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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