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How to Assemble a 4K Switching and Webcasting Solution for Less Than $5K

This article will discuss how to assemble the essential components of a 4K live-switched webcasting workflow packed with as many features as you can for under $5,000.

Software Video Switcher and Webcast Encoder Option

For my build, I am going to skip the hardware video switcher and build an all-in-one video switcher and webcast encoder. By using software such as the $700 vMix 4K (Figure 3, below) for video switching, graphics, recording, and webcasting, I have a much more efficient workflow and I am not hopping back and forth between the video switching controls and the webcast encoder controls.

Figure 3. Switching software: vMix 4K ($700)=

You can build a webcast encoder into any computer case that can house your graphics card, but I am going with a Silverstone GD09B HTPC case that I can rackmount into my mobile video switching studio. This is a very small and aggressive choice, so I’ll be keeping an eye on temperatures and airflow to prevent overcooling. If you don’t want a rackmount case but prefer a portable CPU case, I recommend looking at the Corsair Vengeance C70 mid-tower case. I have one for my old webcast encoder, specifically because it has a pair of sturdy metal top-handles that make transporting it to locations much easier.

I selected a combination of a Gigabyte GA-Z270X Gaming 7 ATX LGA1151 motherboard and a Core i7-7700K quad-core processor. The previous generation of this motherboard was popular with vMix users and the current version has a lot of really nice features, such as support for Thunderbolt 3 and USB-3.1 Gen 2, SATA Express and M.2 connectors for next-gen hard drives, and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports. This is useful when you want to connect with a presenter's computer or optionally with a Blackmagic ATEM video switcher. Having these features on-board is really important for my small case, as I don’t have as much room for add-on cards as I would if I built this in a full tower case.

I could have saved a bit of money by going with the previous generation of both the motherboard and the CPU, but the new Z270 motherboard supports more PCIe lanes, which is important for future upgrades if I want to add more 4K video capture cards, specifically ones that support multiple video inputs on a single card, and overall the computer is a bit faster.

My small case size means I need a lower-profile CPU cooler. I selected the Noctua NH-U9S. Although I could load it up with 64GB of RAM, webcasting and video switching are not RAM-intensive tasks, so 32GB in a 2x16GB DDR4-3200 configuration fits the bill and deliver a nice price-to-performance ratio. I cannot upgrade later to 64GB with the RAM I selected because, according to the qualified vendor list (QVL), this RAM does not support 4 lanes. Upgrading to a model that does support 4 lanes would have more than doubled the price of the RAM, and this is a trade-off I am willing to accept.

My power supply selection is the EVGA SuperNOVA NEX 650W 80+ Gold fully modular power supply. As with everything in this build, I double-checked the dimensions to make sure it would fit in my case. A modular power supply means the unused cables can be disconnected, which is import for cable management and cooling.

My graphics card selection is the ASUS GeForce GTX 1070 8GB. I could probably have saved a bit of money by going with the 1060 model, but because vMix offloads a lot of the processing of the video to the graphics card GPU, I didn’t want this to be a bottleneck in the future if I added more inputs.

My hard drive selections are a Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SSD for my Windows 10 operating system and three SanDisk Ultra II 1TB SSDs for media drives. I could have gone with faster media drives, but I already own these. One of the more interesting case upgrades I am making right away is to add an ICY Dock Express Cage to the front of my computer where the optical drive would normally go. The ICY Dock will allow me to add two removable SSDs, which is great for when I want to transfer footage quickly to ingest in my main editing workstation.

Here is my parts list for the vMix build.

Before a $25 mail-in rebate (which may no longer be available when you’re making your purchases), this 4K switching-and-streaming kit, built around the vMix software switcher, brings us in at roughly $4,200, comfortably below our $5k threshold.

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