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Steven Digges June 14th, 2013 12:48 PM

Web Broadcasting / Encoding Switchers / Sony Fails
Web Broadcasting / Encoding Switchers

I have been internet broadcasting live corporate events since 2007. Most of these broadcasts are corporate meetings. My company does full audio visual production as well as video production. So I have the responsibility and control of everything that happens in the ballroom and what goes out on the broadcast.

My basic workflow is usually to have one switcher (Folsum Screen Pro or whatever) for control of the screens in the ballroom. We use a Sony Anycast to switch the internet broadcast. Those two switchers also provide a feed to each other. The Sony Anycast is an amazing piece of gear in some ways. It does a lot of things well. But no matter what the literature says, it is absolutely useless as an internet signal encoder, as it has always claimed to be. So our work flow has been to come out of the Anycast to a computer dedicated to encoding the signal and sending it to the server.

This year I would like to upgrade all of our systems and work flow. All the way from cameras to switchers and encoders. So I have been keeping my eye on a lot of the new switching and processing gear coming out. Ideally, a switcher with a built in encoder would be ideal. That would eliminate the lap top dedicated to encoding. So far, every new switcher/encoder I have checked out has at one deal killer that eliminates it for my use.

In the audio visual environment we need versatility on the input side and absolute stability. We never know what the client is going to throw at us for a source, and sometimes it happens at the last minute. Live camera feeds and computer feeds are a minimal standard. We also have to be prepared for video rolls no matter what format they show up in. These are usually high end clients that expect perfection. A missed switch with the wrong thing hitting the screens for a couple of seconds is a big deal. A system freeze or crash and it is all over. I will not be there for the next show. It is that intense sometimes.

These are the systems that come close but do not work:

Tri-Caster – Very unstable, they freeze or crash. Not a consideration.

Black Magic Design, ATEM – Awesome systems but to limited for our needs. If you are a church or business that is going to do exactly the same thing every time this may be for you. They are economical and quite impressive. The problem is there is no scaler. Every input must be absolutely identical. It is also very limited on the audio side.

New Sony Anycast Touch – Yesterday I found out Sony is releasing a brand new Anycast. Wow! Just what I have been waiting for! Wrong! What an epic fail! Some genius decided to make it 100% touch screen. As far as I can tell from the limited information available you cannot hook a mouse or keyboard up to it if you wanted to. Touch screen only for a live production switcher, are you kidding me! That could only come from engineers that have never switched a live show. My world goes something like this. You rehearse over and over, changes are made, the call sheet is set, and everyone knows their cues. Then the CEO takes the stage for the big grand opening and starts talking. He fails to look at the confidence monitors and flys completely off script. The client starts screaming in my headset…”he lost it, he lost it, I don’t know what’s next, stand by for anything, OMG he lost it, what are we going to do?”. Then she grabs my arm and starts shaking me in fear. “What are we going to do? What are we going to do!!!” I am not kidding, that is what it is like. I know someone else here that has been there is laughing by now because they know it is real. So, in the middle of all that I am supposed to operate control of my entire room and internet broadcast with the finesse of a touch screen! I don’t think so. What a dumb move by Sony. The previous Anycast I have been using for years has an awesome mechanical user interface on it. It is outstanding; they broke the best part of the machine.

It also looks looks like it encodes to Flash only. There goes your Mac mobile user.

Anyway, it was the information about the new Anycast that prompted me to start this post. Sorry it turned into a rant. Am I missing something? I would love to hear about the work flow other guys are using for this type of work. Is there a system I have not checked out yet? That is why I am here. I love this forum.


Seth Bloombaum June 14th, 2013 04:12 PM

Re: Web Broadcasting / Encoding Switchers / Sony Fails
I've always felt that keeping the switching external and running a PC or Mac for encoding provided the greatest flexibility. When you say that you need to field all sorts of oddball source requests, isn't that what the Folsom switcher/scaler is for?

I don't think there is a reliable end-to-end solution. I'm a big fan of the Telestream Wirecast encoding/switcher software, haven't found anything I couldn't do on the encode side (except directly sourcing IP videoconferencing endpoints), and the little software switcher is great for breakaways when you want something different on the webcast than on the screens. For example, you can do roll-ins, lower thirds, sound rolls, etc. in the encoder, in addition to whatever comes from capture devices. You can create as many concurrent stream formats and destinations as your processor can encode.

Then, you're free to configure that video hardware as needed. Send SDI or HDMI to the the encoding box. You *can* have multiple capture cards in an encoder, but I don't. If it's a single-cam show I take the cam direct. If multi-cam, multi-source the video engineering folks can take care of what they know how to do, and the webcast can breakaway to prerecorded material as needed.

Telestream also has a handy LAN application that loads on desktops/laptops that screencaps powerpoint or software demos and makes them directly available in the encoder's switcher. Low frame rate but good resolution...

Having said all that, if you even glanced at the ATEM, you really ought to look at Broadcast Pix switchers. They are good production switchers, that are getting a little more multimedia aware. There now is a model that encodes, but only a single stream, I think it too is flash.

Steven Digges June 14th, 2013 06:30 PM

Re: Web Broadcasting / Encoding Switchers / Sony Fails
Thank You Seth,

That is exactly the kind of input I am looking for. Advice from guys who use it.

Combining the Folsom switcher with the Anycast serves several purposes. We can separate screen control from the live broadcast which is always necessary and we can send each one a feed from the other to combine them, send them, or go I-mag for example. It also keeps us from having all the signals on one device in case of a crash. Having a minimum of at least two computer inputs is very important to me. We usually run two cameras, on rare occasions one or three. Recording the program feed at full resolution and at least one of the camera ISOs is critical. I also record the encoded program feed for on demand viewing.
With all that said, you can see why I try to keep it as simple as possible because it is not simple. And budgets these days are requiring us to use fewer technicians. We all have our hands full. I have checked out the Telestream briefly a couple times but have never had the opportunity to use it. I think I will download the demo and take a serious look at it.

I will also take a look at the Broadcast Pix products. I have not heard of them.

Live audience productions with the show leaving the room over the internet are a blast for me. I have always enjoyed the challenge and the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. It is a rush just to do it when all goes well. The right combination of hardware and software resources is critical. Four years ago we did a show five times in a different anchor city each time. We linked six regional meetings to the anchor meeting and broadcast in and out all day. No big deal, except we had to do it with live audience response Q&A in the PowerPoint. It was pretty cool, when it was over.

My original post should not have been such a rant. I am looking for good input like yours. I just can’t wrap my head around Sony going touch screen with the new Anycast. Each to their own. That role is not touch screen for me.


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