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Live-Switching and Streaming From Mobile Devices

The production studio in your pocket—also known as your smartphone or tablet—has a pretty good camera, cellular data or Wi-Fi connectivity, and maybe even external microphone input and HDMI output connectors. This article will describe two different categories of live streaming from mobile devices: self-contained streaming and multidevice synchronized streaming.

Two More Thoughts on Choosing an App

I have two final thoughts when it comes to choosing an app to perform live-switching between multiple smartphone and mobile devices.

First, confirm that the application can stream at one resolution and record at another. This is a question I’ve learned to ask even for streaming appliances, because so many of them merely record at the stream’s bitrate rather than a higher-quality bitrate. It’s better to know this up front rather than finding out later, during your postproduction editing process. The lack of a high-quality version could impact your reputation in a number of ways.

Second—and this is an emerging feature that may not be found on many mobile video-mixing devices—check to see if there’s a way to synchronize settings across multiple devices. Whether it’s the smartphones used as camera inputs, the settings for the tablet itself, or even the OVP channels to which you’ll livestream or upload on-demand versions of the video mix, the ability to synchronize settings will provide easier setup before a shoot and a more consistent look and feel across various live-stream productions.

I’ll wrap up this section by mentioning the Teradek product Live:Air (Figure 3, below). It’s pronounced Live to Air, as in, “We are going live in two seconds,” rather than, “I live on Main Street.” Live:Air is designed to work with smartphone inputs as well as wireless inputs attached to a more traditional broadcast or field camera.

Figure 3. Teradek Live:Air

Like the Switcher Studio product, Live:Air offers the ability to add graphics, text overlays, and other visual effects. It also allows a mix of prerecorded video clips and multiple live video feeds, with a one-button selection to send the live stream to Ustream, LiveStream, or even to a custom RTMP server.

The benefit of the Teradek product is that it’s designed to work with Teradek’s line of camera-mounted wireless video encoders and transmitters. While the resulting camera is a bit bulkier than the smartphone you have in your pocket or purse, the upside is that Live:Air combines the new with the tried-and-true approach of high-quality handheld cameras.

For an additional $99 licensing fee, Live:Air also allows RTSP sources, such as the IP video surveillance cameras mentioned previously, to act as an input to the video mix.

Streaming Mobile

Whether you want to record a boulder-hopping trek through a national park, a stop at the local bar to get one of Milwaukee’s famous slider-topped Bloody Mary drinks, or a man-on-the-street interview, mobile live streaming can cover every angle.

There are plenty of options to livestream a single smartphone or tablet camera, either over Wi-Fi or a cellular data network, but the real fun is in setting up a multicamera shoot where the entire two-, three-, or four-camera package—along with the video mixer and 1080p recorder—fit easily inside a standard-sized man purse.

Before choosing the live-stream app of your choice, check out the streaming protocols it uses, as well as the one-touch services provided by app makers to ease your transition from thinking about shooting to actually going live over the air (or over the top, since we’re talking internet live streaming).

Finally, if you’re going to mix multiple cameras, graphic overlays, and even prerecorded clips as source material, consider the tips mentioned previously when choosing a video-mixing app. After all, the ability to record at one data rate and stream at another will help make your victory celebration that much clearer when you show off your exploits on a 65" HD flat screen.

Happy shooting!