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How to Create Virtual Multi-Camera Production Setups With a Single 4K Camera

With only a single 4K camera and encoder with 4K capture capabilities, you can easily tap into the power of a traditional multi-camera setup for a fraction of the cost.

The new age of 4K is here. Although most practical streaming setups are still happening at 1080p or 720p due to bandwidth limitations, 4K video has much more to offer than a simple upgrade in pixel density. When frame size requirements for streaming and recording are Full HD or HD, 4K technology actually has the ability to reduce the cost and complexity of creating multi-camera setups for live video production.

Virtual Multi-Camera Overview

Traditional multi-camera setups (Figure 1, below) employ several different video cameras to simultaneously record or broadcast video content to viewers. While advantageous for capturing different shots within a filming location, this style of camera set-up can consume significant resources—specifically with respect to set-up time and the number of operators/technicians required to operate the cameras and control the live stream.

Figure 1. A traditional multicam setup

Luckily, the affordability of 4K technology allows producers to mimic traditional multi-camera production setups without needing to incur additional costs for more cameras and personnel. By pairing a single 4K camera with a live production encoder capable of cropping, live switching and capturing 4K signals, you can create a powerful solution that mirrors the benefits of a traditional multi-camera setup.

These types of production setups, called virtual multi-camera (or virtual PTZ), work by using a 4K camera to take a single shot of an area and then using the cropping features of the 4K encoder. These features allow you to create multiple custom 4K-quality shots using only a single 4K camera (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Virtual multi-cam setups have the power to replicate a traditional multi-cam setup with only a single camera.

Virtual Multi-Camera Setup in Action

If you watched the September 26 presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, you may have noticed certain shots showing both candidates at their respective podiums within the same frame. The 16x9 shot depicted in Figure 3 (below) composites two 8x9 crops and was undoubtedly captured using a traditional multi-camera setup. However, this kind of shot could have been created using a 4K single camera instead of two or more. This is an excellent example of a possible virtual PTZ setup in action.


Figure 3. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton together in the same frame.

However, a virtual PTZ setup isn’t limited to only a simple side-by-side crop. Using your live production encoder, you can use the input from your single 4K camera to create multiple customized camera shots at Full HD/1080p (Figure 4, below). For example, with a single 4K source, you could configure these shots, among others:

• A full-stage shot (downscaled to 1080p)
• A single shot of each candidate (cropped)
• A single shot containing images of both candidates (cropped)
• A picture-in-picture shot with a background and overlay image(s)

Figure 4. Capturing, cropping, and downscaling from a single 4K shot to create custom layouts for your program.

During your live production, you can switch between each of your virtual camera shots to highlight key moments and ensure every visual detail is captured. The end result (Figure 5, below)is a dynamic and engaging broadcast for your audience with significantly reduced cost saving over a traditional multi-camera setup.

Figure 5. Use a single 4K shot to create custom layouts for a dynamic broadcast. 

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