I grew up in the era when multicamera live production was the ultimate goal of almost every video production company. Everyone wanted their own live production van, with miles of cable, at least three studio cameras, and a big ass switcher (vision mixer to y’all from across the pond). The idea of taking 6 hours to set up your cameras and cable runs, adjust and match the colors of each camera, get that audio feed from the venue or set up your own audio board and microphones was pure bliss! Switching live and recording to SVHS or (gasp!) BetaSP without the need to edit afterwards was almost orgasmic!
The requirements were heavy, though. You needed a camera controller for each camera. You needed a TBC (Time Base Corrector) for each and every video feed to make sure they were exactly synchronized. You needed a Chyron or other graphics generator to roll in those lower thirds. If you were really high end, you had a DVE upstream (downstream?) of your switcher to fly in video or actually Chromakey in other sources. Just showing off your gear got you those plum paying jobs!
***Cue the flashback sound FX***
I remember shooting a dance recital with three cameras, two Panasonic AG-450 SVHS camcorders and a borrowed Panasonic AG-460 2-CCD S-VHS camcorder. (Hi-tech, you betcha!) I ran each off of a 75 foot S-VHS cable into a Panasonic WJ-MX50 switcher which output to a Panasonic AG-1970 S-VHS VCR. I took up an entire row with my gear and ran a lot of stingers to get power where I needed it! I paid two shooters to man two of the cameras and had the third in the center by me shooting static and wide. There were no graphics or video roll-ins. The finished tape was brought to the studio and thrown on the duplicator for delivery to the dance studio the next day. They were ecstatic and I was very happy with the check they handed over. Next day delivery of 40 tapes? Heaven!
***Cue the Sound FX again and flash back to the present***
Production has changed since then. Higher quality cameras, more options, the ability to edit quickly and easily made the necessity of multicamera live production not so necessary. I still craved that ability, though, and BlackMagic Design fed that deep dark desire in the form of their ATEM 4K Production Switcher. This device took me back to the days of my S-VHS portable studio! I could roll everything I needed into a 6RU roller case and be on location quickly. All I needed was my three SDI camcorders and reels of SDI cable and I was good to go. I was able to record full HD video to SSD, pop that video over to my editor after the show, add any additional music, video, or graphics not rolled in during the shoot and upload the file to my client’s website of choice.
Clients, however, want more, they want it faster, and they want it now. Using another computer, a way to transcode the video output into an MPEG stream and an internet connection, I could stream live to the internet. It’s a pain to setup, but doable.
But I’m looking for a way to put everything I need into a small backpack, do everything myself, cut multicam live and livestream to the internet while recording the isolated cameras (ISO recording) and have the ability to tweak the production after the fact if needed or desired.
You know, that just doesn’t exist… or does it? Enter the Sling Studio! Everything the Sling Studio does revolves around the Hub. The Hub is a $999.00 device that’s about the size of your average wireless router. You can add an optional $149.00 battery to the bottom or simply find a place to plug in to your average outlet. You need to either use an SD card or external USB-C storage device to use the Sling Studio. You also need a compatible iPad running the Sling Studio Console app to control everything. Finally you will need some source cameras, otherwise, why have the Sling at all?
For source cameras, you can use certain iPhones, Android phones, iPod Touchs (6th gen), or iPads running the Sling Studio Capture app. You can also buy the optional $349.00 Sling Studio CameraLink to connect a DSLR, camcorder, or any video source with HDMI out to the Hub.
The cameras connect to the hub using a special wifi SSID. Be awarre that this SSID is ONLY used to connect to the hub! The iPad and camera devices both use this SSID. The Hub can then be connected to internet either through another existing wifi SSID or using an optional ethernet adapter.
My setup includes the hub, three iPod Touchs, and a new 9.7″ iPad. I copied the setup Em of Cheesycam.com uses. Why recreate the wheel when something already works, right? I tested out the system recently at the recent Beignet Fest. My son wanted to do a livestream from the fest while doing a few interviews of some vendors. We found the vendors willing to be interviewed and found a place to plug in the hub. I have not yet purchased the external battery. It’ll be coming soon, though! The problem was finding an internet connection. My son brought out his phone, activated a wifi hotspot and we connected just fine… initially. We had some streaming issues probably due to the lack of a solid connection. But it was doable. We connected to the right Facebook page in a round about way. I’m guessing it’ll become more intuitive the more I use the system. My son, his coworker and my wife each grabbed a camera and started walking around. The two boys each attached a lav mic to the iPods for audio, but I think we’ll have to find another solution as the streamed audio was a bit echo-y. The stream cut out a few times and reconnected after a few minutes, probably due to the distances to the hub. The hub supposedly has a 300 foot range, but that range will be shorter if you are shooting around walls or metal structures like we were.
After the stream, I took the SD card out and easily imported the video into Adobe Premiere using a plugin provided by Sling Studio. I could go back and edit my cuts, adjust audio, graphics, whatever! This is one of the better parts of the system, IMHO!
I can see setting up a 4 camera live shoot, import a few videos for playback, graphics for lower thirds and a bug and livestream the event; then clean up the shoot in Premiere and upload the final video for the event planners to use as they see fit! Everything I have will easily fit into a backpack making travel, setup, and breakdown a breeze! I intend on purchasing the CameraLink devices to connect my Sony PXW-X70 cameras to the system. That would require me to have another camera bag and three tripod bags to carry around, but again, it’s still very doable!
Imagine going to a live event (presentation, recital, product launch, whatever!) Setting up three cameras that wirelessly connect to a simple iPad (via the Hub) which can remain in the backpack on battery if you wish, and livestream without any major impact upon the venue’s infrastructure! You want mobility? You got it! Want to put a camera on a crane? You got it! It’s the dream system without all the gear nightmares!
I’ll be doing more testing of the system as the days and weeks go by and I’ll be posting my thoughts here. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s an easily used and useful setup for most purposes. I invite you to check it out! If you’re interested in livestreaming and or multicamera production, it’ll be worth your time, trust me!
For those interested, here’s the video of the Beignet Fest! Enjoy!