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The Streaming Road Warrior: How to Overcome the Challenges of Portable Live Production

This article will provide a brief overview of some of the technological advancements that have been made in portable live production, and then offer some tips and tricks that you might find useful if you're doing live productions out in the field.

Case Study: Switching and Streaming From NAB

To illustrate the power of these integrated live production systems, I’d like to offer a case study of how these solutions have been used in the real world. Each year, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show reaches upwards of 80,000 attendees. Because the NAB Show specializes in broadcast and production, the events of the week offer lots of opportunities for live streaming productions. During each NAB since 2012, Teradek has produced a live show, broadcast through Ustream, that reaches up to 500,000 viewers.

Teradek’s show consists of interviews, reviews, and educational content covering the entire spectrum of the broadcasting industries. Guests may include representatives of Canon or Sony, talking about their latest cameras. They may feature other companies talking about drones and how you can use them in video production.

To cover the diverse array of topics that their show encompasses, for NAB 2015, Teradek’s production provided up to nine hours a day of nonstop live streaming throughout NAB’s full four-day run. The system they required needed to be portable because they didn't necessarily have a lot of booth space available, and it also needed to be reliable to support continuous coverage throughout the day with very few breaks.

Teradek asked vMix to provide them with a system that could not only switch cameras, but handle anything the show might throw at it, including video playback, graphics, and titles. In response, we sent them the vMix Go.

Figure 3 (below) shows the Teradek set, including the stage there, and the white couch where the guests would come on-set and give reviews of the latest products available at the show, or provide other educational content. Teradek ran panels throughout the show where guests would discuss anything from color correction to what cameras to use in film.

Figure 3. The Teradek set at NAB 2015. Click the image to see it at full size.

The diagram in Figure 4 (below) provides a quick workflow overview of how the vMix Go was used in this particular live production. You can see at the top left was the vMix Go, which was used for all of the switching for all of the videos. When the interviews were completed, they would show an ad reel of the various products from the Vitec Group, which Teradek is a part of. They would show graphics and titles of the various guests coming onboard.

Figure 4. A diagram of the vMixGO-centered switching and streaming workflow Teradek used for their live show at NAB 2015. Click the image to see it at full size.

You can see at the top center and right of Figure 4 that they used robotic cameras up the top, plus a roaming Sony camera to get close-ups in case the guest had a product that they wanted to show. They also had a laptop as aninput source for guests who wanted to show a webpage to their viewers. Then there was a separate audio mixer that was used to bring all the microphones on stage together before sending a final mix into the live production system.

You can also see in the middle of Figure 4 that the workflow included a Teradek Cube which was used for streaming. Even though the vMix Go can be configured to do live streaming, to showcase the capabilities of the Teradek Cube, Teradek opted to use one of the SDI outputs on the vMix Go to power the Teradek Cube for streaming. The vMix Go was configured as a streaming backup to Ustream.

Sometimes we wouldn't know the names of the guests on the show in advance of their appearance. With only a couple of minutes to spare, we usually needed to quickly enter in the name of the guests to throw up on the lower-thirds. We used a separate laptop for that (see the Networked Title Editor in the lower-left corner of Figure 4). The vMix Go provides a web interface you can load up on any laptop within the local network. For the Teradek show, operators used that interface to set up the titles for the guests that were about to appear on stage.

Figure 5 (below) shows a behind-the-scenes photo of the vMix GO in action. You can see all the SDI connectors over on the left side of the unit that were used for the video cameras. The audio inputs are just behind that. You can see the interface on the screen, with the preview window, the program window, and all the various sources, both video clips and graphics. In the lower-right corner, you can see some of the audio level bars from the built-in audio mixer.

Figure 5. The vMix GO in action at NAB 2015. Click the image to see it at full size.

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This tutorial will explore the capabilities of vMix GO, an affordable, highly functional, and easy-to-use live production system.