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:
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.