How To Set Up A Multi-Camera Live Streaming System

And the award for the most popular article on the Stretch Internet blog goes to…

High Definition, Three Camera Inputs, One Laptop, $3,500

There’s no actual award to give here other than our undying gratitude (props to guest blogger Imry Halevi!), but it does seem like a good way to kick off this article, which is an update to that ever-popular post by sports media guru Imry on a low-cost, multi-camera setup for live streaming events.

Due to its popularity, we decided to revisit the topic and make additional recommendations to the setup as it was originally presented—which has stood the test of time, by the way. It’s still the cheapest and easiest way to get the job done, but there are other options that work just as well, and might be even better, depending on your situation.

But any or all of these setup recommendations could be affected by a number of variables; they also have the potential to become outdated at the drop of a hat. Feel free to chat with us before you shell out the cash on any particular item—we’re more than happy to advise.

Multi-Camera Live Streaming Setup On A Limited Budget

In our view, there are three good options for a small-scale multi-camera production setup. The first is based around a MacBook Pro, the second incorporates a hardware mixer called ATEM Television Studio, and the third is for PC desktops.

Option #1—MacBook Pro

The process outlined in Imry’s original article is still an excellent way to go.

As Imry mentioned, Telestream’s Wirecast is the best option for multi-camera live streaming software. Since that article was published, though, a new MacBook Pro has entered the market—but we don’t recommend using it. Instead, stick with the MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display. If you aren’t sure what model you currently have, click on the Apple icon in the upper left part of your screen and select “About This Mac” to find out.

Why? Most of the video tech on the market today is Thunderbolt 1- or Thunderbolt 2-based (the older model we’re referring to has two Thunderbolt 2 ports). The latest MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 3, sometimes called USB-C. Currently, there’s no video technology on the market that plugs into that port directly, so you’d have to buy an expensive converter to do the job. Plus, you might find some good deals on older Apple products if you shop around.

If you’ve read our blog before, you’ve probably seen us mention BlackMagic’s UltraStudio Mini Recorder once or twice (or more…). Here again, it’s the key to filling up those two Thunderbolt ports on your MacBook Pro. It’s still the least expensive way to bring the HDMI signal into your computer, Mac or PC, keeping your setup costs low.

Bring in a third camera using a USB-based capture device. The BlackMagic Intensity Shuttle works; or, if you have a third SDI source you want to use, Magewell makes an SDI version of this capture device. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s the only way to get three SDI sources into the MacBook. One limitation we should mention: You might save money with the Intensity Shuttle, but you have to use HDMI. So unless you’re going to back-convert from SDI to HDMI, you’ll need one of the cameras to be placed within 10 feet of the broadcast setup—which works fine in some scenarios but not all.

   BlackMagic Intensity Shuttle

Multi-camera productions call for even more preplanning than usual. Use this Extensive Live Streaming Checklist to make sure your bases are covered—before it’s too late.

Alternatively, if you do use the Intensity Shuttle USB device and want to convert the HDMI signal to SDI, you can get an HDMI to SDI converter for under $100. We recommend the KanexPro HDMI-to-SDI converter, which goes for $72.95. If you have an older professional camera that has HDMI output, this is a good way to convert the signal to SDI and run it long distances.

KanexPro HDMI-to-SDI converter

Option #1: MacBook Pro

Equipment needed Camera(s), tripod, MacBook Pro, capture device, an additional USB-based capture device
Cost (*may vary based on the cameras used) $$
Pros Least expensive of portable options; simplest setup
Cons Not expandable further; limitations on additional applications being run on machine at the same time

Option #2—ATEM Television Studio

A second option utilizes BlackMagic’s ATEM Television Studio, an inexpensive video hardware mixer for live multi-camera switching.

BlackMagic ATEM Television Studio

Instead of using the computer to switch camera feeds, this entirely separate production switcher unit takes in up to four video sources, both SDI and HDMI. Because it’s a separate unit, you can get away with a base-level MacBook Pro, rather than the higher-end model you’d need for Option #1 to handle complex video processing. You’ll also still need a BlackMagic Mini Recorder as well.

The downside to this setup: It requires two computers, the additional one being used for the software that does the switching on the ATEM. There’s no need for anything pricey, though, since all you’re using it for is to actually press the button to switch—you just can’t do it on the computer that’s running Wirecast.

One other downside: This option works better with two operators. One person is in charge of switching cameras, while the second person is on the Wirecast computer, adding graphics, running commercials, etc.

A new version of the ATEM switcher is scheduled to hit the market in April. It has more buttons on the interface, so you may not need the control computer for multi-camera switching, but you will still need monitors plugged into it so you can see the camera inputs.

Option #2: ATEM Television Studio

Equipment needed Cameras, tripod, two computers (one should be a MacBook Pro, the other can be almost anything as long as it has ethernet capabilities, either on the device or via an adapter), ATEM Television Studio, capture device, 1-2 monitors for viewing cameras to switch
Cost $$$
Pros Flexibility to take in SDI or HDMI signals; expandable
Cons Requires two computers, and possibly two operators; lots of equipment to set up/tear down; need space for equipment

Option #3—PC Desktop

With a PC desktop setup, you’ll need a PCI Express card (one or more, whatever you need) to bring in the video.

There are a few different ways you could set this system up:

  • Black Magic makes a DeckLink Mini Recorder that has the same functionality as the UltraStudio Mini Recorder for the Mac. It has HDMI and SDI inputs; you can use one at a time.
  • The DeckLink Quad 2 allows four inputs. It has eight channels that you can assign as you like. The default is four in and four out, but you can rearrange them as needed (six in and two out, for example). You could actually bring in up to eight cameras—but don’t say we didn’t warn you that it will be overwhelming! The cost: about $945.
  • Magewell has a similar unit—the Pro Capture Quad SDI. It has the same functionality with four inputs and no outputs, so you can bring four SDI inputs into your desktop tower computer. The cost is slightly lower than the DeckLink at $899.

                   .                            

DeckLink Mini Recorder                            DeckLink Quad 2                          Magewell Pro Capture Quad SDI

The PC desktop option will save you a bit of money in the end, and it’s a good semi-portable setup for the right situation. For instance, if you have a press box available to you for a certain portion of the year, you can set the system up there, lock it when you’re not using it, and leave it alone until the end of the season.

