New Livestream Hardware at NAB 2014

At this year’s annual NAB Show in Las Vegas, there was a lot to be excited about in the world of live Internet broadcasting.

Livestream at NAB

Livestream, the live Internet broadcast platform, had quite a large footprint this year to show off their new wares. Livestream is best known for their live streaming service, but increasingly is becoming a full professional end-to-end broadcast solution. This mean the introduction of a bundle of new beautifully designed video switching and encoding hardware this year.

Livestream Studio HD510 at NAB

Livestream has introduced new models of their Livestream Studio live production switcher. When Studio was introduced last year, the Studio HD500 was released as a portable PC-based plug-n-play switcher/encoder. This was followed by a software only version that anyone can run on their own off-the-shelf PC reference hardware with capture cards.

For 2014, Livestream has expanded their lineup with the HD51, HD510 and the HD1710 Studio models. All models are multi-channel HD live production switchers that squarely take aim at Newtek’s Tricaster. The HD51 and HD510 can take up to five HD-SDI or HDMI sources, with the HD510 including a touch-screen monitor built in to its portable form factor. The HD51, and more expansive HD1710, require external monitors. The HD1710 can take in up to a whopping 17 HD-SDI video sources that all can be displayed across four multi-view monitors and switched live. All models allow for multiple channel ISO recording in AVI MJPEG format. Not the best if your workflow is editing in Final Cut Pro 7, but plenty fine if you’re using Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro X. A Livestream rep told me Quicktime format support will be forthcoming.

Livestream Studio™ Tech Specs

The new awesome hardware doesn’t end there. Taking a cue from Apple’s industrial design department, Livestream has introduced a new hardware control surface simply called Surface. This control surface gives you an intuitive and customizable interface to all the controls of the Studio software interface. Every slider, knob and toggle of Surface is mapped directly to their software functions in Studio. Surface is actually composed of two modules, Core and Track. Core is the main switching control surface that works with up to 5 source channels. Track is the add-on module that gives you 15 more source channels to control, something you’ll want if you have a Studio HD1710.

Livestream Studio HD1710

Livestream Studio combined with Surface looks to be a formidable competitor to Newtek’s Tricaster line. Features such as multiple program outputs, graphic overlays and titles, downstream keying are all native to Studio. One thing I’d like to see better support for is expanded audio input connections. Livestream’s switchers have one or two 1/8″ mini jacks for audio, otherwise audio is expected to come in embedded over the HDMI and HD-SDI inputs. The specs on the HD500 and HD1710 do claim they can take up to four 1/4″ RTS analog audio inputs, though it looks like you’ll need to have a nest of breakout cable snakes to pull this off as these models use Blackmagic Design’s DeckLink Studio capture card for this. Tricaster does have the advantage here in that XLR and TRS analog audio input connections are natively hardware mounted across their line.

Livestream Surface

Another standout feature for Studio is the ability to mix in a variety of remote camera sources. Smartphones running the Livestream app, Teradek and Broadcaster wireless camera-top encoders and even Google Glass are all supported live sources.

As an encoder, Livestream Studio supports all major streaming platforms and RTMP destinations. YouTube and Ustream profiles are populated in the destinations menu. Though Livestream does include a year of their broadcast Platform service with their hardware, using it is by no means required. I’ve written about Livestream’s service offerings previously.

All told, Livestream is firmly carving out a beautifully designed, intuitive, end-to-end live broadcast ecosystem. We’ll be keeping our eyes on them as they grow.

Top 10 Favorite Drone Videos of 2013

2013 has been quite the year for the proliferation of flying robots with high definition cameras. For less than $1000, it’s now possible to put together your own stabilized flying camera rig. This has resulted in many early adopters going down the rabbit hole, like I have, in building or acquiring their own rigs. Here are ten of my favorite videos shot from the drone’s perspective in 2013.

I’ll start off with the OGs of the FPV (first person view) UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) scene, Team BlackSheep’s own 2013 retrospective video of their work. Team BlackSheep is a European based collective of “R/C daredevil” hackers and pilots. These guys specialize in building and flying multirotor and fixed-wing RC aircraft.  TBS has been very active this past year, capturing epic footage all over the world as is obvious in their retrospective. One of my  favorites in this montage, is the renegade Costa Concordia wrecked cruise ship flyover.

Over the summer, police tried to supress a demonstration at Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul, Turkey. This is the first aerial riot footage I can remember seeing from a drone and it’s an amazing point of view. Riot police with water canons and tear gas take on the demonstrators. Also notable is that the Phantom used to capture this footage, was eventually shot down by police. You can see that perspective as well.

