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Upcoming Industry Conferences
Streaming Media West [19-20 Nov 2019]
Esport & Sports Streaming Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
OTT Leadership Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
Video Engineering Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
Live Streaming Summit [19 Nov 2019]
Streaming Media East [5-6 May 2020]
Past Conferences
Streaming Media East [7-8 May 2019]
Live Streaming Summit [7-8 May 2019]
OTT Leadership Summit [7-8 May 2019]
Video Engineering Summit [7-8 May 2019]
Content Delivery Summit [6 May 2019]
Streaming Forum [26 February 2019]

Review: Sling Media SlingStudio

At the 2017 NAB show in Las Vegas, DISH Network-owned Sling Media introduced the SlingStudio, a professional multi-camera streaming/switching appliance. At $999, it competes with a number of existing pro-grade products from the likes of Teradek, LiveU, and Matrox.

App

The SlingStudio Console app (Figure 3, below), available only for iPad, is the lynchpin of the system. I’ve found in other streaming solutions that the app is often the weak link causing an otherwise good product to fail miserably in real-world uses. Console is impressively capable, stable and responsive for a first-generation build. In favor of simplicity, design and good function, Sling has removed a bevy of options that are often found in similar applications.

Figure 3. The SlingStudio app

The left-hand column of the interface contains several icons for accessing settings and diagnostics. At the top is a standard “hamburger” menu for changing your project settings and closing/opening projects. There’s a button that will bring up a full-screen view showing diagnostics of your entire setup. It lists each source connected to the SlingStudio and shows its wireless signal health along with the bandwidth being sent from cameras, upload speed, and battery levels of compatible devices. In the center of the column are two independent buttons to start/stop the stream and the local recording.

Project setup includes the ability to set bitrates, project titles, recording locations, and streaming destinations. The only two streaming services currently supported are Facebook and YouTube. More destinations, including custom RTMP, are coming soon. A large, fast storage device is recommended for any project saved locally. With H.264 formats in up to 1080p60 and the ability to record program only and/or all video sources independently, data will quickly eat up available space.

The Test

For my test concert, I chose to broadcast live to the Streaming Media Facebook page. Once I was set up as an admin, I had the ability to create events and stream directly from the Console app to the SM videos page. You can view the archived stream here. You’ll note that the beginning of the concert was plagued with an audio issue. The line-in feed to the SlingStudio from the performers’ mixer was receiving only the instrument feed (no vocals). After some of our live viewers commented via Facebook, I switched to the onboard mic on one of the Canon Vixias. While not ideal, at least it allowed the online audience to hear the concert more completely since it was too late to try to diagnose the line-in issue. Again, here is where the SlingStudio Console app saved the day (Figure 4, below).

Figure 4. Managing a live shoot with the SlingStudio app

The audio mixer panel shows meters for each audio source detected. In my case, I had the line-in, two camera feeds, and an iPhone feed. All of the sources except for the line-in were set to auto gain since I didn’t intend to use these sources for audio. To keep the feed receiving the line-in audio for the entire broadcast, I simply muted all other audio sources. If I had wanted to include their audio, I could have left them unmuted in one of two ways. “On” allows the audio from a given source to be constantly sent to the broadcast, regardless of which camera is active at a given time. “AFV” (“audio follows video”) forces the program source to broadcast the audio from that same source. In other words, when I switched the video to my iPhone source, I would be broadcasting the audio from the iPhone’s mic. When I switched to one of the Canon cameras, I would be broadcasting audio from that camera’s mic.

My setup for production was about as barebones as it gets. I had the two Canon cameras locked down on tripods (Figure 5, below). One was zoomed in for a close-up, while the other was my wide shot. My wife monitored the laptop to keep tabs on our 4G hotspot and WAP plus monitor the Facebook feed for problems and viewer comments. My 10-year-old son was thrilled to be handed an iPhone 6S Plus with Manfrotto Pixi tripod and told to run around and get unique angles and audience shots for me to choose from.

Figure 5. Operating one the Canon cameras with the SlingStudio CameraLink for our concert-in-the-park Facebook Live stream

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