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Review: YoloLiv Yolobox and Yolobox Pro

Anthony Burokas provides a walkthrough of Android tablet-based multicam livestreaming Yololiv's YoloBox and Yolobox Pro, discussing key features, usability, and current shortcomings.

Audio Mixing

Next, let’s look at audio settings (Figure 8, below). At the top is Monitoring, a slider that lets you set your headphone level. The next button makes all the audio mixing automatic. Below that, you have each of your video sources with an independent volume level. There's audio over HDMI, my USB camera, my line input, and my internal video playback. For my video, I can crank that volume up or down. Or I can have everything set to Automatic.

Figure 8. Audio controls

To be clear, Automatic doesn't adjust the level of the audio for the different sources; you do that manually with the slider next to each input. What Automatic does is switch between sources when that source is brought to program. If you have the level too low, or too loud, Yolobox won't adjust that.

The downside to Automatic audio input selection is that, if you wanted to have something play but also be able to talk over it, you can't. During setup for making the video, I found that Auto would not let me show you the video from Yolobox, while my audio was going into the Yolobox Pro. Even with picture-in-picture, it doesn't work. Automatic does not recognize the fact that my camera is actually on screen and the audio should be on. So I end up having to use manual audio set to the camera with my connected microphone.

However, this fix creates its own problem. I'm switching between all these inputs and you hear me all the time. But if I were to switch to a video clip, you wouldn't hear it. I’d have to manually switch the audio to the video clip, and then you wouldn't hear me. The audio mixer is not really well thought out in that respect. The audio for the video clips should just be left active, or it should let me toggle what audio channels are on, and which are off.

Maybe a future firmware update will let producers mix multiple audio sources internally. That would really help. Better still would be a toggle for each channel to to be on, off, or Audio Follows Video (AFV), making that channel audio active when it's on screen, and turning off the audio off for a source that is off screen. Technically, this is how Automatic works right now. But giving us a three-way choice for each input would make this work a lot better.

Right now, the solution for video playback and audio would be to use external video playback and an external audio mixer. Then you could just set the Yolobox to analog audio in and be done with it.

Additional Sources

With the Yolobox Pro, there are technically two different USB video connections, but I can only pick one USB video source. So it's either USB-A or USB-C. I don't get five video sources--three HTML and two USB. Also, with the Yolobox Pro, I can have two video sources loaded up, compared to the basic Yolobox, where I can preload only one internal video.

Both Yoloboxes also support a live stream source, which means I could be pulling a stream into my stream, which is pretty slick. But again, if I wanted to talk over that, I’d need to go into manual audio, and then it would only let me pick one thing at a time, so the internal audio limitations come to haunt me again.

Device Settings

The last gear icon on the right ibn the main menu brings up a number of different Device Settings you can dig into (Figure 9, below). While this is great, I would to like to have even more. For instance, I can't adjust the brightness of the display. Obviously, this is an Android device. I see the Android menu coming down over the Yolobox menu in the top corner, but I can't get to the screen brightness adjustment that would normally be accessible this way.

Figure 9. Device Settings options

One option lets me adjust the video switching mode. I can set it to double-tap to switch, or single-tap to switch. I prefer to use double-tap because if I set to single-tap, and my finger just brushed a screen, I could easily cut away to a different video source. That's a big downside with touchscreens, as opposed to tactile surfaces.

If I could use the USB jack on the Yolobox to plug in a tactile USB control surface, I could just leave my fingers on the buttons to switch sources. 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 3, 2, 1. It's like playing a trumpet. But I can't do that with a touchscreen device because if my fingers are on the screen, I'm switching. So the double tap makes operation a little bit better.

There are three options for internal video playback from the SD card. When I cut away, I can have it pause, or I can have it go back to the first frame and pause, or I can have it continue playing, which is actually a pretty handy feature. Or I can have it pause when I switch away.

The SD Card Management item shows me the space on the card. The Program Out lets me choose between program out or screen out. This is a very handy feature for tutorials, like the one that accompanies this article.

The Video Source Transitions setting lets me pick how I transition between my video sources. I have basic Yolobox on fade. I tap, and it fades nicely. The downside is, it fades everything. So if I wanted to quickly cut between cameras, but fade to a video, I couldn't quickly do that. It's all fades or all cuts, and I have to go into the menu and change it, which is a little cumbersome.

