Review: Teradek Airmix Solo
Teradek Airmix Solo, formerly known as Live:Air Solo, is a free app that enables iOS-based users to produce polished, professional, multicam live streams from a phone or tablet. If you have an iPad with a cellular connection, that’s literally all you need to get started with Airmix Solo. Cellular connects you to the internet; then, you can hot spot your iPad, connect your two other camera sources via Wi-Fi, and be ready to capture and stream.
Airmix comes in two versions: the full-featured Airmix iOS video production suite ($29.99 per month), and the free Airmix Solo (Figure 1, below). This article will touch on some of the differentiating features of each version. We'll also explore how Airmix Solo works and how you can use it to elevate your live streams with minimal additional investment.
Figure 1. The versions of Airmix
Airmix Solo is designed for tablets, so the interface is touchscreen-based. I produced the video component of this review as a livestreamed two-camera shoot while running Airmix on my iPad. Figure 2 (below) shows a screen recording of Airmix running on the iPad stream, with me facing and pointing at one camera (my iPhone) and a thumbnail of my other camera source visible on the left side. I brought my camera sources into view by brushing my finger in from the left-hand side of the Airmix user interface on my iPad.
Figure 2. Streaming via Airmix with two camera sources
I can switch between the cameras by pressing the input in the sidebar. Transition options include cut, cross dissolve, slide from the left, and zoom dissolve, although most producers will rarely use anything but cross dissolve and cut. Airmix Solo allows you to have two different transition preferences, one for your video transitions and one for your graphics. This means I can set my default transition to cut for video and cross dissolve for graphics, and my graphics will fade in and out. The ability to choose two different transition styles as defaults is not available in the full version of Airmix.
Airmix Solo supports multiple video sources. The usual configuration is one camera in the iPad where the app is running and one external. I turned off the iPad internal camera so I could use two external cameras. Airmix Solo allows me to operate completely wirelessly between the devices, with everything controlled by touching the iPad screen.
For the test shown in the video, I set it to use only the microphone on the camera closest to me for audio, but I can also set it to switch audio sources when I switch cameras. This means that if I have a game camera and a sideline camera, Airmix will automatically switch to the audio from the sideline camera when I switch to it if I toggle On If Live, as shown in Figure 3 (below). Then, when I come back to the main camera, I get automatic audio-follows video transitions. You can also drag the audio mixer slider back and forth to mix audio from both cameras.
Figure 3. At the bottom of the Airmix user interface, you can set On If Live for audio-follows video transitions.
Airmix lets you load in and customize various overlays, as well as create several kinds inside Airmix itself.. You can add an Image, Custom Text, a Scoreboard, or a Title by tapping the corresponding box. When you press Title, the Title Editor dialog shown in Figure 4 (below) opens. Airmix includes a couple of very basic built-in tiles. You can change the size of the graphic, drag it around the screen, or change the opacity. You can also enter the title and subtitle, of course, but you can’t change the font in Airmix Solo. In the full version of Airmix, you’ll find more options for customizing your titles, as well as more titles, better titles, font choices, and font sizes. (You can see the blue lower-third I’m using in Figure 2.)
Figure 4. The Airmix Solo Title Editor
Airmix Solo also lets you overlay a scoreboard. You can have red, silver, or yellow, with three items: Home, Away, and Period (Figure 5, below). As with title overlays, the full version of Airmix gives you better scoreboard options—more choices, a lot more colors, and lot more designs that better represent the nuances specific to different sports.
Figure 5. A basic scoreboard created in the Airmix Solo Scoreboard Editor
Airmix also lets you create overlays for custom text (Figure 6, below). You can add messages like “Welcome to the show,” “Thanks for watching,” “See you next week,” and so forth, building them in the Custom Text area. You have a broad range of fonts to choose from; a lot of flexibility in terms of left-, center-, and right-justified; and an option to make bulleted lists. You can also set text placement and fill color, shadow, background color, and border color.
Figure 6. The Custom Text Settings dialog
In the video component of this article, I created five overlays, and Airmix will still let me add more. This is a lot of overlays for a free app.
Adding Media Sources
As shown on the left side of Figure 2, I’m working with two media sources already. Let’s add a new source. Figure 7 (below) shows the options for doing this. The top item on the list is Teradek device, which refers to video sources.
Figure 7. Options for adding media sources shown on the left
Options include iPhone, Android phone, or an actual camcorder. You do that with a Teradek VidiU X, VidiU Go, a VidiU Pro, or even a VidiU. All of those devices can connect in Airmix mode (formerly known as Live:Air mode). They will show up as devices on the local area network, and Airmix Solo will bring them in as sources.
So, in addition to smartphones, you can use a DSLR or a traditional camcorder with a nice long zoom for doing sports, weddings, or other events. Being able to integrate real cameras is a great feature. Video Files refers to stock video media stored on your iPad. iOS Camera refers specifically to the camera built into the iPad (rather than external cameras in iOS devices). If I add the iPad camera to my existing test, that will give me an internal selfie camera, plus two remote cameras, which could be camcorders connected wirelessly or wired.
