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
  7. I finally had the confidence to use my Slingstudio on a real job in the field. My overall impression is quite favorable. The setup is easy, and I used Slingstudio WiFi camera adapters to attach two PTZ cameras on poles and a Sony A7Siii on a tripod. Since the Slingstudio has only one HDMI port, the adapters are the only way to connect up to four additional cameras. (You can connect up to 5 iPhones using a Slingstudio app, but only four cameras can be active at a time.) I prefer to record at 1080p60, but Slingstudio (and the adapters) downscale to p30, which is does not seem to affect quality.

    Ordinarily I would use SDI cables to bring video to a conventional video switch. While the signal quality of SDI cable is excellent, the cables are fairly stiff and refuse to lay flat. Plus you need a separate cable for each camera.

    The Slingstudio will switch, record and stream the output to the internet. Slingstudio uses WiFi or wired ethernet for streaming, In this session, I used it only as a recording tool. As I noted earlier in this thread, The Slingstudio has a clean HDMI output which can be used with a different encoder. I use a Teradek VidiU Go for streaming, since it has bonded connections for reliability, and can send to several destinations at once.

    The Slingstudio has a very useful feature, automatic switching at fixed intervals, sequential or random. While this event was primarily a recording session, I needed to turn it around quickly for rebroadcast. Switching can be part of the story, or just for variety of angles. This was a solo piano with introductions, so the program could switch without regard to the content, except for the spoken parts. This gave me time to listen carefully and take notes, which are essential for post production.

    It will also record to an SD card, or an SSD attached via an USB-3 dongle or USB-C. You can select one or more sources to record, including individual inputs, program (switched) output, a multiview screen (sources) and audio. The audio signal can be from each camera (yuch!) or a stereo source, and is also embedded in each video. You can use the individual inputs to patch the program video, or start from scratch (which takes about 4x real time).

    As usual, I recorded the audio on a seperate device, a Zoom F8n 8-channel recorder, with a stereo feed to the Slingstudio. I used two microphones under the lid, high and low strings, and a stereo ORTF pair on a tall stand about 6' away for "room" sound, plus a speaking mic. Each mic is recorded in a separate channel, and I spend an hour or two balancing, leveling and enhancing the sound for the final product. I used a small mixing board during the session, mainly because the speaking mic must be muted while the piano is playing, which would otherwise overload by about 20 dB.

    All was not sunshine and happiness. Using PTZ cameras with a Slingstudio is made difficult due to the video processing lag of about one second. It's like driving on black ice, where nothing happens at first, then boom. I used the remote control to fine tune the camera position, one tiny bump at a time, then wait to see the response. While I can set and recall several positions for each camera, you would have to anticipate live action to follow it. Presets are okay for variety, but real-time motion - forget it.
  8. The Slingstudio and camera adapters can run up to two hours on battery power. Running power to the camera adapters defeats their purpose. This was a 5+ hour session, so I used portable USB battery packs to run the camera adapters. I hang them on the stand or tripod, and a 20,000 mAH battery is good for about 8 hours. Plan ahead, because the batteries take about 4 hours to charge.
  9. I can find no Slngstudio operating manual, per se, but there are a dozen or so application and instruction videos on, which are well prepared and informative. among my discoveries is that the Slingstudio has a low-latency mode for video conferencing. I will explore, and report if there are any drawbacks.

    Other features included split screen, panel view and picture-in-picture. Each view can be created independently, and use other live views, video clips or graphics. However only 4 views can be ready at one time. The active views can be updated using drag-and-drop. There is also a fade-to-black option, which also silences the audio output. That's perfect for hiding the chaos prior to a broadcast, and the expressions of relief when it's over.

