Guide to Live Streaming Cameras and Social Streaming Devices

Guide to Live Streaming Cameras and Social Streaming Devices

Thanks to ever-improving computers and mobile devices, as well as faster, more reliable internet access, more and more creators are able to make content specifically for online video. Live streaming video combines the engaging power of video with social media’s unparalleled ability to connect with and respond to your audience in real time, offering a way to receive live feedback and respond immediately.

Setting up a live stream is not without its challenges. To do it well, you have to not only use good video production fundamentals, but also have a way to send that video over the internet simultaneously. Fortunately, the process of live streaming video has never been easier. Here are some products to help get you started.

What is Live Streaming?

Ultimately, live steaming is just a means of communication. It can include coverage of events that are viewed in real time elsewhere. Twitch is a popular outlet for this, allowing people to watch others play games. It is used in corporate settings, too, in the form of live broadcasting special presentations or events. In short, it’s transmitting or receiving live video and audio coverage over the internet.

Someone on set live monitoring scene

What You Need for Live Streaming

Internet for live streaming comes with speed requirements. When looking at your internet bandwidth, you’ll want to consider both upload (if you’re creating) and download (if you’re consuming) speeds. For YouTube, streaming 4K60p footage is going to need upwards of 50 Mbps. You’ll find you always need a bit more than what you’re strictly using, so it’s good to over-estimate your need. The video codec you use will influence this. For example, using an H.265-compatible device allows you to not only reduce your bandwidth requirements but also your overall file storage needs – sometimes by up to 50%.

To put all this into context, average global internet speeds hover around 46.25Mbps (as of this writing). So compression will matter a lot when creating streaming content. Using High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC/H.265) or even its predecessor, Advanced Video Coding (AVC/H.264) is recommended, which means you’ll need an HEVC or AVC-capable encoder or transmission system that’s compatible with your recording device.

What Streaming Devices Do

Video and audio must be consolidated for online broadcasting and the data must be encoded into something that is streamable. Encoding takes large video files and makes them small enough for swift and continuous uploading to the internet. If you’re at a live event with broadcast cameras, you’ll probably need a physical device to do this. If you’re capturing video inside your computer for fans on YouTube, software encoders suffice. Mobile devices have these built it, which is why the phone is such an easy platform for streaming.

Gear Options for Live Streaming

The “live streaming” section of our site is small but expanding as demand for this kind of content continues to grow. Here are a couple of useful tools you can rent for your next live streaming occasion, whether it’s for gaming, work, or a musical performance.

Sling Studio Dock on Table

SlingStudio Live Switcher/Recorder/Streaming Hub ($155* for a 3 Day Rental)

Portable and easy to use, the SlingStudio Live Switcher/Recorder/Streaming Hub is a lightweight online broadcasting solution. It comes with a base station, called the “Hub”, which provides the wireless network that communicates with three included transmitters. These transmitters, called CameraLinks, will provide, well, the link between your cameras and the Hub! Connect your camera to a CameraLink using one of the included HDMI cables and from there the CameraLink communicates with the Hub. The HDMI Type D port on each CameraLink supports up to 1080p60 and 2-channel embedded audio. A CameraLink can broadcast that 1080p signal at up to 3Mbps at a distance of 300′. The Hub is also equipped with a full-size HDMI port if you want to connect your camera directly. It supports up to 1080i60 and 1080p30 with 2-channel embedded audio. What’s more, it has a USB-C connector supporting up to 1080p60 video output of program/quad view. If you prefer, there is a 3.5mm audio (2-channel, unbalanced) line-in port on the Hub as well (requires external pre-amp or mixer).

While streaming, the SlingStudio is also storing your footage to an SD card (card slot located on Hub, UHS Class 3 minimum required). This kit also gives you access to the USB-C expander, giving you the option for wired Ethernet connectivity while also connecting to USB 3.0 hard drives and SSD drives for better storage options. Did we mention that the entire Hub is battery operated? Same with the CameraLinks. No wires necessary! You can also just plug in the Hub if you want to use it continuously.

The SlingStudio supports the following video resolutions:

• 1080p60
• 1080p30
• 720p30
• 720p60

Files are saved with the H.264 codec. You can also just stream footage without saving files. You can connect up to 10 sources to the Hub, assuming you have CameraLinks for all of them (our rentals give you three). If you want to hard-wire directly to the Hub, know that there is only a port for 1 camera. SlingStudio Live Switcher/Recorder/Streaming Hub is one of our most popular rentals. It is extremely versatile and reliable.

Teradek Cube on Table

Teradek Cube 255 HDMI Encoder with WiFi ($69 for a 3 Day Rental)

Mount this little box to your camera’s hot shoe, connect over HDMI, and effortlessly stream in H.264 to a decoder or website over WiFi, via ethernet with an optional router, or via a 3G/4G modem connection. You can also store your original footage to microSD (up to 32GB). The internal battery lasts approximately 2 hours and charges from a common 5V USB source (or just power continuously with the AC cable). The Cube will automatically encode your feed into H.264, which you can view on on your laptop or iPad with the TeraView or TeraCentral apps. The WiFi antennas use dual band so that you can avoid crowded 2.4GHz bands in favor of 5.8GHz and there is support for just about any stream mode or platform, including RTMP, UStream, YouTube Live, etc.

