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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.

Covering NAB 2013

NAB_Badges_BloggerI’m in Las Vegas for the next several days for my first NAB Show. I’m here seeing what’s new and interesting in the world of live video technologies, equipment and distribution. Traditionally, NAB is known for being a trade show for all things broadcasting. In the old days, that meant radio and TV.  Nowadays, Internet broadcasting is a big part of it. I’ll be posting updates over the coming days on what I find of interest that relates to my world, which is shooting and distributing live video across the Internet. And DRONES, because, well, DRONES! Know something I should check out? Feel free to point me there in the comments.

Deconstructing The Deconstruction

The Deconstruction

This past weekend, I was involved in a pretty cool project call The Deconstruction, the brainchild of creative collaborist Jason Naumoff.

What is the Deconstruction?  It is a game about re-thinking the world as we know it, taking it apart, making a few adjustments, then putting it back together a little awesomer-er.  It’s a light-hearted competition, but it’s really more of a large-scale collaboration between friends, participants, and the public. The concept is to make the world a slightly better, more fun, and more interesting place over 48 hours.

Yes, that’s an aspirational tall order, but we pulled it off with the help of over 60 participating teams spread across six continents. The winners have yet to be officially announced, though one lucky team will walk away with a Full Spectrum laser cutter.

My role in the Deconstruction was to put together the live stream infrastructure and production. Similar to the Red Bull Creation project that I helped Jason with last year, this was to be a distributed happening. Each participating team was encouraged to live stream the builds of their creations and update their team page on the official Deconstruction site.

We setup a home base at the studios of Synergize Live here in San Francisco. Alan, who runs the space, already had much of the streaming infrastructure in place. A multi-camera studio set with a green screen, live video switchers, encoders, monitors and plenty of decent bandwidth.

The plan was to have our hosts here on set communicate often with various team members from around the globe throughout the 48 hour challenge. To do this, we needed to make a variety of technologies work well together. In the mix, on the video side, were Skype, Facetime, Google+ Hangouts, Justin.tv, Ustream, Livestream, Black Magic, Wirecast and Resolume Avenue.

Deconstruction 2013

We brought in several Mac Minis that would serve as media hubs for communicating directly with remote teams over Skype and Facetime. Based on our experiences with Red Bull Creation, we knew what we needed to do to make this work. We took the HDMI output of the Mac Mins and fed them into a live video switcher (a tower PC with several Black Magic video capture cards running Resolume Avenue) and did a little mix-minus magic on the incoming and outgoing audio feeds. This allowed our producers to make “calls” to remote team members and then bring them in live so the local hosts could communicate with them on the virtual set. It’s similar to what you might see on a newscast when anchors communicate with remote reporters in the field, though without expensive satellite trucks.

Remote teams could use whatever live stream platform they wanted, though we encouraged them to use Justin.tv if they didn’t already have an account somewhere. We made this choice because it’s easy for users to setup and stream for free. While free does mean Justin.tv inserts annoying pre-roll and mid-roll ads (as does Ustream) we were able to avoid seeing them by paying $10 for a Justin.tv Pro account. Ustream also allows for paid removal of ads, but from the broadcaster side at much greater expense. This gave us a way to inexpensively host team feeds and let us cut to them without having to worry about ads popping up mid broadcast.

We used Livestream’s “new Livestream” product for the main produced live stream which we embedded on the front page of the Deconstruction site. This worked reasonably well, though we weren’t happy with their text based chat system. While the new Livestream text chat looks good and is attached to the player, there is no way to embed it without the additional event page chrome. Also, their text chat requires a user to create a Livestream account and it censors links automatically, which sucks.

We did have the intention of making use of Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts on Air as our primary way to communicate with remote teams, but we ran into several roadblocks.  The primary problem being that Hangouts wouldn’t recognize our capture card in the live encoder. Hangouts is really meant to work with webcams and doesn’t give you much control over input options. A second big issue is that if you push a Hangout to a Hangouts on Air, which is essentially a live YouTube feed, there is no persistent URL. Also, Hangouts are limited to 4 hours. We worked with our friends at Google to try and make this work for us, but the product just isn’t ready for the type of event we wanted to pull off. We’ll revisit Google+ Hangouts next time.

All told, we pulled off a successful global decentralized, multi-participant fun live event using an assortment of disperate technologies. Have a look at some of the final videos of what people built over those 48 hours.

 

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