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Tutorial: Capturing and Streaming Live Presentations with the Epiphan Pearl

Epiphan Pearl ($4,875 list) is a small, dual-input, touchscreen-driven video recording and streaming device for lecture or presentation capture. This tutorial details how to stream and capture a presentation with Pearl.

Epiphan Pearl ($4,875 list) is a small, dual-input, touchscreen-driven video recording and streaming device for lecture or presentation capture. In this tutorial, I'll detail how to stream and capture a presentation with Pearl.

Step 1: Plug in Power and Ethernet

As you can see in Figure 1 (below), Pearl is a relatively small unit (11.5"x7.5"x3.25") with a touchscreen confidence monitor for browsing through channels and starting and stopping recording and encoding. The unit has a web interface where you do most of the configuration. Accessing the unit is simple; just plug it into your LAN and press the information button on the touchscreen to view the IP address. Type that into the address bar of your browser, and you’re in.

Figure 1. Pearl is about the size of a toner cartridge box, has a touchscreen monitor, and runs very quiet. Click the image to see it at full size.

Note that you can configure Pearl in your office via the web interface, and then operate solely via touchscreen in the field. This makes it really simple for non-technical users to use the system in the field. If they can plug in power, Ethernet, and AV inputs, and press a few buttons on a touchscreen, they can capture and stream a live event.

Though Pearl has a cooling fan, it’s one of the quietest streaming encoders that I’ve worked with, so you’ll easily be able to stream or a record a in a boardroom, deposition, or other venue where a noisy unit would not be tolerated.

Step 2: Create a Channel or Channels

Pearl uses the concept of channels to work with single or multiple audio and video inputs. As an example, in this tutorial, I’m going to stream a talking head and PowerPoint presentation to YouTube Live, mixed together into a 1280x720 (720p) presentation. As you’ll see later in the article, to create this mix, I create an configure a channel for these inputs and configuration.

What if I wanted to capture just the video and audio—say, for later editing or archiving? What if I needed a 1080p version of the mixed presentation for later editing or uploading for VOD viewing? Or both? With Pearl, I would create additional channels, configure just these inputs, select new encoding parameters, and record the content to disk.

Alternatively, you could configure another channel to send the stream to Livestream, or to the Wowza Media Server for further distribution. From a software perspective, there is no limit to the number of channels that you can configure and simultaneously deploy, though you may be CPU- or outbound bandwidth-limited if you get too ambitious.

Step 3: Choose your Channel Inputs

Pearl can input two video feeds, which can be VGA, SDI, or HDMI, with component input available via a component to VGA adapter, which is not supplied. The unit can support VESA inputs up to 2650x1600, and SDI/HDMI/component input up to 1920x1080. Audio inputs include 2 sets of 1/4" TRS audio connectors, plus the audio coming in with the SDI or HDMI video signals. While there are a bunch of cables in the box, they’re all three-feet long, so count on needing to supply your own VGA, HDMI, SDI, and network cables.

Figure 2 (below) shows the multiple input channel that I’m streaming to YouTube Live. The talking head (sans talking head) is on the left; the PowerPoint on the right. You can see that I choose the video inputs at the top of the design window via drop-down menus, and that you can choose one or more audio inputs via the checkboxes beneath the design window.

Figure 2. Choosing and configuring audio and video inputs

Just to state the obvious, your VGA inputs are not limited to PowerPoint or still-image graphics. So if you wanted to play a video on your computer, and stream that, you could, though you’d have to run the audio through the standalone audio inputs, since it obviously wouldn’t come in through the VGA input.