In the current climate where it has been difficult to bring a large staff contingent with a great deal of equipment to a production site, content providers are looking for ways to capture and deliver live streams with less gear and smaller teams. Surprisingly, many are finding that a solution to delivering broadcast-quality streams from remote locations can be found in their pocket.
Over the past year, mobile apps have become increasingly popular for live productions and events. With a large install base and high-quality video capture built into mobile devices, apps designed for streaming over IP networks provide a seamless way to quickly enable both experienced and novice production teams. Remote production techniques that rely on mobile applications for content capture and delivery allow content providers to produce content in a cost-effective manner and connect with their fan base at a time when attention is at an all-time high.
A SEAMLESS WAY TO ENABLE QUALITY MOBILE REMOTE PRODUCTION AT SCALE
Gigcasters, a live streaming engineering company, has seen mobile production increase during the pandemic and witnessed first-hand the benefits of higher frequency, lower cost productions using Zixi’s OnAir app infrastructure.
With the Zixi OnAir mobile app, users can stream live from an iOS or Android device, using the device’s built-in camera to encapsulate the encoded video and audio for transmission over standard Internet or cellular connections with the Zixi protocol, RTMP or RIST. The Zixi OnAir mobile app is ideal for live event producers and ENG workflows, allowing users to easily conduct real-time capture and delivery of breaking news stories, alternative views of concerts, sporting events, or other live events during a broadcast.
“Brands are looking for new ways to get their messaging out, so live streaming became very popular during the pandemic” says Casey Charvet, CEO of Gigcasters. “But it’s been tricky to get people on site with capacity restrictions and other protocols, so remote production has become very big. We started looking at ways to facilitate remote production in a very cost-effective manner.”
Using the Zixi OnAir app was a natural evolution for Gigcasters as they already relied on Zixi’s Software-Defined Video Platform (SDVP) for their live streaming software needs. The company first tried live video delivery remotely using laptops and WebRTC, but found the reliability of the feed was not good, and packet loss and image quality were insufficient. Once the Zixi OnAir app was quickly enabled on local production teams’ mobile phones, getting a broadcast-quality feed was easy.
“We started looking at ‘what is the easiest way that we can have somebody send us a feed?’” says Charvet. “Mobile streaming apps were the obvious choice. Mobile phones have a large install base, everybody has a phone, people are very familiar with how to operate and record video on a phone. There are tons of accessories like ring lights, stands and microphones packs that are made to work with phones. We’re able to leverage this massive install base and product familiarity along with exceptional video quality from the latest generation of phones with amazing cameras.”
As manufacturing companies continue to pack functionality and capabilities into their mobile device offerings, production quality will get even better. “The OnAir app gives us a way to easily enable IP streaming using a great protocol that fits into our existing IP base remote production workflow, in a way that’s easy for someone to pick up who isn’t necessarily a videographer, resulting in a broadcast quality, high bandwidth IP feed.”
With Zixi’s OnAir app, Gigcasters easily enables field production teams to capture live streams using their mobile devices and to easily send them to the company’s headquarters in Austin, TX, where the company performs video mixing and graphic production along with other editing.
OVERCOMING CHALLENGES OF REMOTE PRODUCTION WITH A RELIABLE, ADAPTABLE SOLUTION
While streaming out of residential, business or stadium locations can be challenging due to lack of dedicated fiber connections or subpar broadband connections that do not prioritize outgoing traffic, Gigcasters found that transmission with the Zixi protocol was flawless with Zixi’s proprietary Forward Error Correction and ARQ that make the Internet reliable for broadcast-quality delivery.
“One of the things we really like about the OnAir app is the ability to use LTE connection as well as wifi. Zixi OnAir allows you to use the bonding functionality between 4G LTE and wifi, so that when signal strength drops, the quality gets reduced gracefully without compromising the viewer experience. This autoscaling mechanism is unique.”
Zixi On-Air can bond cellular and Wi-Fi connections to send the highest bit rate possible, ensuring delivery of a high-quality stream even in degraded network conditions. This bonding capability of the Zixi protocol is valuable when connectivity at remote locations can fluctuate. When you’re running a single camera, single feed production, this ability to deliver a continuous, reliable, broadcast quality feed no matter the underlying IP network is essential.
UNTETHERED PRODUCTION EXPANDS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
The untethered production capability that mobile streaming apps provide allows for drastically increased opportunities to capture and distribute live content at greater frequency from both professional and prosumer sources with improved economics. The higher frequency, lower cost remote production has allowed Gigcasters to support even more events and scale capabilities in their core business to support this increase in volume.
“Before we were taking a finished program feed coming from a remote site and helping with the distribution of that stream”, explains Charvet. “In the remote production world, we are now taking in remote clean source feeds from the OnAir app, and producing, including opening title graphics, background music, lower third graphics, and providing that service remotely on equipment that’s running in the cloud or in our data center, and then distributing the finished program feed out to wherever the client wants it to go.”
LOOKING AHEAD: HOW WILL 5G CHANGE PRODUCTION?
As 5G networks increase across the globe, live streaming production from a 5G-enabled mobile device will become even more customary. Then one of the big challenges of broadcasting over 5G will be the need to sort through an increased amount of quality content feeds, including 4K, coming in at greater frequency with more data, and determining the best way to program them.
“With the potential to receive hundreds of feeds from one specific location, there are going to be huge possibilities and opportunities for businesses to leverage that” Says Charvet. “This is when a solution like Zixi’s OnAir app that’s 5G compliant and can service that production with technology that’s more powerful and reliable will be a game changer.”