Livestream: Conclution

I got back from Oslo last night after working at an event for Skagen Funds with live webcasting of interviews. It was an very interesting experience and I learned a lot. Mainly all of the things that can go wrong with live webcasting.

The software/service we used to stream live was Livestream Procaster. It’s an ok and easy to use software with varying degree of difficulty, depending on the users level of knowledge. If you want to make it easy and simple you can, but it also have some options to satisfy the more advanced user.

However if you are an advanced user and want to learn the software well and take control, it’s a bit messy. Adjusting the settings is somewhat messy and hard to find. We never quite figured it out.

One of the most notable problems we noticed was the audio. Even though the input quality was excellent and the bitrate should be sufficient it sounded bad and had digital noise. This was a result of the messy settings. We adjusted the settings in the Procaster module, but we’re not quite shure if adjusting these settings had anything to do with the stream or just the recording. Until you figure it out properly you’re probably better off with just using the preset. Another problem with the audio was that if we plugged the mic directly into the computer audio and video was out of sync.

A couple of other draw back; we could not monitor audio or video before going live. We could just see the peak meter, but not listen to the audio. This is unacceptable and makes it really hard to ensure the quality of the stream and checking connections. As a result of this we had difficulties connecting DV cameras (as mentioned before) and problems finding the best settings and adjust them correctly to our current situation.

All in all we experienced that there were a lot of things that could go wrong. Proper internet access that was fast enough was one problem, connectivity, settings. All of this could and at some point also went wrong. Not being able to test it properly offline or to stay connected without broadcasting was this systems largest drawback. Apart from that, on the plus side; it did work, and it worked well when it did! There was only about 5 seconds (depending on bitrate and internet connection of course) delay, which is very good! However, we were always excited to see if it would work when we hit “Go Online”. So all, in all with a little bit more testing on our part and with a few upgrades to the software from the developer, the Livestream solution may in fact be a very good one.

FireWire trouble?

I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Oslo. I’m here to take part in Skagen Funds New Years Conference. I’ve written about the work I do for Skagen Funds before. We’re a team of two who’ll be taking care of some live streaming of interviews during the conference.

Lately we’ve spent hours setting up the system. We’re using Livestream, an easy to use, simple web-based system. Didn’t take too long to learn, however connecting the camera we’re using to the computer caused big problems.

We’re using a good old-fashioned DV camera. They have a feature which let them stream video live to the computer through FireWire, a feature most new cameras recording to hard drives or memory cards lack. The problems started when we tried to connect this camera to the computer through a FireWire cable. It worked fine on my old MacBook. However it was not powerful enough to stream to the internet, so we needed a newer computer. We tried with two newer MacBook Pros, but no luck. It would not recognize the camera. However we thought we struck gold when it suddenly started working. Everything seemed fine, for a couple of minutes, but then suddenly it stopped working again and once again we were back at square one.

The two computers ran different versions of Mac OS X and after a lot of testing we concluded it must have been some kind of FireWire 400/800 problem. The two versions should be compatible, though.

The solution was getting a new Windows-based computer. It had, like my MacBook, a FireWire 400 connection and we had no problem connecting the DV camera. It was a very odd error, but whatever it was the system is now working and after thorough testing it seems to be stable.

Let’s just hope it still works tomorrow….

Steadicam Fun

Today was an interresting day at school. We were given instructions on how to work with Steadicams and got to try it out.

Not surprising the Steadicam steadied the shots quite a bit, and not surprising the rigs can be quite heavy. We used the smallest version, the Steadicam Pilot. Excellent for smaller cameras and DSLR-rigs. Not to heavy and you could get some sweert shots with it. We also tried a larger, home made and heavier version. It was designed for large shoulder and studio cameras. As it was home made it was made of aluminium and not carbon fiber, hence it was a bit heavier than the original rigs. None the less, great fun! I’ll probably borrow the Pilot rig sometime and have some more fun with it and try to get the hang of it some more.

Our instructor also showed this really amazing and funny video from the broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s taking Steadicam operating to a new level! Truly amazing! Check it out: