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Review: Cinamaker 2.0 iOS Live-Switched Streaming and Editing Solution

Cinamaker 2.0 is really coming together into a solid iOS-based production solution. Standout features include loading and saving projects, the built-in editor, and dedicated chroma key on each channel.

And then there were three--three solutions for iOS where you can take in multiple camera or video feeds, live switch between them, record, and stream your program to the world. Cinamaker uses a different design than Teradek Live:Air and Switcher Studio, but it's still pretty easy to grasp. Plus, it offers several often-asked-for features and one unique bonus that deserves your attention: built-in post-show re-editing of your live-switched video.

Now that there are three solid solutions for live-switched video production on the iPad, its effectiveness as a multicam live streaming hub can no longer be questioned. The iPad is powerful enough, and this platform does work for this level of production. I recently did a head-to-head test of Cinamaker, vs. Teradek Live2Air, vs. Switcher Studio to see which offered the highest quality. Cinamaker was a close second for the "Best Picture" award that Teradek won by a nose.

The iPad can indeed take in multiple FullHD video feeds, from wired or wireless devices, or from iOS and Android phones, and it can not only switch smoothly between them, but it can add titles, graphics, and overlays; play back video; and record an entire program while also streaming it to the CDN of your choice. Let’s move past the basics and see what Cinamaker offers.

Cinamaker set me up with a demo account with full Studio privileges, and then in the middle of the test, changed the pricing and platforms, which confused the app. In the video you can see a part where I'm in the midst of the demo and suddenly I'm locked out of two camera inputs, after just having three. This is resolved in newer app updates after the pricing structure change. Cinamaker also loaned me some of their hardware accessories to test the power over ethernet capability as well. I returned all of this gear at the end of the test.

In the basic version of Cinamaker, you can access two cameras. If you subscribe to the Pro version for $20/mo, you can line up four cameras to pick from. These can be iOS and “real” cameras using the HDMI interface boxes available from Cinamaker. You can use a DSLR, camcorder, a GoPro, or pretty much anything that outputs HD video over HDMI.

This opens up a world of possibilities. You can break away from iPhone camera limitations and use real, 20x+ optical zoom lenses in a camcorder. Or get shallow DoF from a prime lens on a full-frame DSLR.

In addition to this video goodness, you can play back videos you load into the app. You can vary the audio level of these videos so that the audio level of everything matches in the final output. In the version I tested, however, there wasn't a master program level meter, or a meter on the clip, so it's doable, but it will be trial and error until there's 
more audio metering in the app.

The Ecosystem

Another thing to consider (and that Cinamaker has clearly considered) with this nascent technology is that there are a lot of people coming in to these iOS solutions with no experience with video production or live streaming. 

Cinamaker has put together “solutions” on their website that incorporate iOS device connectivity, power over ethernet, HDMI converters, etc. It’s a good start, but it misses out on WiFi solutions and audio mixers as well, as I often see these being topics for recommendations for people new to the field.

Power over ethernet (PoE) is a solution that many producers may not consider at first, but it makes a lot of sense. There are several standards, and it's easy to get confused within this tiny aspect of networking.

Being able to receive the video from your iPhone and provide endless power to it over a single cable, is extremely convenient. What’s more, because the video is on a wire, there's near-zero chance of dropped frames because of WiFi issues.

If you have a setup that will remain in place and needs to run for hours and hours at a time, or that might have to fight with wireless congestion (like at a trade show or expo) then getting your devices connected to wires is going to be a fantastic solution. It's nice to see Cinamaker go beyond just offering an app and delve a bit deeper into the ecosystem to offer more complete solutions and recommend equipment to those customers that just want things that work.

In addition to this, Cinamaker has a very cool Help button on the apps (Figure 1, below) that immediately gives you overlays to tell you what all the various pieces are on the screen at any given time. Diving head-first into Cinamaker I found this feature very helpful to guide me to understand the icons on the screen till I began to know them by heart. Perfect for the new video producer.

Figure 1. Cinamaker’s helpful Help overlays

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