Here’s one vision of a dystopian drone future.

Pal and fellow Phantom owner Nate Bolt, got permission to fly his rig inside the historic New York Public Library in NYC. Such classic. So spacious. Wow.

A top 10 list isn’t complete without a Burning Man video. This one by Ziv captures the morning light nicely as Truth in Beauty awakens.

You’ve likely seen this one already. This is an example of what happens when bad piloting and weddings mix. Don’t be this guy.

This Niagara Falls video is pretty epic. It got me super interested in the possibilities.

Eric Cheng’s aerial footage of surfers at Steamer’s Lane in Santa Cruz really illustrates the beauty of the Northern California coast.

Morning at the Santa Monica pier. I love the precision of this pilot’s chosen flight path. He has balls.

This video by my pal Nate is what finally got me to pull the trigger and invest in my first flying robot. It’s short, simple and poetic. Also, slo-mo. Who doesn’t love good slo-mo?

If you like these, I’ve got a YouTube playlist going of aerial favorites as I discover them. Feel free to subscribe and follow along. Happy New Year and may your 2014 be filled with peaceful, unarmed, non-surveillance drones!

Aerial Footage from Burning Man 2013

I’ve been really getting into shooting aerial drone video lately. I took my rig to Burning Man recently and here’s the results. This was shot using a DJI Phantom with an Arris CM2000 gimbal and a GoPro Hero3:Black in 1080p60. Be sure to watch in HD at full screen. Enjoy!

Drone’s eye view of Burning Man 2013 from ekai on Vimeo.

The DEFCON Documentary

DEFCON: The Documentary, the film I helped shoot last year for intrepid nerd documentarian Jason Scott, is complete and ready for viewing. This doc chronicles the history of the world’s largest computer hacking conference, on its 20th anniversary as it took place in Las Vegas.  There is so much packed into this.  Even if you’ve never been to or heard of DEFCON, you’ll find this film to be quite accessible. Hundreds of hours of footage went into the making of this as did thousands of hours of Jason’s time directing and editing the thing. I’m quite proud of the results and am honored to have taken part in its creation.

You can watch the whole thing below, or grab the legal 720p torrent and download it.  It’s also on YouTube.  You can also find it on the Internet Archive, complete with subtitles.

DEFCON: The Documentary from Jason Scott on Vimeo.

YouTube Live Threshold Lowered to 100 Subscribers

YouTube Live

This is a bit of great news for those looking to live stream inexpensively (FREE) an event without annoying pre-roll or overlay advertising. YouTube, which has been experimenting with live streaming in various stages since 2008, has lowered the threshold to qualify to use their YouTube Live streaming service. As of Friday, YouTube account holders only need to have 100 subscribers to their channel and be in good standing to use the new live streaming features. If you can’t get 100 subscribers, then you should be probably just leave the Internet.

A quick rundown of the features that make YouTube Live so compelling:

  • Completely free live streaming with no advertising (unless you want it, then you can opt-in to revenue share)
  • Supports up to 1080p HD streams at 6Mb/s
  • Multi-bitrate transcoding – encode one HD stream and other bitrates are automatically generated and offered in player (1080, 720, 480, 360, 240)
  • Mobile/tablet support (Android & iOS)
  • DVR feature – automatically rewind to an earlier part of a live broadcast
  • Automatic recording of live event (up to 4 hours in length)
  • Detailed real-time analytics
  • Free desktop encoder software - Wirecast for YouTube

To get started, log into your YouTube account. Go to Channel Settings -> Features. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll see a line that says Live events.  Click the button that says Enable next to it. If you don’t see Enable, keep checking back as YouTube is rolling out Live gradually to handle the expected load.  See the YouTube Live Streaming Guide for more info.  Happy streaming!

YouTube Live enable

Kicking off the Inaugural Meetup of SF Bay Area Webcasters and Live Streamers

SF Bay Area Webcaster Meetup

I started a Meetup group for webcasters and live streamers in the San Francisco bay area. We’re having our first meetup event this Tuesday, June 4th at 7pm. Check the Meetup event page for details. This is the first of what I’m intending to be a monthly series. Each meetup will have two or three presenters covering the gamut of live streaming.

For this first one, I’ll do a quick slideshow presentation of my experiences producing events for Ustream and Eddie.com.  Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent, will also give a high-level overview of BitTorrent Live, his latest creation. BitTorrent Live is a new peer-to-peer live streaming protocol that leverages peer connections to scale large live Internet broadcasts, potentially saving broadcasters a ton of money in distribution costs, while maintaining high reliability.

