Old Verizon USB modem for small, choppy live web video
Believe it or not, I have been producing live video broadcasts for the web since the beginning of 2009. Back then I was using a Sony Handicam with a converter box from Canopus/Grass Valley, a free UStream.com account, and a Verizon modem. With just a backpack full of stuff, an wall outlet and a decent cellular signal, I was able to stream a live web broadcast in the form of a tiny, frequently frozen, pixelated image to all of about 16 people I had gotten to watch by instant messaging them minutes before it aired. Since then, I’ve made things a whole lot more complicated, but in many ways it’s also gotten a lot easier.
Live broadcasting at the 2010 Miami OCR with Brian Kamilar
After my first broadcast, I started adding to my kit and widening my live streaming capabilities. I plugged in my computer to the DC power on the media boat at Key West and stole about 20 viewers from Sailing Anarchy for about 15 minutes before a wave managed to splash against the side of the hull, up over the roof of the cockpit and drip a single drop of lethal salt water onto my keyboard. My Macbook recovered after a day of drying in the air conditioned media trailer, but I was much more careful for Miami OCR 2009, covering my computer with a waterproof bag (open) and a towel. I also discovered how much easier it is when someone else helps with the commentary, specifically Trevor Moore and John Pearce.
Over the years I have experimented with the LiveU computer-on-your-back solution, live cellphone video from Qik, directed wifi on (half of) San Francisco Bay, and a T1 line running onto a houseboat from Navy Pier in Chicago. I’ve used Ustream, Justin.tv, Mogulus, which turned into Livestream, which turned into the New Livestream. I’ve run it all myself and I’ve run a team of 10 people, complete with multiple cameras, graphics, commentary and rock music. And this past weekend, I even got to use a 33′ scissor lift.
CLP’s Reed Sisson drives the 33′ scissor lift to the broadcast site for College Sailing Nationals
Modern 4G LTE Modem for multiple streams or HD video
For this event, the 2013 College Sailing Nationals Presented by LaserPerformance, we used basically the same setup I detailed in last year’s Nationals Live Video blog post, except that this year our cameraman was 40 feet in the air, and we broadcast the entire show in simultaneous streams (high-res, medium and mobile) using only a single 4G LTE modem from Verizon.
Because I had already done the whole multi-cam switching thing before, I was able to focus on fine-tuning the show, with slick graphics, a headset system that let everyone talk to each other (a prerequisite for lifting someone 40′ off the ground) and great sponsor integration for LaserPerformance (prerequisite for getting people to pay for all this stuff in the future.)
Last month I also broadcast the College Sailing Semifinals using the Livestream Broadcaster, which is a about the size of the newest smartphones, sits on top of a camera, runs on 3 AA batteries and can broadcast live video in high definition. I can also control it from my computer, phone, or iPad anywhere in the world. No big deal.
The Livestream Broadcaster, a streaming solution that weighs 5oz
While these advancements in technology have certainly increased my technological broadcasting capabilities, and lowered the entry cost for high-quality web streaming, they have also increased the expectations of the viewers. If you look at the America’s Cup live broadcasts, with multiple cameras onboard and from three helicopters, projected graphics on the water from Stan Honey, creator of football’s yellow line, and real-time GPS info, all streaming to Youtube for free, you’ll see what I mean—just because high quality production has gotten cheaper, doesn’t mean the big boys are spending any less money.
Landing in Tampa with a huge amount of baggage
Thank goodness for Southwest Airlines’ Austin to Tampa route and their 2-checked-bags-free policy! I wish I had a photo at baggage claim as director Reed Sisson and I lugged two backpacks, two rolling carry-ons, an enormous suitcase, pelican case, boxed computer monitor and a huge bin of odds and ends, trying to get it over to the rental car. And this was before the main camera and tripod even arrived!
As live broadcasting components get smaller, the more I seem to accumulate and the more I think I can fit in my bags. Here is a shot from last year’s pre-production, before the addition of two new headsets, cables, amplifiers, iPad, rack case, and several other 2013 additions:
My recently purchased live video equipment from 2012 Nationals
A small portion of our equipment on prep day at 2013 Nationals
In no way am I complaining. I love gear, especially new innovative gear, and it seems that now there is more gear coming out in the live webcasting world than ever before, pioneered by companies like BlackMagic Design, Livestream, Teradek, LiveU and others. The trick is to stay on top of it all, or else get left behind scrambling to cover your old camcorder and laptop with a towel before reaching the next wave set.
PS – If you’re interested in live video production for your next event—whether large or small scale—I will gladly give you a free consultation and proposal. Just reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.