The availability of low-cost broadcast equipment and video streaming platforms has opened many doors. A major advantage of live streaming today is the all-around affordability. A decade ago, this was certainly not the case.
These days, organizations of all kinds and sizes can produce and broadcast live content. Likewise, with an online video platform like Dacast, it’s easier than ever before to stream live video, whether it is multi-camera or multi-platform streaming of your content!
Despite improved accessibility and affordability, however, some broadcasters are still concerned with how to maximize production quality while minimizing production budgets.
In this article, we’ll consider one particular approach to broadcasting live video streams: multi-camera live streaming. Specifically, we’ll talk you through how to set up a multi-camera webcast, all with a one-person crew. From there, we will take a look at some different tools you need to host a multi-camera stream of your own.
To get started, let’s quickly talk about the value of live streaming with multiple cameras.
Table of Contents
- Why Stream with Multiple Cameras?
- Challenges of Multi-Camera Streaming
- Best Multi-Camera Live Streaming Software
- OBS Studio
- Equipment Requirements for Multicam Live Streaming
- Set-Up and Operation
- Other Considerations
- Technical Roles
Before discussing setup and equipment considerations, will go into an introduction to multi-camera live streaming.
Let’s get started!
Why Stream with Multiple Cameras?
Streaming with multiple cameras makes video content more exciting. Just look at any professional broadcast on TV or any film. The scene tends to cut between multiple different sources.
News shows, for example, often use three cameras with the following angles:
- A wide shot that shows the entire studio
- A medium shot that shows both hosts and their desk
- A tight shot that shows the head-and-shoulders of each host individually
This allows the broadcaster to switch in real-time between different views. The wide shot can be used to “establish” a setting and help the viewer orient themselves. The medium shots are ideal for interactions between multiple people. And the tight shots capture the emotion and allow for one person to take center stage.
This is basic cinematography. Multi-camera filming has been a staple of video production for more than 100 years, for good reason. It’s simply more interesting, more engaging, and generally a better way to communicate a story.
Challenges of Multi-Camera Streaming
Of course, some challenges come with this method of storytelling. More cameras equal more complexity. Live streaming with multiple sources requires linking all the different cameras to one central hub, and someone has to decide which shot to switch to at any given moment.
The person in charge of switching shots has to be fast and decisive. In general, multi-camera streaming requires increased staff-power, more equipment, and more data.
However, the advantages are worth it and this type of broadcast is getting easier than ever. In the past, multi-camera streaming required a major crew and a television studio. Today, with the use of the best live stream software, you can make high quality, multi-camera live stream with one person or a small team within a reasonable budget.
Best Multi-Camera Live Streaming Software
Let’s take a look at three of the best live stream software options on the market. We’ll review how they work for multi-camera streaming, whether you’re small-scale community broadcasts to China video hosting for business.
These software packages are VidBlasterX, Wirecast, and OBS Studio.
VidBlasterX is Windows-only software, and its unique modular design makes VidBlasterX highly expandable and customizable. Basic features of the platform include:
- Live mixing tools to switch between multiple sources in real-time
- Low latency design using proprietary “SyncLok” feature
- Modular audio mixer
- Video effects and green screen support
- Custom scripting language
VidBlasterX supports multiple cameras via the camera module. More than one camera module can be added to monitor and switch between different cameras.
VidBlasterX is available in three different editions. The Home edition costs $9/year, and it allows the use of up to seven modules at once. The Studio version costs $99/year and increases that limit to 25 modules. The Broadcast version costs $999/year and supports up to 50 modules simultaneously.
Wirecast is a powerful live streaming software that’s available for Mac and Windows. Basic Wirecast features include:
- Support for multiple sources including cameras, webcams, IP cameras, and NDI sources
- Screen share and videoconferencing built-in
- Stream and record streams locally
- Tool for animating titles and graphics
There are two different versions available. Wirecast Studio costs $599 and supports two guests via video chat. The Pro version costs $799 and adds support for up to 7 guests via video chat, supports a wider range of capture devices, scoreboards, 3D virtual sets, and more.
Check out this document for some recommendations for using Wirecast with multiple cameras, or click here for a real-life example.
3. OBS Studio
The last of the multi-camera live streaming software options we’ll examine here is OBS Studio. OBS Studio is an open-source software application available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Some of OBS’s top features include:
- Support for a wide range of sources including cameras, audio devices, screen capture, webcams, etc.
- “Scenes” feature allows you to preconfigure complex arrangements of graphics, video, overlays, etc.
- Audio mixing capability
- Video transitions and effects including green screen
- Support for a wide range of plugins to add features such as NDI support
- Modular user interface
OBS supports multiple camera sources natively. These sources (up to 8 of them) can easily be monitored via the Multiview feature. Multiview also makes it easy to transition to any of them with a single click.
OBS Studio is free to use and can be modified or extended by anyone via an API, plugins, and scripts. To learn how to live stream using OBS Studio, check out our dedicated guide to streaming with OBS on Dacast.
Equipment Requirements for Multicam Live Streaming
Just like with any professional broadcast, you’ll have to consider the live streaming equipment needs. Multicam live streaming has a few specific requirements.
We’ve already covered multi-camera live streaming software options, but let’s take a look at the camera, switcher, and audio needs.
