Low cost, easy installation and low weight equipment. Streaming your event via you iPhone on 3G sounds great. But could we pull it off with todays technology? We made the test using Livestream.com and Ustream.tv
For our ski event-series in Switzerland we were looking for cheap, easy and convenient way to bring the events to television (or in this case computer). For an association with a limited budget this turned out the be quite a challenge. Nevertheless, where there’s a will there’s a way.
After some research we decided to take on the project and test different streaming solutions. The one big challenge is to get the signal online when you’re on the top of a mountain. You have three possibilities: Satellite, 3G or wireless. While wireless is limited to a certain distance, satellite is expensive. This leaves you with 3G.
3G requires a connection via computer or smartphone. Dragging three computers up to a hill top, can get a bit annoying.
So, we stuck with the smartphone idea. Hardly any weight, low connection costs, direct connection via iPhone apps that enable you to stream directly to the Internet.
To stabilize the iPhones and enhance the picture quality, we purchased two OLWE Bubo iPhone 4 holders. These devices allowed us to mount the phones to a tripod. Thanks to our sponsor Swisscom we received three iPhone 4′s and free data plans.
The entire costs for the production material for the streaming is:
2 OWLE Bubo : 340 $
3 iPhone 4: 1’929 $
2 Tripods: 120$
2 2GB Data Plans /Year (25$/month) : 600 $
= 2’989 $
Ustream vs. Livestream
Having the production material together the question remained, “How could we stream the event live”? Currently there are two big players on the livestreaming market. Market leader Livestream.com offers a great solution for producers with Livestream Studio. This tool enables producers to control different cameras (mutiple cameras can be added and the producer can switch between the different cameras as we know it from live television events), insert logos, insert text and fully control every step of the production. It gives you the feeling of real live television without any cutbacks. Further Livestream offers you a very easy solution to implement your livestream with live comments and social media plugins for your blog or website. Integration of your video to your facebook page with comments is a no-brainer. Livestream is a wowing tool and gets me as social media enthusiast more than exited.
But Livestream has some downsides – unfortunately. Compared to Ustream.tv (we’ll come to that later), Livestream.com does not offer an own iPhone application that streams directly into your livestream account. Livestream connects via an app called qik.com (belongs to Skype), which imports the livestream directly into your account. The crucial and most important part with a livestream coming from the iPhone is: the quality. Qik.com can not offer the quality we and our viewers expect from a livestream. In short: The qik.com quality is no good. Hence the entire, massive, brilliant, wowing, exiting set-up Livestream.com offers you, is completely wothless. Sad reality when we realized that fact. Please qik.com get us some better quality and you will rule the streaming world.
We still had Ustream.tv. Other than Livestream.com, Ustream.tv offers an own iPhone application. The app is easy to install, easy to use and free. The crucial part: the quality. The Ustream app offers two different resolution options. The better resolution is what we expect from a livestream. We filmed a night event and even with the dark light, the fast rotations by the arial ski jumpers could be easily identified. This is what we expect from a livestream. This is something we could work with and viewers would say: OK, I’m going to watch the livestream this weekend.
The downsides of Ustream.tv is, that you don’t have the option of a full-on broadcasting studio with multiple camera inputs and you can’t work as flexible. Ustream only allows you to broadcast one stream per account. Hence you need multiple accounts and you will have to embed them simultaneously and won’t be able to cut between different angles. Also, the stream with the high resolution is at the limit of the broadcasting bandwidth of 3G. If your connection is bad or the 3G is intensively used, you will have stagnating pictures.
Nevertheless, Ustream offers a good solution for livestreaming via the iPhone.
Both Livesteam.com and Ustream.tv have their pros and cons. While Livestream.com offers the studio solution with multiple camera angles, text inserts and logo display, the qik.com iPhone app delivers quality that is not fit for a livestream. Ustream.tv is the quality you want, but sadly they do not offer the studio solutions.
A combination of Ustream.tv and Livestream.com would make livestraming via iPhone and 3G perfect. Till someone decides to offer one or the other, you will probably have to use the Ustream.tv application.
Livestream with Ustream.tv
Livestream with qik.com/Livestream.com