The Complete Guide to Live Streaming:
Three, two, one… Action!
Live streaming starts at the camera. Most cameras are digital and can capture images at a stunning 4K resolution (2160p). This resolution requires a very high bitrate to support the raw digital video signal coming out of the camera, so the cables used to transfer this signal must be capable of handling large amounts of data. HDMI or Ethernet cables can be used in some cases. But most often, a 4K signal transferred over long distances requires an SDI cable that can manage the bandwidth requirements.
Wireless cameras can also be used, with portable broadcasting platforms finding their way into the industry. Today’s smartphones are designed for streaming, outperforming digital cameras from ten years prior. The iPhone XS, for example, records 4K video at 60 frames per second.
Multi-Camera Video Production
Some live streaming is done with a smartphone, but more serious live productions employ additional cameras. These multi-camera studio setups, and other video sources, are connected to a switcher that transitions between them. The audio is transferred to a mixer via XLR cables. Generally, the switcher adds the audio from the mixer into the final output signal. The switcher could be hardware, software, or a little of both when capture cards are required.
When production isn’t a priority but speed matters, IP cameras come into play. IP cameras can send live streams directly over Ethernet cables, making them easy to put wherever you want. Most IP cameras use the RTSP protocol, which supports low-latency live streaming. RTSP is pulled to the media server rather than pushed. For that reason, the camera must be on an open, static IP address for the media server to locate it.
From surveillance to conferencing, IP cameras work great when you want to live-stream from one location without getting too fancy. These user-friendly streaming devices do require a separate encoder, but you can skip that step altogether with a live transcoding solution.
User-generated content makes up a significant portion of live streams. In some cases, webcams are used. When it comes to sites like Twitch, users employ a combination of screen-recording software and webcams. But the majority of today’s content creators are mobile. In fact, smartphones are predicted to account for 44 percent of all internet traffic by 2022.
Mobile apps and social media networks leverage video to drive engagement, but the use cases don’t end there. Smartphones can be transformed into everything from bodycams to crime-tracking tools with the addition of live streaming.
While users are responsible for supplying their own recording technology (a.k.a. smartphones or webcams), the live-streaming app must have encoding functionality built in.