Since this is a meetup about streaming, we’ll of course stream the meetup. We’ll push to Ustream and BitTorrent Live. I’ll post the channel info here and in the group, check back or just come down and join the fun!

Evertz Dreamcatcher Instant Replay System at NAB 2013

Ok, this is beyond the scope of what most live stream producers would ever need in their workflow, but the Evertz Dreamcatcher is pretty damn cool.

The Dreamcatcher is a 48-channel 4k instant replay system that you might find in use at say, the Super Bowl. As you can see in this video, an editor can easily scrub to a point in live captured footage and then select a portion of the frame as your edited output. If you’re shooting with 4k cameras, you can output that selection as full resolution 1080 HD. Not a bad trick, if you can afford it. No idea how much these go for, but you can bet a fully kitted system is in the 6 to 7 figures.

Sony Anycast Touch All-in-One Live Video Switcher, Recorder, Encoder and Streamer at NAB 2013

In the all-in-one live production switcher and streamer category comes the Sony Anycast Touch. This looks to be a convenient portable solution, especially if you’ve already invested in Sony PTZ cameras.

Sony Anycast Touch

What’s unique about this guy is that it’s all about the touch screen. Everything is driven by either selecting shots and elements on the primary multi-view touch screen or the secondary smaller “settings” touchscreen.

Sony Anycast Touch

The Anycast Touch can take up to six HD inputs (4 HD-SDI, 2 HDMI). The HDMI inputs can be substituted for RGB inputs from VGA computer sources. It can also take 4 separate audio sources over XLR or 1/4″ TRS.

Program mix outputs include 2 HD-SDI, an HDMI and a VGA RGB connection. There’s also an HDMI port for duplicating your multi-view primary touch screen on a separate monitor. Also included are several USB 3.0 ports for importing content or exporting recorded video from the Touch’s internal 192GB SSD storage.

The built-in streaming encoder will encode your program output in H.264/AAC and stream to any RTMP based CDN or your favorite live streaming platform.

The Touch has CG titling capabilities, graphic overlay layers, transitions and the ability to create templates with these elements and camera picture-in-picture.

Probably the most compelling, if you already own Sony PTZ robocams, is that the Touch will control them. You can create scenes that lock in camera positions for easy dynamic switching.

At an expected retail cost of $20k, this unit will likely challenge Newtek’s TriCaster in some key markets such as schools, churches, corporate communications and amateur sports.

Engadget has a video of a Sony rep giving the rundown.

Newtek TriCaster 8000 at NAB 2013

Newtek’s TriCaster is the current gold standard for a portable, live broadcast video switcher with all the bells and whistles that a live production might require. I use a TriCaster 455 and 855 for many events I produce and really have few complaints.

Newtek TriCaster 8000

The relatively new TriCaster 8000 (retail $40,000) expands on the feature sets of Newtek’s previous models. Like the 855, the 8000 can handle eight HD-SDI video sources simultaneously and record each ISO separately. The 8000 expands on their virtual sets, transitions, animations, media players and live streaming integration.

Newtek TriCaster 8000

I asked a Newtek rep what his favorite feature of the 8000 is and his response was the social media integration. You can apparently make quick clips of video or stills and push them out to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all from within the TriCaster control interface. I suppose if you’re a lean operation and you’ve got one guy doing everything, then I guess this makes sense. From my experience, anyone who is directing and switching a live event, will have his hands full just doing that.

NAB 2013 is the Year of Drones

I’m a sucker for remote controlled autonomous vehicles (non-weaponized ones, of course). Lucky for me, there are plenty of them this year at the NAB Show. This is only a smattering of the ones which I came across today. They range from small quadcopters that can carry a GoPro to heavyweight beasts that can carry 17lb RED cameras.

DJI Phantom drone

DJI Phantom drone

This little guy was a big hit. The DJI Phantom can carry a GoPro for 10-15 minutes of flight time. Retails for $679. GoPro not included.

DJI drone with 360 Heroes

DJI drone with 360 Heroes

DJI also makes a heavier duty hexacopter called the Spreading Wings S800 that can handle a camera load up to 5 pounds. This version has a unique rig by 360 Heroes that uses 6 GoPros to create a 360 degree panoramic experience.

Flying-Cam 3.0 SARAH

Flying-Cam 3.0 SARAH

If you like traditional helicopters, you know just two rotors, then you’ll dig this heavy duty workhorse, the SARAH 3.0 from Flying-Cam. This guy can take a payload of up to 17 pounds, which is perfect if you’re shooting a scene from Skyfall with a RED Epic camera.

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