A disadvantage of this setup is the loss of portability, but even the ATEM switcher from Option #2 has to be lugged around. Perhaps Oprah was waxing poetic about multi-camera live streaming when she said, “You CAN have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”

Option #3: PC Desktop

Equipment needed Cameras, tripod, capture device, PC desktop, PCI Express Card, keyboard, mouse, 1-2 monitors
Cost $
Pros Inexpensive setup, semi-portable for the right situation
Cons Loss of complete portability, footprint

Signal Amplification

With all this talk about SDI, it seems necessary to mention signal amplification.

You can do an SDI feed up to 300 feet without amplification, but sometimes you need to go farther than that (say you want to put a camera in center field at a baseball stadium, for example). It’s possible to run cabling up to 2,700 feet using signal boosters every 300 feet.

To extend the SDI signal, we recommend Data Video’s VP-633 SDI repeater. It includes power input and will get you 600 feet; it’s the first repeater you would use, so it’s the only one that needs a power input. If you want to go 300 more feet (to 900 feet), save yourself some money and get the VP-634 for your second repeater, which is $30 cheaper and unpowered.

Data Video VP-633 SDI Repeater

Need help with your multi-camera live streaming setup?

Hopefully this information has been helpful, but if you have questions about your live streaming setup for a specific event, let’s chat! Multi-camera or not, we’ll give you honest advice about what we think would work best for your situation. We stream more than 60,000 events every year here at Stretch, so we’ve seen it all! Or, if you’d like to share your experience with one of the above setups, we’d like to hear about that, too.

In the meantime, grab a camera or two (or three), and good luck with your live stream!

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Enhance Your Broadcast With Video Streaming Technology

Enhance Your Broadcast With Live Streaming Technology

You know that old saying attributed to Mark Twain—“If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute; it’ll change”? Well, it might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s the first thing that came to mind as we considered the advancement of video technology used for live streaming. Tech in general is progressing quickly, and live streamers are benefitting with a growing number of ways to turn out more professional-looking broadcasts more easily than ever before. So with a tip of the hat to Twain, here’s a modern-day mashup for you:

“If you can’t find the live streaming technology you want, wait a minute; it’ll change.”

If it’s been awhile since you’ve incorporated some new tech into your live stream, there’s no better time than the present to give it a try. Below are a few slightly more advanced tech options we think you’ll be excited about—especially if you’re looking for ways to get more bang for your live streaming buck. Check out the following, and consider how they might work for your next live broadcast.

Video Streaming Technology For Next-Level Broadcasts

SDI For Maximum Flexibility

With a basic live stream setup, you’re essentially tethered to the action by a relatively short HDMI cable. In general, HDMI is a technology that won’t withstand a lot of wear and tear, and the longer the cable gets, the more its signal strength diminishes. That’s why we typically recommend keeping HDMI cables 10 feet or less.

SDI is an alternative to HDMI that allows you to go very long distances without amplification—up to 300 feet. Having this extra “room to move” will expand your production options and let you get a second camera involved in your stream. And it’s not difficult to start using SDI: The Blackmagic UltraStudio Mini Recorder includes HDMI and SDI connections, and, if your camera doesn’t have SDI natively, an HDMI-to-SDI converter costs less than $100. It will pay for itself in the amount of flexibility you’ll get over the long haul.

Wireless Tech For Better, Easier Production

What if, instead of running that 300-foot cable, you could have 300 feet of wireless capability? Then you could—almost literally—take your camera wherever you wanted to go.

For our clients, we always recommend Teradek’s Bolt wireless system. The Bolt creates its own wireless local area network (not using Wi-Fi or 4G) to talk to a receiver and a transmitter. The receiver goes into the camera, and the transmitter remains back at home base with the computer or hardware encoder.

An impressive live stream is about more than just technology. Improve your production process with this free Extensive Live Streaming Checklist, and pull off a smooth, well-organized broadcast every time.

The flexibility wireless provides leads to more creative broadcasting. You can spontaneously take the camera on the basketball court during a timeout, follow the action at a wedding, or easily navigate an audience to access multiple speakers—all without the need for a second person to spool cable. The one downside is batteries; you’ll need them to power the camera and the transmitter. Also keep in mind that the Bolt family of wireless systems goes up in price depending on how far you need to transmit video.

Network Device Interface (NDI) For Cost Savings & Production Versatility

One of the most interesting video streaming technology developments of the past year is NewTek’s Network Device Interface (NDI). NDI eliminates the need for costly cables or wireless equipment and instead utilizes the existing network in a production environment to allow cameras and other video sources to communicate. Essentially, you’re taking the network, the cabling, and everything that exists in a venue already and utilizing it for your broadcast.

Say, for instance, you’re filming inside a building on a college campus. You want to incorporate video from a camera at another campus location, but that camera is too far away to realistically run cables back to your main streaming center. However, there is a nearby jack that accesses a network shared with your main computer. NDI allows you to utilize that shared network to draw in the video source and use it for your live stream, even though it isn’t hardwired to your production environment.

NDI is award-winning video streaming technology that’s changing the way people stream. Eliminating the wiring in a network-connected environment allows for an extraordinary amount of flexibility, making it easy to use additional computers to run commercials, generate graphics, and accommodate telestration (drawing on the screen as the stream is happening). There are even NDI applications for mobile devices. NDI combined with a little creative genius (let us help you brainstorm!) can have a big impact on your live stream.

Graphical Tools For Added Sophistication

Good graphics bring a level of professionalism to any broadcast, and the graphical tools available for live streamers continue to improve. Now, high-end graphical software and even hardware allow you to create TV-production-quality graphics on the fly.

Rather than producing graphics ahead of time, you can have full-motion graphics available in 10 seconds or less. NewBlue Titler (made by NewBlue) runs alongside Wirecast, a software encoder, and lets you render new graphics quickly and integrate them into the Wirecast workflow. The NewBlue software can run on the same computer as your encoding software.

Advanced graphical tools can enhance any kind of broadcast, sporting events in particular. Imagine being able to provide information directly from a scoreboard controller or statistical information and headshots for players. Consider what information your viewers might like to see along with the action, and you can probably make it happen with the tech available today.

