Video streaming update and a visit to BVE 2016

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This week I was able to visit the BVE expo to have a look for the next generation of video mixing and streaming equipment for our media block. There was plenty on show, including an interesting talk on using drones in TV production that drew quite a crowd!

It’s really interesting to see how networking and video technologies are converging and definitely something I’d like to do more work with in the future.

Our equipment is used by students in their classes for as well as projects such as HC Radio and our yearly Havering Asks TV programme. The visit also reminded me to write a little about some of the new kit we used in our recent productions.

vMix updates

After using the free version of vMix for the video stream of HC Radio we decided to purchase the vMix HD edition for video production use. The additional inputs and extra features such as Video list were what we needed to add pre-recorded content into the live show production.

Ref: http://www.vmix.com/purchase/

One thing we found with the video list is that the UI started to lag when we loaded 20+ videos into vMix. A workaround from the support team was to use VLC to generate a playlist and load the content in that way instead. End output was the same but this method seemed a lot more CPU friendly. We’ll need to check this again as new versions of vMix are released.

We’ve also since found out about the free vMix Social plugin which will allow live updates to be posted as on-screen graphics so will be trying that out next time round as well.

vmix-logo-large  Planet-eStream

For those wanting to record the output to Planet eStream use either of these methods, credit to eStream support for the below as they were testing vMix around the same time we did. Great minds and all that 🙂

1) On vMix there is an option for ‘External’ at the bottom, if you go to the settings next to ‘External’ then go to ‘Outputs’ make sure that Recording/External is set as output and all overlays selected. Now when you click ‘External’ and it goes red you can open an instance of the encoding application, on the same machine and there will be a video device called ‘vMix Video’ this will allow you to record the output window on vMix.

2) Stream it through eStream by editing the settings next to ‘Stream’ at the bottom. You can create a custom RTMP server. The settings will be:
Server: rtmp://svrestream/HCBcast
Stream Key: vMix

Now you can go to the encoder machine on another pc and use a network video source. Use the URL rtmp://svrestream/HCBcast/vMix please note capitalisation is important.

vMix GO

vmix-goThis is one of the new (to me anyway!) products I spotted at BVE today. It’s a self-contained, portable production system with all the inputs etc. you need integrated with a suitably powerful PC and vMix Pro included. It provides an interesting alternative to the Blackmagic Design kit I also went to see today, which is hardware-based rather than vMix’s software approach.

Streaming across multiple locations

One of the new requirements for Havering Asks 2015 was to provide an additional video source so we could transition between the live show taking place in our performance area “The Space” as well as our TV studio in the media block. vMix would then be used to mix the inputs and provide the stream to our YouTube channel.

Given that the two buildings are at opposite ends of the college it was a pretty simple decision required that we needed to use the network to get video from one place to the other. The question was how best to do it. We also wanted to use whatever solution we found for future events so it needed to be robust and easy to set up going forward.

From a cost perspective we thought of using a PC \ laptop but after adding an external capture card the solution seemed rather clunky. There’s also a fair bit to go wrong and once you put all the hardware prices together it’s not particularly cost-effective either. We then moved onto dedicated streamers to see what was available and looked at a couple of different products:

I liked the look of the Teradek and the output LCD would made it easy to use with DHCP as we could easily spot what address it had obtained as it gets moved around. Unfortuately it’s HDMI only and was the most expensive of the three options. It also turns out not to be supported with Planet eStream so we continued onto the other options.

The unbranded Chinese device did its basic job of streaming but, as is often the case with these no-name products had some odd firmware issues that meant we couldn’t 100% trust it. The main one was with DHCP, where the stream output link seemed to stick with the previous address it had been assigned, rather than the current lease. This presented a problem for us as setting up a static port each time we wanted to stream would add an extra administrative burden.

Now we come to the NVS-25, which does a great job of offering lots of flexibility at a great price:

  • SDI, HDMI and composite video inputs
  • RCA and XLR audio inputs
  • multiple streaming protocols
  • USB port for recording of video stream

The multiple inputs are particularly good as it means we can use our current hardware over SDI \ CVBS and then in future have the flexibility to move to HDMI should we want to.

I had a look around BVE for similar devices and was rather pleased to see one of the suppliers rate it as the best devices for feature set in its price range, always a relief to hear we chose wisely!

Experiences with the NVS-25

We learnt a few things from setting up and using the Datavideo device so here’s a few lessons learned to save anyone else the trouble:

Networking

The IP scanner utility is very handy and helps get up and running quickly.
I hear that an NVS-30 is on the cards and if Datavideo can get a screen on the new product it’ll be even better!

Storage

The front USB port should only be used with USB sticks or, at a push SSD drives on an adapter. It won’t run USB hard drives that don’t have their own external power and the side effect is that the encoder will freeze up until you do a hard power off and disconnect the offending drive. The media should also be formatted as FAT32.

Firmware

Update the firmware to the latest version as there are bugs in previous versions relating to how streams are presented. We had problems getting an RTSP stream into vMix due to incorrect header information in the stream. Apparently from what I was told at BVE an update has since been released to resolve this. As a workaround we changed over to RTMP instead, which worked OK.

IMAG1029
Datavideo NVS-25 in action connected up to our mixing desk

Whilst on the Datavideo stand their tablet-oriented autocue caught my eye. Again rather reasonably priced it syncs the script with multiple devices and allows central control from another station wirelessly. Perhaps one for the 2016 productions 🙂

IMAG1198

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