During the COVID-19 (Corona) pandemic of 2020 and the associated lockdown, social life largely came to a halt. Restaurants, bars, and cafés are closed and the need for ‘social distancing’ makes it impossible to hold events. Creative alternatives are being sought, many activities are moving online. Live video streaming is more popular than ever, webcams are sold out everywhere.
Applications for video calling, such as Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp, are popular for mutual communication between family and friends. However, live streaming of events requires a lot more research and improvisation.
For a small venue, I am trying to find out how to set up a simple “studio” for live video streaming with available resources.
The goal: live video streaming
The music venue has been closed for a while and the situation is not expected to change for the time being. In order to develop some fun activities for the employees (all volunteers) and the outside world, we want to carry out a number of events online, such as:
Live acts, such as singer-songwriters
The popular Pub Quiz
And of course also DJs
All this within the restrictions and regulations that apply, so without the public and with all measures such as keeping a distance of one and a half meters, washing hands and the like.
The challenge: low budget
Setting up a well-functioning studio is not difficult when you have a mountain of money to buy equipment. In this case, the challenge is to tie together items that are already present and preferably not to make new investments (for the time being).
What do we have:
An internet connection, gigabit network switch, cables, various WiFi access points
iPad, iPhone, Office PCs (Windows 10) and displays
Time, patience, creativity, and most of all motivation to get started
What we don’t have:
Some streaming experience
Experts who can get us started
But with Google, YouTube and a bit of perseverance, we have come a long way.
OBS Studio: made for live video streaming
After an afternoon of searching with Googe and YouTube, there seems to be only one obvious choice when it comes to video streaming software: Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), better known today as OBS Studio.
Expandable with plugins, including an NDI plugin (see below)
You can stream to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and many other streaming platforms
It is a very extensive and flexible package. A big advantage is also its popularity, so there are countless tutorials and manuals for it on the web and on YouTube.
NDI: Network Device Interface
The second major software component turns out to be the NDI (Network Device Interface) protocol developed by NewTek. This protocol allows devices (and applications) to transmit and receive real-time video streams over a network in high quality. Coincidentally, there is an NDI plugin for OBS Studio and a free NDI camera app for iOS.
This way you can use iPads and iPhones as high-quality streaming cameras and link them to OBS. Also, with this protocol, you can use the NDI output of OBS Studio on one computer as NDI source for OBS Studio on another. This is useful if you want to do streaming and recording on a separate computer, for example.
A second computer for streaming and recording
Encoding video to a stream can take a lot of processing power from the processor. If you also want to record the video locally, you can use a second computer for these two tasks. On the first computer, you only do the image direction. You can then transfer the video from the control computer to the second computer via a frame grabber, or even easier via the network. the NDI protocol. You could, for example, also use this same NDI video stream on a separate screen (eg a laptop) as a monitor on the studio floor.
With the setup described here we have already streamed a number of times, and every time there is a bit of fine-tuning here and there. In the next blog, we will take a closer look at the software, the settings, give some tips & tricks and share some experiences.