Bare Metal web-streaming: 4 webcams and a laptop

Production & On-Air period: April - June 2018

Partners: Radio 1, Radio 2 Limburg, VRT Sandbox, EBU Technology & Innovation

 

Small, Flexibel, Fast to go on-air, "Journalist-Proof", Cheap, Common of the shelf. 

Just a few of the prerequisites we're keeping in mind when we are looking for tooling to feed the ever growing need here at VRT for creating and delivering (live) content on an ever growing pletora of (online) content platforms.

The number of available and working solutions is also growing fast, be it in an app, or in a piece of hardware, or more likely: a combination of apps and hardware(s). Each delivering a certain set of functionalities, serving a certain kind of "broadcasting", from dirt cheap to diamond-class expensive, from dummy-proof to 5 years of engineering school complex. 

While many of the more classic broadcasting technology brands are offering solutions in this area, some famous newer brands are: Broadcast Pix, OBS, WireCast, Mimo Live, Vidblaster X and many more.

In the video snackbar we've been working mainly with two tools over the last year when it comes to live multicam streaming: Switcher Studio and vMix.

Switcher studio is an iOS based software package that turns a bunch of iPhones into cameras, and an iPad into a video mixing device, including on-air graphics, video effects, playout of video-clips, camera control and a built in streaming that brings you straight to Youtube, Facebook live or many other platforms. The iPhones can be connected to the iPad over wifi, or over a wired network, using connectors from UTP to lighting. 

In this other blogpost we show you some things we did with this Switcher Studio Iphone set. 

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The other solution that we're offering now to our colleagues here at VRT is built around vMix: a windows based do-it-all streaming software. It can cut live video, play videoclips, do animated on-air graphics, green key, colour correction, audio and so much more. And of course you can stream to all the platforms and... you can do video over IP (using NDI).
At the input side vMix stands out because it can take in a multitude of sources, without limitation (until your CPU, GFX card and memory are maxed out, which depends on your budget): webcams, sdi-cams, ndi sources, webpages, web-streams, a wide array of image & video formats and even virtual sets and external graphic engines. 

And all of this running in one software, on one windows platform and in this case on one (heavy duty gaming) laptop

We've combined this laptop with 4 Logitech Brio webcams, a compact USB-powered soundcard with 2 microphone inputs and a MiFi box for the 4G connectivity.

This allows for a compact setup, which fits in a backback and which allows you to do quick multicam interviews for online outlets.

Some of the recent projects that use this setup are embedded in this post:

 

  • a string of interviews we did on the EBU Network Technology Seminar 2018 in Geneva
  • the last week ever of legendary radio-dj Jan Hautekiet, who cycled through Flanders and interviewed people along the way.
  • a balloon flight for Radio 2 were we broadcasted 2 hours of live radio, and did a 2 hour facebook live using this laptop + 4 webcams setup.

 

VMix also has an excellent user base, lots of Youtube tutorials and very active facebook groups (eg one called "streaming idiots"), where you can present an issue or a project and get instant feedback from fellow vMixers.

 

 

 

Learnings:

  • this is a working, very compact setup but also a good starting point for more complex setups
     
  • it allows for very fast setup and go-to-air productions
     
  • by combining camera cuts & graphic events and mapping them in shortcuts, a complex production can be made simple and executable by one operator
     
  • when creators become operators, don't forget to also work on skills like camera cutting, audio mixing, camera "calibration" (focus, white balance, colours) but also webstreaming, basic IT skills and more.

 

Karel De BondtComment