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Production Solutions for Live Streaming, Part 1: Cameras and Audio

In this 2-part series, we'll focus on some of the tools that are available to you as content creators when you're delivering content for the web, beginning in this first installment with cameras and pro audio gear.


In this 2-part series, sponsored by Sony Electronics Professional Solutions of America, we’ll focus on some of the tools that are available to you as content creators when you’re delivering content for the web. Generally, in the streaming video market, people focus on their streaming connection before they consider their production tools. Often, their primary concern is, "How big is my WiFi pipe?" or "How big is my data connection to the web so I can get my content to the Internet for my viewers to catch?" And many times they’ll emphasize these issues at the expense of the acquisition side of their production.

The old saying, often applied to encoded video still holds true: "Garbage in, garbage out." Although no one would deny the importance of delivery in web video, you want to make sure, from the very beginning of the process, that you're capturing with the highest-quality tools possible.

Those tools include your cameras, your pro audio, your video switching, and any other production tools that you use to build your look before you get it to the web, and to your end users via mobile or computers. In this article I’ll go through some of the elements. I’m a Sony product manager, and this is a sponsored article, so there will be, of course, some Sony products discussed that will help you create your on-air look for your streaming productions. The first step in the process is what we call the lens, or the camera.

Choosing a Camera

Figure 1 (below) shows four Sony cameras that are currently on the market. Starting from the top center, the newest camera shown is the PXW-X200, which has streaming technology built in. The PXW X500, the big shoulder-mount model on the left, is designed more for Electronic News Gathering (ENG) applications. Sony also offers the PXW-X200, the PXW-X180, and the PXW-X70, all of which either come with WiFi streaming built in, or WiFi available as an option via the CBK-WA100, an adapter that attaches to the camera, shown on the bottom right.

Figure 1. Sony wireless network camera models.

Now you can actually have a camera that automatically does the streaming for you--broadcast quality to the web--or you can take the baseband output of these cameras, via HDMI or SDI, and feed that into a switcher or a content producer, which I’ll cover more in depth later in this article. This keeps the quality of your video production high, so by the time you're ready to deliver it to the web, you're delivering the highest-quality product you possibly can before it's encoded and streamed to your end users.

For your cameras that don't have WiFi functionality built in, the CBK-WA100 adapter (Figure 2, below) will take the SDI output of the camera and convert it to a WiFi signal on the fly. If you’re happy with the cameras that you already own, and you don't want to make the investment toward a new camera to get on-board WiFi capability, you can achieve the same thing with the CBK-WA100, provided your existing camera has SDI output.

Figure 2. Connecting with the CBK-WA100.

Sony PXW-X70

Let's take a look at the PXW-X70 (Figure 3, below). People always assume that when you're talking about broadcast quality, that means expensive cameras, and that's not necessarily true. At an MSRP of $2,599, the X70 is priced well within the affordable range for most professionals.

Figure 3. The Sony PXW-X70

The X70 is a handy cam--that is, a camera that can easily be operated in one hand. It has a 1” CMOS chip in the camcorder with a Carl Zeiss lens, and built-in ND filters. It records in XAVC, a new codec that's easily accepted by any of the nonlinear editors on the market. You can record up to 1080/60p. Not only does the X70’s XAVC support enable you to record and capture high-quality video for your streaming delivery to your users; it also means you’re record in a format that you can bring into post to edit for on-demand delivery.

Sony PXW-X180 and X200

The next new camera is the PXW-X180 (Figure 4, below). This model is considered step up from the X70, because it has three 1/3” CMOS chips for the acquisition side. Now you're capturing the red, the green, and the blue with an individual chip for each color within the camera. The X180 lSO records XAVC, and also supports Sony’s Multi Interface (MI) Shoe. With the MI Shoe, you can now directly interface with some of Sony’s wireless audio products without the need to run any extra cabling.

Figure 4. The Sony PXW-X180

By attaching the MI Shoe to the top of the camera at the normal hot shoe location, you can now attach a wireless receiver without having to run a cable to the input of the camera. The receiver connects automatically via a connection on the camera head that records your content on the fly.

The X200, coming in January, has three 1/2” chips. The next step up would be the X500, which has three 2/3” chips, and beyond that we have our 35mm cameras that capture in 4K.

Related Articles
In Part 1 of this series on production solutions for live streaming, we looked at two key pieces of the live production puzzle: cameras and audio. Here we'll look at a product that ties it all together for live producers: the Sony Anycast Touch.