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Webcasting or video streaming

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Greg Ball
Webcasting or video streaming
on Apr 7, 2014 at 1:58:26 pm

I often get requests from potential clients to live stream their meeting or conference onto the web, or create a webinar for them.

We shoot lots of meetings but shoot with Sony EX1 cameras. I would assume that we would need a conference/ballroom with high speed internet, a switcher and an audio system both with outputs to go into some sort of encoder. Correct? These days even small churchs to this without any budget.

Is there a cheap way to do this? Have you guys done this? Any suggestions on how to proceed?

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Tim Wilson
Re: Webcasting or video streaming
on Apr 7, 2014 at 3:08:28 pm
Last Edited By Tim Wilson on Apr 7, 2014 at 3:15:50 pm

You can't even begin to imagine the number of churches, as well as small businesses of every sort, who are using NewTek Tricaster for this. Use any kind of camera, crazy simple, with lots of other features (live switching, i-mag, record to disk. ...).

Even broadcasters are using it. .. but in fact, it's quite affordable. If enough people are asking, I'd recommend buying one and making this service a part of your rate card. Many people in the COW have talked about this as a way to avoid chasing post and shooting rates down the drain.

I'm also willing to believe that there are people who'll rent you one, but make a beeline to researching Tricaster.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Webcasting or video streaming
on Apr 7, 2014 at 4:28:20 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Apr 7, 2014 at 4:33:58 pm

The encoder choices these days are many and confusing, but there are all kinds of price points, from sub-thousand to multi-thousand-dollar units. Tim's suggestion of the Tricaster is popular because it's the switcher, effects, recording and streaming all in one. If you already have the switcher, or if you're just shooting with a single camera, you can get a little box like the teradek cube,

that connects to the camera and does the streaming thru a hard-line internet connection or via wireless 3G or 4G transmission. NAB is going to be choc-a-block with these systems this year.

Yes, I think your biggest issue isn't what box to buy or rent, but the quality and availability of the internet connection at the venues. Some hotels have great connectivity, some don't. You can often pay the local ATT or other phone company to "provision" your chosen site with dedicated high speed ethernet to a fiber connection... but this takes time and coordination to set up, as well as cost. Therefore, a lot of producers would rather try the wireless access method and squirt a highly compressed or multiplexed signal out of the hotel, to a nearby cel tower, which relays to a Content Delivery network or "CDN", that hosts and distributes the stream out to your actual audience for you... like livestream or Ustream.

If you need it to be live and high def, these wireless systems take the HD signal and split it into 4,6, or 8 parallel streams, each stream goes out on it's own wireless modem card. The streams are re-combined at a CDN or a dedicated box at your main office with fast gigabit ethernet access.

Each of those wireless modem cards must be "provisioned" by you, and usually, you lease them thru 2 or more competing phone services, like ATT, T-Mobile, and Verizon - so that if the bandwidth from one company's cel tower is compromised by a lot of local traffic, more of the data stream is carried by the other local services without interruption. This gets you the bandwidth you need for a really good, live HD signal. But it puts a big dent in the monthly phone bill to establish in effect, 2 to 8 accounts, with the 2-year contracts and all that jazz, just for this magic box.

Pick and scout your venues for this project well in advance and get signed contracts guaranteeing the level of internet access and QOS you require. Or, you can pretty much bet the farm that ten minutes into the big show, all the cell phones around you will light up with people complaining: "I'm not getting it!"

The good news is that you'll be too busy handling those calls to take the one from your boss telling you you're fired.

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Greg Ball
Re: Webcasting or video streaming
on Apr 7, 2014 at 5:00:53 pm

Thanks Tim and Mark,

Unfortunately these type of events would be in my local area and some in other locales. It seems like people do this fairly easily.

I agree Mark with the issues in a hotel conference room. Since I run my own business, I'd just have to fire myself...LOL

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George Goodman
Re: Webcasting or video streaming
on Apr 7, 2014 at 7:03:49 pm

It pretty much just requires a laptop, a little software and two pieces you may need to buy or rent.

I would just get some kind of firewire or usb camera switcher, run all cameras into that, and then use a regular mixer for audio setup and run a single xlr out into something like an m-box or other audio interface. That way, you have a single video and a single audio feed in your computer that you can run into the wirecast cast software. You can just do your switching manually. You can use livestream or or something of the sort for the streaming. Free or paid based on budget.

Simple one or two man production that's super cheap.

"|_ (°_0) _|"



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Mark Suszko
Re: Webcasting or video streaming
on Apr 7, 2014 at 7:52:36 pm

If you don't have secure, high-bandwidth connectivity, all your gear might as well be a doorstop. Hotels can be terrible for cellular reception due to concrete and metal blocking the signal. Sometimes, the venues are even below ground. You can't assume the hotel has adequate wifi or ethernet either; survey that on a scout day when there's not much activity going on, and it may seem adequate. Find out the day of the conference that everyone is hogging all the bandwidth and the best you can get for upload is barely 1 meg. If the show is full of slides with very detailed graphics and text, your quality may not be good enough.

As a producer, you have to think about just how important it is that the webcast be 'live", versus being "successful". The main selling point of a truly live webcast is interactivity between the host and an external audience, either by phone hookup, tweets or email relays. The ask questions and everyone shares the answers in real time. If your show really doesn't have or need that, why make the job harder and more expensive, just to make it "LIVE", when you could just turn it around immediately after it's over and stream an archived file from your home office instead?

A laptop with wirecast *can* be all you need, assuming the cameras and switcher are already present. With the teradek, those take an HDMI or SDI input so your audio and video from a switcher or single camera are already mixed going in. But you may also need routers or repeaters or a long hardline from the control area where you're directing, to a nearby window where you can get a clear signal out of the building.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Webcasting or video streaming
on Apr 7, 2014 at 8:12:10 pm

[Mark Suszko] "If you don't have secure, high-bandwidth connectivity, all your gear might as well be a doorstop. Hotels can be terrible for cellular reception "

I should have mentioned this. Forget wifi. Forget cellular data. If you're not on ethernet, getting a reliable signal out of a hotel is nearly impossible.

Agreed, the question is, how badly do you need it LIVE?

Which, btw, is another way that Tricaster pays off. Use it for i-mag and switching in the venue, record to disk onsite, then play back online when you have a decent signal later.

Like anything else in this business, you can piecemeal it yourself for a one-off, but Tricaster makes it very easy to turn an annoying pile of separate tasks into one rather elegant revenue stream.

But some of the elegance will come from not assuming that you can send a live feed out of a hotel or conference center. :-)

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Craig Seeman
Re: Webcasting or video streaming
on Apr 7, 2014 at 10:42:35 pm
Last Edited By Craig Seeman on Apr 7, 2014 at 10:44:26 pm

It can be as simple as Telestream Wirecast and 15" MBP Retina with two Blackmagic Mini Recorders (Thunderbolt) and Magewell HDMI or SDI to USB3, giving you three HD cameras streaming at 720p.
Wired private connection with about 5mbps up would be good. Otherwise you could get a Teradek Bond for inexpensive bonded LTE

Mini Recorder
Magewell SDI to USB3
Teradek Bond

Turnkey Matrox VS4 Wirecast Windows systems which also do ISO recording

Yes you could get a Tricaster but the base model in analog in only. Tricaster 40
Tricaster 410 would be SDI but you're getting much more expensive than a turnkey Wirecast system at this point.

Also worth considering Blackmagic ATEM switcher and use a laptop for switching and encoding

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