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Best Practices for Affordable Multicam 4K Live Streaming

In this article, I'll explain how you can do a multi-camera 4K live streaming production with all the equipment--including the video cameras--for under $20,000.

OVPs and CDNs

Next we’ll look at streaming providers and content delivery networks (CDNs). We're going to a look at the requirements and then what I personally would recommend right now for live 4K streaming.

The most basic requirement, of course, is that your provider must support 4K live delivery. Many of the name brands out there still haven't adopted 4K support for live streaming. One key example is Facebook. If you're planning to stream 4K today and you want to stream to Facebook Live, you'll have to choose a different streaming provider to reach your audience. They still max out at 720p. They're only just beginning to adopt 1080p. We do expect them to support 4K in the future, but we have no ETA for that at this stage.

Of course, live transcoding is another key requirement for 4K livestreaming, because unless you can make sure everybody in your audience can watch the 4K live stream, for the optimal viewing experience, you're going to a want a CDN that can transcode that live to HD and even to Standard Definition for watching mobile devices. That way, you cover the full gamut of viewers, from the ones out there with 4K televisions, all the way down to those that might be watching your live stream on a tablet or even on an iPhone. Live transcoding is a key requirement to fit that.

Our recommended 4K provider, the one we've had the most experience with, right now, with 4K live streaming, is YouTube Live. Not only is it a free service, it has built-in live transcoding, which is actually quite amazing. If you stream to YouTube Live in 4K at 50-60 fps in real time, it will automatically transcode to HD, to three different HD formats, another three different SD formats, and then a mobile format, all in real time, and all for free. That is our recommended provider, if you're looking to find a delivery platform for 4K live streaming.

Of course, there are a lot of different options out there in the enterprise space, but the cheapest option that supports it today is YouTube Live. And none of this is theoretical: what I've told you today about the requirements when doing 4K livestreaming and the equipment, we've done ourselves.

A few weeks before Streaming Media West 2017, we streamed our monthly show to YouTube in full 4K. Figure 5 (below) shows a diagram of all the equipment that we used, with the Panasonic DVX200 and Panasonic GH5 as cameras. (Though it's more of a DSLR, the GH5 supports HDMI output in 4K as well.) We're capturing all of these into our capture and production PC, which was available for under $4,000. We used, for this example, a Magewell 4K capture card and a Yuan 4K capture card. And then we streamed everything at 13 Mbps to YouTube Live.

Admittedly, we chose 13 against my own recommendations because that was the internet access that we had available, but it's a talking-head talk show, without a lot of movement or fast-paced action, so we were able to get away with that low bitrate. But that's probably the absolute minimum you'll want to stream 4K at. And if you're interested in more information about how we put together our own 4K live streaming production on YouTube, you can watch it on our YouTube channel.

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