You will need two or more cameras for a Multicam live stream. Your chosen cameras must be equipped to shoot in HD (high definition). These days, it’s easier to acquire affordable cameras that shoot at 1080i and output either an HDMI or HD-SDI signal.
It is very important to shoot in HD, even when you’re streaming at SD (standard definition) bit rates. This is because HD sources have significantly higher visual quality than SD sources, even when encoded at lower bit rates to accommodate a diverse viewership.
For example, check out the Canon EOS C200 4K HD camcorder. This camera has a 4K CMOS sensor, Dual DIGIC DV 6 Image Processors, an ISO range of 100 to 102,400 dual XLR inputs, and HDMI outputs and is compact enough for travel. Make sure to select fluid head tripods that fold up compactly enough to fit in a suitcase.
Seamless switching between the various cameras is a must. In addition, the ability to add transitions, effects, and graphics is key.
Some viable switcher options include software-based products such as Telestream’s Wirecast, which we mentioned above in our encoder review.
For hardware switchers, you might consider the Black-magic Design ATEM Television Studio, or all-in-one streaming boxes such as the Livestream HD500.
For some events, a few wireless mics will be sufficient. More often than not, there will be a live sound system to which you can connect. We recommend bringing your own small audio mixer to control the level of the feed you receive.
With your own mixer, you can also add your own ambient mic. The mic can capture the audience and venue sounds not picked up by the PA system.
Another consideration is maintaining sync between the audio and video. Typically the video switcher introduces a delay of 2-3 frames, which means you want to delay your audio by the same duration.
Sometimes the solution involves routing the audio output of your mixer through one of your cameras. That way, the audio embeds the video inside the camera. Then, it reaches the switcher through one of the video inputs. At that point, the switcher maintains the audio/video sync on its own.
However, if you bring the audio directly into the encoder, note that you will need an audio delay unit to compensate for this lag.
Set-Up and Operation for Multi-Camera Live Streaming
To help put the scope of setup and operation into perspective, we’re going to run through a live streaming success story where there was a one-person crew controlling the two cameras, switcher, audio mixer, and encoder.
In this configuration, two cameras were connected to a Black-Magic Design ATEM Television Studio Switcher. The switcher was very compact and affordable, with a list price of about $1000. To use it, the operator employed a laptop as an external control surface and a field HD television as a multi-view monitor.
The ATEM used had 6 inputs and HDMI and HD-SDI outputs. It also featured a real-time H.264 output for recording an archive of the program stream.
The HDMI program was routed out to a Matrox O2 Mini external video capture device. This device, in turn, connects to a second laptop, which acts as the encoder. A Mackie 1202 mixer receives a feed from the house PA system.
The output then went to a Behringer DEQ2496 processor. The processor delayed the audio 2 frames. From there, it converted it to a digital AES/EDU signal for input to the ATEM switcher.
Also included in this system is a Matrox DVI convert. This convert transcodes the screen of the host’s computer into an HD video signal that you can switch to a video source. A pair of studio headphones monitor the audio from the Mackie mixer and also the encoder laptop.
Finally, the encoder laptop also serves to monitor the webcast.
Other Considerations for Multi-Camera Live Streaming
There are a few other things to keep in mind when it comes to multi-camera live streaming. The most important thing is to designate one camera as your wide/master shot and designate the other for your close-ups.
You’ll spend most of your attention framing the close-ups. When you need to change angles, switch to the wide shot until your new close-up is framed properly. You may need to adjust your master shot from time to time. However, you typically use this camera to fall back to when you lose your close-up.
The idea is to avoid panning and zooming to cover the action. You should refrain from panning unless you’re actively tracking a moving subject.
Additionally, a small camera team is ideal, but you can certainly operate a multi-cam live stream with one single person.
With the above context in mind, let’s take a closer look at the necessary roles and design requirements for successful multi-camera live streaming.
By nature, one-person multi-camera live streaming requires a single person to wear several distinct hats. These roles include:
- The work of 2 (or more) camera-people
- Director of programming
- Technical engineering director
- Audio engineers
- Encoding engineers
This setup should be enough to get you through your first Multicam live streaming project!
I hope this post has offered you a clearer understanding of how multi-camera live streaming works. Additionally, you should now have greater insight into how you can make it happen with a one-person crew. Whether you want to stream live video on your website, broadcast live sporting events, or incorporate live streaming into your business or professional organization, knowing how to do multi-camera broadcasts can take your content to the next level.
Do you have further questions or comments about your multi-camera live streaming experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below. For regular live streaming tips and exclusive offers, you can join the Dacast LinkedIn group. Whether you need enterprise-grade features, such as cloud-based video hosting, or plan to broadcast a one-time event live, we’re here to help!
New to Dacast and interested to try out our white-label streaming solutions for yourself? Why not sign up for a 30-day free trial (no credit card required)? That way, you can test out all the streaming and hosting features before making a commitment.
This article originally appeared as a part of our Tips & Tricks series educates readers on advanced tricks of the trade for video and has been updated with the latest information as of December 2020.
The series comes from the expertise of outside experts in the field, and some parts of this post were written as a guest post by Gregg Hall. He joined us from Webcast and Beyond, an online video service that researches the best equipment and techniques to produce high-quality yet affordable webcasts. Gregg founded Webcast and Beyond organization in 2010.