Wait a minute—here’s a heads-up…

In tech time, Twain’s “minute” could mean approximately eight weeks—that’s when the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention happens in Las Vegas. Plenty of new video tech has been unveiled at recent NAB conventions, including NDI, which won a Best of Show award for TV technology in 2016. So stay tuned, because you never know if the next new thing might be just what you’ve been looking for!

Need help implementing this new live streaming technology?

Technology is awesome, but it can also be complex. Don’t let that stop you from seeing your big ideas come to fruition! If you can think of a great way to use one of the above tools (or something else!) in your live stream but are hesitant about implementing it, drop us a line. We can talk you through the logistics on the phone or provide advice on the best tech for your needs.

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Live Streaming Setup For The Computer Illiterate

Live Streaming Setup For The Computer Illiterate

Live videos are everywhere. It’s hard to resist getting in on the action, especially when so many organizations are seeing great results from sharing their events with a larger audience. But if you’re reading this article, there’s probably one thing that’s been holding you back: You don’t know anything at all about technology and assume that live streaming is beyond your reach.

Getting the hardware and software you need for your live stream setup may seem a bit daunting—especially if you aren’t technologically savvy. (If you don’t know what a Twitter handle is or have ever referenced “The Google,” you may fit into this category!) In reality, you don’t need any special qualifications to get started. Live streaming is technology-dependent, but if you can follow directions and have a resource to turn to for help (that’s us!), you can start streaming anytime you’re ready.

The Nontechnical Guide To Live Stream Setup

It’s important to keep your first live streaming setup as basic as possible. It doesn’t need to look like it could be on cable television, with four camera angles, graphics, and highlight clips. You do, however, want it to be well-executed and enjoyable to watch. Below, we’ve outlined the basic live stream setup you’ll need to begin sharing your event online—this setup will also produce a good-quality broadcast for your viewers. (If you’d like more detailed information about live streaming equipment specifically, check out this blog post.)

Camera

To get your event online, you’ll need a camera. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you use, because any consumer camera that has been created in the last five years should give you what you need to live stream. You can even use a GoPro or an iPhone or iPad if you want!

Even the most basic live stream setup can impress viewers as being both well-planned and well-executed. Download this free Extensive Live Streaming Checklist to prepare for your first event, and you won’t miss a beat!

Remember, you’ll get the same type of feed and signal out of both a $200 camera and a $5,000 camera. Of course, the $5,000 camera will have more options, including a nicer lens and better image resolution. So before you purchase your camera, assess your specific needs. For instance, if you’ll be shooting from far away and need to zoom in quite a bit, look for a camera with high-quality zoom capabilities. If you’ll be able to get pretty close to your subject, you may be fine using a less expensive option.

Tripod

If you’re nervous for your first streaming event, shaky hands come with the territory. Even a slightly shaky picture dramatically lessens the quality of your broadcast and is unpleasant to watch.

Even a basic live stream setup needs a tripod. (There are even tripods for GoPros, iPhones, and iPads, so there’s no excuse!) We recommend getting a nice tripod that will grow with you and be able to handle bigger and better things down the line. Look for a fluid head tripod that smoothly pans (left and right) and tilts (up and down), which is particularly important for  sporting events and theatrical productions that require a fair amount of camera movement.

Don’t get caught up in overspending here—you can get a good prosumer tripod in the $150 range. The fancier ones have options you may not need to start; your main concern now is getting a clean, smooth image from the camera.

Computer

To successfully live stream, there are a few things you need to be sure your computer can handle:

1. Your computer needs to have either a Thunderbolt port or a USB 3.0 port. This is where you’ll plug in your capture device (which we’ll discuss below). If you’re already panicking, don’t—there are some easy ways to tell if your computer has one of these two ports:

  • USB 3.0: Depending on the manufacturer of the computer, one of two different symbols will designate the USB port—either the inside of the port itself will be blue, or the port will be labeled “SS” (which stands for “Super Speed”).

SS Super Speed USB 3.0 port

  • Thunderbolt: Thunderbolt technology is most often found on Apple computers—if you have this port, it will be labeled with a lightning bolt symbol, as shown below:

thunderbolt port

Photo courtesy of solverbase.com

Note: You may see that your computer has an HDMI port—so why can’t you plug the camera directly into that? Because the HDMI port on your computer or laptop is an output, and you need an input. Since there are dedicated inputs and outputs for HDMI, a single HDMI port cannot do both.

2. You need a software encoder on your computer to be able to send the live stream anywhere. Encoders range in price from free to about $1,000. The more you pay, the more features you’ll have. But if you’re just getting started, we suggest using Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE) from Adobe. It’s free, it’s simple to get up and running, and it will give you what you need—which is to simply convert the content on your camera into digital form ready for playback. (If you’re really interested, read this article for more on encoders!)

Capture Device

A capture device is a piece of hardware that converts video into a signal that the computer can understand. You’ll need to buy a capture device that corresponds with either your Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 port.

A good, commonly used Thunderbolt capture device is the Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder. For USB 3.0 ports we recommend one from Magewell’s USB Capture Family. As with everything else, the more you pay, the more features you’ll have, but keep your costs down to start. Both of these capture devices are economical and perform well.

capture devices

High-Speed Internet

You’ll need access to high-speed internet from whatever location you’re filming from. You can get high-speed internet a few different ways:

  • Wi-Fi.
  • Ethernet (hardwired internet).
  • Mi-Fi (provided through cellular carriers like Verizon and AT&T).

One element that will almost certainly affect your live streaming setup is your internet upload speed. It’s simple to test this—go to speedtest.net, click start, and see what your upload speed is. A high definition (HD) live stream requires a speed of 3-4 MBPS; standard definition (SD) requires 1-2 MBPS.

Intel Processor

The processor is essentially the energy center of your computer—it determines how much you can do and how quickly you can do it.

There are two major processor manufacturers—AMD and Intel. Intel has about 90% of the market, and it’s what you’ll need for video processing. AMD products don’t generally work with video encoding software (and they can be a pain to deal with in that regard). If you aren’t sure if your computer has an Intel processor, simply look up your computer model and Google it to find out. If it’s an older model, or if you can’t find the answer online, a local computer store should be able to tell you quickly and easily.

