Live stream

Essential equipment for any live broadcast

So, do you want to do a live-stream? Sound complicated? Here is a guide to the important components you will need.

Beginner level

Live streaming has become much, much more accessible in recent years, largely thanks to the pandemic making it a necessity. There are all kinds of levels of live streaming, from amateurs to professionally produced multi-camera productions. I’ll cover a few different levels here, as requirements vary, but hopefully this will give beginners some insight into the general gear needed, depending on what you want to achieve.

The camera

That you need a camera as part of your streaming kit seems obvious, but your choice of camera will depend on what you want to do. Streaming at the most basic level might be something as simple as your laptop’s webcam, but it doesn’t look the best, or the most convenient. You may want to stream from an outdoor location such as a beach. These days, the cameras themselves can stream live, with some action camera brands allowing you to stream by connecting your cell phone to them. The GoPro, for example, can stream extremely easily via the GoPro app.

This gives a very simple way to start, but for a more professional result you will need a lot more. If you want to use a mirrorless camera or camcorder for your stream, you will need a dedicated live streaming encoder.

Live Stream Encoders and Mixers

Connection reliability is a major concern with live streaming, so it’s just as well to use dedicated equipment for the taste. At the most basic level, you can use a product such as the Teradek Wave. The Wave is a monitor and encoder in one system, and the beauty of it is that it can bridge multiple cellular connections, making your live stream an order of magnitude more reliable. For example, you can use both your own phone’s connection and that of a friend or colleague. It can also stream to multiple streaming services simultaneously, and you can do so from almost anywhere in the world where you have access to some sort of internet connection.

But what if you wanted to not only live stream your event or occasion, but also cover it from multiple angles?

This is where things get powerful. For multi-camera operations, you will need something called a mixer. This takes input from different cameras and, as the name suggests, lets you switch between them to choose which angle is visible to viewers at any given time. If we take the example of the Teradek Wave, you can connect it to the output of a device such as the Blackmagic ATEM Mini Design and broadcast a multi-camera live feed from anywhere there was a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Keep in mind that you will need an extra person to operate the blender.

The ATEM Mini Blackmagic Design. Image: Blackmagic design.

The Teradek Wave will encode your video and send it to the various streaming services, but it will not record your original high quality program output. Saving the output in high quality can be important if you want a high quality archive or if you want to create a neater version of the stream later.

If you have an ATEM Mini Pro it can record to a USB SSD, while the ATEM Mini Pro ISO can record the individual clean stream from each individual camera, so fine tuning the edit is possible afterwards. If you are using a basic level switcher such as the ATEM Mini you will need a separate recorder such as the Blackmagic Design Video Assist 12G HDR. The equipment chain can be organized as follows.

  • Cameras feed the mixer
  • The mixer’s HDMI output goes into the recorder’s HDMI input
  • The recorder’s HDMI stream/output goes into the streaming encoder’s HDMI input

Video transmitters

All of the above assumes you are streaming from a remote location with the cameras wired to the switcher. But what if you want more flexibility and want your cameras to be able to move or be located far enough away from the switcher? This is where a video transmission system comes in.

Trader's Spark video transmission and reception system.  Image: Teradek.
Trader’s Spark video transmission and reception system. Image: Teradek.

An example is the Spark of Teradek system, which can transmit 4K video with zero latency at distances up to 500 feet. Spark’s receivers can be connected to the switcher in the same way as a camera, giving your cameramen the freedom to be located in the best spots to capture the action.