Live And Unplugged At NCMR

Testing out The Cube and the Panasonic AG-AF 100 live combo

Testing out The Cube and the Panasonic AG-AF 100 live combo

At The UpTake we’re known for live video coverage of big events. Not just the ones that are staged for the media, but also those events that are much more unscripted and chaotic. Until now, providing live video of protests and fast moving stories has meant sacrificing video or audio quality and technical control. No longer. The UpTake is teaming up with Livesteam and Teradek at the National Conference for Media reform to demonstrate the latest cutting edge technology. We’re delivering HD quality video and audio live from just about anywhere and we’re unplugged.

No wires. No strings. No ethernet cables. Only a prosumer camera (Panasonic AG-AF100), the Cube from Teradek and new special integration with Livestream. We push a button and a few seconds later we’re live. Livestream CEO Max Haot was nice enough to lend us one of their units for the week and we are giving it a real shakedown.

How does it look? Here’s a side by side comparison between the livestream video and the video recorded an SD card at 720p.

Above the livestream version of Tim Karr, Campaign Director for Free Press talks about the National Conference for Media Reform that begins today (Friday) in Boston. Below, the camera recorded video uploaded to blip.tv.

It’s pretty good looking.

All the geeky details on how it works.

Like any production to have a good looking final product, you need to start out with a good looking picture. We get that from the Panasonic AF-AG100 Panasonic’s site says

The AG-AF100 is the first professional 4/3″ large image video camcorder optimized for high-definition video recording. Targeted at the video and film production communities, the AF100 delivers the shallow depth of field and wider field of view of a large imager, with the flexibility and cost advantages of a hand held camcorder. The AF100 has the ability to use virtually any professional quality lens with the addition of an easily obtainable adapter.

In short it has a lot of the advantages of the digital SLR’s but it has professional XLR audio inputs and all the high end prosumer video controls you’ve come to expect.
• Records in 1080 (60i, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p native) and 720 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p native, utilizing AVCCAM’s highest-quality PH mode (maximum 24Mbps)

• Variable frame rates in 24P, 30P and 25P in1080, up to 60P or 50p dependent on 60Hz or 50Hz mode

• Uncompressed 4:2:2, 8 Bit HD-SDI and HDMI output

With those two types of output, HD-SDI and HDMI you can connect the camera to the new Teradek Cube. This was originally developed to get rid of the camera cables in studio production. The relatively small Cube perches on the camera and encodes a HD signal (1080 or 720) and turns it into a wireless signal. Another Cube box decodes the signal and it goes into a video switch and you make TV.

Great technology, but a limited application. But what what if instead of just going across the room, that camera picture could go anywhere in the world? What if it didn’t matter that the camera was in a studio, but was out in “the wild” where news actually happens. The folks at Livestream saw these possibilities and in a few weeks after the Cube was introduced, worked with Teradek to modify it’s firmware to stream directly to a livestream channel.

Not only can it stream over a wireless network, but the 4G version will go live anyplace that has 4G cell phone service. So we are able to go live now in thousands of locations at the push of a button.

There are several versions of The Cube. They’re made to be either on a wireless network or a 4G network. The video input we were using is SDI, but there is another version with HDMI, which gives you a wider variety of cameras you can work with.

For the NCMR we found the 4G coverage in the below-ground levels of the Seaport World Trade Center was not robust enough for the video signal, so our pals at Free Speech TV who recently purchased a wireless version of The Cube let us borrow their unit. Between the two units (wireless and 4G) we are now ready to go live from just about anywhere.

You can easily grow accustomed to the convenience of going live without a computer. Before Free Speech let us use their wireless version of The Cube, we were faced with a situation where the 4G coverage was lousy and we had to revert back to the “old style” livestreaming of using a Macbook Pro connected by firewire to a miniDV camera. Unfortunately, the NCMR venue where Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was speaking had no electrical outlets for the media to use. So we had to run the Macbook Pro on batteries. If you’ve livestreamed from a laptop before, you know it uses a lot of the processor, which chews up the battery fast. So about an hour into the presentation we ran out of laptop battery.

Compare that to this morning when we did a workshop with The Cube… we went for two hours and still had battery left on the camera and The Cube. So not just live, but live longer!

Watch for our roving camera in Boston. And realize, it’s live so don’t say or do anything you don’t want the rest of the world to see!

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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