All Set To Stream

If you’ve gathered all the equipment listed above, you’re ready to start live streaming! The streaming setup outlined here is very basic, but it’s exactly what you need as a first-timer. As you get more comfortable with your live streaming setup, you can add on. Remember: It’s better to have an extremely simple live stream than not to have one at all. Give it a try, see how it works and how your live stream is received, then go forward from there.

If you would love to live stream your event but want a partner to guide and assist you through the process, let’s talk! At Stretch Internet, we stream more than 65,000 live events of all sizes every year, with an emphasis on providing outstanding support and memorable experiences. We’re here to help!


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How To Live Stream Using Your iPhone Or iPad Camera

How To Live Stream Using Your iPhone Or iPad Camera

It’s your first triathlon, but your best friend couldn’t make it. Or maybe a local nonprofit is holding a public event that you’d like to share. It could even be that your local dog shelter wants to set up a temporary puppy cam to promote adoptions.

Times like these are ripe for live streaming, but not everyone is fully outfitted with a video camera and an encoder. Don’t let that stop you! That nifty iPhone or iPad sitting right next to you will do the trick in a pinch, and you can live stream anything you want, anytime.

Broadcasting a live stream from your iPhone camera is pretty much as simple as everything else you can do with your iPhone, which means it’s pretty darn easy—no camera add-ons or extra microphones required. Read on to find out what you need to have and what you need to know to get started.

What do I need to have to live stream from my iPhone or iPad camera?

A Mobile Live Streaming App

There are a number of apps that enable live streaming for mobile devices. Some live streaming platforms have their own apps (for example, Ustream has a mobile app and so does Facebook), which can only be used to stream to that particular platform. There are also a few that are compatible with several different live streaming platforms.

Want to take your mobile live stream to the next level? This free checklist covers everything you need to do—and when to do it—to pull off a more professional live stream.

Whenever we’re asked about how to live stream from mobile devices, we recommend GoCoder from Wowza. If your streaming provider uses Wowza, this handy app delivers your live video and audio content to any device. It’s simple to use—just configure the live stream settings once after installing the app and save them for future use, and you’re ready to start live streaming.  Your streaming provider may also have their own application for streaming live video from a mobile device. Ustream, Livestream, and YouTube, to name a few, allow you to stream directly from their mobile applications.

A Tripod

Treat your iPhone like a traditional video camera and get a tripod. (Yes, we hear you saying, “But it’s an iPhone!”) There are tripods for iPhones and iPads, and trust us—you’ll need one. Despite its wild success in theatres, most viewers do not want a Blair-Witch-Project-esque viewing experience on a live stream.

A tripod also allows you to put your phone in places you couldn’t normally otherwise, introducing different perspectives that will potentially increase the quality of your live stream.

In addition to a tripod, you’ll need a mount to hold your iPhone or iPad in place. But before you set it all up, here’s a quick tip: To avoid the dreaded black bars on either side of your video, place the phone horizontally, not vertically.

What do I need to know before I start live streaming with my iPhone/iPad?

Although the picture quality of a live stream from your iPhone/iPad camera will be relatively good, it won’t be on par with that of a traditional video camera. It has a fixed lens, for one thing, and you just can’t get the same subtleties or nuances that you would get with a traditional video camera that allows you to change lenses, adjust settings, and control depth of field. You’re also reliant on autofocus, which can be a challenge if the phone thinks you should focus on something other than your intended target.

Because of its limitations, mobile live streaming isn’t the best choice in the long term. It is a good temporary solution, either as a way to test if your live stream is a viable product or as a secondary setup if you’re trying to stream two events simultaneously.

Also, beware of data charges, which can get astronomical if you’re streaming for more than a few minutes, multiple times a week. If you are connected to a Wi-Fi network, however, you won’t need to worry about this.

Get In On The Live Streaming Action

The best thing about mobile live streaming is that anyone can do it, anytime! Even if you’ve never thought about live streaming before, it’s now easier than ever to spontaneously capture and share those worthy moments—anything from vacation greetings to soccer games to family reunions.

Here at Stretch, we’d love to help you share those moments. If you have any questions about Wowza’s GoCoder app and how it works with our live streaming platform, give us a call. Our dedication to providing outstanding support means you’ll never be left wondering what to do or how to do it—we’ve got your back.


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Essential Equipment: The Checklist for Church Live Streaming

Essential Equipment: The Checklist for Church Live Streaming

Our conversations with church leaders usually reveal the following thoughts:   

“I don’t have the staff to live stream.”

“I don’t know enough about tech to set up a live broadcast.”

“Isn’t live streaming expensive?”

These are all valid concerns. But they don’t have to stand in the way of your goal to connect with more people. Whether you’re an established church in a fixed location or a young church on the move each week, live streaming is a realistic and attainable strategy for growth. We won’t deny that it will require some initial effort, dedication, and investment (it’s worth it, trust us), but a growing number of churches are finding that what was once considered an endeavor suited only for the technology-inclined  is now well within reach.

To get the ball rolling, we’ve put together a checklist of live streaming equipment for your church. Actually, it’s two lists—so choose the one that better fits your church’s current setup and needs. Whichever one you choose, you’ll have the makings of a video system that gets the job done.

Portable Churches—A Live Streaming Equipment Checklist

Portable churches, or “pop-up” churches, move around from week to week and need a mobile live-streaming strategy. School cafeterias, local theaters, and even coffee shops may all serve as meeting places depending on the day. With the right video production equipment, live streaming can be an effective, low-cost outreach tool that can help broaden your impact and support your community.

Download this free guide for detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to start live streaming your church services today!

If you’re interested in live streaming your services, the technology is readily available and simple to use. Below is a list of the equipment you’ll need to get started building a video system for your church. This collection can be easily packed up and moved around, so it’s perfect for churches on the move.

1. A single camera.

A consumer-level video camera like this one is fine for church services. You don’t need to spend $3,000 here; instead, spend $400 or $500 to get a fully functional camcorder that gets the job done and is easy to use. You may be attracted to a model with lots of bells and whistles (if so, go for it!), but all you really need is the camera’s basic functionality to get the broadcast out on the web.

