Live Streaming Experiences

Discussion in 'Video' started by Ed_Ingold, Mar 2, 2020.

  1. Setting up Zoom Meetings involves a few details if you want the best quality.
    • Video: Select the input device as the Camera
    • Video: Select the aspect ration of your video, Standard (4:3) or HD (16:9)
    • Video: Do not "mirror" your video.
    • If you are recording for a client, rename your window with their name.
    • Audio: Select the input device as the Microphone
    • Audio: Turn Auto Volume off. Set the level manually using a test tone if possible. I use a 1000 Hz slate tone set at -20 dB, so that the Zoom meter reads 50%.
    • Audio: Set the "Original Sound" options in the advanced page
    • Audio: Disable echo cancellation, enable high fidelity music, and enable Use stereo audio,
    • Audio" Enable "Original Sound" in the main window, in the top left corner.
    Someone needs to monitor the Zoom meeting from a computer or tablet, and communicate with the participants or host. Log in as a participant on a separate device than the one you are using for the meeting, Make sure the sound is not picked up by your production microphone(s) or audible to the presenter (the 1/2 second delay is stressful), preferably by using headphones or ear pods. You could use the slate mic or set up a mic for voice com, but but the others can't see you. It's easier to use a separate device.

    If you do this professionally, buy a subscription to Zoom. It starts at $150/year, but gives you unlimited meeting time and more options setting up.
  2. It seems like every job has new challenges, which keeps life interesting. Today I helped a client use a Slingstudio to live-stream to multiple destinations, including Facebook and Vimeo.

    A Slingstudio is a compact solution when you need to control up to 4 remote cameras, use manual or automatic switching, and include graphics and play videos. There is one HDMI (Type A) input, and other cameras are connected using WiFi. It is especially easy to use smart phones with built-in WiFi. Other cameras are conned through proprietary HDMI to WiFi adapters. The Slingstudio connects to the internet through WiFi or ethernet, but can send to only one destination at a time. Operation is controlled using an app in a smart phone or (better) tablet.

    The Slingstudio has an HDMI output, which can be programmed to transmit the program (switched) video, among other things, at full resolution of the input. The output stream is usually scaled to lower resolution, limited by the internet connection. My thought was to connect this output to a Teradek VidiU Go hardware encoder, which also streams to only one destination. However I use the VidiU in conjunction with Teradek's CORE cloud service, which takes one input stream and distributes it to any number of destinations without imposing additional load on the source.

    The VidiU has both HDMI and SDI input ports. In this case, I used an Atomos Shogun 7 to monitor nd record the Slingstudio signal. The Shogun has both HDMI and SDI ports as well, and can transcode HDMI to SDI, which I sent to the VidiU. At first I used a Black Magic mini HDMI to SDI converter, so I could comfortably remain out of the way. However no signal came through. The converter is programmable to fit any HDMI protocol, but I didn't have time to do it. Instead I used a 15' HDMI cable (the longest I care to use with HD video). This worked fine, and the show got off on time. As always, it's best to monitor the destination(s) to make sure everything is working.

    There are other cloud services which can send an input to several destinations, including Vimeo. The Teradek/CORE solution has the advantage of bonding (load sharing) WiFi, Ethernet, and cellular connections. On this day, the ethernet speed was only 5.6 MHz and variable, but I needed 9 MHz for HD. One cellular modem on the VidiU was enough to make up the difference.

    Using a 15' HDMI cable proved to be a real stretch (LOL). I prefer 25', 50', or longer cables. I learned last week that there are HDMI cables which use fiber optics up to 200' (possibly longer). The have a transmitter at the source end, powered by HDMI, and a receiver in the display end. All the electronics are enclosed in the metal connector shells. After the show ended I tried a 50' FO cable, and it worked great, with none of the sparkles and jitter you sometimes get from regular cables. They've been around a long time at over $300 each. I bought two from Amazon for $50 each, along with full size to mini and micro HDMI adapters. The FO cables are fast enough for uncompressed, 4Kp60 (~ 6G SDI).
  3. I was live-streaming a show choir concert last weekend, which was much more of a challenge than I anticipated. I record a lot of classical concerts, but the pace is much slower and the transitions more predictable. There are clear divisions between pieces and movements. A show is highly choreographed, with one scene running into the next with practically no separation. It takes a lot of planning and documentation to do a good job, and I'm really low on the learning curve.

