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Streamline Your Portable Streaming System, Part 2: Cameras

In this article I'm going to highlight some of the latest gear you can use to put together a portable streaming solution. With this equipment you can quickly and easily transport your kit from one shoot to another and use it to deliver solid, high-quality streams for small and medium-sized events.

In this segment of this 3-part series on building a streaming production kit you can take on the road, we’ll look at a key component of any streaming production: cameras. As you might expect, there’s a tremendous number of cameras on the market, many of them released in the last year or even the last few months.

When assembling a streaming kit that’s easy to transport from event to event, naturally you want to look for light and portable options, and the temptation is there to consider consumer models. You can use consumer cameras specifically for streaming, but I don't recommend them for professional events (that is, anything you produce for a client or professional organization).

That said, the quality of all cameras--consumer models included--has improved immensely over the years. There's no doubt that even today’s consumer cameras produce a fantastic signal. But for several reasons we’ll discuss in this article, professional cameras will allow you to deliver a much higher-quality streaming product for the events you capture.

HD-SDI

My first recommendation, when choosing cameras for streaming applications, is to use equipment that has an HD-SDI output. Also, in Part 3, when I discuss switchers, I’ll recommend using switchers that have HD-SDI input as well. You can certainly stream with HDMI equipment, and I’ll discuss options for that as well. But particularly when long cable runs are involved, HD-SDI will provide much more reliable and robust performance, which is why it’s the professional’s choice.

GoPro Hero 4

In addition to more standard-configuration consumer cameras, many producers may be considering the pros and cons of using the GoPro Hero4 (Figure 1, below).

Figure 1. GoPro Hero4

My company, Mobeon, has used the Hero4 in various situations. The GoPro cameras have enabled us to get different types of camera angles when needed, and we’ve streamed from them as well. We did an interactive fashion show where we had eight GoPros streaming simultaneously from a single room. For this event, a fashion company locked a celebrity in a room, and they wanted to have an online audience see what he was doing and interact with him. They were able to contact him via social media and ask him questions and command them to do things while they were watching.

The GoPro Heros were very solid for that application, and the footage was great. But note that if you want to use Hero4s for a live switch, you’ll need to convert the HDMI signal out of the GoPro unit to SDI to send it to a switcher. The Hero4 does have HDMI outputs on it, but just make sure that you have the right cabling and the converter boxes if you want to use it for a professional application.

Remote-Controlled and Operatorless Cameras

Another challenge with doing events is that you don't always have the resources and/or crew to capture all the angles you need with an operator on every camera. Budget is always an issue, and time can be a factor as well if a job comes in late and you don’t have time to get a crew organized to cover it. In this section I’ll discuss some solutions that can help you in producing live events when you don’t have the crew you need.

1 Beyond StreamCam AutoTracker

One option is the just-released 1 Beyond StreamCam AutoTracker (Figure 2, below). What's great about this camera, which lists for $4995, is that it allows you have two simultaneous camera outputs on a single camera--one that is a wide shot and a another one that serves as a closeup that offers facial recognition and tracking. With the StreamCam AutoTracker, you can actually record a corporate presentation with a single camera without a camera operator. You just need to switch between the wide and tight shots as you stream the presentation.

Figure 2. 1 Beyond StreamCam AutoTracker

Not only does this camera provide the cost savings of not hiring a camera operator, but it’s also compact enough, as you can see in Figure 2, that you can pack it into a small bag.

The StreamCam AutoTracker has two HD-SDI connectors. I has a wide angle lens at the bottom, and a closeup lens at the top. And it has a 20X zoom, which is critical for a closeup shot if you’re doing conferences.

Panasonic AW-HE120s

Another fantastic option is Panasonic AW-HE120’s PTZ camera (Figure 3, below). Like the StreamCam, it features a 20X optical zoom lens, and it also has three 1/3” sensors.

Figure 3. The Panasonic AW-HE120 PTZ camera

The HE120s are often used for live production in houses of worship. I’ve found it effective at various events because it allows full control with a control unit. In addition, it outputs through HD-SDI, and I can run it to my mixer/switcher. It has the same lens as some of Panasonic’s pro cameras, and like the StreamCam, it allows us to do a lot of productions with minimal manpower.

Related Articles
In this article I'm going to highlight some of the latest gear you can use to put together a portable streaming solution. With this equipment you can quickly and easily transport your kit from one shoot to another and use it to deliver solid, high-quality streams for small and medium-sized events.
In this article I'm going to highlight some of the latest gear you can use to put together a portable streaming solution. With this equipment you can quickly and easily transport your kit from one shoot to another and use it to deliver solid, high-quality streams for small and medium-sized events.