2. A tripod.

It might seem like a pair of fairly steady hands would be sufficient, but that telltale, oh-so-slight shake is what distinguishes an amateur broadcast from a serious one. Buy a tripod and don’t think about it again. This one is lightweight and comes with a carrying case.

3. An encoding device.

To convert your video input into a digital format for playback on various devices, you’ll need an encoding device. For this you have two options: either a hardware encoder or a computer with a software encoder. Opinions vary greatly as to which option is better—and it depends on your needs, as well—but either one will do the trick. With the software option, you’ll also need a capture device—an adapter that goes between the camera and the computer so they can talk to each other.

4. High-speed internet.

Internet access can sometimes be a challenge for mobile churches, but it’s a necessity for live streaming. Options include an ethernet connection, Wi-Fi, a 4G network, or a MiFi device, depending on the venue.

For mobile churches—or even for permanent churches without the time, manpower, or finances to be super technical—this list covers the basic video production equipment needed for a simple, straightforward broadcast.

Brick-&-Mortar Churches—A Live Streaming Equipment Checklist

If your church has a permanent meeting location, you may be in a different situation. Many “brick-and-mortar” churches already have extensive audio equipment and possibly even some in-house video recording equipment as well. If this sounds like your situation, use the following equipment checklist to build a church video system that lends itself to permanent installation and delivers a top-quality live stream.

1. A single professional-level camera or multiple professional-level cameras.

Consider investing in a professional-level camera (or cameras) for a more polished-looking stream. And although a single camera would be sufficient, why not up your game with multiple cameras? Mounted IP cameras (internet protocol cameras) could serve double duty as not only live streaming devices but also security cameras set to record 24/7. Also, one person can control multiple IP cameras simultaneously, making it easy to zoom in and out and pan any camera from a central location. Our recommendations include this traditional professional-level video camera and this one that allows for local or remote operation.

2. Hardware-based video switching and encoding units.

We recommend a hardware encoder for brick-and-mortars. A TriCaster is the most common hardware option for churches that use multiple cameras. Another choice is Sony’s Anycast, which is a simple touch-screen unit that’s easy for a novice to learn fairly quickly but requires a lot of infrastructure to run properly. Both the TriCaster and the Anycast can be installed permanently in a control room.

3. A way to integrate in-house audio.

Good-quality sound is critical for a professional-quality live stream. If you already have a mixer or speaker system, you’ll need a way to bring that into the feed. A mixer like this gives you control over volume and tone.

4. A way to integrate in-house graphics into your broadcast.

You’ll also need software to incorporate passages, hymns, or anything else typically shown on a projector. There are various ways to do that depending on your platform, whether it’s hardware or software. For clients using Wirecast, we usually recommend using Desktop Presenter.

5. An internet connection.

Before You Get Started…

That’s all the live streaming equipment you’ll need to get your church up and running. If you’re still feeling less-than-confident about the buying process, we encourage you to work with someone who can guide you through it. Whether it’s with us here at Stretch or someone else, a knowledgeable, objective third party may be all you need to start off on the right foot.

If you’d like to get some honest advice about the video production equipment your specific church needs for live streaming, we’d love to talk. We’ll consider your budget and your goals and figure out a way to make your plan a reality.

It’s our feeling that investing in your equipment is synonymous with investing in your church. You’ll be glad you did.


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Live Streaming Software: The 8 Features You Should Consider

Live Streaming Software: The 8 Features You Should Consider

Live streaming video generally requires either a dedicated hardware encoder or a computer that runs a software encoding program. But my guess is that you’re considering live streaming software for one primary reason: You need mobility!

Consider, for example, that you’re live streaming a tournament. In this case, you’d be inhibited by a hardware solution. Such a setup might require multiple monitors, a lot of wiring, and a big hardware encoding unit to lug around. But if you’re streaming via encoding software—which generally assumes that you’ll be using a laptop—your setup and tear-down are going to be as simple as opening and shutting your MacBook Pro (and packing and unpacking a minimal amount of cabling and a camera). 

Now, before you run out and select the first live streaming software option you find, keep in mind where you hope to get to in the next 6-12 months with your live streaming capability. If your goal is to get to a multi-source, sophisticated live stream once you get the hang of things, we strongly suggest selecting a live streaming software option that isn’t limited. You may be wary of buying the Mercedes right when you turn 16 (so to speak), but there are some big advantages to planning ahead! Not the least of which are having the option to grow in your live streaming capabilities as you are comfortable with them and not having to purchase and learn a new system at that time. Case in point, we highly suggest you make an investment where your software encoder is concerned.

“OK, I understand! But… how do I pick the right one?”

Good question! We’re glad you asked. While many live streaming software solutions have hundreds of features, there are a few features that you’re definitely going to want—and a few more features that would be ideal to have but aren’t completely necessary (depending on your situation). We’ve listed these eight features out below.

Check out these lists of must-have equipment for live streaming and steps you need to take before, during, and after your event.

8 Live Streaming Software Features You Should Consider

The Critical Features

1. The ability to stream and record simultaneously.

You’ll want to be sure to have a system that allows you to make a local copy of the recording while you’re live streaming. Your service provider may also be recording, but as you’ve probably learned, things can go wrong. (Not all the time, of course—but enough that you should always be prepared!) We recommend playing it safe and ensuring your live video streaming software has this feature.

2. The ability to switch between video sources.

A built-in switcher allows you to shift between, say, a live-recorded program and a pre-recorded commercial or between multiple camera feeds. This is an important feature to have if you want to eventually add more bells and whistles to your broadcast.

3. The ability to send to multiple destinations.

If you want to send your live stream to multiple platforms at one time, this is a critical feature. For example, some of our clients use us as a live streaming platform and simultaneously send their stream to SnappyTV. This platform is used for social sharing and allows their highlights to be playable on a Twitter timeline.

4. A built-in graphics editing system.

Many competitive live streaming software options offer the ability to add lower-third graphics or scrolling messages at the bottom of the live stream. Even if the graphic options are as basic as can be, this is still a nice feature and a time-saver if you don’t have the time (or ability) to create the graphics in Photoshop.

The Ideal-But-Not-Necessary Features

  5. A built-in audio mixer.

A built-in audio mixer allows you to adjust the volume on each source individually as they’re brought into your live stream. This is great if the feed that should be at 25% volume is at 80% and vice versa with its counterpart.