    There are limits to what a single operator can do. Not many jobs have the budget for a 3-5 person crew, nor the opportunity to rehearse in advance of the show. This is where I'm at, using two PTZ camera and 1 or 2 fixed cameras.
    • Make a list of the key angles and framing. You can work from a scrip, consult with the director or producer, and observe during the a rehearsal or warmup (I usually have only the latter).
    • Assign the key shots to the PTZ controller. There are 10 presets for each PTZ with a dedicated key (up to 254 if you use a computer).
    • List the preset numbers for each scene in an outline script.
    • Have a fixed camera on a wide shot, to be used to cover transitions in moving cameras.
    • Duplicate some medium or wide shots on two cameras to allow clean transitions to closeups.
    In a perfect world, you would have a producer speaking into your ear something like "Camera two ready on set 3", then "Live on 2 in 5 seconds," then "GO on 2." Most of the time I wear several hats, drawing the line at running front-of-house (FOH**) sound. I'm sure cinematography classes cover most of these details. I have to rely on experience, books and the internet for tips. I will be fine-tuning things as I progress, but this is my outline.
    • Prepare a much-simplified script that you can follow with one eye, or rely on an inexperienced volunteer producer
    • Devise a standard set of terms for camera angles (e.g., used by the movie and broadcast industry)
    • Expect surprises!
    I can say, unequivocally, that if you have two or more camera operators, you must have a producer. Unless the operators are telepathic, they will tend do do the same things or at the wrong times. This means you need a way to communicate, discretely as to not interfere with the production. The console operator (especially a solo operator) has few opportunities to turn pages. It takes two hands, mind, eyes and ears, even if other tasks are shared.

    ** I placed 16 microphones for this show, which I shared with the FOH guy. I have an 32/16 channel electronic splitter, so FOH and recording levels are independent. In other situations, I get a pre-fader feed from the house board with pretty much the same results. If possible, each microphone is recorded on a separate channel. FOH and recording mixes have completely different objectives.
  4. I just purchased a Sony A7Siii for video and live-streaming. I'm really impressed with the quality, especially the color. I posted a mini-review in another forum which may be of more interest to videophiles.

    First Look at a Sony A7Siii
  5. Cables, cables, cables! There's no end to the type and length of cables you will need for live streaming, at least if you run a mobile operation. Except for extremely simple setups (or costly professional rigs), you will need to connect one or more cameras to a central location, including a video switcher, computer, encoder, or all three. Video is usually carried via HDMI, SDI (Serial Digital Interface), or occasionally ethernet. I like to have cables in 100', 50' and 25' lengths, because shorter cables are easier to lay down, and much easier to roll up when you're done.

    I settled on SDI because it is relatively inexpensive, similar to that used for Cable TV and has BNC (locking) connectors. Moreover it can be used up to 300' from the source. Most professional processing gear uses SDI. Not many consumer cameras have an SDI output, but HDMI to SDI adapters are readily available, powered by a USB battery or AC adapter. Nearly every camera, including mirrorless and DSLRs, have an HDMI output, so why not use it directly? The problem with HDMI is that many cameras have only a micro connector, which is weak and the cable easily dislodged. HDMI cables capable of handling 1080p60 (or higher) tend to be thick and stiff, and only used at 15' or less for signal quality.