Other transition options include Wipe, Directional Wipe, Translation, Windows Slice, Simple Zoom, Cross Zoom, etc. Now, I wouldn't necessarily want to do a whole show with a page turn for every transition, or the infamous cube.

I will admit, I have used a cube transition in live shows. When I get that moment where I want to have a more grand transition. It was an award show which kind of lends itself to something more visually interesting than just a dissolve or a cut. The Yolobox has these other transitions built into it. However, to have to go to the settings tab, change it, do my effect, and then change it back is cumbersome.

I could leave this settings tab up to switch between transitions, but then I’d also need to have the Overlays tab up to bring on the names, and I’d need to have the audio tab up if I'm manually switching between sources, so you can now see the limitations of a single small screen for more complex work. Thankfully, overlays always fade in and out regardless of what my video source transition is.

The Streaming Mode setting is where I choose between YoloLiv's, multi-streaming / restreaming service, or streaming direct from the Yolobox. When I select multiple streams, I'm not actually pushing four streams from this one box. I'm pushing just one stream from this box and it goes to YoloLiv's server where it gets split out to multiple destinations. There are other restreaming services like Restream, Castr, Vimeo, etc. Lots of services do that.

If I want to perform a direct single-platform stream, I can do that as well from this box, with certain limitations. When I select this option, it will tell me that it does not support Facebook's RTMPS push streaming from this box. In many cases, a single RTMP may be fine. But this means that in order to do an RTMPS, it has to RTMP to YoloLiv, where it'll be re-encoded to RTMPS and sent to your destination.

Lastly, I have Encoding Settings (Figure 10, below). I can pick between Constant Quality, Constant Bitrate, and Variable Bitrate. I can select my bitrate all the way up to 8 megabits per second, which is a pretty nice bit rate. Remember, the bitrate these devices are using is for the one stream that's going to YoloLiv. If I have four destinations, I'm not doing four 8-megabit streams--or 32 Mbps up. That would be pretty big. I send only one, and then they are branching it out. This actually means that I can lean on this stream a little heavier, knowing that I've got restreaming happening in the cloud.

Figure 10. Encoding Settings

I wanted to note a couple of small things. I’ve reduced the frame rate for the previews, but when I bring it up, I'm seeing smooth video. The small preview windows have a reduced frame rate. Also, I can edit a multiview while using a multiview. When I finish, it immediately takes over. Yolobox is pretty capable to let you do that.

The bigger Pro is nice, but it doesn't squeeze any additional content on the screen. It has the same 6 previews, etc. I just like the larger screen, plus the Pro has a better processor, so it'll be able to handle more features down the line, and it has a fan for cooling and actively keeping the processor cool means we can likely ask more of the Pro in with additional features in the future.

Wishlist

Despite the Pro model having an additional HDMI input (3 total), plus an additional USB jack (2 total), plus an additional video playback slot (2 total), and three different multiviews, the streaming source, and a PDF--11 possible sources total--the Pro is still limited to the same 6 tappable sources as the basic Yolobox.

If YoloLiv could adjust the screen to get more sources on it, that would make the additional functionality of the Pro more usable. As it is, this on-screen limitation makes the additional functionality of the Pro less usable, and not much different from the Basic model, right now.

One possible way to do that is if I connect a HDMI monitor for program, then I could collapse that window on the Yolobox interface, freeing up the entire left side for more tappable sources.

I'd love to be able to have the same multiview used multiple times. For example, I could have three different cameras each set in a PiP over a slide presentation.

Additionally, it would be handy to use the same HDMI source multiple times--for example, if I wanted one camera source that is a medium shot and then also have it cropped as a medium closeup. That would give me two "different" shots from the same source.

Camera image adjustment would be very useful. When I'm using different makes and models of cameras, I’d like to be able to tweak the images to try and get them to look more similar--brightness, contrast, whites, darks, midtones, color, hue, etc.

I'd love to have the second USB-C used for ISO records. I often get asked to record the camera feed clean, and that'd be a good way to do that. Or also, a higher-bitrate local recording, as opposed to a low-bitrate stream. This way, I could stream 5Mbps, but record 25Mbps to SSD over USB-C.

