Ustream Broadcasting 102 - Advanced Broadcasting Techniques

Started by Rob, March 03, 2010, 01:23:46 AM

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Ustream Broadcasting 102 – Advanced Broadcasting Techniques

Many artists, entertainers, bloggers, reporters and others have found live broadcasting on the internet as a great way to demonstrate their ideas to a worldwide audience. Ustream is the leading interactive platform on the web that enables live video.  
The Ustream community has millions of members, and has tens of thousands of live broadcasts taking place at any given time. It's free to use and requires only a mobile phone, or a computer and camera to get started.  

In this article we are going to show more advanced techniques for broadcasting to use multiple cameras, custom video resolution and bitrate.

Multiple Cameras:
Professional broadcasters use devices such as the NewTek Tricaster and the Osprey 450e video capture card to take multiple high-end cameras and microphones so they can switch back and forth between camera views. Unfortunately, this hardware is quite expensive and usually outside of the budget of the average casual broadcaster. However, there are tools available that can allow you to recreate such an environment at a much lower cost.
First, you would want to make sure that the computer you are using to broadcast has enough available USB ports for the cameras you intend to use. You would want to focus on using decent, low-cost web cameras, such as the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000.

Making use of multiple cameras is another story. The free Ustream Producer application only allows the use of one live camera input. The $199 Ustream Producer Pro application has no limit on the number of live camera inputs, but again, this may be outside of the budget of many broadcasters. We are going to focus on a few free applications that allow you to use multiple camera inputs.
On the PC platform, the recommended application would be VH Multi Camera Studio. This version is free open source; however the author merged his product with another company that plans on releasing a commercial version of it later this year. On the Mac platform, the recommended application would be CamTwist which is also free. The VH MultiCam or CamTwist application should be loaded before you bring up the Ustream broadcast panel or Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder (see below).

Using VH MultiCam:

Load up the VH Multi Cam Studio application. Under Tools, check Enable Output to VHMultiCam video capture device, Default source and Disable auto start. Select the first preset button (P1) and then click on File, Add Camera. From here you can add each of your cameras. For instance, if you want to have 3 separate camera angles, select the first camera for P1, stretch the camera view to fill the box. Then click on P2, and add the second camera to that preset button, repeating the process for P3. Then when you are broadcasting and want to switch between camera views, you can just click the preset buttons to switch back and forth. At this point you now have VHMultiCam configured as a working video camera device that can be used in Flash Media Live Encoder. When adding cameras to a preset, you can add multiple camera sources to a single preset, and then have them all appear at once on the stream. So you could have one main view, and two smaller alternate camera views in the screen corners if you choose.

Using Camtwist:

Load the CamTwist application. In the options box that comes up, select Webcam, and on the right hand side select which camera you want to use for this preset. Do not select any effects in the second column unless you want them. Click Save Setup to save your preset. You can then add each preset config into the User Menu, and assign a key for each preset. So you could set cameras 1, 2 and 3 to F1, F2 and F3 and switch between the camera views while broadcasting. When configuring a preset, you could add three webcam items, each using a separate camera, and then use the staging box to arrange them the way you want. In this way, you can have multiple camera views on the same screen just like with VH Multi Cam.

Broadcast Quality:

While the free Ustream Producer application does have a number of preset configurations, they are limited in range. The Pro version of Ustream Producer and the Telestream Wirecast applications are both capable of more detailed resolution and birate settings, but they are sometimes out of reach of the broadcaster on a tight budget. In this case we recommend the use of the Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE).

The Windows version of FMLE is free and available on the Adobe website. Sign on and download version 3 of the Adobe FMLE for Windows. Once it's installed you should be able to use it right away. The Mac version is currently in private beta testing and not in widespread use. If you are a Mac user and want to try out the FMLE for Mac, you will need to apply for the Adobe Prerelease Program and choose the Adobe FMLE for Mac beta. In the section where it asks "Why do you want to participate in Prerelease program(s)?" say that you are a Ustream user and would like to broadcast in high quality on your Mac.

Before you load the Adobe FMLE, please make sure you have configured either CamTwist or VHMultiCam as appropriate for your system. You will need an appropriate XML configuration file for FMLE. Log onto the Ustream website, go to your shows, select the show you want to configure. Click on the Advanced tab, and down on that page you will find a link to download the XML configuration file. Save it onto your computer. In FMLE, click on File, Open Profile, and direct it to the XML file you just downloaded. Ignore any errors it might give about incorrect parameters. Select VHMultiCam or the CamTwist device as appropriate in the drop-down box for the video source, and choose your appropriate audio source.

Now we have to decide about what your video input and output will be. In the previous article, we went over how to discover what your upload speed is. Let's say that your maximum upload speed is only 400kbps. If you set your resolution too high, but don't have a high enough bitrate to back it up, the video quality will be terrible. For 400kbps, a good recommended setting for video would be a resolution of 480x360, 300kbps bitratre, and an audio quality of 64kbps. This gives you enough wiggle room for internet traffic handshaking; you don't want to completely fill your outbound connection or your broadcast will freeze and lag regularly.

At this point you will be ready to broadcast. On the right-hand side of FMLE is a Connect button under the Stream ID entry. Click that. Then click on the big green Start button at the bottom of the FMLE window. You are now connected to the server, and your stream is running. You still need to launch the Ustream broadcast panel, though. Head over to the Ustream website, log into your account, and click the Broadcast Now button. When the broadcast panel launches, the connection from FMLE will override the settings on the broadcast panel. At this point all you need to do is click on Start Broadcast and you're on the air. Then you can use your VHMultiCam or Camtwist settings to switch back and forth between camera angles.

There is an advanced mode for FMLE. In the Stream ID option on the right of the FMLE window, you can remove the "offair" string from the end of the Stream ID. Then when you click Connect and the green Start button, you will immediately begin broadcasting. There are drawbacks to this method, however. While you don't have to use the broadcast panel, you will not be able to use polls, launch the chat window, or record your broadcast. If you do not need any of these things, and prefer the simplicity, then use this method.




I am looking to purchase USTREAM Producer Pro. The main reason for this upgrade is to use the multi camera feature. However, I am on a tight budget so I am looking to confirm or request suggestions on what my computer and current set up may or may not need. Below are my set up specifications.


Mac mini (Mid 2007)
Processor  1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory  2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics  Intel GMA 950 64 MB
Software  Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 (11C74)

Audio Interface:

M-AUDIO Firewire 410
Which will be connected to a live soundboard's matrix output through the 410 to the audio selection on USTREAM Producer. (No issues)

Video capture devices:

Roxio Video Capture USB hardware
Canopus ADVC-55 A/d Converter External

Video Camcorders:

2x JVC HD Everio Model:GZ-HM30

The Roxio Video Capture USB hardware works fine. However I haven't received the Canopus ADVC-55 A/d Converter External yet. I was referred to this product from a blogger's post who stated that this device worked with his Mac mini. My main concern is using these two capture devices (Roxio Video Capture USB hardware and Canopus ADVC-55 A/d Converter External) without conflict.

I am fairly new to USTREAM, but have already done one live music performance in New Orleans with a webcam, which was a horrible idea. The USTREAM Producer interface has been extremely easy to figure out and operate. So, with what I have, computer-wise and equipment-wise should I run into any problems broadcasting with these 2 cameras if I purchase Producer Pro?

Thanks in advance!