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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.

Step 7: Configure Your Streaming Service

Pearl offers a host of streaming options, both directly from the unit and via external streaming servers. For small numbers of viewers, you can simply send them Pearl’s URL and the channel number, and they can log in directly to the system—bandwidth permitting, of course. For this type of direct viewing, you can use HTTP, HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), UPnP (universal plug and play), and RTSP modes. You can see the options in Figure 4 (below) and a stream viewed on my own internal LAN in Figure 5 (below Figure 4).

Figure 4. Setting streaming related options. Click the image to see it at full size.

Figure 5. Viewing the Pearl output stream on my internal network

Pearl also enables a host of external options, including streaming through the Epiphan TV portal, streaming using RTSP announce, RTMP push, and MPEG-TS UDP push and RTP/UDP push. I used RTMP push to connect to YouTube Live for my tests.

Connecting to YouTube Live was a bit harder than it needed to be; basically, the settings fields provided by Pearl don’t map with the settings provided by YouTube Live, or most other RTMP-based streaming services. I hunted through the manual for instructions, but found none, then contacted technical support, who pointed me to a YouTube Live tutorial on the company’s website. Ten minutes later I was connected, though obviously I prefer the approach taken by more mature tools, such as Telestream Wirecast, that let you log in directly to YouTube Live (and other services), and then handle all configurations behind the scenes. Pearl is a first-generation product, and I’m sure it will get there.

Note that once you set your network parameters, Pearl is live and starts streaming to the remote server. This is great with YouTube Live, which lets you see a preview stream before the event starting time, and then cut over to live when you’re ready. On the other hand, if you’re working with a streaming provider that goes live when it starts receiving the stream, you’ll have to disable streaming in Pearl until you’re ready to go live.

Step 8: Configure Your Recording Settings

When producing with Pearl, you can record each channel being streamed, or other channels individually, or multiple channels simultaneously. You control recording options, appropriately enough, by configuring a Recorder as shown in Figure 6 (below). Here you control which channels get recorded, set any recording size or time limits, choose the container format, and configure whether to automatically upload the file via FTP, or share via UPnP. Via other controls, you can also choose to automatically copy any recorded presentation over to a hard disk attached to one of Pearl’s USB ports. Or, after the recording, you can log into Pearl and download the files from there.

Figure 6. Configuring my archival recording

Step 9: Start Presenting

Once you’ve got all this configured, you press the record button on the Pearl’s touchscreen to start recording. Since you’re already sending a stream to your streaming server, you’re ready to begin your broadcast.

To test the unit, I produced several YouTube Live broadcasts, one of which you can view below. The unit performed as advertised, and was whisper-quiet; any noise you hear in the audio is coming from the notebook driving the PowerPoint slides, not the Pearl.

Overall, I found Pearl highly functional, and generally easy to use, and I really like the touchscreen control and confidence monitoring. This feature set, plus the convenient size and weight, makes it a great product for portable productions, particularly since you can configure the unit in the office so non-technical users can easily drive the unit on location. The only significant limitation is the inability to directly create adaptive streams, which you can work around by choosing a streaming server or service provider that can perform live transcoding.