Live Streaming Experiences

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

  1. Not every Slingstudio job is quick and easy. Here, I'm using 9 mics, a standalone 8-channel recorder plus a 40 channel Midas rack mixer as a splitter for independent front-of-house sound. There are three cameras. One is static (Sony A7Siii) plus two PTZO 30x cameras and joystick controller. I'm using Cubase to record from the Midas, an iPad to control the SS, and another iPad to manage the streaming destinations. In lieu of ethernet, I'm using a Teradek VidkU Go streaming encoder with two cellular modems (HDMI Out from SS).

    Last weekend expanded this setup to 26 microphones, requiring two 16-channel FOH mixers. This was for a choral program with plastic partitions and 6' separation for each member. A mic was used for each member, plus solos and announcements. Without reinforcement, the audience can't hear them and they can't hear each other. We added 4 floor speakers for the chorus, which made all the difference. I takes another person (shown) to handle FOH mixing in all but the simplest installations.

    A word of caution. Keep the SS well away from other wireless transmitters. It doesn't want to pair with the control surface if there's interference. Also, you can't reliably do anything other than record with one computer, including a virtual mixing panel for the Midas.

    It's handy to have a camera you can move around without then encumbrance of cables. In this setup, I used a Sony A7Siii with a PZ 28-135/4 lens on a tripod, with a large (190 WH) battery and a Teradek Bolt LT 750 wireless TX/RX pair. It has virtually zero (> 1 msec) delay, so it can be used together with wired cameras for live-streaming. Notice the dirt floor. I kid others that I need to take my cables to a car wash afterwards.

  2. This is a job I did last Tuesday, a solo piano recital in a small studio. I used 2 mics under the piano lid and 2 main mics about 8' away, plus a handheld wireless mic for the soloist to speak. There are three cameras - 2 PTZ and a Sony A7Siii for a fixed wide shot. I shot this using a Slingstudio with 3 wireless SS Camera Links. One PTZ was shooting over the pianists shoulder, showing the full keyboard, and the other showing a 3/4 head and shoulders from the front. I didn't move the PTZ angles often. They make it easy to fine-tune closeups without walking around. About a dozen people attended, which complicates the setup a bit. Clockwise from the upper left, the console consisted of a POE ethernet switch, an 8 channel Zoom F8n recorder, a Zoom FRC-8 mixer attached to the recorder, and a PTZ Optics IP joystick camera controller. The PTZ cameras were mounted on aluminum light stands, which are taller than tripods and take much less floor space.

    The main mics were in ORTF configuration, about 7.5' high in line with the piano lid to reduce cancellation. The piano mics were also an ORTF configuration, low and aimed toward the high and low strings respectively, mixed abut 3 dB below the main mics. A mixer with sliders makes it easy to adjust levels, expecially for speaking mics, instead of tiny knobs on the recorder.

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  3. I find that I rely on iPads more and more in my endeavors. The key attribute is the ability to connect to the internet through cellular service, independent of WiFi and Bluetooth. None of my laptops (PC or Mac) have built-in cellular. You can use cellular modems, but they usually connect through WiFi, losing that independence. Why is that important?
    • WiFi is needed to control some of the devices I use, including a Sliingstudio and a Teradek VidiU streaming encoder. These devices act as access points, so you connect to them by WiFi using the devices' SSID. PTZ Optics cameras are controlled and powered through ethernet cable. Prior to a dedicated PTZ joystick controller (also PoE ethernet), I used software control in a laptop. By inserting a small access point (TP Link) into the PoE router, I could use an iPhone or iPad to control the cameras by WiFi connected to the TP Link SSID. Using WiFi in this manner means you can't connect to the internet by WiFi, only wired or cellular.

    • You need internet access to log into the destination website (e.g., YouTube) to set up an RTMP channel and monitor the results. I use a cloud service (Teradek CORE) to bond ethernet, cellular and WiFi connections, and to distribute the stream to one or more simultaneous destinations. This, too, requires an internet connection, but not necessarily a fast one (> 5 Mb/s) needed for 1080p video.

