Streaming events #2 – Update

We have the goods!

We have done some quick testing and this looks pretty promising. Right now my family and I are moving into a new house so I’m a little strapped for time between that, work and posting to IT Babble. So instead of a long detailed post (that is coming) I’ll give some quick thoughts and recommendations.

ATEM Mini Pro

This thing is awesome! When you hook it up to a monitor you get to see all the cameras (up to 4) and switching between them is super easy and literally just a press of a button. Setting up our live stream test (we tested Facebook Live and YouTube) was crazy easy. We did have to plug the ATEM Mini Pro into our network via an ethernet cable. Once we did that we used the software on the computer to configure the live stream.

If this is set up and you are using the same service over and over, then you do not need a computer connected to the ATEM Mini. You simply hit the On Air button and then from your computer turn on the the live stream and that is it!

One concern that we found was that an HDMI input stopped working for a little while. We tested it one day and the HDMI 2 input just didn’t work. We plugged the camera into the other inputs and it all worked fine. It was just HDMI 2. The next day it worked fine with no issues. Not sure what happened. It wasn’t the camera or the cable it just stopped

Cameras

The Canon Vixia HF-R800 cameras are pretty good. They are very simple and the image quality is very good. They have image stabilization which makes hand held recording results less jerky. There are not a ton of options on the cameras which is great, especially if you want students to be able to work them (which we hope to do).

We haven’t had a chance to fully test out the batteries but on a full charge they claim 176 minutes of run time. I’m not sure how well that will hold up but we will see. One thing I hate about the battery is how they charge. You connect the battery to the camera and then plug the camera into the wall and it trickle charges the battery. The batteries took over 7 hours to charge from dead to 100%. 7 FRICKIN HOURS!

Now I have found generic chargers that will charge the batteries much faster and may go that route in the future.

Hollyland Mars 300

This is a transmitter and receiver that will allow cameras to wirelessly connect to the ATEM Mini Pro and it works great! I was pretty blown away with how minimal the lag was. I’ll have a video in the future to illustrate this. You connect the batteries, plug it into the computer and turn it on! The find each other and that’s all there is to it!

One gripe is that these things don’t come with batteries. You have to purchase the batteries separately. I’m not sure why this is, but I do wish they came altogether. I also have no idea how long those batteries last either.

Other equipment & considerations

While this is a good start we do need some more equipment to make this a more viable streaming set up. We need to get some tripods for these cameras of course. Having a person hold a camera for two plus hours will yield poor results.

We also need to get longer HDMI to Mini HDMI cable or an adapter with a long HDMI cable. We need that to connect the Hollyland Mars to the camera and to connect the camera directly to the ATEM Mini Pro.

A monitor for the ATEM Mini Pro is needed. Right now we have a 27″ monitor that we can use but it is pretty bulky and really not that necessary. Something smaller and portable such as this portable monitor.

The only problem with this is that it could be pretty fragile and kids can be rough on tech. There are quite a few of these out on the market that range from $150 – $300 a piece. We only need but it would make setup a lot faster.

Another thing we are thinking about getting are broadcasting headsets so students or teachers could announce games. These can get pretty expensive (around $200 a piece) so we will be looking to spend $50 a pair.

Some considerations that we will have to grapple with is filming sports events. We will want some sort of platform to get a better vantage point. I am thinking of having a small platform (8 feet high) and then add the camera to it. Set it up once and then just leave it there for the whole game.

Also, another question are batteries. Do we need to more of them? This is a question for another time.

So stay tuned for a more detailed rundown of this setup. Right now it looks very, very promising!

Google Tables (Beta) – An introduction

Most people are not too familiar with Google Tables. It is a database that lets you keep records on tables and then lets you make associations from data on one table to another table. Here are some real world examples of what Google Tables can do for you or your school.

  • Keep inventory of all your devices
  • Create a ticketing system so people at your school could request IT (or any) help
  • Organize a convention – You could organize all the speakers and who will be attending their workshops and also organize all the attendees and have all their schedules at the tips of your fingers

In fact Google has a number of templates that you can use right away. They have those mentioned above but also booking rooms/shared spaces, project management, creating a directory, new employee onboarding and more.

Continue reading “Google Tables (Beta) – An introduction”

Streaming events – An ongoing experiment

Photo by CoWomen on Pexels.com

This is going to be an ongoing series. Here I am talking about what we currently do and are planning. In future posts I will talk about the testing of the equipment, the use of the equipment and finally changes that we’ve made.

Streaming school events (concerts, athletics, presentations) has always been a bit of mystery for me. In theory it is pretty simple. You need cameras that feed into a computer and that computer then encodes and feeds the video to a streaming service. In practice it is pretty complicated and there are lots of questions:

  • What cameras do I use?
  • Do I have to wire the cameras?
  • How do I manage multiple camera feeds?
  • Can I brand or add graphics?
  • How do I capture audio from the event?
  • How do I encode the video feed so it streams properly?
  • Does it have to be 4K?
  • What service do I use?
  • What programs do I use?

What we do now

Right now, we have it super simple. We use a Mevo Plus camera. They have a newer version but here is what ours looks like.

Here is how you use it. You turn it on (it has a battery) and it connects to your smartphone via its Mevo app. Once they connect you control the camera with your smartphone. You can zoom in, out, and even pan all digitally. It can stream from your phone to YouTube, Ustream, Facebook and others live or you can record it to its micro SD card and then edit the footage later. The camera is a wide angle lens so it does a good job of covering a large area and the output can be up to 4K.

