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How to Think Small and Travel Light: The Streaming Video Carry-On

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What’s a great image without good sound? A poor viewing experience. Recording second system audio makes the most sense due to our size and location restraints. Having owned several products from Zoom, we can confidently rely on the H4N to get quality sound from a tiny package. The H4N accepts XLR or 3.5mm inputs. In the interest of saving space, we’re opting for a wireless Sennheiser ew 112-p G3 lavalier, using the smaller 3.5mm cable, which comes with two small transmitter/receiver units and the microphone itself.

Zoom H4N recorder with a wireless Sennheiser lavalier kit

We combined a Zoom H4N recorder with a wireless Sennheiser lavalier kit for rock-solid sound in a small package.

Portable live streaming appliances come in all shapes and sizes these days. Big productions often rely on enterprise-level, rack-mounted solutions, but we need to be light and portable. The portable live-streaming solution we’re taking is literally pocket-sized (3"x4"x1"). We’re packing a pair of Teradek VidiU units capable of encoding a 1080p stream at 5.2Mbps. These hot-shoe mountable boxes can be set up on a shared Wi-Fi network and be live switched with Teradek’s iPad app Live:Air. By using this system, we have the bonus of being able to include any iOS device as an extra camera and have preloaded graphics or video content to display to our home audience.

Teradek VidiU

Two Teradek VidiU streaming appliances let us deliver 1080p streams at 5.2Mpbs over a shared Wi-Fi network, switched with Teradek’s Live:Air iPad app. 

Finally, we need a place to attach the light panel, microphone receiver, and VidiU units to the cameras. K-Tek, an audio and video support manufacturer, offers the K-Tek Norbert Sport Junior cage. This lightweight aluminum accessory frame features foam handles on the sides and nine shoe mounts across the top. This gives us plenty of locations to attach all three required accessories and offers a mounting thread for the cameras. And since the Blackmagic cameras accept external battery power, we have the added flexibility of using our choice of auxiliary power also mounted to the cage.

K-Tek Norbert Sport Junior cage

The K-Tek Norbert Sport Junior cage features foam handles and nine shoe mounts across the top, allowing us to mount the light panel, microphone receiver, and VidiU units.

The Cost

Small isn’t always cheap. Often the gear that delivers great quality in a compact package comes at a higher cost than its larger counterparts. Here’s a size and pricing breakdown of our go-anywhere live stream production kit.

Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K (x2) = $2,590 3.25"x2.74"x2.57"

Blackmagic Video Assists (x2) = $990 5.63"x3.54"x1.2"

Manfrotto BeFree (Carbon Fiber version) = $350 15.7" H collapsed

Edelkrone SliderPlus system = $1,170 13.2"x2.5"x3.6"

Genaray 312 LED panel = $189 7.5"x4.5"x1.75"

Zoom H4N = $199 2.75"x6.1"x1.4"

Sennheiser ew 112-p G3 wireless lavalier kit = $630 3.2"x2.5"x0.9" (x2)

Teradek VidiU (x2) = $1,398 3"x4"x1"

Teradek Live:Air app = $99

iPad Air = $399 9.4"x6.67"x0.3"

K-Tek Norbert Sport Jr. (x2) = $304 9.8"x6.6"x1.5"

Cables and batteries = ~$50

This brings the grand total to somewhere around $8,500 when you factor in tax and miscellaneous costs such as storage devices, cables, and batteries. Although this kit is made up of small pieces, the capabilities are expansive. With the exception of a budget LED light, all of he equipment spec’d here is state-of-the-art and of professional quality. And there’s no reason that any of it should be relegated to location shoots only.

Success

As you can see from the illustration below, we achieved our goal of getting all of our gear into a single airline carry-on bag. In fact, with the 9" depth of the bag, we have enough room to spare for clothing or other padding to be packed in between equipment to prevent damage.

With a standard 9"x14"x22" carry-on bag, we were able to fit all our gear with room to spare for clothing or padding to protect our precious cargo.

Some of the equipment selections in our list could be different. There are several excellent alternatives to the equipment that we chose. Ultimately, we based our decisions on three major factors: value, adaptability, and, of course, size. We tried to select well-known and trusted brands that would ensure reliability in the field, but some categories, such as compact sliders, are limited in options. While many sharp producers and gear heads would disagree with some of the choices in our kit, the pieces chosen will fit all three of the major criteria required for our situation.

The rate at which our equipment is shrinking compared to historic patterns is astonishing. When you look at the kit that we built for this article and the total cost to compile it, the result is incredible. We can create content that is many times the quality and resolution of content we were producing just 10 or 15 years ago with equipment that required a dedicated vehicle to transport and an immense annual budget to maintain it. Today, we are reaping the benefits of Moore’s law, getting smaller and smaller equipment.

Muscle car enthusiasts have a favorite adage: “There’s no replacement for displacement.” This means the size of the engine is the ultimate factor for power and cannot be replaced by other add-ons or modifications such as turbochargers and superchargers. Although this same maxim used to apply to video technology, it’s no longer true. Having a studio in your suitcase has become a reality.

This article appears in the September 2015 issue of Streaming Media magazine as “Think Small.”

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