This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of NGN.
There are a lot of queries on the Internet about using 3G and 4G networks to provide live streaming coverage from an event all the way to the viewer’s laptop or smartphone – without using wires – like the big TV networks do.
The big players use electronic news gathering, or ENG, vehicles with radio, microwave, satellite, multiple cameras and on-site switching among these cameras to send you all those multi-angle perspectives from the event. It’s called portable live production.
Can an independent online producer use the new technology and IP networks to achieve some of the same polish? It’s possible. It is still expensive, but not nearly as expensive as electronic news gathering vehicles, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and cost more to operate.
Building a portable production studio will allow you to go wireless with multiple cameras at the event; link the multiple cameras to a local video switcher by Wi-Fi-capable video converters, like a Microseven M7-DVS1PWS (wired connection works too); and direct the broadcast with the video switcher – all enable switching cameras, and some enable instant replay, ad playout from playlists, virtual sets, streaming statistics/text, and more.
To secure a video delivery service on the Internet cloud, set up your laptop for transmission to a video delivery service on the cloud like KenCast’s (News - Alert) Vazzt (www.vazzt.com). You can download the VazztCaster software (that is all you need from this service) and install it on your computer at no cost.
Subscribe to one or more 3G/4G data services – AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s (News - Alert) UMTS, Sprint’s EvDO and/or WiMAX, and Verizon’s EvDO and/or LTE. One wireless connection will work, but having more than one provides more bandwidth, which enables video streaming with better quality.
Then connect the video switcher to the laptop.
Now you’re ready to launch the delivery service on your laptop. If you use VazztCaster, it will automatically detect 3G/4G networks at the event and accelerate on them; bond these 3G/4G networks together to get maximum bandwidth; and put forward error correction on the 3G/4G networks to clean them up, which is especially valuable in noisy urban environments.
You can broadcast from the portable production studio into the laptop for transmission to the video delivery service on the Internet cloud on the bonded networks. The service on the cloud lets your viewers access your content by clicking on your own website. The service will then deliver your video stream to your viewers anywhere on the Internet worldwide.
And you can invite all those viewers running around with smartphones and laptops to your website. The video delivery services on the cloud now enable you to charge for your broadcasts.
The camera connection also works without a video switcher – just connect a single camera to your laptop and transmit. With an HDV camera or a DV camera you can connect directly to your laptop with a firewire cable. For a better camera, it is now possible to use USB 3.0 input on your laptop. Black Magic’s Intensity Shuttle enables camera output of HDMI, S-Video, Component or Composite, and USB 3.0 into your laptop.
The Need for Acceleration, Bonding, and Error Correction
The 3G/4G IP networks from carriers provide much less bandwidth for upstream into their network (from the event to their network) than they do downstream (from their network to the viewers). Software like VazztCaster uses acceleration on the carriers’ IP networks and bonds multiple networks to get enough bandwidth for video capture on the upstream. Two networks, each from a different carrier, yield more bandwidth than two from the same carrier.
The acceleration and bonding realizes more bandwidth, but the 3G/4G networks, particularly in urban areas, are noisy. This results in lost packets and poor quality video, even on bonded networks that provide higher bandwidth. The Vazzt products from KenCast embed forward error correction on the IPTV (News - Alert) stream from the event to the central hub. In most cases this is sufficient to produce a near flawless stream.
Charging for Your Live Video Broadcasts
Vazzt Video Delivery Service provides e-commerce support for pay per view and paid subscription services. You can charge you viewers by the event or by a subscription to a series of events, and they can pay you by credit card. Vazzt charges $0.25 per Gbytes delivered to your viewers. For example, a live video broadcast to a viewer at 320x240 resolution, 30 fps, for a three-hour event will require about 1.0 Gbytes and cost the producer $0.25 to deliver.
William E. Steele is chairman and CEO of KenCast (www.kencast.com).
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi