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12
Mar

Skype Group Call Featured During Live Webcast

Webcast utilizing Skype Group call. Video feed on the left / Skype call on the right.

Webcast utilizing Skype Group call. Video feed on the left / Skype call on the right.

Lately there has been a lot of interest to incorporate Skype interviews during live webcasts. In this situation, Instantly Inc. wanted to have all of their field offices from around the world participate in the opening segment of their global meeting. This was accomplished using our Skype integration system while taking advantage of Skype’s new and improved group calling feature. The local audience could view all of the remote participants on a projection screen and their audio was piped into the house sound system. The webcast audience saw a dual feed of the headquarters on the left and the Skype callers on the right. The Skype participants were able to see and hear the corporate officers who were on camera in front of the live local audience.

Admittedly this is somewhat tricky to pull together. We had a rehearsal/test call a few days before to make sure all of the participants had their Skype systems set up properly. The day of the webcast, we had everyone connect an hour early and remain on standby until they went live. We had their video and audio muted while on standby except that there is a push-to-talk microphone to allow private communication with them. Skype has an IM chat feature which is useful during this standby period, especially when someone is experiencing internet bandwidth restrictions.

In the end the effort of linking the whole company together live really paid off.  The remote participants had a much stronger sense of “being there” and the home office had a chance to feel like they were one united team.

8
Feb

Dick Gregory – Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

 

Dick Gregory addresses the onlookers with his wife Lillian at his side

Dick Gregory addresses the onlookers with his wife Lillian at his side

Comedian, activist, civil rights leader Dick Gregory received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 2nd, 2015. Webcast & Beyond was hired by the Dick Gregory Foundation to document the event including the ceremony and interviews with celebrities, family and friends. The 82 year old honoree addressed the audience with his wife of 56 years, Lillian Gregory by his side.  Mr. Gregory is revered by comedians, musicians, actors, and political leaders as a strong voice and leader throughout the civil rights movement.  On this day many celebrities were in attendance including Stevie Wonder, George Lopez, Nick Cannon, Rob Schneider, and Roseanne Barr to name a few.  To see more pictures check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/webcastandbeyond

31
Dec

Amani Children’s Choir – Joyful Africa Tour – Highlights

Amani-choir_thumbnailFor those who missed the live webcast we have created a channel showcasing the performances on December 28, 2014 at St. Stephen Presbyterian Church. Please follow this link:

https://vimeo.com/channels/amanichoir/

18
Dec

How to Set-up a Multi-camera Live Webcast with a One-man Crew

Authored by Gregg Hall, owner/operator Webcast & Beyond

One of the big advantages of live streaming today is the ability to affordably broadcast all kinds of events to specific target audiences.  The availability of low-cost broadcast equipment and online streaming services has opened the door to practically any organization wishing to produce live content.  In the quest to minimize production budgets whilst maintaining production quality I will discuss one approach to webcasting an event wherein one person wears the hats of many; namely 2 (or more) cameramen, the technical director, the sound engineer, and the encoding engineer.  Mind you, this approach does not work for every situation but there are many events where this is totally feasible and opens the door to more business opportunities by keeping production costs to a minimum.

Let’s start by specifying the design requirements for this one-man webcasting system.  First, it must be high definition.  These days it is easy to acquire affordable cameras that shoot at 1080i and output either an HDMI or HD-SDI signal.  I can’t overstate the importance of shooting in Hi-Def even when you are streaming at standard definition bit rates.  The fact is HD sources look far superior to SD sources when encoded at lower bit rates.  Secondly, it must be portable.  By that I mean one person can transport the whole system by themselves when travelling by plane.  Thirdly, the layout must be ergonomically efficient to allow one person access to all of the controls.

Here then is a list of the basic components needed:

  • Cameras – We need two or more HD cameras with HDMI or HD-SDI outputs.  Many options in the $2k – $5k range are readily available.  Check out the Canon XA25 HD camcorder priced at $2.5k.  This camera has a 20x zoom lens, XLR audio, HD-SDI & HDMI outputs and is compact enough for travel.  Make sure to select fluid head tripods that fold up compact enough to fit in a suitcase.
  • Switcher – Seamless switching between the various cameras along with the ability to add transitions, effects and graphics is a must.  Options include software based products such as Telestream’s Wirecast, hardware switchers including the Black-magic Design ATEM Television Studio, or all-in-one streaming boxes such as the Livestream HD500.
  • Audio – For some events you may end up bringing a few wireless mics and that will be sufficient.  More often than not there will be a live sound system to connect with.  I recommend bringing your own small audio mixer to control the level being feed to you and also to add your own ambient mic, which captures the audience and venue sounds not picked up by the PA system.  Another consideration is maintaining sync between the audio and video.  Typically the video switcher introduces a delay of 2-3 frames which means your audio needs to be delayed by the same amount.  Sometimes the solution is to route the audio output of your mixer through one of your cameras.  That way the audio becomes embedded with the video inside the camera and is brought into the switcher through one of the video inputs.  The switcher then maintains the audio/video sync.  But if you bring the audio directly into the encoder, you will need an audio delay unit to compensate.
  • Encoder – We will need a hardware or software encoder with an HD input to create your video stream.  I prefer software encoders such as Flash Media Live Encoder or Wirecast running on a laptop.  A video capture device with HD-SDI or HDMI inputs will be necessary to bring the video into the computer.  Black-Magic Design and Matrox offer many low-cost solutions for this.
One-man Webcast Set-up