The Teradek Cube 255 supports the following video resolutions:

• 1080i60
• 1080p30
• 720p60

Bit rate ranges from 250Kbps-10Mbps in 4:2:0. This cable-free streaming solution is a great option for those who want to stream to an iPad, a computer, or some external recorder for others to view video dailies. It’s also a straightforward solution for transmitting over WiFi networks for live streaming. Depending on your WiFi network setup, you can achieve a range of up to 400′. This particular cube is really small, easy to operate, and quite affordable. You can rent it for as little as $69*. For more advanced models, be sure to also check out the 600 Series, and 700 Series Teradek Cubes.

Teradek Vidu next to case

Teradek VidiU Wireless Streaming Video Encoder ($35 for a 3 Day Rental)

If you’re just getting started with streaming, this consumer-grade device is a good option. Like the Teradek Cube, the VidiU streams from your HDMI-connected camera over dual-band WiFi in the H.264 codec. The OLED display tells you your connection status and is easily operated with handy joystick-style navigation buttons. The internal battery lasts approximately 1 hour.

The Teradek VidiU  supports the following video resolutions:

• 1080i60
• 1080p30
• 720p60

Bit rate ranges from 250Kbps-5Mbps. It’s smaller than the Cube 25 and is a great single-camera/plug-and-play solution for streaming to YouTube.

Mevo with Booster and Case on Table

Mevo Live Event Camera ($40 for a 3 Day Rental)

Need something that is truly all-in-one? The Mevo is a combination camera, live streaming platform, and video switcher all inside a tiny form factor. Capturing at 4K with streaming in 720p, this approximate 3″ camera connects to your phone for easy use with Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, and more. It is encased in a water-resistant material, so it’s a fine choice to working outside with. While short of advanced features, if you’re looking to simply stream quickly and easily then this is the device for you.

The Mevo’s UHD 4K sensor is configured to support 9 virtual camera angles at 720p resolution. Each angle is app-controllable. While streaming resolution is limited, you can still capture 4K footage to a microSD card simultaneously. By itself the Mevo lasts about an hour. Our rental comes with Mevo Boost, which will last about 9.5 hours!

The Mevo Live Event Camera supports the following video resolutions (when writing to a microSD card):

• 4K30p at 40Mbps (Live Editing Disabled)
• 1080p30 at 20Mbps
• 720p30 at 10Mbps

Streaming quality is set by default to 720p with capabilities of steaming up to 1080p depending on the streaming provider you’re using (Vimeo, Livesteam, and YouTube support 1080p while Facebook Live and Periscope support only 720p). Bit rate ranges from 0.4Mbps-4Mbps.

Choosing a Streaming Destination

Once you have your equipment you capture and send footage, you need a proper destination. This depends on where your audience is. Twitch is mainly for gaming/eSports but is also used for sharing just about anything, including day-to-day living. It is now owned by Amazon and is the leading live streaming platform. YouTube Live trails behind Twitch, though not by much. With Facebook Live, your broadcasts appear in the News Feed and users can comment and add reactions in real time and is a great option for streaming to, say, just your friends and family – though obviously it’s used for so much more than that. Periscope, owned by Twitter, has a similar setup. There are just a lot of options now. You’ll have to do some research on your own to figure out which is right for you:

• Twitch
• YouTube Live
• Facebook Live
• Periscope
• Younow
• Ustream (Now IBM Watson Media but still often referred to by its old name)
• Livestream (Now owned by Vimeo)
• Mixer (formerly Beam, now owned by Microsoft)
• Smashcast (focuses on eSports)

Those are the more “social” streaming platforms. There are others that are geared more for enterprise:

• Panopto
• Brightcove (which took over and shut down Ooyala)
• Dacast
• StreamShark

Support Software for Streaming

If you’re using your own video source without a physical encoder or an all-in-one device (i.e. you just have a laptop and your camera), you’ll need software to get your footage from the camera and to your audience on your streaming destination of choice. Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) allows you to easily add your source (your camera, a webcam, or capture card). Another option is XSplit Broadcaster. Wirecast offers a lot of features but is also expensive.

The only downside to software encoders is that, depending on how your computer is set up, you’re more likely to see issues with latency since your computer is probably running multiple things at once. Physical encoders, on the other hand, are dedicated to 1 task which is why it might be worth it to rent one for an important event.

Streaming is more accessible than ever but there are so many options for how to go about it that it’s daunting to know where to begin. Starting with just your phone is a fair option but when you’re ready to capture bigger and more complex events, something like the SlingStudio will take you far.

*All pricing is as of this writing and subject to change.

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Alex Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. See her lighting tutorials here. She is a Marketing Associate Manager at BorrowLenses.com. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Before focusing on studio portraiture, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

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