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How to Become an iOS-Based Broadcaster

Looking to be able to do professional-level work for my clients on location without having to disassemble my TriCaster studio (or purchasing a second TriCaster to take on the road), I found apps for iPad and iPhones that let me connect everything together wirelessly and stream it to the web via my cell phone's LTE connection.

Buying a Phone as a Dedicated Camera

If you decide to buy a new or used device, the first thing to consider is compatibility. As iOS continues to get updates, you need a currently supported device. For iOS 11, that’s an iPhone 5s or higher. I started building this kit during the iOS 10 era, so the iPhone 5 was still included, but now that’s orphaned. The OS is the first thing you need to consider as the apps will continue to develop, and orphaned hardware may be left behind too soon.

Your next consideration is the quality/cost slider. Do you run out and get six of the newest iPhone x models with super-big capacity for $1,150 each? You’ll surely use them the longest, and you’ll know you’re getting the best camera Apple has to offer. But this is web video. It will be dumbed down to a 2Mbps stream, and Facebook will stream it at 720p even if you shoot 1080p. Honestly, the latest cameras are overkill from an image-quality standpoint.

I find the iPhone 6 or 7 to be a nice middle ground if you are starting new. I started with the iPhone 5 and then 5s, so I chose to pick up some new iPhone SE models, brand new, for $99. Consider that you could get 10 SE units for the price of one x, and imagine the variety of shots you could get with that many cameras. That makes for a much more interesting program than having only one shot that may look a smidge better on the live stream.

There is, of course, no single right answer for which phone to buy. But I do recommend choosing a phone that has a headphone port, because if you need a wired LAN connection, that uses up the Lightning port. Two ports are certainly better than one in terms of flexibility and total number of connections you can jack into one device.

The Apps

Both Teradek and Switcher Studio offer “free” versions of their apps that enable you to go online from your phone. You can have a video clip with some music for the beginning and the end of your show. You can incorporate full-screen slides. You can do titles and corner logo “bugs” that overlay the image. And, even with one device, you can technically include two camera angles because you can flip the camera from rear- to front-facing while broadcasting.

Teradek’s Live Air:Solo even lets you add a second device to the mix. So, doing a two-person interview is very easy, as you can point your iPad at one person, and point your phone at a second person. Then you can easily switch/mix/wipe between them. Teradek’s Solo also has a built-in title generator, which is handy, but limited to only a few designs. Still, it’s better than nothing. Plus, it even lets you slide in the graphic while using a different transition to switch between cameras.

So, for the most basic apps, Teradek’s Live:Air Solo is the clear winner for me, unless you need one other unique feature that a different Teradek product has—remote audio. Teradek can take audio from the second camera (or any camera in the big app), so if it’s the on-the-field camera, it’s very convenient to have the audio and video come into the phone together on the video mixing app. If you’re going to be using multiple wireless mics independent of the video feeds, then this is not an issue.

Stepping up, Teradek offers Live:Air, but that’s being replaced with Live:Air Action, which is a ground-up redo of the app, and that changes the pricing for the options (Figure 4, below). Teradek lets you add the capabilities you need without paying for things you don’t. If you don’t need six cameras, you don’t pay for them. If you do need six cameras, you buy the options. Once you pay for it, it’s yours, and there are no additional costs.

Figure 4. Teradek Live:Air Action

Switcher Studio (the app and the company) is a subscription service. The app is free, but you need to have it activated and working for streaming, in which case you need to pay a monthly fee. You can pay by month, as needed, or subscribe for a year for a slightly lower per-month cost. The app needs to verify your active account via an internet connection. After that, it does not need an active internet connection to work.

Wait, no internet? I thought these were streaming apps!

They can also be used for just producing a multicamera switched show recorded for on-demand viewing via the video service of your choice, or for more editing later. They aren’t streaming-only apps, and that’s a great feature. Because if you record the show, you can stream it to one service, and then upload it to others later. Moreover, local recording can save you if there’s a streaming glitch. Your local recording continues, intact.

Switcher Studio’s subscription gives you everything: support for up to nine cameras, built-in motion titles, recording, picture-in-picture capabilities, streaming, recording. It even features a “director’s mode” that records a much higher bitrate, FullHD version on each phone, then collects all those individual recordings and can compile them on the iPad. Alternatively, it can all be copied to a desktop for editing.

For a continuous need, Switcher Studio may cost more over a couple years than paying Teradek for all the features once. But I think Switcher Studio has more internal capabilities and a bit more polish, and it even syncs up all of the cameras automatically. I find it easier to use. Does that make it the stand-out winner? No.

Teradek has an ace up its sleeve. The request I see most often in the Switcher Studio forums is to be able to connect a real camera with a real zoom. You can’t do that with Switcher Studio, but you can do it in the Teradek app by using one of the wireless camera adapters that Teradek makes. This even works in the free Solo version.

Here, also, is where that third solution, Sling Media’s SlingStudio, comes back into play. Right now, the base unit starts at $1,000, and that doesn’t even include the iPad or phones you use with it. But it does have an integrated wireless hub/access point, which you will need to add for the other apps. Sling also gives you the ability to plug a real camera directly into the unit, plus a physical HDMI output. Those features alone can run you up to $1,000 otherwise.

What’s more, SlingStudio features an SD slot so you can record your program right to flash media or USB drives. Plus, like Teradek’s product, it has optional hardware accessories to add even more “real” camcorders to the mix. It’s also the only solution of the three that lets you use an Android device as a camera if you choose. The HDMI Out for the program feed can also be used for a “quad view” of the sources. You still need to add an iPad to see the sources and to operate the Console app to do your video mixing. SlingStudio also enables recording of each source camera for full editing control in post.

Now that you have your video app selected, what’s next?

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