Last night, June 11th 2013, was another installment of the Seattle Final Cut Pro User Group Meeting. As usual, we packed up and drove down to attend. What a gorgeous day!
Unfortunately, that’s where the beauty ended for this particular endeavor. However, as a man who looks for the silver lining, (which you can CLEARLY see in those clouds above) I will use my pain to try and help you avoid the same.
Prior to this production, we had sent in our ATEM 1 M/E for service, and had built a few smaller and different kits, so I had to reassemble our streaming flypack. I did this with plenty of time to test video, audio, and the streaming capabilities. In our office, everything seemed to be working perfectly fine, so we packed up to head down. To view a copy of our equipment checklist, click here. (Note: We usually only bring 1-2 cameras ourselves, with members also bringing others to use as sources)
This is how it looked as it was mostly ready. Our problems arose two-fold as we attempted to test the stream before announcing our broadcast and officially going live: connectivity, and presentation computer conversion.
For conversion, we first tried to rely on our AJA Roi. It’s a great converter, but it still limits you: DVI in, DVI and SDI out. That can be problematic when you need another HDMI signal for a projector, or need to run a line of audio to the house speakers, etc.
So, we moved on to the Roland VC-300HD. This things does EVERYTHING. The problem is, by the time we knew we needed to use it, we had to get the meeting going. So, we abandoned a direct feed of the presentation computer and shot it with a camera. Ugh.
For connectivity, we’ve had success at this venue using a Teradek Cube with a single 4G Data card by Verizon. Unfortunately, this night it decided not to “just work”, as usual. It ended up working, but it’s the additional steps we took that I wanted to outline: If you’re using a Teradek to stream, specifically a Cube that can only use one data card, it’s important to know how the Cube works. Backing it down from 2 Mbps to 1.5 Mbps was our first step. That simple action has worked for me even using the Livestream Broadcaster.
Next, we left the Teradek alone, and using a USB 3.0 cable, jumped into a laptop connected via Verizon Hotspot. Using Livestream Procaster, we were doing our best to at least be able to send out an h.264 signal, still to no avail. We had an AT&T modem handy, but by the time we were about to give up and switch it out, we got the stream up.
So, this doesn’t sound like extensive troubleshooting, but by the time we’d tested results of various bitrates, modems, etc, it’d eaten about 15 minutes out of the presentation we were hoping to stream. Luckily this is a gig we do to help the community and group members who can’t attend, and isn’t a paid function, but the fact remains that there’s not a paid gig out there who will overlook missing the first 15 minutes of a presentation.
The point is, despite being comfortable with the performance of our equipment and our wireless cards, we could’ve done better, been better prepared, been more thorough, tested more, etc.
My advice to you? When your livelihood is on the line, and a customer’s counting on you, do your due diligence, and then do it again. See how a aprticular cell network is doing WHERE YOU’LL BE SHOOTING, not just in your office. Check your stream beforehand for a couple of minutes, with audio and video, and see what the different bandwidth options provide you: a 2 Mbps 1080 signal might be optimal, but if 1.5 gets you a solid, beautiful 720p, go for that instead. Consistent beauty is better than sporadic breathtaking in the HD streaming world.
And, above all, know your rig inside and out, so you know where to throw a USB cable if you need, where to switch out a DVI or HDMI cable, etc. I won’t consider this a failure, as we still provided a stream, and I continued to learn more about the whole process. But if you can learn from my mistakes too, please do!