    The premiere advantage of the Slingstudio, apart from its video processing, is the ease at which cameras can be attached remotely without wiring. I'm getting to hate laying down and rolling up hundreds of feet of cables. Cables are time-consuming, dirty, and present a navigation hazard to the talent and audience. I use carpet runners and/or yards of riggers tape to provide a safe walkway if the cables can't be routed away from traffic. It is possible to use wireless connections for HDMI and SDI devices as well, which work at distances up to 400' (line-of-sight). 1080p60 devices are almost affordable at $1000 per pair. 4K devices cost 4-6 times as much. Teradek makes the most reliable devices I have found, but there are less expensive sets, which tend to have more latency and be subject to interference.
  10. Recordings made with a Slingstudio leave much to be desired. The quality is good enough for most purposes, although it is highly compressed. You have options to record the program (switched) stream, quad view, each individual camera (ISO), and audio.
    • The video streams are not necessarily synchronized, and can deviate much more than "lip sync" quality (~ 2 frames)
    • Only audio recorded by the camera is embedded in the ISO's (a Shogun 7 embeds both the original (if any) and master audio in each)
    • Re-syncing by watching the video only is difficult, and may be impossible. It is very simple to synchronize streams which have an audio track, even correct latency within each track.
    • All recorded tracks are divided at the 2G point. Continuity of the video is clean and frame-accurate. External audio switchovers leave a gap of two or three frames. Grrr! If you want clean external sound, you have to record it separately and re-sync in post.
    Automatic sequencing of cameras is a very useful feature. It frees you to do other tasks, such as monitoring the streaming destinations, or simply checking your messages. For switching relevant to the action, turn AUTO off, and select the next source for preview, or double-click (double-tap) to move it to PROGRAM immediately. You want to hold on a speaker, presentation or soloist, but variety in a concert is often more important than any particular angle. For concerts, It's the audio that counts.

    Even in low-latency mode, there is far too much video lag to use a PTZ camera as intended. I find it necessary to bump the joystick (or tap the software control) many times to get the shot centered and zoomed properly. You can set 10 or more preset positions for each camera, but it can take 30 seconds or longer to establish each shot from scratch. With or without latency, you cannot use a PTZ camera to follow action in a closeup. At best, you can use a medium shot, but nothing is as good as a camera on a tripod with a skilled operator.

    Which PTZ presets to use depends on the situation and your personal taste. Try to establish a pattern which you can recall without consulting a shot sheet. I like to use presets 1-3 as a combination of wide and medium shots. If there are speakers or soloists in fixed positions, I use the second row (4-6) for 3/4 or close up shots. With auto switching at 8-10 second intervals, there is ample time to select new presets while another camera is live. Avoid panning or zooming while the camera is live, unless there is a special (i.e., rare) artistic reason, and it can be done very smoothly.
  11. Since I continually set up and strike in remote locations, it's important to keep track of which camera is which. Since my two PTZ cameras are otherwise identical, I pasted numbers on the side, also with the WiFi camera adapters for the Slingstudio. With most switch gear, port 1 is always port 1. The Slingstudio is different. The cameras are numbered in the order they are connected (paired) with the hub. For consistency, I keep the static camera (Sony, etc) as Camera 1, and the PTZ cameras left (1) and right (2).

    I do something similar with microphones. I link stereo pairs together, for example Center LR, Side LR and wide LR. Typically the center mics are an ORTF (angled out) directional mics, the side mics are spaced (1 meter) omnis and wide mics are about 8 feet to either side, wide cards or omnis. Large choirs are generally spread wide but shallow. I use single mics spread across the stage, fairly close to the singers (~6') and high (8'), and number them in order, left to right. Having a "plan" helps keep things straight when mixing for FOH or live-streaming. Spot mics I usually grouped by section (e.g. winds, tenors, harp, etc).

    My philosophy for classical music conforms to the old Deutsche Grammophone standard of one mic (or stereo pair) in the ideal place to establish the listener's point of view, and everything else just supplements that focus. Each mic is recorded in a separate channel, so the miracles can be created in post.

    * FOH = Front of House (amplified reinforcement).
  12. I'm currently using three systems for managing video from multiple cameras. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and there are no universal solutions.
    • Slingstudio
      Up to 4 cameras, using HDMI/WiFi camera adapters which work up to 300' line of sight (no bulky SDI or HDMI cables across the floor, auditorium or gymnasium)
      Only one direct HDMI input
      Up to 6 Smart phone camera connections, using an app, "Slingstudio Capture"
      Maximum 1080p30 resolution
      Automatic switching at specified intervals (seconds by camera), so you can concentrate on other tasks (audio, stream quality, etc).
      High video latency, between 1 and 2 seconds, makes remote camera (PTZ) difficult.
      Unbalanced 1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo audio input (in addition to embedded audio from each camera)
      Flexible use of recorded clips and graphics
      Records program and ISO videos to an SD card or USB-C SSD
      Small tally light in each camera adapter showing the active camera
      Monitoring and control from a computer or iPad (tablet) via WiFi
      Records external and PGM audio, but does not add it to the ISO streams.
      Built-in WiFi and ethernet connections for streaming. Mini-HDMI (type C) port for external encoding
      Compact transport and setup. WiFi monitor and control