    • Unless you are streaming from a phone or webcam, you need to use RTMP protocol. When establishing an RTMP connection, you create or re-use a stream key, which is a 24 character password for that connection. The stream key must be copied into the encoder you are using (e.g., Slingstudio or Teradek), which is much easier to do by copy and paste within the same smart device.

    • There is a special caveat - The destination must be enabled BEFORE you begin streaming to that site. If your video fails to connect, you may need to stop and restart the stream. If the destination is designated "recurring," you can start and stop the stream as often as needed. If you stop longer than a few minutes (e.g., 5 min), the destination will end the stream, archive the results, and return to the ready mode. You may need to interact to respond to popups in the process (i.e., YouTube). If there's time, you can edit the name of the stream, making it easier for viewers to identify.

    • It is not always possible to establish a working internet connection through the venue's network, assuming there is one. I recently found a WiFi system I used before was unavailable due to a firewall gone berserk. As a result, my laptop was rendered dead weight. A cellular iPad connection saved the day. I used the MacBookPro power supplies (I have two) to keep the iPads running. An ordinary charger can't keep up.

    • Once things are running, it's not necessary to maintain a continuous connection to devices or the internet. However a lot of things can go wrong, and it's advisable to stay on top of things. I used two iPads for this recent job, one to control the encoder and the other to monitor two internet destinations (YouTube and Vimeo). Neither of these tasks requires much bandwidth or processing. The Teradek encoder was running on cellular data only, but with a special data account, dedicated to streaming.
  4. I have a job coming up shortly in which I need to stream a pre-recorded video prior to the concert. Basically, it started with a PDF of the printed program, which I parsed into 22 individual JPEG pages, using Adobe Acrobat, pasted them into a timeline in Premiere Pro, and rendered them into a video. At 15 seconds per page, the whole video is only 6 minutes, so I need to loop it for half an hour prior to show time.

    Adding video (and/or graphics) is very easy with a SlingStudio (and most software solutions like OBS, Wirecast and VMix). The material can be saved in internal memory, on an SD card, or an external drive. Once you add them to the graphics page you can drag and drop them into the broadcast lineup. Looping is an option in the setup, to play once and stop, or loop repeatedly. The downside is the SlingStudio has only one direct HDMI camera input. Other cameras must be equipped with SS WiFi Camera Links. There is also a 2 second lag with respect to real time in the video.

    I concluded that I need a Plan A and Plan B, the latter being the SlingStudio, because it's easier to work with hardware switches, which have near zero delay. In this case, I will use an Atomos Shogun 7 recorder/switch, which has 4 video inputs and records ISOs, audio and PGM files synchronously. The problem is how to play a video through the Shogun.

    I have a small SD card video recorder/player, a Black Magic HyperDeck HD Mini, which interfaces nicely with a BM ATEM switcher and can be controlled through software. My thought was to switch between the Shogun and the HyperDeck with the ATEM. Call this Plan C for the moment. Until now I haven't figured out how to use a video not recorded on the HyperDeck. The manual says nothing useful. After researching on the web, I found you can create a QuickTime video in ProRes HQ and put it the root directory of an SD card. You must also change the HyperDeck's format to ProRes HQ, or it will not find the video. That done, you can hit the play button and the video will play and stop. If you hit the play button twice in succession, it will loop continuously.

    When I connected the HyperDeck to the Shogun, the video played on the screen, but there was a warning that the Shogun was not compatible with Level B SGI (in the 4 input mode). It turns out that this HyperDeck is the only device ever to leave the BM factory with Level B only output. (Level B divides the frame into two for compatibility with interleaved video.) I needed a convertor. My first thought was to use a Decimator translator (a device no video engineer should be without). However a BM Ultrastudio micro HDMI to SDI converter does the job without setup. The HyperDeck has an HDMI output, which I convert to SDI Level A for the Shogun. Either the Decimator or BM Micro can be used with PTZO camera (Level A only), which are not compatible with an ATEM at 3G bandwidth. The BM converter is USB-C powered, unlike the Decimator which has an AC power supply.

