video studio

Video Studio 2.5 – The Streaming Upgrades

My last update about my studio was the 2.1 updates. (Which followed the 2.0 post about the last set of major upgrades.) This set of upgrades added live streaming support – support that was not urgent when the studio’s use was recording. However, as there are more virtual conferences happening and the desire to do webinars with a more interactive feel, it was time to take the plunge.

Adding Audio

Before I get into the upgrades, it’s important to rewind and remind everyone about what I already had. I had purchased a Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio for the 2.1 upgrades to clean up some loose ends on the Chroma keying front. It plays a key role in the streaming, as it’s the device I get my output video from.

The one challenge it has is that it doesn’t accept audio input other than from cameras. (Though the more expensive models of the ATEM do.) I wanted to use the Rode NTG1 and NTG2 shotgun microphones in the office. That meant getting them into the ATEM. The route to get there wasn’t direct. The first step was rewiring them from the Zoom Handycorder H4n and putting them into my Behringer Eurorack Pro RX1202FX. This is a rackmount mixer that sits with the ATEM, and the audio gear in a rack underneath the preview monitors.

The Eurorack Pro has a pair of Behringer Multicom Pro-XL MDX4600 4 channel compressor/gates on it. This gives me signal indicators as well as the ability to add a gate and/or compress the channel. I do want to stop and point out that having a signal meter or indicator for each channel makes these useful even if I never use the compressor. When I run high-end boards for live production, I always have signal meters on every channel. It’s indispensable. This solved this problem with a minimal investment and got some added capabilities at the same time. The MDX4600 gets me the ability to do basic signal cleanup on the 8 mic inputs in an inexpensive package.

Each channel on the Eurorack has a direct insert that I use to feed the MDX4600 – and I split that to send the raw signal to the Focusrite Saffire 40 and Focusrite OctoPre MkII. The first six channels of the mixer are on the Saffire and the OctoPre MkII gets the remaining two. They channels from the Eurorack are wired to inputs 3-8 on the Saffire and on the OctoPre because the first two ports are front accessible on each. So I get 4 direct in for recording plus the 8 channels with the compressor. In a pinch, the output of the Saffire is routed back into the 11/12 channels of the mixer so I can even pick-up the extra inputs to add to the output if I need.

The EuroRack outputs analog audio signals and the ATEM needs a digital input. For that I added a Behringer Ultramatch Pro SRC2496 which converts analog to digital – and vice versa. The Ultramatch takes in the main output from the Eurorack as its input and outputs the AES/EBU signal that is fed into the ATEM. The only hitch to this was that the Ultramatch has a RCA connector for the output and the ATEM expects a bayonet input. The I got an RCA cable and an RCA to bayonet adapter and I was all set.

Capturing Video

The ATEM has a H.264 encoder on it which can be connected via USB. I’ve had that connection to the primary video machine for some time but I never could leverage it. As I did more research and investigation, it seemed like no one really developed support for this output so very few things could talk to it, except for the Blackmagic software. As a result, I decided to pick up a dedicated capture card which I could use to get the signal into the computer. That card is a Blackmagic Design DeckLink Mini Recorder 4K. It has both an SDI and an HDMI input. That means that I could run the SDI output from the ATEM into the DeckLink which would eliminate any concerns for distance or the cable getting loose.

It took the last slot in the computer but it fit. Once I had it installed I could see the output from the ATEM – and had it on a platform that was more expected and therefore more supported. However, having the video on a capture card didn’t solve the problem.

Broadcast

Livestreaming and web conferencing doesn’t typically expect video coming in on a capture card. What it expects is that you’ll have a web camera that is broadcasting the video. So I needed software that had two capabilities. First, I needed software that would live stream to the live streaming targets that you’d expect (Facebook, YouTube, etc.). Second, I needed something that would allow the video conferencing platform to see the output as a web camera. Those capabilities come from Telestream’s Wirecast software.

The software isn’t the most intuitive, and the documentation leaves more than a little to be desired, but the software itself seems very stable and I was eventually able to figure it out. It ended up giving me the capability to live stream to the typical sources. It also has a virtual web camera that you can start. When you do that your favorite webinar/web conferencing software gets set to use the virtual web camera and you get streaming through your favorite platform.

In my setup, I now had all the capabilities of the ATEM for video switching, including live Chroma keying plus audio from production microphones. The Wirecast software technically has more capabilities than I’m using, including live Chroma keying; however, the ATEM does such a great job of this, I wanted to handle it in the ATEM.

So I’m shooting in front of my green screen and I need a moving background but the ATEM Television Studio won’t play video media, so I needed a simple solution. For that I grabbed a simple media player.

Media Player

While I was doing the setup for the Kin-to-Kid Connection booth I purchased some inexpensive media players. The Incredisonic Vue Series IMP150+ are great little media players that can be configured to automatically play from the media that’s connected, and they have a remote and are USB powered. I borrowed one of these and a Decimator MD-HX to convert the output from HDMI to SDI for the ATEM (which I didn’t technically need to do since HDMI would have worked). I then put three video files on the USB stick. The first video named 01-* was my pre-roll. The second was named 02-* and was the prerecorded segment. The third file was named 03-* and was my moving background for the live keying. When the media player is plugged in, it starts playing the first video and seamlessly transitions – and loops.

When the prerecorded program ended, we pushed the fader on the ATEM and suddenly we moved from the media player to keying on top of the media player input – thus we could enter the scene with a moving background.