Zen and the Art of Remote Presentation – Guide to Live Streaming
Like many of us at Lensrentals, people across the country are hunkered down at home either by choice or by local mandate in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This has created new challenges in how we work, how we learn, and how we experience the world around us. What were once face to face meetings in bustling boardrooms has now become a video feeds from an in-home office or kitchen. Virtual musical performances, standup comedy shows, artists’ Q & A’s, and classrooms are now becoming the norm; even some morning news programs have defaulted to live-streaming as a way to offset any potential threat of in-person transmission.
As the parent of a toddler, I’m usually bound to the house by sundown, so this new wave of activity traditionally relegated to the bars and concert halls now being available in my living room has been welcomed. It is, however, not without its limitations. These streamed events often accompanied by choppy, grainy images or muddy audio from a mobile phone or webcam. I’ve grimaced as I’ve watched as some of my favorite standup acts’ recent streams marred by poor audio and a less than stellar production.
These unprecedented social changes have brought about a need for professional and consumer access to simple, high-quality streaming solutions without the need for complicated encoders and network configurations. When using your iPhone or Android to stream, you’re at the mercy of the camera’s automatic settings to white balance, set the exposure, and focus. Recognizing this sudden demand, our team at Lensrentals came together to discuss solutions to these growing needs that would be simple for people of all experience levels and budgets.
The Remote Presentation Live Streaming Kit is available in a Basic or Advanced version, with both filling the need for a simple turn-key solution for getting professional-quality streaming audio and video to the web.
The Basic Live Streaming Kit includes a Canon G40 camcorder with a 2.84″ 2.9MP Full HD sensor, which makes it a good option for low light indoor shooting. It’s coupled with a Sennheiser MKE 400 – a very capable microphone that rejects side noise, allowing viewers to hear you and not the drone of nearby electronics – as well as a GorillaPod 5K Flexible Mini-Tripod, which is a versatile tabletop style tripod with flex legs that can quickly adapt to unconventional shooting needs. The included Redmere 15ft HDMI cable can reliably transmit your 1080p video signal while being compact enough not to be cumbersome on smaller setups. Your path to the web is the Blackmagic Web Presenter with the included Teranex Mini Smart Panel..
The Blackmagic Web Presenter requires no drivers and is readily compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chromebook. It receives your video footage and down converts SD, HD, and Ultra HD to 720p. This means you get high-quality video but you also get the lowest data rate ensuring you can stream video reliably and far superior to that of your iPhone, Android or webcam. The addition of the smart panel adds on-device control of input switching, menu settings, and a front LCD panel to monitor input. This makes for a compact setup making it more suitable for smaller, more intimate settings, vastly improving the video quality of that online work meeting or class you’re teaching. Additionally, each kit includes a laminated step-by-step quick start guide to aid in setting up.
The Advanced Live Streaming Kit includes a Canon XA45 camcorder with a 2.84-inch 21.14MP 4K UHD sensor and Blackmagic Web Presenter. The XA45 does well in low-light and adds a significant jump in both resolution and zoom range over the G40. The included 25 ft SDI cable gives a more secure connection over longer distances than HDMI, locking into both the camcorder and web presenter. Also Included is both an NTG-4 shotgun mic and Rodelink Wireless lav kit for maximum flexibility when recording audio, allowing you to either mic a speaker directly or prioritize a space. The included Manfrotto Aluminum Tripod System, while a little bulkier, makes it more ideal for activities or performances that require a manned camera.
The Blackmagic Web Presenter is simple to set up. With no power button, you simply plug in the power cable and the unit boots right up. Depending on the kit, you’ll use either an HDMI or SDI cable to run from the camera into either the HDMI in or SDI in at the rear of the Web Presenter. Connect the Standard-B end of the USB 2.0 Male to Standard-B into the port labeled USB WEBCAM and the other into any USB 2.0 port on your computer.
Once the Web Presenter boots, it should recognize the incoming signal which will appear on the LCD of the smart panel. If not, pressing 1 (SDI) or 2 (HDMI) toggles between the inputs. You can quickly test the connection by opening any application that accesses your webcam, such as Photo Booth or QuickTime.
Additionally, there are SDI and HDMI loop-throughs for preview and an SDI Program Output of the live feed. There’s an XLR Mic/Line input, but it lacks phantom power, so you’ll need a powered mic to get audio. Adding a Blackmagic Micro Converter BiDirectional SDI/HDMI into the mix allows you to support either two HDMI signals or two SDI signals alternatively if needed. With a two-camera setup, the Web Presenter defaults to a half-second fade, which can be lengthened or altered to cuts or dips under the transitions tab in the menu.
We’ve found Facebook to be one of the easiest platforms for streaming live content. With the Web Presenter connected, simply go to your personal profile or page and click Live Video. It gives you the option of selecting the Web Presenter or your computer’s built-in webcam as a video source. It also gives you the ability to choose Web Presenter as your audio source, your laptop’s internal microphone, or another source. After making your choices select ‘Go Live’ and you’re up and running.
With YouTube as your homepage, you select the Camcorder icon, ‘Go Live’, and you’re given the option for webcam, which will default you to the Web Presenter or stream, which will require the use of other software like OBS – more on that later. YouTube does require you to wait 24 hours to validate your account for live streaming, so if you need to stream in a pinch, then you should verify your account sooner rather than later.
For more elaborate setups where you’d want more options such as layering in images, text, or browser windows (for seminars or classroom presentations), adding OBS or Open Broadcaster Studio would be a great addition, and it’s a free download. It’s a little more involved, but Youtube and Facebook will provide a Stream Key that you’ll input when requested into OBS so that it can stream directly to that platform.
Since you’ll most likely be shooting solo, framing and monitoring audio will be essential. Both the G40 and the XA45 camcorders feature a rotating LCD screen giving you the ability to monitor the image while directly addressing the camera. A pair of Studio Headphones are also advised to be sure the sound you’re getting is audible and free of static. Try to set up in a room free of echo (carpet over tile preferably) and be mindful of your background. Services like Zoom allow you to modify your environment with or without a green screen. You’ll want to be confident that there is sufficient lighting, and if you’re feeling particularly vain, add a FotodioX Ring Light to your setup to remove any unflattering shadows or imperfections. Otherwise, smile, keep your head up and hang in there with the knowledge that we’ll all get through this together even as we’re apart.
Author: Jason Rawlings
I’m Jason and I’m a Video Inspection Lead here at Lensrentals.com. In my ever-decreasing spare time, I make short films, wax poetically about cinema, and weep for the future of mankind. I’m a graduate from the University of Memphis Film and Video program.