In the Field: Teradek Live:Air
Live:Air gives the user the ability to switch among up to four cameras while mixing in titles, graphics, and pre-recorded b-roll. While the theoretical capabilities of such a setup are very exciting, the technological limitations of current iPad models are keeping the system from reaching its full potential.
Teradek, a company responsible for some of the biggest recent advancements in streaming technology, released the Live:Air (pronounce Live to Air) iPad app at BVE London 2015. This $99 app connects to the company’s VidiU units, while all devices are connected to a shared wireless network. Live:Air gives the user the ability to switch among up to four cameras while mixing in titles, graphics, and pre-recorded b-roll. While the theoretical capabilities of such a setup are very exciting, the realities of today’s technological limitations are keeping the system from reaching its full potential.
Exhibit Hall Demo
I first met Topher DeLancy of Teradek in May at Streaming Media East in New York. On the show floor, DeLancy showed me their live demo of Live:Air, which paired several VidiU-connected camera feeds along with some pre-recorded content and titles. He switched among sources with ease, and I tried my hand at technical director for a few minutes. When asked about specifications for the system to work, he stressed that an iPad Air 2 must be used for the app to function well.
A few months later, a fellow producer, Jacob Dean, came to me with a perfect use case to test out the whole suite. Dean had been hired to produce a 3-4 camera live concert in Knoxville. Soon I had two VidiUs and one VidiU mini in my possession along with an older iPad Mini 2 to begin pre-show testing.
The first thing we noticed about using the VidiUs was the instructions, or, well, the lack of instructions. Although setting up the VidiU is somewhat straightforward, the tiny screen and equally tiny navigation controls make the process a bit challenging. Going to Teradek’s site reveals little more than a few basic-setup instructional videos. Despite this, we managed to get all of the units onto the shared WiFi network and connected to the Live:Air app.
The next thing noted about setup was the boot time. From power on to connected and streaming, expect to count the minutes, not seconds. The VidiUs are intended to be powered up and kept on for the duration of your shoot, not shut down during breaks. If you accidentally shut one down or have any sort of power loss, expect to wait around 15 minutes to get a unit reconnected. Even when a unit was connected to Live:Air, if there was a loss in connectivity, we sometimes had to shut down and restart everything else (all VidiUs and Live:Air) for the components to see each other again.