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Head-to-Head: Switcher Studio vs. Teradek Live:Air Action

Two leading multicam webcasting iOS apps compared

For multicamera live production, there's always been a ton of big production hardware available to do the job. Then, feed the video into a dedicated little box to stream your video.

But today, consumer devices are so powerful that you can do what looks like a professional multicamera live TV show—with video playback, titles, and more—all with just a few smartphones. But which app is the best?

The more correct question is which app is the right one for you? Or, which one is right one for this project?

There is no "best" app because each one has certain standout features that the other does not have, and depending on your needs, or the needs of your current production as opposed to another one, you can pick the tool that works best.

The Contenders

Currently I'm aware of five multi-camera live switching solutions you can run on an iPad (Figure 1, below). Each uses an app to view multiple camera feeds, mix between them, add stills and titles; and record and stream the output. However, I'm going to rule out three of them right off the bat.

Figure 1. Switching and streaming a live event with an iPad-based app

Sling Media’s SlingStudio, for example, can use an iPad, but all the camera ingest, as well as the mixing and the recording actually takes place on the hub unit. This means your iPad or laptop could crash and the streaming and recording would continue along happily until your iPad took control of the hub again. This alone means it's not an iPad-based solution, but a hardware-based solution, that an iPad can control, or not.

The second solution that I'm not going to discuss at this time is Cinamaker. I met with the Cinamaker team at NAB and the product was working, but still being finalized, so I'm not going to discuss it in this head-to-head comparison only because it’s not shipping yet. I’ve asked Cinamaker to contribute to the feature comparison chart so we have a head start to see how it might compare to our two main tools.

There's also an app called CollabraCam which is not really a live-switching app. Each individual camera records its own feed while the "director" app only records an Edit Decision List (EDL). The audio on Camera 1 is the only audio used. Then everything must be assembled later in post. It looks interesting, if recording is all you need to do, but it does not offer video playback, titles, or any other live production resources, so it doesn't qualify this comparison article.

That leaves the two true iOS-based multi-cam live-switch video broadcast solutions. Teradek Live:Air Action (pronounced as "Live to Air"). Action is the latest version of this software, and there's also a free lite version known as "Solo.” Switcher Studio is also available in a free lite version called Switcher Go.

Live:Air Action (Figure 2, below) has an interface that's best worked on a bigger tablet, as there are many dedicated sections and tiny type. Live:Air Solo is actually designed for a phone with minimal interface that can be brought in as overlays from the sides and bottom. It will run on a tablet and I actually like using it on a tablet. Live:Air Action won't even show up to download for a phone.

Figure 2. Live:Air Action in action

Switcher Studio works beautifully on a tablet (Figure 3, below). However, the app also has an interface designed specifically for iPhone that makes it easier to use with larger interface elements that you swap between. Switcher Go has a very minimal interface that is pretty much the same on the phone or tablet.

Figure 3. The SwitcherStudio UI

I put together a feature-by-feature comparison chart (Figures 4 and 5, below) to help you hone in on what you need. This chart was checked by reps of each of the three companies included so it should be accurate as of May 23, 2018. I included Cinamaker in the chart based on the features the company say will be in the app, when it releases. Each of these companies is continually updating these apps so the features and capabilities will soon change from the ones I note here.

Figure 4 and 5. Feature comparison chart, parts 1 and 2

Related Articles
The Teradek Live:Air accepts multiple streams from different sources, and enables you mix an event, then send it to Livestream, Ustream, or any RTMP-compatible server, using only your iPad.
If you're looking for an iDevice-based video mixing solution, Switcher Studio should be on at the top of your short list.
At the 2017 NAB show in Las Vegas, DISH Network-owned Sling Media introduced the SlingStudio, a professional multi-camera streaming/switching appliance. At $999, it competes with a number of existing pro-grade products from the likes of Teradek, LiveU, and Matrox.
Looking to be able to do professional-level work for my clients on location without having to disassemble my TriCaster studio (or purchasing a second TriCaster to take on the road), I found apps for iPad and iPhones that let me connect everything together wirelessly and stream it to the web via my cell phone's LTE connection.