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Review: Panasonic LiveCTRL Multicamera Live-Switching PTZ iOS App

Tight Camera Integration

Within the Settings area (Figure 5), you can set a network ID so that you can isolate devices for particular setups. Settings is also where you determine your transition, cut or cross dissolve, and the duration, although I think this is something that should be in the main interface so that you can access it during the show.

Figure 5. LiveCTRL Settings

You can save the stream file, connect and disconnect from social media CDNs, change your RTSP mode, as well as video latency and data rate. And also change your keyboard shortcuts- another very handy feature that enables the user to use a Bluetooth keyboard to have a physical control surface that you don't have to look at to operate.

Using a professional Panasonic PTZ camera also opens up a whole host of capabilities and options as well. Not only can you have a camera controlled by an RS-232 or 422 controller, but these cameras also offer HDMI or SDI outputs as well as internal recording to MicroSD card as well. This potentially offers the ability to deliver an isolated camera feed via the camera video output to the destination of your choice.

You could potentially even leverage the cameras’ video output, in addition to the streaming output, to enable a single camera to be accessed by two different video mixing solutions. This is very handy for events where you need the SDI feed for IMAG in the room, and the streaming mixer can share the cameras and also have alternate feeds that are only needed for the remote audience.

Within the Panasonic LiveCTRL app, you can dive deep into the camera's stream configuration settings: H.264, JPEG video, quality, frame rate, and image size, etc. Audio settings leverage the 1/8" stereo input on the back of the camera for either mic- or line-level input, power for a microphone input, automatic level control, manual level control, and even a few different audio equalizer settings and bitrate.

The System Settings screen is where you can get the IP address of the camera, toggle the tally indicator, on-screen-display, image flip, the output video format of the physical video output of the camera, as well as the internal recording format to the internal MicroSD card.

Image adjustments enable you to store three different presets in the camera, as well as adjust the image parameters of the camera for those presets. This is good for those who move the PTZ heads from event to event, but have a few recurring events, like an outdoor soccer game, and then an indoor basketball game, and the camera settings can be stored for each location to speed setup.

The networking tab lets you dive in and manually assign IP, Subnet, Gateway, DNS, and more, which is important when using an unmanaged switch to connect your devices with manual IP addresses. All of this is directly accessible in the LiveCTRL app. The tight integration between Panasonic’s cameras and the LiveCTRL app is clear with this level of camera control.

Producing a Show in LiveCTRL

The LiveCTRL interface is familiar to me as it is very similar to Cinamaker’s app. The PTZ preset section, and deep camera controls are obviously new. But the way you mix cameras, add titles, videos, etc., that’s all the same. And, if you read my review of Cinamaker, you could
apply the takeaways I had with that, here with LiveCTRL.

The Cinamaker Help overlay is here as well, and that makes it easier for those new to this type of production solution to get up to speed a little quicker. You can name your saved files, which makes finding them a lot easier than just a Date & Time stamp. Having the ability to save
projects, or Sessions, is a great feature. Customizable keyboard shortcuts are good as well.

While these apps only show four source windows, these four sources do not include videos, which can be set to overlay the camera sources. So if you have five or 10 videos to play back, you have all them in addition to your four live video sources. Plus you have the ability to adjust the audio for each of these video clips. That’s very handy. Overlays, corner bugs, fullscreen graphics, titles, etc., are all in addition to your four video feeds.

But there are still some features that both LiveCTRL and Cinamaker need, like a master Program audio meter. It’s nice to know what your source level is, and what your video clip is, but it’s hard to see them next to each other, or right after each other to know they’re close to the same, and not clipping. An audio meter on Program would fix that.

I also spoke with the representative with Panasonic who was helping me with the review, about some possible interface tweaks, particularly, more screen real estate to see PTZ presets. This is the calling-card feature of this app, so I’d like to be able to see and touch two rows of icons without scrolling, as opposed to just 3 icons and part of a fourth. Yes, you can scroll, but it’d be nicer to have at least four across, and two rows down, providing for one tap direct access to at least 8 presets, and the ability to scroll to more.

The built-in titler is also very basic. You can bring in transparent images for backgrounds, but each text layer is separate, so it’d probably be best to build your complete titles externally and then bring the finished titles with transparency in to LiveCTRL.

In Conclusion

These minor interface issues don’t detract from Panasonic LiveCTRL’s ability to leverage Panasonic’s broadcast PTZ video heads in a way that isn't otherwise possible in any iOS solution. This isn’t just using a couple iPhones, although you can easily add an iPhone as a source if you want to. This isn’t just feeding a camcorder into an HDMI adapter and seeing the video in your video mixer. This is deep integration of the camera’s control, and settings, into the app itself, focusing on the most tangible benefit- storing presets and moving the head between shots in a second.

LiveCTRL makes the most of the broadcast-level video the Panasonic PTZ heads deliver, in a simple, clean, and very easy-to-carry iPad interface.

[This article appears in the October 2019 issue of Streaming Media Magazine."]

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