    • Black Magic ATEM Video Switch
      Up to 8 cameras, 4 HDMI and 4 SDI
      Maximum 1080p60 resolution, HDMI or 3G SDI
      Balanced L/R XLR audio inputs plus embedded audio with a virtual mixing panel.
      Almost zero latency (< 5 msec)
      Limited real time effects, transitions and keying (e.g., green screen).
      Some models offer front panel operation. All have complete function virtual panels for computers via ethernet (can be networked)
      Compatible with several tally light systems, via ethernet or RS422.
      Can use and control (via computer interface) up to 4 BM Hyperdeck recorder/players for video clips, via IP.
      No easy way to record PGM and ISO video streams
      Requires an external monitor for multiview and program video streams
      A lot of cables and connections! Hardware monitor and control (laptop and front panel)
      Requires use of an external encoder, either hardware or coftware (e.g., Wirecast or OBS)
      Not directly compatible with PTZ Optics 3G SDI output. Use HDMI or and SDI translator ro 1080p60.

    • Atomos Shogun 7 recorder/monitor
      Up to 4 cameras via SDI, plus word clock
      Maximum 4k60, 4,2,2 10-bit resolution (6G SDI)
      HDMI and SDI output
      Balanced (XLR adapter) stereo audio inputs and outputs.
      Almost zero latency
      Switching mode with touch screen operation in multiview
      Very high quality recording of PGM and ISO videos, ProRes or DNx
      Records embedded audio for each stream, with an option to add the external audio to each stream
      Global audio compensation for video latency (in msec).
      Integrated monitor and control (7" HD screen, usable in sunlight with minimal shading).
      Hard cut transitions in real time. Embeds optional cross fades in a Final Cut Pro XML file
      Requires an external encoder, either hardware or software (e.g., Wirecast or OBS).
      Fewer cables and connections than ATEM, more than for a Slingstudio
      Very difficult to insert clips and graphics.
    I find the Slingstudio very useful for streaming concerts and events which require little or no post processing for re-broadcasting. The high latency precludes live control of PTZ cameras, deferring to presets to achieve a variety of angles.

    The Shogun 7 is my preferred choice for high quality productions, mainly for uploading after grading and editing. Low latency means I can use PTZ cameras in real time, but I prefer to select and set up presets offline. However I can set up an angle in half the time as with a Slingstudio.

    My last choice (not used for months) is the ATEM hardware switcher. It is very hardware intensive, with lots of connections and cabling. Ultimately the ATEM is the most flexible, and has broadcast quality. In addition to setup, it requires a lot of personal attention in use. Inability to record ISOs (without splitters) means you have to get it right the first time. At this point, the key advantage is the ability to use tally lights to apprise the talent of the ready/live state of cameras, so they know where to look.

    What's next? I'm seriously looking into getting a teleprompter. I record and stream many programs which involve narration without notes. Not everyone is disposed to speak ex temp, and a teleprompter would add more polish to the production. Systems which use an iPad are simple and relatively inexpensive. The talent can pace the display with a foot pedal. I expect that its use will require practice by both the talent and the producer.
  13. Recent technology affects my use of an SDI ATEM video switch, affordable fiber-optic HDMI cables of 25' to 50', and inexpensive HDMI to 3G SDI adapters (also Black Magic) with dual SDI outputs.

    While I can use an Atomos Shogun 7 to record and switch up to 4 cameras, it is difficult to add graphics and pre-recorded video clips, or use real-time transitions, lower thirds and bugs (small graphics advertising the production). Nor is it possible to directly control tally lights, which identify the ready and live cameras to the talent. These effects are readily implemented in a hardware switch (e.g., BMD ATEM), but without the ability to record the ISO videos. Black Magic pairs the ATEM inputs, but the second port is for control and communication with the camera, not for sharing the input (are you listening, BMD?). Every feature of the ATEM can be remotely controlled via ethernet, along with various memory and recording devices (e.g., BMD Hyperdeck carts).

    Fiber HDMI cable, suitable for 3G signals, costs as little as $60 in 50' lengths. It's easy to handle in the field, being very flexible and only 5 mm in diameter. BMD just came out with HDMI to SDI Micro adapters, powered by USB, for about $50, which have dual 3G SDI outputs. I will use these outputs to feed the ATEM and Shogun simultaneously. Since Shogun channels are perfectly synchronized, post production is greatly simplified.

    The downside is a dozen or so additional cables and connections and more hardware. However the additional power can be used to add professional flair to a live production with a relatively compact setup, with real-time control over up to 8 inputs and 4 Hyperdecks.

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