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Streamline Your Portable Streaming System, Part 3: Switchers, Streaming Appliances, and Portable Encoders

In this article I'm going to highlight some of the latest gear you can use to put together a portable streaming solution. With this equipment you can quickly and easily transport your kit from one shoot to another and use it to deliver solid, high-quality streams for small and medium-sized events.

To kick off Part 3 of this series on streamlining your traveling streaming kit, we’ll look at some switching options. In Part 1, we looked at software-based switching you can do within your laptop with our discussion of the MacBook Retina-based streaming system (using Telestream Wirecast Pro) that has worked for Mobeon on a number of projects. Here we’ll look at hardware switchers that are compact and versatile enough to meet your needs as you build a streaming system that can travel with you from event to event.

Blackmagic Design

Blackmagic Design has been producing high-quality switching equipment for years. I'm a fan of the ATEM Production Studio (Figure 1, below). The prices range from $1,695 to $3,995, depending on how many inputs the switcher has. Blackmagic offers a full range of different products that will serve your needs specifically in switching.

blackmagic ATEMstudio 4k

Figure 1. Blackmagic’s ATEM Production Studio 4K

At Mobeon we use the ATEM Production Studio as a hardware switcher, and then we run the signal through another vMix or Wirecast encoder on a Mac Mini. The ATEM Production Studio does have graphic overlay capabilities, but we tend to use other pieces of software that allow you to overlay graphics and replay video and so forth. Overall, the ATEM units are highly functional and reliable, and compact enough to fit in a mini-flight case as we travel to events.

NewTek TriCaster Mini HD4

As I mentioned in previous installments, my goal is to be able to stream high-quality productions using gear that can fit in a backpack. One of the newest entries that helps us move in that direction is the NewTek TriCaster Mini HD4 (Figure 2, below).

tricaster mini back

Figure 2. TriCaster MiniHD4

Unlike other TriCaster models--which are themselves quite compact for the functionality they offer--the Mini does, in fact, fit in a backpack. As you can see in this demo, you can set this unit up in 5 minutes.

One of the challenges of doing live productions is the prep/setup time required. With any event, it's a race for time to make sure that you're going to be able to stream at the designated stream time.

The TriCaster mini looks like a fantastic portable streaming solution. One potential drawback is that it takes HDMI inputs. As I mentioned before, you see a GoPro being used, but it seems pretty formidable as a portable streaming system. But given NewTek’s reputation in live streaming equipment, it's something you should highly consider.

1Beyond StreamMachine

Another unit for portable streaming that we've used quite often at Mobeon is the 1Beyond Stream Machine (Figure 3, below). This “lunchbox” unit comes configured with the Matrox VS4 with four SDI inputs, plus pop-out RAID cartridges in the front, internal hard drives, and an SSD drive.

Figure 3. The 1Beyond Stream Machine

We’ve hand-carried this unit to events without having to pack it into any luggage. We set it up, connect it to some cameras, and we're off. Because it uses the Matrox VS4, as discussed in Part 1, the Stream Machine is very versatile because, again, in addition to providing switching and streaming capabilities, it has ISO recording capabilities. Sometimes we have clients that just want ISOs for the event, and we use the Stream Machine to record the various streams independently at high quality. It's portable, and it serves multiple purposes, and for those reasons it’s in arsenal of streaming tools that we use.

Paladin

We’ve also used the Paladin Live Streaming Solutions (Figure 4, below) for specific types of events with much success. The Paladin is quite compact and quite capable as well. It uses the Blackmagic DeckLink Quad (described in Part 1), which enables it to take four video inputs, although it does not do any ISO recording like the VS4-based 1Beyond models. If you're just doing streams, the Paladin is a great unit to work with.

Figure 4. The Paladin Live Streaming Solutions

Paladin also offers a more inclusive flypack package (reviewed here) including monitors, compact cameras, and a plastic carry case that are worth looking into as well.

Related Articles
In this article I'm going to highlight some of the latest gear you can use to put together a portable streaming solution. With this equipment you can quickly and easily transport your kit from one shoot to another and use it to deliver solid, high-quality streams for small and medium-sized events.
In this article I'm going to highlight some of the latest gear you can use to put together a portable streaming solution. With this equipment you can quickly and easily transport your kit from one shoot to another and use it to deliver solid, high-quality streams for small and medium-sized events.