How to Live Stream Video with Multiple Sources in 6 Steps [2021 Update]
Table of Contents
As live streaming becomes more accessible, many users are looking for a way to spice up their broadcasts. It’s easy enough to start using free services and simple equipment, but many are left wondering how they can take things to the next level.
Live streaming with multiple sources is a great way to boost the production value of your broadcasts. It adds a professional touch to your content while making it more attractive and engaging.
In this post, we will discuss everything you need to know about how to live stream with multiple sources so that you can broadcast video from two locations or with a variety of camera angles. We’ll cover different equipment you need for multi-source streaming and 6 actionable steps for hosting your own live stream with multiple sources.
Before we dive into how to produce this kind of stream, let’s talk about the benefits of taking the multi-source approach.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of Live Streaming with Multiple Sources
- Use Cases for Multi-Source Live Streaming
- Equipment for Live Streaming with Multiple Sources
- 6 Steps for a Successful Multi-Source Live Stream
- Picture-in-Picture and Multiple Simultaneous Views
Benefits of Live Streaming with Multiple Sources
Multi-source live streaming helps broadcasters at any level of expertise produce more professional-looking broadcasts, which creates a higher production value. Switching between multiple camera angles and content sources is the bread and butter of professional-grade broadcasters.
TV stations, cable channels, and well-produced internet broadcasts all use multiple sources for better communication and greater aesthetics.
Using multiple sources for streaming also makes it easier to add effects and pre-recorded footage. Meanwhile, another source can be used as the main broadcast source. This gives you more flexibility for editing and adding effects on the fly.
With added complexity comes a greater need for equipment and staff. This kind of stream is a bit more expensive to produce, but these costs are well worth it
Use Cases for Multi-Source Live Streaming
Perhaps one of the best examples of a multi-camera event in action is a sporting event like the Super Bowl. Super Bowl broadcasts have used multiple cameras for a long time. However, the latest Super Bowls have added many other sources. These include cameras mounted on drones and wires suspended above the stadium.
Additionally, multiple camera shots are used in news studio settings to provide different angles.
Most studios have at least one streaming camera set for wide shots, one for medium shots, and one for close-ups. A typical news broadcast begins with a medium shot, then switches to a wide shot, which could then be potentially followed by an up-close guest shot.
Both of these examples come from high-end productions with large price tags. However, multi-source streaming isn’t limited to those with multi-million dollar budgets.
Today, the cost of complex multi-camera shoots has reduced greatly making it possible for those with small budgets to produce multi-source broadcasts.
Equipment for Live Streaming with Multiple Sources
Multi-source live streams require a little more equipment than you’d need from a basic single-camera stream.
Let’s take a look at the live streaming equipment that is necessary for a multi-source stream.
1. Multiple Cameras
Before we discuss cameras, we want to point out that “multi-camera” and “multi-source” streaming are not one and the same. Streaming with multiple cameras is streaming with multiple sources. However, “multiple sources” could refer to one live camera feed and other sources with pre-recorded audio and video.
Technically, you do not need multiple cameras for live streaming with multiple sources, but if you’re using two live sources, you will need more than one camera.
If you’re producing a Multicam stream, we recommend that you use the exact same camera when possible. This provides the same color, resolution, dynamic range, and so on. Using high-definition cameras from different manufacturers can cause problems with footage looking different. If you must use different cameras, try to use the same brand.
In some cases, using different cameras will be unavoidable. In this case, be sure to thoroughly test your cameras before using them to ensure they don’t clash horribly with one another.
It is possible to get the look of a multi-source shoot without using multiple cameras. For example, you can use pre-recorded video clips within a live stream. Cutting to these pre-recorded clips mixes up the visual experience. This is a lower cost, simpler alternative to multi-camera shoots.
For example, check out the innovative approach in this video below. Here, a small church is using a pair of 4K PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) cameras for a master 1080p HD broadcast. This enables them to use digital cropping to get the equivalent of eight camera angles!
2. Video Switching Software or Hardware
Switching is an essential component to live streaming with multiple sources. Switching is the process of selecting which source will be broadcast in a live feed at any given time.
Most often, broadcasters use encoding tools that offer switching features, and these come in both hardware and software versions.
Hardware switchers tend to be more robust and reliable, but are also more expensive. With a hardware switcher, video sources are connected directly to a panel or rack-mounted unit (usually via SDI or HDMI, sometimes via Ethernet). A display panel is either built-in or connected externally. Buttons on the device allow the operator to switch between sources instantly.
Software switchers are usually integrated into live-streaming applications like OBS Studio, Wirecast, vMix, and others. These applications are installed on a computer, and can then be controlled via a standard mouse and keyboard interface.
Software switchers are more affordable but less robust. Don’t let that discourage you! They can work excellently. However, if you do use a software switcher, make sure you install it on a powerful computer.
3. Mobile Streaming Tools
These days, it’s possible to wirelessly switch a multi-camera live video broadcast using mobile devices. Considering that a full broadcast studio was the only option for performing this feat a few years ago, it’s pretty remarkable how fast the technology is evolving.
Using a professional-grade camera is ideal, but the ability to stream from a smartphone or tablet is valuable if you want to incorporate live content from a remote location. This is especially valuable for new crews that often need to act fast with on-site recording.
For a great mobile option, consider Teradek’s Airmix iOS app. This app allows you to mix multi-camera live streams from an iPhone or an iPad.
4. Camera Capture Card or Device
If you’re running a software switcher, you’ll need a camera capture device. This connects to your camera (usually via SDI or HDMI) and imports the video signal. Capture devices usually come in two formats: cards that slot into desktop computers or boxes that plug in via USB, Thunderbolt, or other connectors.
5. Non-Camera Sources
Other, non-camera sources can be added to live streams as well. Some other sources that you could use include:
- Animated graphics
- Chroma key (green screen) backgrounds
- Titles and lower thirds (text)
- Pre-recorded video content
Any switching software or hardware platform will include a method for inserting this sort of content with minimal fuss. Usually, switching to a non-camera source is as simple as hitting a button or selecting content. Overlaying titles, graphics or other material is straightforward, as well.
6 Steps for a Successful Multi-Source Live Stream
As we mentioned, live streaming with multiple sources is a bit complex, but it is not impossible. In fact, with the right preparation and guidance, multi-source streaming isn’t hard at all.
Here’s how you can get started in 10 steps.
1. Plan Ahead
Live streams with multiple sources require a little bit of extra planning and strategy. Make sure you plan out and prepare all of the sources ahead of time so that there is no confusion at the time of your event.
As you prepare, familiarize yourself with all of the tools that you’re going to use. This way, you won’t be learning on the fly.
Keep in mind that you should always stream for your target audience. Think of your audience’s wants, likes, and needs as you prepare the sources you’ll use for your live stream.
2. Strategic Setup
Camera operators and techs should arrive early and begin setting up well in advance to choose camera angles and a location for the studio/switcher.
Your setup should be designed to create the most high-quality content and make everything easy to access for you as a broadcaster.
Also, make sure you tape cables securely so that nobody trips. This may sound simple, but a rogue wire can really mess things up in the middle of a live stream.
3. Test Run
Conduct a full live-streaming test. Set up and test encoders, computers, and switchers with the cameras. Make sure everything is working how you want it to.
We recommend testing at least twice and on multiple end-user devices. This helps you to dodge any avoidable roadblocks or mistakes.
4. Pre-Event Streaming
We recommend starting the main event live stream well before the event starts. Showing an animated graphic, perhaps with a countdown, is one way to go.
This allows you to get everything up and running before you start the life event, which gives you a buffer if there are any last-minute kinks to work out before the live event starts.
5. Switching Sources
When the event begins, the switch operator switches to a camera view, and you’re live. Throughout the show, switch between multiple cameras to provide several views. The switcher controls this aspect.
Ideally, each camera records its own feed to local storage. The main program feeds also records (locally, via OVP, or both).
6. Post-Event Streaming
When the event ends, we recommend leaving the live stream up and running for a few minutes with another graphic showing on the screen. This graphic could include a call to action or options to purchase the event recording.
For additional details, you can check out our tutorial on how to use several video sources with OBS Studio.
Picture-in-Picture and Multiple Simultaneous Views
Another type of multi-source live streaming is picture-in-picture. This is great for sports and many other scenarios. Similarly, streaming a multi-source collage is a viable approach. This one may have more limited uses, but can be fantastic for showing multiple simultaneous views of the same event.
Every live streaming software encoder – and most hardware encoders – makes these effects possible.
When using OBS Studio or Wirecast, for example, you can individually scale, resize, position, and layer. This allows you to create a “picture-in-picture” effect, or merely display multiple camera feeds onscreen at the same time.
Choosing to stream live video from multiple sources is a great way to make your broadcast more professional. With the right equipment and knowledge, it’s relatively easy as well.
Do you have an interest in multi-camera live streaming? What’s holding you back? Or, if you’ve already started, what lessons have you learned? What works well with your live streaming platform, and what challenges have you encountered? Let us know in the comments and we’ll get back to you. Here at Dacast, we’re proud to offer a range of high-end features, including monetization options and China video hosting, at very competitive prices. Finally, you can read more about our pricing plans and how to customize the right plan to your needs.
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Thanks for reading, and good luck with your live streams!
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