The quality is very good and while the camera we purchased was $400, outside of a tripod we did not need much more. We did buy some accessories, but we have figured to run audio from a soundboard or mixer into the Mevo for greatly improved sound. Overall, we have been very happy with our Mevo and will continue to use it.

There are some issues though. The Mevo is a single camera. There is no way to integrate it with other cameras. It is its own singular solution for streaming. You have one camera and that is it. It is simple and straightforward and that is the beauty of our Mevo, but as we look at covering athletic events, having more than one camera is desirable to cover more of the action. This has led to some good conversations and more importantly a plan.

The Plan

We are looking to stream with multiple cameras but as you add complexity to any solution, it usually requires more equipment, training and of course – money. We are looking for this equipment to be managed by middle school students (with appropriate teacher/administrator supervision – of course) so the solution has to be pretty easy. Easy to set up, use and tear down. All of this is important.

The first part is the BlackMagic Design ATEM Mini Pro ($499). This is going to be the brains of the operation.

This thing looks expensive but it offers a lot of flexibility and power when it comes to streaming. You can have 4 HDMI inputs, professional switching between the inputs as well. You can have two microphone line ins and if you hook it up to a monitor you can view all four inputs at once. Great for producing. Also, you can attach a hard drive to it to record if you don’t want to stream. There is also powerful software you can download and use to get even more power out of this thing. Best of all, it is pretty easy to use. I’ve watched a few demo videos about it and I think that middle school students could be up and running with this deck with some minimal practice and training. This video by Zebra Zone is particularly good. He shows the set up and goes through all of its features one at a time. Just great!

Now on to cameras. We don’t want super expensive prosumer cameras. We are looking to save a little money and through my research we are going with the Canon Vixia HF r800. Yeah that name just rolls right off the toungue there doesn’t it? Here it is from BH Photo.

Since it is going to be covering athletic events, it could get damaged so having a less expensive camera that does OK with motion is what is important. All of our events are going to be well lit (for the most part), so low light is not a factor. Another plus to this camera is that it comes with optical image stability. If we put it in the hands of someone or are doing a panning shot on a tripod it should look pretty smooth. The big thing it offers though is HDMI mini out. This means we can plug it into the ATEM Mini Pro! We are planning on purchasing two of these cameras.

Now here is the expensive part. We don’t want to be running HDMI cables all over the place, especially if student athletes are going to be walking or running in those areas. We want to do this wirelessly if possible and so an HDMI wireless transmitter/receiver set is in order. This starts expensive and can get really expensive. We decided on the Hollyland Mars 300.

This is for one camera! Right now we are going to stick with just one, even though we are starting with two cameras. We need to try it out even though it has great reviews. This boasts 300 feet wireless connectivity which is way more than we need, but to know that it can go that far is pretty impressive.

Broadcasting live!

Another piece I would like to add into this setup is the ability for people (ideally students) to announce the games. Rather than just have coaches and athletes talking to each other, it may be a nice touch, but how do you do this?

The ATEM Mini Pro does have two mic inputs and so we were thinking of just adding them that way. Perhaps purchasing some “cheap” broadcasting headsets. The problem with that is that many of them are only XLR and we need a 3.5mm input instead of XLR or 1/4″ inputs.

Another issue is the price. The cheaper headsets are starting at $50 and they quickly go up from there.

What’s next?

The equipment has been ordered. Once we set things up and try it out we try to find a workflow that works for us.

Zoom Podtrak P4 – The king is dead. Long live the king.

We sporadically create podcasts here at IT Babble and for the past six years, the device of choice has been the Zoom H6. A piece of technology that has never failed me (how often can you say that about any tech). I’ve used it as a USB microphone, to record voice overs for tutorial videos and of course for podcasts and as a mic in the field. It has been great and I have a deep appreciation and love for the H6. So why the sudden shift?

Continue reading “Zoom Podtrak P4 – The king is dead. Long live the king.”

Google Chrome – Tab groups

How did I not know about this?! If you’re like me, then you rarely have more than 10 tabs open at a time. However, not everyone is as . . . considerate to their computer as I am. I have seen colleagues of mine have anywhere from 30-50 tabs open and not feel shame!

I know each browser has there own way of managing lots of tabs and there are more than a few extensions out there that can help people as well. Since my school uses Google, it only makes sense for me to use Google Chrome, plus I like all the extensions they have to offer, but this feature is built right into the browser itself. No need to install anything else or create an account with a third party. Just open tabs up and group them!

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All done :)

Even though the school year is officially over, I still have plenty of projects and work to do through the summer. Keep checking into IT Babble every week to see what gets posted. For you younger readers out there. That gentleman above is none other than Roger Mosley who famously portrayed the character TC in the 80’s show Magnum PI.

Computer reviews – Check with your school

I saw this article on the Verge titled What’s the best student laptop? We asked students by Monica Chin. Being I am in IT and education I am always interested in these articles and this one asks students themselves. What would students say they like? Here is a group of people who typically don’t have a lot of spending power, so I was curious what they would suggest. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed.

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Brainstormer.online – A review

I was reading Freetech4teachers and saw a quick article about Brainstormer.online and thought it might be interesting to check it out. As you can guess from its unusual URL it is a brainstorming website that allows people to pose a question and a number of people brainstorm about that question and then vote on those ideas. That pretty much sums it up. It is easy for students to join and pretty straightforward. The question I am posing, is it worth your time? Let’s find out.

Continue reading “Brainstormer.online – A review”