What's best for your live streaming? all in one or component systems.

Does the age old phrase "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" apply to Live Streaming set ups? Read on to learn what I think.

A good number of years ago, I was working in a small TV truck broadcasting a live 4 camera event from the UK. About half way through the event, the switcher in the truck failed and would not restart. It was a very unusual situation and one I have not had happen to me since. Thankfully though, the TV truck had a router in it, so I used the router to keep going. Even though the camera cutting was non-synchronous and glitchy, we stayed on air.

This happened prior to the days of “all in one” solutions BUT, had we been using an “all in one” solution, we would have been completely scuppered and we would have had to abandon the broadcast. Every time I hear people extolling the virtues of an “all in one” solution, this story comes to mind.

So, when you are looking at a video production solution for your church live stream, what is the best option for you – “all in one” or component based?

There are lots of “all in one” solutions that have huge capabilities now on the market and they are attractive options for people when they have limited budget. Blackmagic for instance have their ATEM line that is not only a switcher BUT can also stream directly from the unit (some models). VMIX is a software solution that is a very high spec “all in one” production unit that gives you recording, switching, playback, graphics and streaming (to 3 separate locations) capabilities in one system. The TriCaster is similar, but is hardware based. And more recently, “tools” known for one specific thing have introduced new features that offer other things, Pro-Presenter Software for instance now has the capacity to stream as well. And there are others.

There is no question, when you are operating on a tight budget (and let’s face it, that is MOST churches) these are very tempting options. The idea of buying ONE thing to do everything rather than having to buy lots of different components (that will almost always add up to more money) is an attractive option to consider. It also of course has one more bonus – and that is that one person can operate it.

BUT I KEEP THINKING ABOUT MY STORY………

Technology keeps improving with new innovation and development and some of the new systems offer so much. However, technology can still fail. A computer can crash, a fuse in a plug can blow, or some other disaster may happen. The challenge then becomes that, if you go for an “all in one” solution and THAT solution fails, you lose everything with no back up and your entire broadcast fails.

I have used “all in one” style solutions and I see the value of them, however I remain concerned that if you go that route you put all your eggs in one basket and (as I like to say) you don’t have a “get out of jail free card”. So, if you experience a tech failure you have no fall back at all – that is a risk you MUST be aware of.

Another thing to bear in mind is that if you go the “all in one” route and you later need to upgrade, you have to change out the “complete” system. Whereas, going the component route means you can upgrade only the bit you need, which can also have an impact on future costs.

This is why I would recommend a more “component” basis to any system you put together when planning your live streaming set up. As a minimum, aim to separate the following into different components (I’m only looking at the visual side here):

  • Vision Mixer/switcher
  • Streaming device – computer or hardware depending on your budget.
  • Playback and Graphics

From a stability perspective, the more you can split out the various functions, the more likely you are to stay on air if something goes wrong. Bear in mind, your PRIMARY tool needs to be whatever you are using to stream as that is how you stay on air. Worst case, you can afford to not have graphics, or you can afford to only have a single camera. Whilst these are uncomfortable situations to be in, you can stay broadcasting while the problem component gets fixed, rebooted, or replaced. However, if your streaming device fails, you go off air – it’s that simple.

Finally, back to my story and the value of a router…… Even if you can’t achieve splitting all these functions out on their own (because of budget or some other reason), add a router to your system and build everything around it. You’ll LOVE the added flexibility it gives you and also in an emergency this can keep you on air as you work out ways to get around a failed component, as it did for me many years ago. I would suggest whichever way you go component or “all in one,” a router should be on your shopping list.

P. S. One extra suggestion: consider a back-up plan for your streaming – why not have your “personal” laptop with OBS (free software) on hand as a “get out of jail free card”?

Is a router something you have considered key for your set up? What do you think after having read this?

Categories: Broadcasting, filming, Foundation, production, set up, Strategy

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