One to Many: Streaming Live Video to Multiple Platforms
As you’ll see in the service descriptions below, online products add features that you can’t really get from on-premises products, like the ability to pick and choose from multiple inputs and direct them to multiple outputs, including different Facebook Live targets.
The negatives are the per-event cost, though it’s likely that your bandwidth savings may exceed this for many services. These services add a layer of complexity (as they are one more interface to learn) and a bit of latency to the output. All that said, particularly for live event producers who work in disparate locations where bandwidth is either limited or prohibitively expensive, these services are a dream come true.
Start With Your Existing Provider
If you’re currently using a provider for any kind of live video, you should first check to see if that service can also support other providers. For example, as mentioned around Figure 1, Livestream, a livestreaming service provider that used to broadcast only within its own ecosystem, now supports Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or generic RTMP destinations. Online video platforms Ooyala and JW Player, and conferencing vendor BlueJeans, also support Facebook Live output.
StreamShark is a livestreaming service from MetaCDN with more advanced, agency-focused features for companies publishing to Facebook Live. For example, agencies can request temporary access tokens to manage and oversee their customers’ Facebook Live streams, and then centrally manage (provision, preview, start, stop) live streams on their clients’ Facebook pages and profiles. StreamShark can simulcast a single stream to multiple pages or profiles simultaneously.
Many live-streaming providers used to tout their closed ecosystems as a key feature. However, this closed-system approach is forcing their customers to find other ways to stream to third-party sites, which is becoming a distinct disadvantage. This dynamic will likely encourage all live-streaming service providers to support third-party destinations, sooner if not later. So again, if you’re live already via a service provider, check with them first.
Online Distribution Platforms
This category of product was created specifically to enable live producers to support multiple output platforms. One of the first was a platform originally named Joicaster, which later changed its name to the much more descriptive Switchboard Live. As shown in Figure 3, with Switchboard Live, you can configure multiple destinations in the service, which is simplified by the presets shown. To go live, you send a single stream to Switchboard Live and check the targets that you want to distribute to. Switchboard Live routes the live stream to the target platforms without modification, so quality isn’t degraded by transcodes. You can run the service via scheduled broadcasts, or on the fly.
Configuring outputs in Switchboard Live
Beyond this core functionality, the service supplies an HTML5 player you can embed into your own website, and it supports multiple ingestion points, so you can manage multiple inputs from one location. The service lets you send a single stream to three preset destinations for free, with more functional plans starting at $25/month. Custom RTMP destinations and the ability to transrate incoming video to multiple streams both cost $10/month.
Teradek Core offers many of the same features, but really excels when working with Teradek encoders, which the system can configure and manage remotely. The system can also archive every stream that’s routed through it. Core is a natural service for those using Teradek hardware, with plans starting at $49/month. Similarly, if you use Streambox encoders to originate your streams, note that Streambox Cloud provides similar distribution functions to Core, including multiple-channel streaming to Facebook Live and YouTube Live, with prices starting at $99/month. Streambox also supports Live 360 and VR video streaming.
The final category is full-scale cloud production platforms that provide more than routing and distribution services. For example, the EasyLive cloud service can input video from multiple sources, and add graphics, scoreboards, logos, Twitter feeds, still images, and video files to the stream once in the cloud (Figure 4). Then it can distribute it to one or multiple outputs.
This is EasyLive’s event interface, where you can configure stream appearance and control the event.
Beyond this functionality, the system can record the entire presentation, or any individual component, for immediate publishing. In a conference setting, you could send one videographer to the event without a video mixer, send the stream to the cloud, and make each presentation available for VOD viewing immediately after it was over. If the stream goes down for any reason, you can designate an alternative VOD file as a substitute. EasyLive offers multiple packages that start at $299/month.
U.K.-based Groovy Gecko is mix between a custom platform and a service provider, so you can hire the company to shoot your event and distribute the streams. The Groovy Gecko Live Presentation System (LPS) offers PowerPoint integration, real-time clipping and DVR, graphics and text overlay, monetization via advertisements and pay per view, and digital rights management. For companies streaming to Facebook Live, the LPS offers a question-moderation platform and live polling, and the ability to deliver to multiple Facebook Live accounts simultaneously. Pricing varies according to the services rendered, the range of distribution, show duration, and levels of interactivity, but most projects start at a base price of £3,000 ($3,889 U.S.) per event.
Make.TV Selector is a video router within the cloud that enables users to ingest, curate, and route up to 12 simultaneous inputs, and distribute these to up to four destinations. The system lets you communicate with contributors via chat or voice, making the system a natural for news organizations or for any event covered by multiple independent contributors. The company also has a playout server that allows you to distribute VOD videos to 24/7 channels with API support for advertising insertion.
Virtually all of these products are turnkey solutions that nontechnical users can (in most cases) easily operate. For the sake of completeness, we should add that those seeking to build their own solutions can gain much of this routing functionality from the Wowza Streaming Engine or Streaming Cloud.
How Do You Choose?
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve learned that these products and services offer a very diverse range of features and capabilities. Choosing the best solution depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your live streaming, and whether you’re producing for your own company or for clients. The best way to start is by making a comprehensive list of targeted platforms and the features you’d like to include in your webcast.
[This article appears in the July/August 2017 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "One to Many: Streaming to Multiple Platforms."]
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