The Yolobox has a "streaming" source- if YoloLiv made an app that could take a computer screen on the local network and make it show up on the Yolobox as a source, that would make it easier to incorporate a presenter's screen into the program without taking up a hardware input.

NDI support? Is that asking too much of an Android tablet? Seeing an NDI source (it could be screen capture, as that software already exists) opens the world to what can feed the Yolobox. Or, offer NDI out to put the program back on the LAN as a NDI-HX2 feed.

When we’re setting up layers, there needs to be a way to determine what is on top. Overlays/Titles go over cameras, but if I want to play back a video--do the overlays stay on top, or does the video go on top of the overlays? I can see this needing going both ways: A sponsor video or commercial goes over the overlays; a video that’s part of the program goes under the overlays. So, a way to toggle a video to go over top of everything or not is needed.

As I mentioned earlier, letting users freely position the lower-third titles anywhere on the screen and detach left-justified titles from the left would be a lot more functional.

Together, the Yolobox Basic and Pro have very similar feature sets, very similar capabilities, identical overlays, the same audio mixing, the same scoreboards, same titles, same settings. They have the same capabilities in terms of SD card, SIM card slot, power button, internal batteries, ethernet port, etc. I love the fact they picked the large SD card, not micro SD, which is a pain to get in and out of devices. I love having the large card size on the bottom of these devices.

Sports Scoreboards

By the time you see or read this, this may already be fixed, but I'm going to talk about it anyway. In the video, I did a whole section on Yolobox sports scoreboards, and you couldn't see any of it because I didn't do a special tap on the scoreboard in the Yolobox interface to actually put the scoreboard onto the program output. I spoke to the YoloLiv team and they promised to work on making this process more intuitive.

The scoreboard is not one of the titles. Titles tap on, and tap off. That's great. The scoreboard is different. I go to the Scoreboard tab (Figure 11, below), touch a button to activate the scoreboard, and it pops up on the screen. I can move it anywhere I want. I can change the size, and edit the titles, period, and team info, and turn time on or off.

Figure 11. Scoreboard display controls

Based on the way everything else works, you’d think my viewers would be able to see the Scoreboard on my Program output and on my stream. But they can’t. Do you see the small dotted line around the scoreboard in Figure 11? You have to touch the dotted line. Then, when the dotted line is gone, the scoreboard is really on the output. That's not intuitive at all. There's nothing else in this interface that works that way. I spoke with YoloLiv and they understand the issue here.

When you click the little arrow next to Team Info (at the very bottom of Figure 11), it takes you to another menu, where you can name the game, change the font, change the text color, or change the background color. You can do this with each team name. You can even add a logo from the SD card for each team and Yolobox will size it to fit.

Again, all of this only gets sent to the output when I tap the dotted line border and the border goes away. As of this writing, I don’t know when Youliv going to update it, but they say they're working on that already.

Conclusion

Overall, I am very impressed with the Yolobox. It’s a good thing already, and it has even greater potential. Plus, I can see the team behind it is committed to making it better.

For instance, an end-user found a way to install a bonding app called Speedify on here. YoloLiv hides the Android interface. But this user found a way to get to the Android interface, install an app drawer, load Speedify onto it, and run it. With Speedify installed, I can connect to ethernet, cellular, WiFi, and bond my stream across all three of those connections.

Now, that might not be the best bonding solution, and it is unknown how well it will work on a small Android tablet while also trying to switch multicam video on that same tablet. It's not an official supported solution.

But the fact that the YoloLiv team posted a user's method for getting bonding on the Yolobox says to me that they are interested in maximizing the usability of this compact little tool. They came out with the first Yolobox, and that was pretty good. Now here's the Yolobox Pro with active cooling. It has three HDMI inputs (potentially four with USB), plus that USB-C that could potentially do more down the road.

They've already talking with me about the scoreboards and other issues I've noted. I see an active dialogue between their team and end users. I feel comfortable with these tools as they are, and I look forward to continued feature improvements, fixes, and optimizations.

Related Articles
The YoloBox Mini is a compact, single-source streaming encoder and recorder with the ability to do some audio mixing, overlay a sports scoreboard, social media content, logos, and lower-thirds. It's not a multi-camera live-switching tool like the original YoloBox or the YoloBox Pro. I consider it more of a YoloStream than a YoloBox, but this 5" screen device is so compact and light, it certainly is "Mini."