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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Behind the Scenes: Live Streaming #TVnext with Ustream and Wirecast 4

TVnext
In this blog post I want to talk about what it took to live stream the Hill Holliday TVnext Summit on January 28, 2011.

Preparation
Although the event only takes place on one day, there's a lot of work to do beforehand. One thing that we did was have a run through the day before to make sure that everything worked on-site.

Some of the things to consider when live streaming our your computer equipment, your video equipment, Your audio equipment, the Internet connection, graphics, streaming software and streaming provider.

Computer equipment
#TVnext Wirecast 4 Setup with External Display
For the computer I used a MacBook Pro with a connected mouse and external monitor.

Video Equipment
TVnext 2011 at Hill Holliday
Photo: Canon GL/2 courtesy Hill Holliday

The camera I Used Was a Canon GL/2 with a Breakout Box to accept an XLR Mic Input, and a Bogen Tripod. I used a Canon GL/2 for a number of reasons.

The first reason is that the camera has a FireWire port. You need a camera with a FireWire port to do live streaming unless you're using a USB WebCam.

Many of today's newer cameras don't have FireWire anymore, that's because they use USB to transfer files between the camera and the computer. There's no need anymore for them to log and capture footage from a videotape into an editing program. That's why you never see FireWire on video cameras anymore. The Canon GL to is also good because it has a really nice zoom lens. I also added a wide-angle lens. I didn't bring any additional lighting, because the event space at Hill Holliday is very well lit. Another good feature of the Canon GL to is that if any of the speakers were not well lit, I could adjust the camera to add more light.

Audio Equipment
#TVnext AV Setup
Audio is the most important part of your video.

When live streaming an event, a lot of your viewers will be listening to stop the stream, and working on other things with the video either minimized or behind another window on the computer.

To get good audio, you need good sound equipment. Defaulting to the on camera microphone will work sometimes, depending on how close you are to the speakers.

#TVnext Setting Up AV
In this case I knew that the invited speakers were going to be at the front of the room, while my camera was at the back of the room. For this configuration you might use a shotgun microphone, but Hill Holliday also contracted with avfx, and they handled all the sound.

All I had to do was provide them with an XLR cable and grabbed the sound off of their sound board. This is the best solution. This way you don't have to worry about the audio at all, and leave it to professionals who have expertise in capturing audio.

Internet
For the TVnext Summit, one hundred and fifty people were expected to attend. There was free Wi-Fi available to all the attendees, so I wanted to be on a hard dedicated Internet line.

There are many conferences you attend, and that Internet service degrades rapidly when everybody jumps on the Wi-Fi. So in this case I had a dedicated hardline hooked into my MacBook Pro, to guarantee a good connection. Whenever you're live streaming an event, make sure you have a dedicated line that no one else can share.

Graphics
For graphics, I worked with the team at Hill Holliday to create lower thirds graphics for all the speakers beforehand.

They did an amazing job. We also created slates to display at the beginning middle and end of the broadcast. There are a number of ways to approach this, but by pre-designing the graphics you'll get the best quality, and all the lower thirds text will be proofread beforehand, so there's no opportunity for error.

On the day of the live stream, Hill Holliday provided me with a hard copy of the order for all the speakers. Also, when there was a panel, the panelists sat in a pre-determined order so that my hard copy print out of each panelist's name, matched the order in which they were seated. This was very helpful.

Here's what one of the lower thirds graphics looks like.
TVnext Lower Thirds Mike Hudack

Here's what one of the slates looked like.
TVnext Art Card Will begin

Software
Wirecast 4 Screenshot from #TVnext #GoogleTV
For streaming, you can stream directly to your streaming host using a web-based interface, but new applications are now available that makes the whole streaming experience much more reliable, and of higher quality. Depending on which host you use you have different choices for streaming software. In the past, when streaming to Ustream, I use their Ustream ProducerPro application. It's very nice, and the Pro version gives you added features like multiple cameras and HD quality. I recently sat in on a webinar, and heard from experts in live streaming that the combination of HD, your computer, and Internet connections make streaming in HD problematic. In fact, standard definition streams look really great when you have a good camera like the Canon GL/2. For this event, I used Wirecast 4.

Streaming Provider
UStreaming #TVnext
For live streaming, we used Ustream. The stream can be viewed by an unlimited audience for free, and the stream is supported by ads. For an additional fee you can have the ads removed.

Going Live
Wirecast 4
Image: Wirecast 4 Broadcast and Record buttons

In Wirecast 4, when you're ready to go live, you just click the broadcast button. This starts streaming live to the user account and channel that you signed on with. In the broadcast settings dialog box, you can choose the quality and size of your broadcast and the destination. There are many destinations to choose from including Ustream, Livestream, Brightcove, Justin.tv, 'Record to Disk', and more.

Ustream ProducerPro vs. Wirecast 4 - Saving Video
One thing that's important to note, that's the difference between Ustream ProducerPro and Wirecast 4, is that when you click the 'Record to Serve' button in Ustream ProducerPro, your broadcast is saved to the Ustream site. When you're using Wirecast 4, and click the Record button, your video is recorded to your local disk.

After thinking about this difference, and seeing the quality of the saved video from this event, I think that saving to disk, and uploading to your preferred video hosting provider after the fact, might give you a cleaner archived video. What do you think?

Ustream ProducerPro
Image: Ustream ProducerPro Broadcast and Record to Server buttons

The nice thing about the record button, is that you can continually live broadcast a whole day of sessions, and selectively choose to record each session.

This is really great because you don't have to stop the broadcast in order to save segments of it. The broadcast continues and your viewers are not interrupted and you can selectively record whatever you want. With Ustream ProducerPro all the sessions are recorded to Ustream, but with Wirecast 4 they are saved to your local disk.

For TVnext, this worked out well. I uploaded 21 videos to blip.tv, and had the opportunity to add in the title, description, tags, creative Commons license, and more. Wirecast 4 saved the files as .f4v, and blip.tv automatically converted them to display in a flash player, and also, since I have up Pro account, on an iPad and an iPhone.

Other video formats are supported. See the Wirecast features list.

TVnext Recorded Sessions on my iPhone  TVnext iPhone screenshot: Mike Hudack Interview

One cool thing that Wirecast 4 allows you do do is set the opacity on your graphics. Here are two examples.

Thanks for Watching #TVnext

@SteveGarfield is skillfully using @wirecast to livestream #TVnext - great conversations & panels http://bit.ly/g0zDvU /via @craig_burgessless than a minute ago via CoTweet



great session Hill Holliday - one of the best online webinars i've seen in a long time. Well done. ( #TVnext live at http://ustre.am/rtdu)less than a minute ago via Ustream.TV



See the Recorded #TVnext Sessions:

On my blog in a Playlist video player:
offonatangent.blogspot.com/2011/01/tvnext-2011-at-hill-ho...

On my video blog, individually:
stevegarfield.blogs.com/

Let me know if you have any questions.

Learn more about video in my book, Get Seen:


Update 2/2:

This post was featured on the Official Wirecast blog, Steve Garfield’s Blog: Livestreaming TVnext With Wirecast 4.

Thanks!

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