6. Social media integration.

Imagine you’re live streaming a baseball game and you have an athletics account on Twitter you’d like to tap into. If your encoder offers social media integration, you could display certain tweets on the air with the click of a button—or instruct fans to submit questions to the halftime show using a particular hashtag. You can see how this feature could make the live stream a lot of fun for viewers! vMix (a software encoding option we’ll discuss below) also offers the ability to integrate with Instagram—so if you wanted to display 15 fan pictures in real time, you could.

7. The ability to replay in real time.

Of course, not everyone needs the ability to do instant replay. For example, you probably don’t need to replay a portion of your live-streamed church service. (If you do, please send us a link. That sounds like fun!) But in the sports realm, this is a handy feature.

Keep in mind that any replay function in live streaming software is going to be very simplistic and not incredibly “instant.” This is not a dedicated replay system. But it’s nice to have regardless, in case something major happens and you want to quickly relive the moment in real time.

8. The ability to color correct your video sources.

If you don’t have time to white balance your video sources together perfectly before you go live, a color correction functionality would allow you to adjust the feeds so they look similar in the color space.

A Quick Word Of Advice

While searching for good video streaming software, you may come across some new cutting-edge features—like the ability to stream in 4K. But keep in mind that right now, only about 5% of your audience is going to be able to see (and thus appreciate) a 4,096-by-2,160-pixel display. So just remember that until certain features become standardized, you probably shouldn’t plan on purchasing them.

Video Streaming Software Options You Might Consider

  • Wirecast: This software allows you to add production-quality effects to your broadcast, like lower-third graphics, multiple camera shots, and more. The price for Wirecast starts at $495 for the studio version and goes up to $995 for the professional version (which we recommend). Depending on the version you select, you’ll gain all of the necessary features or all of the features we’ve discussed in total.
  • vMix: This is an alternative to Wirecast with similar features. vMix offers a free version of its encoder and five paid options ranging from $60 to $1,200. The higher the tier, the more features you can expect.
  • Production Truck: Created by Blue Frame Technology, Production Truck is a sports-specific live streaming software option. The standard version is $239 per year and the pro version is $479 per year. Again, if you want the features we’ve discussed above, you’ll want the pro version.

FMLE (Flash Media Live Encoder) (a free encoder from Adobe) and Wowza Gocoder (a free encoder created specifically for tablet or smartphone video sources) don’t deliver the features we’ve discussed here,  even lacking some of the critical features. These are both for very simple live streams that use one source. If you’re doing something simple, they’re great options—but just be aware that you won’t be able to do much with them in the future.

Research, research, research.

As with any new piece of equipment or software, research is going to be key. Most video streaming software options have free demos available, and we highly recommend using those demos to see if a software encoder really fits the bill for you.

If you have any questions about which software option is best for you, drop us a line! We’d love to see how we can help.

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What’s In Your Camera Bag? The Live Streaming Equipment You’ll Want & Need

What's In Your Camera Bag? The Live Streaming Equipment You’ll Want & Need

 

“Am I getting the most bang for my buck with this equipment?”

As a live streaming platform, we hear this question all the time. Everyone wants to make sure they’re getting the most out of what they’ve budgeted for their live broadcast equipment. And we take pride in helping our clients know where to splurge and where to save.

But if you’re beginning to fill up your camera bag, you may not even be to a place where you’re comparing cameras and converters—you may simply want to know what live streaming equipment you need to have and what equipment would be nice to have. Below, we’ve outlined both necessary and optional live broadcast equipment to ensure you have what you need when it’s time to record.

The Live Streaming Equipment You’ll Want & Need

Necessary Equipment

Video Source

Before you can broadcast your event, you need to select the right video source. There are several good options:

  • A single camera on a tripod, which is the most common option.
  • A tablet or smartphone, which may be used if you’re just getting started or you’re streaming a video without a physical location for your event.
  • Multiple sources and multiple cameras, for events that require several camera angles or incorporate graphics, lower thirds, score bugs or other additional items for an enhanced user experience.

Check out the must-have equipment for live streaming and steps you need to take before, during, and after your event.

Encoding Device

Video encoding is the process of converting a video input into a digital format for playback on various devices. To encode and stream your live video, you can use either a dedicated hardware encoder or a computer that runs a software encoding program.

Capture Device

In most cases, you’ll need a capture device—a small, affordable adapter that converts the video into a digital format that’s recognized by the computer.

High-Speed Internet Connection

You must also have a strong internet connection to get your live stream online. There are three options for connecting to the internet: Wi-Fi, Ethernet (hardwired internet), or MiFi (cellular internet).

Optional Equipment

Backup Equipment

As you know, equipment can—and does—break. And it typically breaks at the worst possible time! Having backups of all of your equipment is ideal but not feasible for most companies. HDMI, Thunderbolt, and USB 3.0 cables aren’t extremely expensive, so having backups of the ones you need is a great idea. If your budget permits, consider purchasing a secondary computer and secondary camera. They don’t have to be as high quality as your primary equipment, but you’ll be thrilled to have them on-hand if, for instance, someone trips over a camera cable and breaks something an hour before your event.

HD Camera

Having an HD camera (as opposed to an older, SD camera) increases the quality of your broadcast. Keep in mind that most consumer cameras built after 2010 are going to be HD-capable.

Signal Amplifier

Depending on the distance between your video source and your encoder, you may want an amplifier to boost your video signal. This will help you avoid signal loss or degradation that can occur with lengthy cable runs.

Audio Equipment

Incorporating an audio mixer allows you to include one or more broadcasters and play pre-recorded commercials or interviews. It also gives you more precise control over your audio levels.

In Summary

We’re a little biased—but we believe a streaming platform provider should be so much more than just that. They should advocate for their clients and provide top-of-the-line support—and this includes equipment recommendations! If you’re still searching for that mystical, awesomely helpful provider, give us a shout!

Keep in mind that once you purchase your live broadcast equipment, you’ll need a workflow in place to keep you organized before a live stream. Our free live streaming checklist lists all the things you’ll need to remember before your event. Download it now—for free! 


