The 2020 Streaming Media Producer 25
In a classic moment from the 1975 Country Music Awards ceremony that, in its subtlety and understatement, outstrips any recent award show drama, Charlie Rich tore open the envelope for Entertainer of the Year, saw John Denver’s name, casually pulled a lighter from his pocket, and set the slip of paper on fire. Fortunately, 45 years later, through the indispensable archival auspices of YouTube, Rich’s succinct rebuke of the award committee’s selection is as easily accessed as, say, the La La Land/Moonlight Best Picture debacle of the 2017 Oscars or any charged political statement delivered from an entertainment industry-sanctioned soapbox.
The Silver Fox’s wordless, withering takedown still packs a punch today, not because his statement was all that righteous or because the offense of giving a country music award to a middle-of-the-road pop-folkie like Denver was all that serious. The power of Rich’s spontaneous act was all in the delivery. As a veteran live performer— unlike the big-screen stars whose awkward on-stage gestures won’t age as well—Rich understood that not only is timing everything, but you get only one chance to get it right.
So it is with live event production, streamed or on demand. As live producers delivering online, we have a skill set that’s honed for live production and streaming delivery, and we need a toolkit to match. Of course, there are all kinds of great video gear available, and a lot of well-deserved attention gets paid to film-ready equipment, from cinema cameras to color-grading and finishing systems that do undeniably dazzling things. But at Streaming Media and Streaming Media Producer, we’re more interested in solutions that enable, enhance, and streamline the workflows of live video producers—particularly those who need the mobility, agility, and versatility to take their shows on the road and deliver great work, regardless of the venue or production conditions.
The Streaming Media Producer 25, now in its second year, recognizes innovative companies that operate most effectively—although not necessarily exclusively—in the live producer’s wheelhouse, enabling us to get our jobs done with maximum impact and minimum fuss in our exacting, one-take world. It also offers glimpses of what these companies have done for us lately: recent accomplishments that excite our admiration anew. All lighters and matches confiscated—the envelope, please.
Featured Products: Adobe Premiere Rush and Auto Reframe
Admittedly, Adobe Systems—which is largely associated with postproduction—seems like a strange company to kick off a list of live production award winners. (And we probably wouldn’t start with Adobe if we weren’t going alphabetically.) But the maker of the ubiquitous NLE Premiere Pro earns its spot in this list because of recent innovations so sharply reflective of how today’s online video producers work. First is Adobe Premiere Rush, a great boon to mobile producers who need to make quick-turn edits away from the editing cave because it provides a robust feature set to editors who need to get the job done on a smartphone (iPhone or Android) or tablet. When it comes to this all-too-necessary task in the life of itinerant producers, Jan Ozer writes in a recent review, “Rush can’t be beat.” Another relatively new Adobe offering that threads a needle for online video producers is Premiere Pro’s Auto Reframe capability, which provides automated options to tailor your video for social media outlets—like Instagram—that buck the traditional video world’s 16:9 hegemony. For all of you reconstructed widescreen-or-busters out there, Adobe welcomes you to the 2020s.
Featured Products: HELO, Ki Pro GO
It’s hard to imagine doing a list like this without the likes of AJA, which provides essential components of pro live production, ranging from the compact streaming/recorder all-star HELO to the latest addition to the company’s popular multichannel recording line, the Ki Pro GO—the first external recorder that can record 4 HD signals simultaneously in the H.264 codec, designed to meet the needs of live producers from sports to corporate to worship. Good to know they’ve got us covered.
Featured Product: Sumo19
Years ago, when Atomos debuted its line of compact, on-camera SDI/HDMI monitors that boasted live recording to high-quality codecs like Apple ProRes, it simultaneously invented a niche and served an undeniable need. Even as others carve out corners of that market, Atomos continues to innovate with support for 4K, HDR, and 12-bit recording. But Atomos’ latest breakthrough comes with its physically uncharacteristic Sumo19, a 19" production monitor released in 2017 that, with a late-2019 free firmware upgrade, not only accepts and records four inputs, but switches between them as well and records that switched feed to a fifth output. Reportedly, Atomos will be adding switching capability to other products in the line, like the popular Shogun 7.
Featured Products: 4K Family
As of this writing, the first thing visitors to BirdDog’s website see is a picture of its brand-new NDI Wallplate, which seems a fitting analogy for this company’s mission: to build IP video into live production so seamlessly and routinely that it all but disappears into the woodwork. Of course, not everyone is NDI-ready yet, but BirdDog, with its 4K Family of encoder/decoders, pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) systems, and others, is doing more than its share to usher in the NDI era for a range of live producers.
Featured Products: ATEM Constellation 8K, ATEM Mini
Blackmagic Design's imprint is all over the landscape of professional live production, including Studio and Cinema cameras, streaming and encoding boxes, conversion devices, and multiview monitors. The centerpiece of many a live producer’s kit, of course, is the video switcher/mixer, and Blackmagic stands front and center in that market as well. In yet another example of Blackmagic’s trademark versatility, two of its most compelling recent offerings in the switcher/mixer arena are the impossibly low-priced ($295) but surprisingly capable entry-level four-input ATEM Mini and the top-of-the-line 40-input ATEM Constellation 8K Ultra HD live production switcher. Given a realistic timeline for 8K video reaching the streaming mainstream, this might be the last switcher you’ll ever need.
Featured Product: Dazzl
Cloud video storage and delivery have been mainstays of the streaming world for quite some time, while multicamera cloud production, by contrast, has grown only by fits and starts. But the goal of bringing the full capabilities of live-switched production to remote producers is a significant one for content creators around the world. One of the more versatile and scalable solutions for live multicam video production and streaming in the cloud comes from France-based Dazzl, which aims to serve the remote production needs of event producers as well as broadcasters with a low cost of entry, including no required hardware investment besides whatever smartphones or cameras are used in the production. As Anthony Burokas reported on Dazzl from NAB 2019, “You can have multiple cities or multiple countries involved in a production around the world, and have it all come in and be able to produce that in a way that really isn’t possible with hardware-based
systems of any type.”
Featured Products: Deity Connect
Like Azden, RODE, Shure, Sennheiser, and other better-known companies in the pro audio-for-live production world, Deity Microphones offers a range of essential audio acquisition gear, from super-cardioid shotgun mics to lavs to pro boom mics. But the new solution that pricked up our ears at NAB last year is the dual-channel Deity Connect 2.4GHz wireless system, with an innovative physical design and daring positioning outside the crowded UHF spectrum.
Featured Products: Pearl-2, LiveScrypt
Epiphan Video has made itself a key player in the live production and streaming space with a number of well-designed and well-positioned products, such as the full-featured switching/streaming/recording appliance Pearl-2—and its junior partner the Pearl Mini—and the compact, dedicated social media streaming solution Webcaster X2, which successfully shepherded our Streaming Media East interviews to Facebook Live in 2018 and 2019. Epiphan also has an intriguing new offering, LiveScrypt, which delivers live transcription of conference presentations in another compact little box. This suggests that Epiphan has once again cleverly recognized and targeted a viable niche in the live production scene.
Companies and Suppliers Mentioned