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Review: EasyLive's Video-Mixer-in-the-Cloud Simplifies Operations

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The simplest way to understand the EasyLive service is to think of it as a video mixer in the cloud. You can input videos from multiple sources; add titles, logos, Twitter feeds, and scorecards; and push the output to one or more live streaming services.

Why would you want a video mixer in the cloud instead of one you can run locally? First, you can send a single cameraperson with an on­camera recorder to an event and add graphics, scoreboards, and logos from the comfort of the home office. Second, if the stream stops due to bandwidth, camera, or computer problems, you can automatically substitute a video or other message of your choice. Third, though some video mixers can output to multiple services, you need fairly capacious bandwidth at the source to accomplish this, which often isn’t available. With EasyLive, it’s one stream up to the cloud, which you can feed to multiple targets such as YouTube Live, Facebook, DaCast, or most other real­time messaging protocol (RTMP)-­ based services.

Similarly, though most video mixers can save short excerpts for uploading to Twitter or Facebook, these uploads compete with your live stream for bandwidth. With EasyLive, you can create and push clips out to various services without impacting the live stream. In the context of a seminar or conference, you can record multiple sessions during the day and instantly save and send them to multiple video­on­demand (VOD) sites for replay, all while continuing to livestream to multiple locations. If you’re serving multiple foreign language markets, you can send a video­only stream that native language speakers can narrate for each market. Better yet, most of these functions can be driven via application programming interface (API), simplifying repetitive events.

Sound interesting? In this review, I’ll walk you through the process of setting up and running a live event with EasyLive via the web­based user interface (UI). In the sidebar at the end of this article I’ve also included a short Q&A describing how and why French football club Paris Saint­Germain uses the service.

Setting Up

After logging in to the service, start in the EasyLive control room. Here you’ll connect to your video and social platforms by clicking the icons shown on the right in Figure 1, logging in, and granting the necessary permissions. In my system, I logged in to Twitter, Facebook, DaCast, and YouTube Live. If your service isn’t shown, you can add it manually by plugging the stream name and RTMP address into the EasyLive UI.

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Figure 1. I’m sending my streams to DaCast and YouTube Live, and I’m also connecting with Facebook and Twitter. 

Once your outputs are configured, create your live event by working through a five­step wizard (see Figure 2 on the next page). The first step is to choose your encoder, which can be any encoder capable of connecting to an RTMP live streaming server. During my tests, I connected with both Wirecast and OBS (Open Broadcaster Software). To make the encoder/EasyLive connection, EasyLive provides the server URL and stream name, which you plug in to your encoder, along with your username and password.

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Figure 2. Here’s Step 4 in the setup wizard, where you enter metadata pushed to your output platforms.

Next, choose the quality of the stream that EasyLive will output. I used 720p at 1.7Mbps for my tests. Note that EasyLive has to decode the stream to insert all the graphics and other overlays. That means another layer of compression, but the output quality from YouTube looked very good to me. After configuring the stream, choose your target outputs. If there are outputs that you didn’t program into the control room, you can add them here, or even during the event itself. Then, enter metadata and select options for your output targets (Figure 2), and click once more to enter the event interface shown in Figure 3. This is where you’ll configure the appearance of the output stream and control the event.

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Figure 3. This is the event interface, where you will configure stream appearance and control the event. 

Once you enter the event interface, click Start Preview to view the incoming stream. Note that EasyLive spins up a separate Amazon Web Service (AWS) for each event, which can take up to 5 minutes. If you press Start Preview too soon, you’ll get a message that a server isn’t available. Wait a bit and then try again.

Figure 3 shows the event interface, with the preview window on the upper left. The user interface for the video window is controlled by the Event’s Interface drop­down list shown on the upper right in Figure 3. If you’re running a sporting event, you can choose a scoreboard that you can feed through various scoreboard services, such as Bodet, or you can update the scoreboard manually. All scoreboard connections require some custom programming to the EasyLive API, but it’s free for all the larger services.

Choose the display model by clicking the Displays tab in the main interface, which takes you to the screen shown in Figure 4. Here you’ll load and configure the various elements of your screen, including the long placeholder text and lower third title, and the Streaming Learning Center logo on the upper right. As you can see, you can choose options such as color, size, font family, and the like, with placement via controls or by clicking and dragging the design elements directly in the preview window. You’ll customize the text itself, and enable and disable the display, in the Title column on the lower left of Figure 3. This makes it simple to change titles if you have multiple speakers, or to change other text descriptors. Alternately, you can control the graphics programmatically using the API.

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Figure 4. Composing the video window 

Note that EasyLive’s Twitter output is limited to tweets from one Twitter account. This allows you to easily capture tweets from a speaker, or a speaker’s company, but not reactions to the subject matter. Most other Twitter capture features let you capture one or more hashtags, which lets viewers interact with the stream. EasyLive initially avoided this approach out of concern that Twitter wasn’t moderated, but it will add hashtag support in a future release.

On the bottom right of Figure 3 are animations (actually videos or still images) that you can drop into the live feed. They can be either full­screen or picture­in­picture. These videos can be VOD content, though there is a 100MB per-video upload limit and a total upload limit of 100MB for up to 10 videos. You can use these for advertisements. Because the videos are added directly into the stream, instead of being called from an ad server, ad blockers can’t block them.

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