The next option is Core Devices. In Teradek Core, Teradek’s cloud server ecosystem, you can create an account to do bonding and multicasting or save a bunch of preset destinations. When I hit the Send button, it could potentially send my show to five destinations. You can also have a remote person administer Core.
Another great feature of Core is that you can take one of these cameras to another city, push to Core using Airmix Solo, and have it show up as a source wherever you are. This means I could easily cut between my local camera here in Frisco, Texas, and another one in San Francisco.
Image Control and Lens Correction
The Airmix apps do not have remote control of the camera settings in the phones. In the Remote app, on the camera itself, you can lock your exposure. You can also zoom, and you can control color, temperature, and tint. You can do a lot of things, but you can’t control those settings from the main app itself. A designated camera op (if you have one) will have to adjust them.
In the Airmix mixing app, there is a button to open image control. In Figure 8 (below), I’m using sliders to edit the color of video coming in from IEBA Blu, which is my main camera. I can adjust the Shadows, the Midtones, and the Highlights. I can save the settings or hit Reset to undo any adjustments I don’t like. Again, to be clear, you’re not painting the camera or remotely controlling it and changing its internal settings. You’re just correcting video that has come in from the camera within the Airmix app. If the camera is overexposed and crushing the face, you can use these controls to bring the exposure down a little bit to make it less offensive, but you’re not going to change the exposure of the camera itself as if you were working with on-camera controls.
Figure 8. Editing color in Airmix
Another very interesting capability in Airmix is lens correction. This is handy if you’re using a wide-angle or a telephoto lens attached to your camera. If you’re using a wide-angle adapter lens on the front of your phone, it tends to be a little bowed on the sides, so you want to pull it in so that your horizontal lines stay horizontal all the way across the frame. You can do that in Airmix Solo. It’s very touchy, but you can do it. If you have a telephoto lens, it tends to pull in the center a little bit.
You can fix that in Airmix Solo too. The full version of Airmix has additional capabilities, like green screen. You can have multiple cameras all set up with green screen. The full version also has “scenes.” You can have a person with a title over the top of a greenscreen background or a picture-in-picture, and all those layers are saved together and called up with one tap as if it were a camera. It’s just done. That is a really handy feature, but you’ll need to purchase the full version of
Airmix to get it.
Encoding, Streaming, and Recording Settings
Figure 9 (below) shows the Settings menu, which is not accessible when you’re streaming live (since it largely pertains to streaming settings). Here, you can choose broadcasting and encoding settings and more. In the Encoder settings. I have it set to encode at 1080p, but you can choose other presets, such as 720p and 480p. You can also go manual and customize your settings. You can turn on Portrait Mode if you’re doing vertical production.
Figure 9. The Airmix Solo Settings menu
Under Input, you have Decoder settings. This is how Airmix decodes the video coming in from other devices. There are also some paid extra features like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch chat. Each one is available as a $2.99 upgrade. Then, you can see and interact with the chat coming in live on those three different social media platforms in the app without having to go anywhere else. The URL Overlay is also $2.99.
Another option is recording your output. With the free app and no add-ons, you can stream, but you cannot record locally. A onetime fee of $9.99 gives you the ability to record the program on the iPad itself. If you purchase that option, you can choose to record at a higher bitrate than you are streaming. This will ensure that you have a high-quality local recording, so if anything happens on the internet side, you can upload a clean copy after the fact.
Clearing the Program Monitor
As you can see in the various figures, with all the overlays and so forth, there’s a lot happening on my iPad screen with Airmix running. All that clutter can make it difficult to monitor the video as I stream and make sure my video is well-framed, in focus, etc. When I touch the screen and move my fingers to the outside, it all goes away, leaving just the video I’m streaming.
I can bring the overlays back in by brushing the screen from the right and bring back my video sources by swiping from the left. Being able to dynamically bring in all these controls, while also being able to clear them away when I just need to see the picture, is pretty slick. If you’ve got a 12" iPad, this means you’ve got a 12" view of your main program. Being able to swipe all the overlays away and bring them all back whenever you need them is very convenient.
I have to commend Teradek for packing so much capability into what seemingly looks like a very simple app on the iPad and offering all the free apps for camera remotes on the phones. By no means is it limited to what I’ve discussed here. If you want to add hardware or if you want to unlock the paid options, that’s up to you. You can also step up to the much more powerful full version of Airmix with more cameras, green screen, a dedicated audio mixing page, instant replay, and more.
The Core ecosystem offers many options as well. Adding these elements is obviously going to cost a little bit, but out of the box (so to speak), Teradek Airmix Solo is a great little free streaming app that is packed with useful features.
[This article appears in the June 2021 issue of Streaming Media Magazine]
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