Generally, the lower the cost, the less capable a streaming appliance is. Processing power and capability cost dollars to implement.
At the most basic level, you might get a 720p
stream and a mid-level bitrate to one CDN.
Pay a little more, and you step up to units that
offer full HD streaming, higher bitrates, internal recording, and dual streams to two different destinations.
Mix in the capability of a computer with software designed for streaming and you leverage
the capabilities in the computer, which you may
already have, saving the cost of similarly capable hardware. The software may give you the
ability to mix different cameras, apply a title or
graphics to the video, play back prerecorded
video clips loaded onto the computer, record
internally, and stream the video out to a CDN.
Lastly, you have high-end, purpose-built systems designed to do all this specifically for the
purpose of streaming. These systems are also
very well adapted to broadcast production, able
to function as part of the event itself in the same
room, or broadcast on TV.
Let’s walk through some of the choices
available today in each of these tiers of streaming solutions.
At the bottom of the streaming appliance pyramid, you have software that enables your mobile
device to get “on the air,” via You Tube, Facebook,
Twitter, or Periscope. This is basically a “come as
you are” video stream with little control. Immediacy and intimacy are critical at this level. However, by adding an external microphone, a camera light, a tripod, and so forth, you can make it
look and sound a bit more professional.
Some apps, like Livestream Producer for mobile, enable you to take the stream of an external camera, such as a GoPro, and stream that
instead. This app makes it possible to control
the live stream even when the camera is in an
inconvenient spot, such as mounted on a drone.
Stabilized camera-maker DJI has added Facebook support to its DJI GO app, which means
you can stream live from the Inspire, Phantom,
and Matrice drones, as well as the Osmo handheld camera.
At the $400 level, you have a baseball-sized
4K camera from Livestream called the Mevo (go2
sm.com/mevo) that can, with a connected phone
and app, stream and record. Moreover, you
can select areas within the Mevo’s wide-angle
4K shot to stream as distinct 720p virtual shots.
You can cut between up to nine different virtu-
al shots using the Mevo iOS app. Professional-
ly mixed audio can be connected to the phone.
In my testing, I found this implementation a
little rough around the edges, but it holds a
lot of promise.
At the next level are small, standalone, handheld boxes that have a single video in and Ethernet or Wi-Fi out. For instance, the $500 Cerevo
LiveShell series of streaming appliances delivers 720p at up to 10Mbps. Supporting several
CDNs, including You Tube, Ustream, and RTMP,
the LiveShell Pro can even toggle recording on
Ustream’s server. Because it is configurable via
a web interface, any computer or mobile device
can adjust the unit’s settings.
Teradek offers the VidiU line, with different
models costing $500, $700, and $1,000. It offers
capabilities commensurate with cost. But even
the lowest-end unit can send your stream to
Ustream, Livestream, or You Tube, or you can
build your own streaming server. These devices
can also be used as sources in Teradek’s new
Live:Air iPad production suite.
The basic version of Telestream’s Wirecast
Studio (see Figure 1 on the next page) software
has an MSRP of $500. This software can mix multiple cameras, apply graphics and lower-thirds
to the program, record, and stream. But what
the $500 price doesn’t reveal is the cost of the
computer needed to do all this. A basic i5-based
laptop with “integrated graphics” can be heavily taxed trying to handle multiple live cameras,
record internally, and stream the video.
Since Wirecast can leverage a PC’s graphics card (GPU) for its image processing, you
can ensure smooth performance by looking
for a gaming laptop with a beefy GPU. These
typically cost $1,500 and up. Then you’ll need to
add external hardware to be able to ingest each
of the external cameras. The Epiphan AV.io HD
costs around $350 per video source. So now, for
a two-camera event, you’re looking at $2,700 or
higher for your streaming setup.
Don’t try to use just any office machine, either.
Your mobile computing device will perform best
when it is dedicated to this purpose, and not also
used for email, instant messaging, or other apps.
This is why it’s important to consider the cost of