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Review: StreamYard for Cloud Production

Anthony Burokas discusses a recent project where they brought in up to 9 remote sources from around the world using StreamYard to produce the show in the cloud.

Today, I'm using StreamYard to do a production for Habitat for Humanity that is several hours long, and involves people from around the country and the world. It's all remote and streaming is great for this because it's in the cloud. I'm going to show you a couple of things that really make this thing work.

We're in between sessions here, and I'm playing videos. We have our host and then we have five panelists, plus me, the producer. So we've got eight connections into StreamYard, and we're able to have a private chat going on over here. I'm doing video playback from a separate device because StreamYard supports only five minutes for playing videos streamed from within the application. (Hopefully, that limit will change in the future.).

One nice thing about using a cloud production tool like StreamYard is you don't need a high-end machine to be able to handle this many inputs, because it's all happening in the cloud. The remote sources are dialing into StreamYard and I'm just controlling a web interface, but the actual processing for everything happens in the cloud. This is a key thing that is often understated: A lot of video production requires specialized hardware. And usually, that hardware is very expensive. If you're using a software-based tool like OBS or vMix or mimoLive, you need a decent-sized computer that could cost up to $5,000 to get it fully outfitted with all of the input/outputs you need to handle all the things it needs to do. Plus the processing, the video card and everything. It can add up. Plus the cost of the software.

Here, we're able to leverage online software-as-a-service, and it has a low monthly cost. You pay for it when you need it. Plus, I can access it with anything that has a browser. I don't need to have a high-end PC or Mac to be able to process all of these signals. That's all happening in the cloud. So I just need a basic machine and a basic browser to click the buttons and bring up the source that I need to bring up. Now, I am using video player software to play the video because of StreamYard's five-minute limit. But even that is not super processor-intensive. You could use VLC or some other tool, or even put the video in a Google Chrome tab and then bring that tab into StreamYard via a screen share that grabs that tab and brings it in with the audio. So there is that way to do it as well.

Otherwise, you're in only one application for the whole production. So that is a great cost savings for people who need to do higher-end remotes. It looks better than Zoom. It looks better than Teams. It looks better than business meeting apps. Realistically, you're not getting full customization. You can't control everything. You have lower-third banners, but they're either all-color banner or all-text-over-gray banner. You have no other option unless you're going to bring them in as custom elements over top. And some people have done that with animated GIFs.

StreamYard allows me to have all of these inputs down here and allows me to handle it with a basic machine without a big-honkin' GPU. I didn't spend $10,000 for the new Mac Pro. This is a Mac mini and it's doing a fine job. I've got the processor up here looking at it. Two of the cores are working and the other two cores are not working that hard. So it's still within the realm of an i5 Mac mini to do this high-end production.

That is one of the benefits of pushing your production to the cloud. In addition to StreamYard, Restream also offers a similar service. And I know that that is just going to grow because in this era, in this age, a lot of things are virtual and these virtual solutions have really taken off and enabled content producers to handle things that they couldn't have handled before, and handle them with an ease of production and an ease of integration that normally would have taken a whole lot more to be able to put together. Say, all of a sudden somebody says, "I have slides," and the producer says, "No problem, share your screen and I can get it and bring it on and change the views."

That's the magic of these cloud solutions: They're very flexible, very adaptable. And they enable us as producers to focus on just making sure the show looks good, without having to deal with all the technical issues like, "I need a certain layout to handle the PowerPoint slides from this person versus that person." It's just part of the engine that's built in.

So I hope that this has helped someone out there who is sort of in a corner, and looking for a solution that can help them bring together a remote production under a really tight budget, but still able to handle a lot of things.

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