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Mushroom Networks’ Streamer Powers an Industry-First Live Video Broadcast using iOS Devices

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Cellmux and cellular bonding provider Mushroom Networks offers a full range of link-aggregation, channel-bonding and cellular video multiplexer devices both in dedicated hardware and increasingly in software form. The company recently  took part in an interesting production that put iOS devices center stage.

Michael Artsis of Artsis Media has an inspiring project called BeTerrific!!, which provides an anchor for his enthusiasm for what he describes as "the future of production:" namely that the mobile device, be it tablet or smartphone, will become the film-maker's camera (and so much more) of choice for what he predicts will be "90% of filmmaking." He calls this "iFilmmaking."

At Cine Gear Expo, which is a hands-on "kit fest" for production crews and filmmakers held at the Paramount Studios backlot in Los Angeles, Artsis decided to try to put together an incredibly compact live multi-camera shoot using only iOS devices for cameras, a switcher, and a Mushroom networks Streamer 8000 for the backhaul transmission.

The project ended up as a bit of a production "jam session" with FiLMiC providing a modified version of its iOS app that produced a "clean" full resolution live video feed via the HDMI outputs on the devices. The HDMI outputs were then connected (via their lightening-to-HDMI output cables) to a Paladin video switcher that used Telestream's Wirecast at its heart.

The audio was captured using a range of mics—a combination of Sennheiser and Marshal Electronics—and sent through a Zoom H6 USB audio mixer that was setup as the audio source for the Paladin. (See the schematic below for the complete equipment configuration.)

Wirecast then encoded the video as H.264 at 2Mbps and submitted that to Ustream and YouTube Live as two separate streams.

So the key question was "How did they source the connectivity in the middle of Paramount’s backlot?,” since while it is easy to source technology at an event like Cine Gear Expo, connectivity for broadcast is a novel challenge. The Mushroom Streamer 8000 did the trick.

"For the first time in doing production like this online I had a link that took minutes to setup, gave me the flexibility to setup anywhere and I had so much confidence in that link that I literally didn’t even THINK about it during the entire shoot," says Artsis.

Mushroom Networks CEO Cahit Akin says that they had up to eight USB modems connected at any one time and across all links—a mixture of 3G and 4G from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprin—there was constantly 14Mbps available to Michael’s team.

This allowed the two separate contribution feeds to be sent separately, while also allowing plenty of overhead for a control connection to each of these networks and on site monitoring "fold back" of the output streams.

While streaming live from iPhones is nothing new, this was a different proposition: Here was a pre-produced and live switched/mixed feed with titles and a roving camera (an iPod touch on a Gimbal with a wireless HDMI link), all captured and produced at "raw video" quality.

They had 100% uptime, a very common experience for cellmux users these days. Despite the lack of SLA in the networks, the overprovisioning approach—bonding together enough links to give you more than the bandwidth you require—has proven to be confidence-inspiring.

They also had the flexibility to relocate their shoot by simply moving the small production card with the Paladin and Mushroom units on to the new location in the backlot. The wireless technology and compact nature of the kit opened up the possiblility to produce from several locations in several hours. The Streamer 8000 simply sat next to the production team and moved with them.

With a little more power planning (essentially battery bricks for the iOS devices) it would have been possible to film live for extended periods, too.

Quite incredible when you think that that whole shoot could pack into two small bags—crew sandwiches included.

It’s always good to hear about interesting usecases for webcast technology. particularly those that use cellmux technology to break free of the studio or satellite truck, so please get in touch if you have a story to tell.

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