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What Is A Video Encoder? An Introduction To 8 Technology Options

What Is A Video Encoder? An Introduction To 8 Technology Options

Remember that Willy Wonka scene where the chocolate bar time travels from one side of the room to another after being broken apart? Well, that’s the basic (and gloriously oversimplified) function of a video encoder!

Video encoding generally refers to the process of converting a video input into digital format for playback on various devices. In other words, it’s the process of digitizing video and sending it somewhere online, like to a content delivery network (CDN) or a live streaming provider.

To encode and stream video, you can use either a dedicated hardware encoder or a computer that runs a software encoding program. We’ll explore some of our favorite software and hardware live video encoders below and walk through a few considerations before you purchase.

Software Vs. Hardware Live Media Encoders

Software Encoders

Software encoders run on your laptop or desktop computer. But because your computer isn’t necessarily made for receiving video and audio from other sources, you may have to use a capture device—a small, affordable adapter that converts the video output into a digital format that’s recognized by the computer.

Keep in mind that the prices for the following software options vary greatly, and that price can be impacted depending on the video streaming provider you decide to go with.

  • FMLE (Flash Media Live Encoder): This is a free encoder you can get online from Adobe. It’s very simple to use: You connect your capture device, choose your capture device from within the software, configure your output settings, hit start, and you’re done.
  • Wowza Gocoder: This free encoder was created specifically for encoding video from a tablet or smartphone—so if you choose one of those devices for your live stream, this is the perfect app.
  • Wirecast: This software allows you to add production-quality effects to your broadcast, like lower third graphics, multiple camera shots, and more. The price for Wirecast starts at $495 for the studio version and goes up to $995 for the professional version (which we recommend).
  • vMix: This is an alternative to Wirecast with similar features. vMix offers a free version of its encoder and five paid options ranging from $60 to $1,200.

Hardware Encoders

Hardware encoders are separate, dedicated devices made for video streaming, with all camera connectivity built right into it. This type of encoder uses its own internals to send the video to its destination.

  • Teradek VidiU: This is a very simple option, ideal for a single-camera setup. There are no frills here—you simply plug the HDMI cable in, connect it to the internet, configure your destination (where you are sending your stream), and hit start. The price for the VidiU is $699.
  • TriCaster: This is the most common hardware option for churches that utilize multiple cameras for live streaming. It allows you to show multiple video sources, gives you the option to show those watching the live stream something different than what’s being shown to those on-campus, and more. The cost of a TriCaster can vary significantly based on your needs and the model you choose, but will range from $5,000 to over $25,000.
  • Sony Anycast: This is a simple-to-use, install-based touchscreen unit. It has a great user interface, but takes a lot of infrastructure to run properly. The price for Anycast is $16,475.
  • LiveStream HD550 Video Switcher: This is a portable encoding unit that enables you to stream from multiple cameras and sources with ease. This makes it a great choice for churches without a permanent location. The price for LiveStream HD550 Video Switcher is $7,999.

Choosing A Video Encoder: 4 Pieces Of Advice

  1. If you’re a one-man-show or you’re just getting started with live streaming, we suggest the Teradek VidiU hardware or FMLE software. The Teradek VidiU is more expensive—around $600-$700—while FMLE is free. That being said, FMLE requires the use of a computer that meets basic requirements to handle live streaming—so as we mentioned previously, you’ll need to ensure your computer can meet those requirements.
  1. Choose an encoder that will work as your live streams become more sophisticated. If you’re choosing your first-ever live encoder—and are just beginning the live streaming process—it may be tempting to pick the easiest option. But we strongly suggest selecting an encoder that will still be useful to you a year or two down the line when you add more bells and whistles. In other words, consider where you want to be with your live stream in a few years, and select an encoder that will meet those future requirements. We rarely talk to individuals who are OK with their live stream being simple and straightforward forever. Most of the time, they want to increase sophistication down the road. If you fit into that second category, look at your encoder as an investment in future live streaming capabilities.
  1. Remember that your live encoder—like your video stream—can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Googling “the best video encoder” is sure to overwhelm you with thousands of opinions on how certain video encoders handle bitrate, color grading, signal noise, light grading, and much more. If you keep this in mind, you should be able to cut through the noise and focus on the elements that matter most to you. 
  1. Find the right partner to guide and assist you through the live streaming process. This is critical! The guy at your neighborhood electronics store may have a bigger sale in mind—not your company’s needs. And your buddy who just started live streaming may have completely different wants and needs than you do. So what you need is someone who knows live streaming (and live video encoders!) inside and out. If you haven’t found this resource yet, let’s talk! At Stretch Internet, we stream more than 60,000 live events each year with an emphasis on providing outstanding support and memorable experiences. 

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How To Broadcast Live On YouTube (And Will It Work For You?)

How To Broadcast Live On YouTube (And Will It Work For You?)

Did you know YouTube has over a billion users, which makes up nearly a third of everyone on the internet? As staggering as that is, it’s true! And what’s more, YouTube reaches more 18- to 34-year-olds and 18- to 49-year-olds than any cable network in the U.S. (So it’s no wonder you’re trying to figure out how to broadcast live on YouTube!)

There are many awesome benefits of broadcasting live on YouTube. For one, it’s very flexible. It offers a “Stream Now” mode so you can simply turn on your camera and stream live immediately and an “Event Mode” that allows for prior scheduling and previewing. Also, it’s free! So if you don’t have the budget for a streaming platform and are just looking for a simple, straightforward stream, YouTube may be a great solution.

But in order to know what you’re getting out of a YouTube live stream, there are some things you need to keep in mind. Check them out below.

4 Things To Consider Before Broadcasting Live On YouTube

1. Be prepared to jump through some hoops when it comes to equipment.

For example, some encoders integrate easily and automatically with YouTube. But if not, you’ll need to configure your encoder, which can be time-consuming. We suggest walking through YouTube’s live streaming tutorials or watching third-party YouTube videos on how to live stream so you understand the functionality before moving forward. (P.S. YouTube also has some verified devices and software they recommend for streaming—so before you actually start the process, you may want to go through and see if any of those products will work for you.)

2. Think about what you’re streaming—and beware of copyrighted material.

If you’re planning to live stream a discussion or group conversation, YouTube could be a great outlet.

