the free OBS (Open Broadcaster Software), which runs on Windows, Mac, and
Linux, can get the job done, with vMix (Windows only)
and Telestream Wirecast (Windows and Mac) being
the best-known, for-fee alternatives. OBS is all you
need if you’re simply inputting and streaming, but
the two other programs are simpler to use and much
This category is great if you want to add niceties like
titles for your speakers or information slates (“Back in
15 Minutes”) during breaks. You’ll need a fairly robust
computer for running these programs and more physical space. Also, computers are more prone to crashing than encoding appliances. So if you’ll be streaming frequently, lobby for a dedicated computer for the
task, and consider buying a pre-built streaming system from Telestream (Wirecast Gear) or third parties
like 1 Beyond, Core Microsystems, or Puget Systems.
Understand that once you insert software into the
mix, you’re also ratcheting up the expertise necessary to successfully stream the event. Most encoding
appliances can be configured in the lab and operated
via one or two buttons, providing a level of simplicity that can’t be matched with any software product.
If you’re planning a multi-camera shoot, you’ll need
a video switcher. These tools come in three flavors—
computer-based video switchers, standalone switcher
appliances, and a streaming appliance with support
for multiple inputs. The first and third should be able
to stream directly to any service, but you may need
help with a standalone switcher.
To explain, virtually all computer-based applianc-
es, like the New Tek TriCaster, can stream directly to
a service, as can computer systems running Wirecast
and vMix, as you just learned. So you should be set if
you’re switching with one of these systems.
Streaming appliances are standalone devices with
multiple inputs that are often called lecture capture
stations. Typically, these can mix incoming streams
like a traditional video switcher, so you can insert a
talking head over PowerPoint slides coming in from a
notebook computer. For example, Epiphan’s Pearl- 2
has six inputs that can support up to 4K video, with
onboard recording and the ability to set up a local display. You can mix the streams into picture-in-picture
shots, or simply switch between them. As with virtually all of these units, Pearl 2 can also stream to Facebook Live, You Tube, and the other usual suspects, so
you won’t need a separate encoder.
Standalone switching appliances resemble the
old-fashioned analog switchers from yesteryear, and
while they are certainly computers under the hood,
they’re not running Windows or any OS you can access. If these units can’t stream directly to a service,
they can output either HDMI or HD-SDI for input into
devices in either the consumer or industrial-strength
encoder categories above. Some switchers, most notably Roland switchers like the VR-4HD, output a USB 3.0
stream that you can input into a computer. This looks
like a capture device to software like OBS, vMix, or
Wirecast, making it easy to stream as discussed above.
No Ethernet/No Power
Working without Ethernet or power means that
you’ll need a battery-powered encoder and a transmitter that can access a 4G network. Many of the on-camera devices mentioned above have batteries, but
some are internal, which means that you can’t switch
A capture device like the Magewell USB Capture HDMI Gen 2 HD video capture dongle will
give you high-speed, low-overhead input.
Epiphan Pearl- 2, a popular encoding appliance that can stream directly to most services.