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Transmission methods live news feeds?

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Steve MartinTransmission methods live news feeds?
by on May 21, 2013 at 2:03:02 am

Hi all,

I have a small studio facility that I would like to offer to broadcast networks for live feeds (such as remote interviews, satellite media tours and the like.

Anybody have experience, insights or pitfalls to avoid in transmission methods (i.e fiber, sat truck, IP, etc...) strengths and weaknesses, what networks prefer, etc... any emerging technologies that are on the near horizon?

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Transmission methods live news feeds?
by on May 21, 2013 at 2:10:38 pm

We do ku-band sat feeds almost daily. However, that may not be financially what YOU want to do. For a small space, and budget, and if media tours are your main project, what I'd suggest is trying a "super-skype" system. Get the maximum bandwidth you can afford, and set up skype.

Feed the incoming video of the interviewer from Skype, or a return signal from CNN, FOX, etc. off the air, to a teleprompter and a high-end HD camera. What this gives you is the eye contact that most folks don't get when using Skype.

Plus, your camera quality is higher than standard webcams, and you're going to light this set really nice. The usual Skypecast looks bad because you're looking at someone using a laptop as their keylight, in a trashy room with ugly backgrounds and horrid back-lighting and distant audio captured from a $5 mic.

"Super-skype" is what I call applying all the techniques of a high quality, broadcast-quality satellite feed, to a skypecast. Great audio. Great lighting, on a nice set. Eye contact with a broadcast-quality camera. IFB and a video return, if the client wants it. The only thing missing is the dish.

Because the person is sitting pretty still, your motion artifacting is going to be low or not even visible. This will give the LOOK of a sat feed, without the costs or the time-buying problems. With a bird, you buy time in fifteen minute increments and this time has to be scheduled in advance. Changing or extending it to accommodate schedule changes or a dynamic event isn't always possible, AND you have to be sure the guys downlinking it have an available dish they can point to it at the appropriate time. Many things to coordinate there. A Skype connection doesn't need a "window", and if you want the interview to go for four hours, you can, no problem, little extra cost.

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Steve MartinRe: Transmission methods live news feeds?
by on May 21, 2013 at 4:18:42 pm

Thats very interesting Mark!

We recently opened a LiveStream account that we'll use for a webcasting contract we were just awarded. I thought about trying that but was concerned about networks ability/willingness to to integrate an IP based transmission into a live show. But now that you mention it, I see IP based interviews/broadcast all the time.

For example, during the presidential campaign I saw lots of streaming broadcasts - so I guess most of the networks are adept and feeding those streams into their switcher. And you're right, the quality of the video is as much a function of production values as it is bandwidth.

Assuming we can get a good enough image to stream, are there any drawbacks to streaming instead of a satellite uplink?

In our facility, we have a 70/5 internet connection (70Mbps down and 5Mbps up). Brighthouse tells us that they're preparing to upgrade our speed to 100/10 soon. We'll do some testing using our LiveStream account to see how it looks, but I'd be interested in your take about upload bandwidth.


Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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Bob ZelinRe: Transmission methods live news feeds?
by on May 21, 2013 at 4:47:05 pm

Hi Steve -
as you know, to do streaming, all you need is a free Livestream account, a free download of Podcaster, and any cheap Blackmagic product running on a computer.

So the trick is WHAT WILL THE CLIENT ACCEPT. I dont' want to discuss it here, but I just found out a CHEAP way to do live h.264 delivery. I have never done it (so I don't want to post false information), but it's relatively cheap. The PROBLEM is that your client (which might be a network) would have to own the same rig to accept your transmission. There is someone in town that you probably know that is doing it.

Bob Zelin

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Mark SuszkoRe: Transmission methods live news feeds?
by on May 21, 2013 at 5:33:01 pm

Bob, if you could find a way to let me know about your h.264 thing in a separate post, I've been researching these systems since last summer and would love to know of one that was rock-solid reliable. I'm grateful for any tips you have on the issue.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Transmission methods live news feeds?
by on May 21, 2013 at 5:31:04 pm

The higher the better for your upload speed. But Skype and other streaming solutions usually offer some controls for data rate and again, I'm talking about talking-head sit-down interviews, where the motion is minimal, so you might get away with lower data rates.

With satellites, the only return the guest usually gets is an IFB earpiece with telephone audio. it is extremely rare for producers to pay for a second satellite link just for the "backhaul" for s simple interview, and you'd be experiencing the delay from two, 22,000-mile satellite up=and-down "hops" in your conversations. Skype is much closer to realtime, particular on the same continent, with less notable delay, and the audio backhaul quality is far better than POTS lines, at least as good as a DSL connection.

Your options for the backhaul could include multiple screens for the guest to see the actual on-air program, or themselves (what I suggest), or themselves plus a smaller feed with text prompts from your line producer like the call letters and names of the people currently doing each interview, etc. You'll have to judge how well each individual can deal with how much visual distraction, and if watching program live is too disturbing, at least they can see and better control their own facial expression as they see themselves int he prompter mirror. Seeing your own face can be much better than staring down the abstraction of a dead cold, glass lens and red tally light.

For me, besides the bandwidth, the key component to making this work is the prompter feed that gives your speaker direct lens eye contact of the skype window. So for my own version of "Super-Skype", I have a custom prompter made using a 42 inch plasma TV as the source. This has room for two lenses side-by side, so you can live-switch from a tight shot to a head and shoulders on the second camera, live on-air, and STILL have the eye contact.

This could be useful not just for news tours, but for hosted podcasts as well.

But don't take it just from me: this is not a hard thing to rig up and test for yourself with stuff you already have on-hand around the studio.

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Craig SeemanRe: Transmission methods live news feeds?
by on May 25, 2013 at 5:29:11 pm

So many ways to do this. Each with a cost/risk factor etc. it depends on your budget.
If you're looking at something like Livestream to stream to the public...

For a software based solution you could look at Telestream Wirecast. There's also turnkey systems available. More hardware oriented would be a NewTek Tricaster (for much more money).

Your internet connections seems quite capable but consider that in addition to speed you want reliability. You should test for packet loss as well.

If you're concerned about viewer bandwidth Livestream does offer multiple data rates but their software encoder uses major CPU resources on your encoding computer. Some services with a Wowza server will take a single high bandwidth stream and create several lower bandwidth streams.

If you want mobility or at least a fall back you mind consider Teradek Bond which can bond 4G cards. You can get an instance of their Sputnik server in the "cloud" or at the receiving end (runs on Linux) and that can aggregate the stream. Telestream Wirecast now has a plugin that makes it easy to receive a Sputnik aggregated stream from a Bond. Otherwise you could rent a LiveU pack (another device that bonds 4G). Generally these bonded devices are being used as an alternative to satellite for some ENG use especially given flexibility, portability, cost.

Also note that Livestream as well as many other services can make the channel private if you're in a situation where you must restrict access as might be done for a corporate stream to other offices.

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Andrew JamesRe: Transmission methods live news feeds?
by on May 22, 2013 at 9:05:19 am

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Jim JachettaRe: Transmission methods live news feeds?
by on May 5, 2015 at 5:23:17 pm

We have seen many applications where a local TV station or Fox sports will cover local High School sports with a small van, a Tricaster and a Bonded Cellular Uplink to transmit to master control or to stream to the web. Learn more about at bonded cellular links

Jim Jachetta

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