Adventures in Livestreaming… never stop improving

In the last two posts, we were still getting ourselves going based on limited purchases and using what we had on the shelf. We never settle for “good enough.” We always strive for perfection.

When last we left you, we had a Canon XL1 connecting to the Mac with firewire. Since then, we picked up a Blackmagic Decklink Duo card for 2 more SDI inputs. This allowed our Wide shot to be upgraded to HD with a Handycam. We also were able to add another static HD shot for the cantor. Now, for church services, we run 4 HD cameras.

Another client called us with a different event type. Their annual benefit auction was coming up. Because of restrictions, it was forced to be virtual. We provided a single camera shoot with another computer running PowerPoint being fed into OBS. There were also 2 videos that needed to be played within OBS. This event was also not a simple “switch between sources” event. We needed to layer video sources over each other and split screens. We spiced things up a bit with customized graphic overlays.

The most recent upgrade is a Decklink Quad card. Now, we have the ability to provide 6 sources to a livestream. Contact Us today to schedule your event!

Adventures in Livestreaming… upgraded

When last we left you, we had built up some streaming ability with 2 cameras using what we had laying around.  And for a start, it worked really well.  But ever the perfectionist, Eric wanted better.  Better quality, better connectivity, better production.

So, what can you do to improve, without draining your bank account?  Well, eBay has LOTS of options.  We decided to go with some old Blackmagic Designs PCIe cards, the Decklink SDI.  This is the original PCIe version, so its from 2008, but when you’re streaming to Facebook, you don’t need 4k capability.  The single channel version of the card runs about $50-100 on eBay and you can put as many in your computer as you have open PCIe slots.

We already had Blackmagic HDMI to SDI Microconverters and SDI cable, so the next step was cameras.  Eric’s wife Rebecca had a Sony Handycam with an HDMI out.  Done.  Now, we need more Handycams.  Off to eBay we go!  We still used the Canon XL1.  It works well enough to be a static wide shot.  Once we have more SDI inputs available in the computer, we’ll upgrade the wide shot, and add another static close camera, for the Lector.

Adventures in Livestreaming

Lots of places have been thrust into the world of telecommuting.  But what about churches, or theatre, or concerts?  All of those worlds have had to very quickly adapt.  We here at A440 Sound have also adapted as quickly as we could.  At the beginning of the COVID response, some churches quickly offered a “live streamed” mass.  In reality, many of them simply used someone’s cell phone and “went live.”

We wanted to offer something better.  Having never done this before, we spent quite a bit of time online reading and absorbing everything we could.  For the theatre side of our business, we already had an OLD Canon XL1, and Eric’s wife just got a new Panasonic 4k capable camera.  Surely, there had to be a way to make this work.

The base of our setup became a MacPro from our inventory running Open Broadcaster Software. Remember that XL1 we mentioned?  Well, it has the old iLink DV firewire connection which directly interfaced with the Mac.  That Panasonic?  Well, that was a bit harder.

Something else in our inventory was an old Sony MiniDV converter.  We normally use this to adapt the XL1 to composite for stage views to supply video to backstage.  It works the other way as well, to convert composite to MiniDV.  That became our interface for the Panasonic camera.  Downscaled?  Definitely, but it gave us a 2 camera shoot, which is miles ahead of a lot of other options.

But what about audio?  Sure, you could just throw a mic up in the middle of the church and call it done.  But have you heard those kind of recordings from large echo-y rooms?  You can’t understand much.  In our case, we expected it to be difficult to interface with this church’s sound system.  It’s tucked into a closet, in a rack that doesn’t slide out…  And then we saw the rarely-if-never-used listening assist system!  No need to run cables, it was already setup for us!  We just plugged the output of the receiver into our mixer and away we went with near crystal-clear sound.

Our last trouble spot came from the internet connection.  Internet was spotty.  We couldn’t get a strong connection.  In the end, our phone set to be a hotspot saved the day.

So, for about 4 days of prep, and only buying one cable, we were able to put on a 2 camera shoot.  The parish was ecstatic.  We here at A440 were happy, but knew we could do better…. next week.