After using the Teradek Bond with an AF-100 and streaming a 2 hour live event, I decided to go ahead and test the new Livestream Broadcaster.
This is not a comparison test, but just me testing another solution at a drastically different price point.
One of the great things about working at DVeStore is that I'm afforded opportunities to try out hot new gear, often times right as it's released. I had the chance to test out the Livestream Broadcaster for streaming video, and wanted to share some thoughts with everyone:
First, the item itself. I was impressed with everything that came in the box. The instructions are extremely short and concise, yet easy to follow. 3 simple steps and you're ready to go (once you've set up your Livestream account, the unit gives you a code for 3 free months as a producer). Included were 3 AA batteries, a mini HDMI - HDMI cable, an ethernet cable, and the power supply with multiple adapters.The design of the unit is impressive: a rugged-feeling box roughly half the size and width of a VHS tape. The battery cover is held on by magnets, so you won't even need a screwdriver to change batteries.It also comes with it's own hot/cold shoe mount, which screws into a 1/4-20 thread hold in the bottom. (Note: there were no updates required once connected, either. This literally meant that it was ready-to-go right out of the box!)
My one criticism? When the AC adapter is plugged in, it makes it difficult to plug a 4G USB stick modem into the USB port, but this is fixable using a small USB extender cable.
Opperation of the Broadcaster is very simple: there are only two buttons. The LCD screen provides easy-to-understand instructions, and makes full-use of both buttons (one acts as a directional stick you can move up, down, left or right). I simply turned it on, connected to the internet, then punched in the code it gave me to my Livestream account, and it was synced and ready to go!
For the initial test, I attached the Broadcaster to the hotshoe of the Nikon D800 DSLR camera. The next step was plugging in a Verizon 4G USB stick modem, and the connection process to the internet took about a minute. After adjusting the setting to HD (2.3 Mbps), I then simply pressed "Go Live" on the Broadcaster, and my stream began! It asks if you'd like to notify your followers when going live, which is good to do. The Livestream service is similar to Twitter, in that you can have people "follow" your account, receiving these notifications whenever you're ready to stream content.
After walking around the office a bit, I tested the quality by focusing on hair strands in relatively low-light, and the picture that was streamed was nothing short of stunning. This is true HD quality video! The Nikon with 35-70mm 2.8 lens certainly makes for a gorgeous picture, and allowed me to use the LCD viewfinder as a monitor even while feeding HDMI out to the Broadcaster! This was a big concern for us, as needing a monitor while filming would certainly add weight to any DSLR rig, but with the Nikon it wasn't necessary. (Note that on the Canon 5D Mark II, the screen goes black when an external HDMI source is connected, there are also screen overlays that are embedded in the HDMI stream)
We were able to view the stream through two computers, an iPhone and an iPad, and the picture was simply incredible. Everything went amazingly well during the first test. We weren't able to detect much, if any, pixelation during quick movements or pans, the audio ran consistently, and critical focus carried extreme detail. Sounds great, right? Well, because this environment is optimally set up for such things, I figured it would be prudent to test in less-than-favorable conditions.
My friend Aaron agreed to do a demonstration at his house of how to properly disassemble and clean an AR-15 assault rifle in low-light (his garage), and with unknown service for the 4G Verizon USB stick modem. I set up the D800 on a Manfrotto tripod with the Livestream Broadcaster attached and no external microphone. We all know DSLRs aren't known for the audio, but I wanted to see what it would actually do. I had no on-camera lighting, no studio lighting, just flourescent lighting provided by the garage's overheads. I must once again praise the D800: it's abilities in low light were incredible. I was a fan of the Canon 5D Mark II for years, and Nikon may be winning me over. But back to the broadcaster.
Using the same settings, I pushed out the live stream at HD quality, and immediately received reports from viewers that the stream wouldn't load on anything; computers, iPads, anything. I tested this myself on my iPhone and a laptop, and nothing happened. After resetting the Broadcaster, I downgraded the quality to Large (about 700kbps) and was instantly flooded with reports that the stream was working. I believe this was due to location, as cell providers' coverage areas definitely vary from place to place. Regardless, the rest of the video was able to be streamed with success, and still looked very sharp.
When using the Broadcaster, make sure the LCD screen is facing you, the operator. You can monitor from there your signal quality, battery life and any other things that could happen. Unfortunately this is the only way to tell if something comes up during the shoot, and with only one USB port you're relying heavily on that one 4G USB stick modem, so make sure you've got options (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint) and check the coverage in the area of your shoot before going live.
Battery life of the 3 AAs the unit can use seems to be pretty limited. I would recommend using the AC adapter whenever possible, which means you'd want a 6" or so USB extension cable for your 4g data card. You can also decide to use the Broadcaster's onboard wireless to connect via Wifi, or use the ethernet port for best results. Note that we also are able confirm that Sanyo's Pedal Juice portable lithium ion works well as a great long life battery. The DC connector fits perfect.
This is a fantastic solution for anyone looking to do streaming video, from consumer cameras to DSLRs to ENG, this will handle your workload. At $495 (as of this writing), there's a ton of value in the box. (The 3 month free Livestream Producer account alone is worth $150!) For such a lightweight design, it has the feel of a quality product, and has produced good results so far. It's weight, roughly a pound, doesn't add too much to the total weight of your rig either, so you shouldn't expect to become fatigued much quicker than usual if shooting hand-held. I plan to continue testing it over the next month or so, comparing it's uses, pros and cons to the Teradek Bond and any other streaming solutions.
Bottom Line: If you need one camera able to do live streaming or have a low-budget for a web series or video podcast, this is a FANTASTIC buy, well worth the money.
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