    That paradigm has changed with the invention of affordable fiber optic HDMI cables, which are thin and flexible, and more important, can transmit 108p60 for 100' or more. They are one-directional, with a transmitter at the source end, and a receiver at the destination end, both powered by the HDMI interfaces. If you need an SDI converter for compatibility, it can be located on your desk rather than near the camera. Some switchers, notably by Black Magic Design, have both HDMI and SDI inputs. BMD also has a very capable ATEM Mini which is HDMI only, with a built-in ISO and PGM stream recorder. For safety, I use a short HDMI adapter cable at the camera, and a strain relief to hold it securely.

    I bought my FO cables from Amazon, which were delivered the next day. Other places may have better prices.

    When you have the time, tune into the internet for instructions how to roll up cable so it doesn't have loops, kinks or knots when you lay it down.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2020
  6. I have been asked on several occasions to incorporate special effects into a live stream broadcast, including graphics, PowerPoint presentations, pre-recorded sound and video, split-screen, and green-screen effects. Hardware with these features can run into five figures, and can require programming to execute more complicated functions. It would help to have a utility van or box truck to carry it around. It's worth exploring less expensive and more portable ways to get it done while meeting basic priorities
    1. Clean inputs from multiple cameras some distance from the console, generally 25 feet or more.
    2. Full resolution recordings of individual inputs (ISO's) and the switched output (PGM).
    3. Camera switching capability
    4. Efficient, versatile effects and video processing
    5. Robust internet connection with a bandwidth of at least 6 Mb/sec
    One solution I have used successfully involves the integration of a Slingstudio Hub. The Slingstudio is designed to handle switching of up to four windows, which can be connected to cameras, pre-recorded material and graphics, which can be loaded via a portable hard drive of flash drive. You can attach up to 10 cameras but only four active windows, including graphics, can be active at one time. There is one input HDMI port, and up to four HDMI adapters which connected to the Slingstudio through WiFi. You can also connect up to 4 (?) cell phones or tablets with a simple app via WiFi. In all, it is very powerful and a great timesaver because it does not have to be hard wired. Laying down and rolling up cable constitutes at least have of my setup time. The Slingstudio will also record the ISO's and PRM video on an SD card, but in a highly compressed MP4 format. The chief disadvantage is that the Slingstudio depends on WiFi or wired ethernet connection to the internet. Secondly, it can only transmit to a single destination at a time.

    In order to capture, record and switch high quality video, I use an Atomos Shogun 7 monitor/recorder/switcher for up to 4 SDI connected cameras. I connect the Shogun HDMI output to the Type A HDMI (full-sized) input port on the Slingstudio. I connect audio from a Zoom F8n 8-channel recorder to the balanced stereo input on the Shogun, and the unbalanced stereo 3.5 mm jack on the Slingstudio. The video latency is on the order of 50 msec, and can usually be ignored. However, the output of the F8n can be delayed in msec increments if necessary.

    The Slingstudio also has a Type C (mini) HDMI port for output, which can be configured to carry the PGM signal, as well as other signals. At that point, the audio is embedded in the video signal. I connect that HDMI output directly to a Teradek VidiU GO encoder and modem. As noted in earlier posts, the VidiU GO connects to the internet by WiFi, ethernet or cellular modem. All three are "bonded" by Teradek's CORE cloud service to work in cooperation for a robust internet connection. If WiFi slows down or drops out (unfortunaly a common occurrence) one or both alternative services will automatically take up the slack. The CORE service can connect to at least 6 CDN's (destinations) simultaneously with out imposing any additional burden on the VidiU GO.

    For additional system confidence, I often connect an Atomos Shinobi HDMI/SDI monitor between the Slingstudio and the VidiU GO. The Shinobi will show the exact program stream output to the internet. You can never be too careful in real time programming.

    All this requires some manual dexterity if you go it alone, about like juggling tennis balls while riding a unicycle. The Slingstudio is controlled (only) by a computer or tablet application by WiFi, from any place in range.

    Instead of a Slingstudio, effects, graphics and pre-recorded material can be handled with Wirecast, VMix or OBS in a computer or laptop. The ethernet output is RTSP, which is not compatible with the VidiU GO. It is possible to capture the output window and audio. That's a little involved. More on that solution later.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021

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