One-man Webcast Set-up

Shown here is one of our portable systems deployed at a trade show. I was the one-man crew controlling the 2 cameras, switcher, audio mixer, and encoder. In this configuration 2 cameras are connected to a Black-Magic Design ATEM Television Studio Switcher. The switcher is very compact and affordable with a list price of only $1000. To use it, a laptop is employed as an external control surface, and a field HD television is used as a multi-view monitor. The ATEM has 6 inputs, a real-time H.264 output for recording an archive of the program stream and HDMI / HD-SDI outputs. The HDMI program out is routed to a Matrox O2 Mini external video capture device connected to a second laptop which acts as the encoder. A Mackie 1202 mixer receives a feed from the house PA system. The output then goes to a Behringer DEQ2496 processor which delays the audio 2 frames then converts it to a digital AES/EDU signal for input to the ATEM switcher. Also part of this system is a Matrox DVI convert which transcodes the screen of the host’s computer into an HD video signal that we can switch to as a video source. A pair of studio headphones monitors the audio from the Mackie mixer and also the encoder laptop. The encoder laptop also serves to monitor the webcast.

16
Dec

5 Reasons Why you Should Consider Live Streaming

chris-knowlton-160x200

Chris Knowlton, VP of Wowza

Here is an excerpt from a recently published article on Techzone360.com entitled, “It’s Time Your Business Jumped on the Live Streaming Bandwagon: Here are Five Reasons Why.” by Chris Knowlton, VP of Wowza Media Systems. Wowza is a leading software developer specializing in streaming media server technology. According to Knowlton, there is a case to be made for embracing live video streaming as it has unique advantages over pre-recorded on-demand video streaming. The 5 key reasons are:

1. Streaming extends reach – Streaming a live event provides an opportunity to connect in new ways, whether we are talking about sports matches, church services, concerts, company all-hands meetings, or university lectures. You can reach people who could not otherwise attend in person, which, depending on your goals and business model, typically translates either to positive membership impacts or new customers.

 

2. Streaming boosts engagement – Live events are compelling for users. There is an immediacy to them that can’t be matched with on-demand viewing, especially for live games. According to Ooyala, the average live-streamed video is viewed as much as 10 times longer than on-demand. Social media only bolsters the engagement, making us part of a larger real-time conversation around the event.

 

3. The live experience has drastically improved – Live streaming now provides a better user experience than ever. Over the last 15 years, we’ve gone from low-resolution, stuttering, postage-stamp sized viewing experiences on desktop computer monitors to HD (and even Ultra HD) streaming on computer screens, mobile devices, and connected TVs. Thanks to increasing bandwidth, more-scalable Internet infrastructures, improved streaming technologies, and a plethora of devices that support HD playback, our streaming experiences now can rival or surpass those of traditional television delivery.

 

4. Cost is no longer an excuse – The prices for computer hardware, storage, and bandwidth continue to drop. Cloud-based infrastructures and services make streaming even more affordable for many people, providing the flexible low-cost computing and scalability you need, and for discrete events, only when you need it. As an example, you can stream an hour of high-quality video to 100 users for about the price of a latte.

 

5. Higher quality is now possible with less complexity – In just minutes, you can be online and streaming live events globally. The more advanced your requirements, the longer the first-time setup may take, but streaming products and services continue to abstract away more of the complexities and reduce the learning curves.

 

Live streaming has come a long way, and it will only continue to advance; however businesses that continue to wait for the next best thing will likely find themselves playing catch up to those embracing it today. We’ll likely see these types of battles ensue across industries in the years to come.

I would add to this that a live-streamed event that is archived and available for immediate viewing is the best of both worlds. The fact that a video was streamed live gives it a sense of authenticity that a pre-recorded video can’t compete with. We have seen viewership of a live event increase by a factor of 10 within the first week after its initial broadcast!