    If all goes well, the pre-quel video will go into one channel of the Shogun, while I use three cameras for the other channels. I'll have the Slingstudio ready to go, just in case, two PTZ Optics 30x robotic cameras and an unmanned Sony A7Siii in the balcony for overview. I will use a Teradek Bolt transmitter on the Sony in lieu of dropping cables over the balcony.
  5. I can't emphasize enough the importance of recording the event's audio and video locally. At very least record the program (switched) video as it is being streamed. Ideally you should record the individual videos (ISO's) as well, including the mixed audio which accompanies the program.

    A successful live stream requires that every stage in the transmission and destination work perfectly. If any link in the chain is weak, the results will suffer. If you have a copy of the program, you can upload it immediately for viewing, or restream it for viewing in real time.

    There are several ways in which this can be accomplished.
    • Insert a recording device in the SDI or HDMI stream before it is sent to the encoder.
    • Record in the encoder itself (e.g., SlingStudio)
    • Use a separate recorder for each camera
    • Record each camera internally (not all cameras allow simultaneous record and transmit via HDMI)
    I generally use an Atomos Shogun 7, which has up to 4 video inputs, switch between them for the broadcast, and record the PGM and ISO files. All of the videos and audio are perfectly synchronized using this method. If you use separate recorders, or record in the camera, you must synchronize the files manually (in lieu of a master time code link to each device). A program recording between the switch output and the encoder can be used as-is, and sometimes that is enough.
  6. The new concert season isn't as grim as for the last 18 months, but recording with multiple cameras in a larger venue presents new challenges. PTZO cameras require at least one cable, Ethernet, for power and control. For compatibility with most switching systems, you also need an SDI cable for video, or at least an HDMI cable. NDI video, which uses the same Ethernet cable, is a viable though expensive alternative, but requires a computer for switching and streaming to social media. Computers use so much CPU time for video processing that bandwidth for streaming suffers. Laying out and dressing cables for safety is a major task. Live-streaming also requires all video and audio control be consolidated in a central location. My goal is to place cameras in locations which can't be wired directly, including balconies.The search is on for wireless solutions.

    Wireless video is pretty straight-forward. A quick and dirty solution (subject to limited availability) is to use a SlingStudio hub and SS CamLink WiFi transmitters at each camera. The CamLink devices use HDMI connections. They have a built-in battery, but the run time is so limited it's best to use an USB battery pack. CamLink transmitters work only with a SlingStudio hub, and the hub only has one HDMI direct connection. Every other video input must use a CamLink or be a smart phone running the SS "Capture" app.

    A more flexible solution is to use TX/RX sets which work with both HDMI and SDI connections - HDMI for nearly any camera, and SDI for professional level switching and recording. I have a couple of Teradek BOLT kits which are reliable in urban environments at 400' or more, with nearly zero lag time. Alternatives include various Hollyland kits, which are less expensive but have up to 0.25 sec lag and less robust WiFi than Teradek. The Atomos Shogun 7 or Black Magic ATEMs work with this setup.

    For power, you would like to have the option of battery operation, preferably with a high capacity V-Mount or Gold-Mount 14.4 VDC video battery. These batteries have D-Tap outputs for which there are adapters for nearly every video camera, as well as for Bolt and CamLink devices described above. I have not yet found a battery solution for PTZO cameras which I can trust (2.1 mm pin and barrel or PoE, 12 vdc).

    There is a wireless control (Ethernet) solution for PTZO cameras, using their "Wireless Cable" system, which uses robust, encrypted WiFi TX/RX pairs. These devices are compatible with D-Tap power, and connect to an IP Joystick at the other end. One receiver can work with up to 4 transmitters, which is ideal for sports events with multiple, widely separated PTZ cameras.

    There's no problem if AC power is available at the remote location. Full battery operation still wants a solution.

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