Streaming Media
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Autumn 2014
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No Budget? No Problem: Live Event Streaming for Less
Broadcasting an event live online doesn't have to cost a fortune — especially if good is good enough.

It started with an innocent question from me: "Are you webcasting it?"

“No. Could you do it for us? We don’t have a budget.”

Been there? Frankly, if you haven’t, then you haven’t been webcasting. Still, I wondered what was in it for me. I really wanted to go to the conference in question (Parliament and Internet Conference 2012) since I am getting involved in internet governance and policy issues (particularly around online content, rights, and intellectual property). That alone made this event a must-see.

In addition, the organiser is a very old friend of mine who has, on more than one occasion, helped me out and provided me with some pointers. It all added up to a situation where I felt I had better find a way.

The first thing I resolved was that I wasn’t, under any circumstances, going to build any infrastructure or front-end web consoles for streaming -- it just wasn’t worth the time for a one-off, even if I just put up a server in Amazon’s EC2.

But then came a chance meeting with Mark Kornfilt of Livestream at Streaming Media Europe, a chat about the content, and the opportunity to try the service. I was armed with an account for the event.

Mark and his team were enthused, to say the least. I spent an afternoon with the guys. They lent me a Blackmagic Design Pty. Ltd. H.264 Pro Recorder and gave me a quick tour of all their kit. I had planned to use Telestream Wirecast, and Telestream provided me, on the spot, with a 10-day full licence. I had experimented with my Swivl device and using an iPhone as a wireless camera source for Wirecast, but the camera quality was simply not up to scratch for an 8-hour event. I discovered that Livestream is now limiting the number of third-party apps that can encode to its service, including Wirecast, because the vast majority of support calls it was dealing with were actually problems that the users were having with the third-party software.

So I switched over to the Livestream for Producers app, which added screen capture and provided a simple way to add in the slides being used to run the agenda.

I dug through my kit and came upon a Sima digital effects mixer I’d been given. I also had a Sony Handycam, as did the event organiser, so I decided to use these and the audio provided by the Parliamentary AV team. The only problem I ran into was the preview monitoring; I had no way to see what the cameras were seeing before I switched them live.

I came to the conclusion that the best option was to buy a £70 quad splitter used for CCTV applications, along with a £120 7" LCD display.

I was heading up to the event having spent only a little more than the train ticket on kit. It would be a challenge, but it felt somehow very “pure,” which is what, for me, webcasting is all about.

I had minimal time to test the audio and video settings, so the event started with one camera providing an anamorphic image and audio set to stereo for a mono left channel source.

As I corrected the settings during a coffee break, someone managed to step on the floor plate to which the AV tech had run the IP cable -- but they’d missed the wire guide and the cable was crushed, killing the IP and requiring a router reboot. That cost me 10 minutes, but, well, s#*% happens. You can’t worry about things you can’t control; you just have to swiftly diagnose the issue and get live again ASAP.

All in all, the event proved to me that it’s possible to create very compelling content with the most limited budget. Have a look.

Massive thanks to Wirecast; in trials and tests it showed itself to be an amazing tool. And a huge thanks to the Livestream team for their endless support and access to their simple-to-use and very effective platform.

So don’t spend so much time thinking about doing events. Do them and keep doing them. It’s better to produce a low-budget webcast and capture that crucial moment than not to produce a webcast and miss the story.

This article appears as "When Good Is Good Enough" in the winter 2012 issue of Streaming Media European Edition.