But if you’re planning on using or interacting with copyrighted material—even if you have ownership rights—you may want to stay away from YouTube. They are very strict when it comes to copyright laws, and it isn’t uncommon for streams to be taken down because they infringed on YouTube’s copyright rules. Depending on the situation, this could include live streaming anything from choral performances in a church service to live streaming a video game.

3. Remember that promoting your live stream can be a bit complex.

We mentioned previously that YouTube Live is fairly flexible—and allows you to go live right away. This is great for spur-of-the-moment streams, but remember that you’ll generate a new, unique URL each time you use this function—so you’ll need to consider how you’re promoting your live stream. For example, it will probably be too time-consuming to put the link on your website after you start streaming—but you could simply tweet out a shortened URL to express that you’re now live.

4. Know that you’ll only learn more with each live stream you try.

We can’t emphasize this point enough! Once you go live on YouTube, you’re in it alone—unfortunately “1-800-YOUTUBE” doesn’t exist, so you can’t call and chat it up with a support specialist. So while you should try to troubleshoot any issues as much as possible before you go live, simply remember that there will be some trial and error involved.

One More Thing

How to broadcast live on YouTube isn’t really the issue—but rather, should you be broadcasting live on YouTube? If your live stream is a bit too complex for YouTube, let’s chat! At Stretch Internet, we stream more than 60,000 live events every year with an emphasis on providing outstanding support and memorable experiences. 

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Breaking Down The Latest Video Streaming Technology

Breaking Down The Latest Video Streaming Technology

Even though live streaming is a fairly new technological advancement, the market is changing in tremendous ways every year.

Consider these facts:

  • Five or so years ago, most live streams (we’d estimate around 80%) were standard definition. Today, high definition video streaming is the norm!
  • A few years ago, the easiest way to stream was to connect your camera directly to your computer with a firewire output. Today, firewire technology is dead—it’s been replaced by HDMI and SDI capture devices that utilize the latest USB and Thunderbolt technology.

These are just two examples of how much the market has changed. But instead of focusing on the small-scale changes to the live streaming industry, we want to recognize the huge advancements the latest video streaming technology has made and give some pieces of technology the accolades they deserve.

Newtek’s NDI software and the new JVC cameras are pushing the boundaries of live streaming as we know them—and we’re pumped about it! Below, we’ll walk through what each of these are, how they’re used, and what sets them apart from the competition.

Network Device Interface (NDI)

Overview

NDI is a new video streaming production software created by Newtek, and is completely changing video streaming architecture. We’re not alone in thinking of NDI as a game changer; it earned “TV Technology Best In Show” at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in April 2016.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s back up and talk through what NDI actually is. On an elementary level, the idea behind NDI is that any video camera, capture device, or web cam that is available on your local network can be drawn in as a video source for your live stream.

If you wanted to do something similar without NDI, you’d have to route all of your video directly from the camera through hardwired fiber cabling directly into your production environment. NDI, on the other hand, creates a direct link to any camera across your shared Wi-Fi network, even though it isn’t hardwired. This is a big improvement in live streaming!

Use Case

Let’s say you’re in charge of video production at a university, and you want to show off how beautiful the campus is in the fall. Previously, you had to wire together your cameras and bring those cables back to a central location for your live streaming—a pain to do!

With NDI technology, you have immediate and easy access to video cameras all across campus. You can then use those cameras however you’d like for the production. (And you can even have the university president sign in from his laptop and live stream a message midway through!)

What else should I know?

  • NDI is available right now.
  • It is proprietary to Newtek (but can be used outside of Newtek products in some instances).
  • There are both free and paid implementations available. With the free version of NDI, you can have as many as 16 video sources (eight machines with two sources per machine).

JVC’s All-In-One Camera

Overview

JVC is a large electronics company and is well-known for their high-quality video cameras. But this year, they introduced something completely new: A camera you can live stream directly from. That means you don’t need a capture device or a hardware or software encoder—just your JVC camera. (Yeah, it’s pretty cool—you can see why it earned “TV Technology Best In Show” at NAB 2016)

It’s important to note that JVC isn’t the only company that has done this. In the past, there have been other streaming cameras—but most are tied to specific services. Live streams from JVC cameras don’t have a list of preset providers. This means you have to do a little leg work when you get the camera set up, but you can select any streaming provider you’d like.

Additionally, they’ve created an iPhone app that pairs with the camera that allows you to add graphics directly into your broadcast. All you have to do is pair your smartphone with the same Wi-Fi network the camera is on.

Use Cases

Sports

Far and away, the biggest use case for this camera is live streaming sporting events. Why? Because JVC has partnered with SportzCast—so it integrates with their products to create an ESPN-style, professional-quality experience for fans. (If you’re not familiar, SportzCast makes products that tie into scoreboards directly, making it easy for timing and score to be added into your live stream.)

Business

If your business makes regular announcements or holds short-notice press conferences and wants to live stream them, this JVC camera could be a great choice.

Churches

If your church service takes place in an elementary school cafeteria or a neighborhood park, you need to have a quick and simple tear-down process. Having a single camera for your entire production environment is helpful for this!

What else should I know?

  • This camera runs about $2,600. That’s why we won’t tell you to hop online and buy one right away! That being said, we do recommend that anyone getting started with live streaming buy pieces of video streaming technology that will grow with them—and this camera could qualify.
  • If you want to expand your live stream in the future—say, purchase a second camera—you’ll have to start from scratch with the infrastructure and buy all the “regular” equipment that goes along with that!

What’s next for video streaming technology?

If you’re holding your breath for me to say that 4K streaming is right around the corner, you’re going to be a little sad. Right now, that’s still a pipe dream. In fact, the first-ever 4K live streamed event (UFC 200) happened just a couple months ago! And with an enormous budget, even NBC couldn’t figure out how to live stream in 4K at the Olympics. (They resorted to next-day 4K streams of basketball and gymnastics.) But don’t lose hope—with as quickly as technology in the live streaming world is changing, you can expect this in the next five or so years. 

If you would love to live stream your events but want a partner to guide and assist you through the process and walk you through how to use the video streaming technology, let’s talk! At Stretch Internet, we stream more than 60,000 live events every year with an emphasis on providing outstanding support and memorable experiences.  

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