Update (26/5/15) I have found a solution that is rock solid – see bottom of the page for details.
The Church that I’m part of has national events every couple of months for people from all around the country. It isn’t practical for everyone to travel long distances so I looked into ways of doing a video live stream of the event so they can watch from home.
After 6 months of frustration I found a setup that works in both remote locations and city centres. There might be someone out there who wants to know so here’s what works for me – the details of the parts I use are at the end of this post.
We already do IMAG (3 video camera mix) so what I needed to do was take a feed from the BlackMagic ATEM mixer and broadcast it online. Our events are often in unusual locations – a tent in a field in the countryside, on Trafalgar Square, in sports halls – so a stable broadband connection isn’t possible. I first tried streaming with a 3G router and PC software (using a HDMI capture card) and it would cut out frequently. You have to bear in mind that the congregation will all have mobile phones and if you’re in a remote location this can overload the 3G cell tower you’re connected to and cause unstable 3G dropouts.
Using the PC software also led to complications – you have to keep the PC updated, it can crash, takes up a lot of room, not very energy efficient etc. So I found a small piece of hardware called the LiveStream Broadcaster that does all the encoding and uploading. This ties you into the LiveStream service but the end user interface is professional and wasn’t too expensive.
As 4G mobile connections were being rolled out across the country I checked to see where there is 4G coverage on EE’s map – and our marquee field was just in range of one of their 4G towers.
I did a couple of tests with the Broadcaster and an unlocked 4G modem I got off eBay and it seemed to connect OK.
However using the Broadcaster’s USB slot for the 4G modem led to difficulties and it would sometimes reboot or not connect to EE. So I hunted around and found a 4G router that would take the USB dongle, and from there on I didn’t have any connection issues. Even when the marquee was filled with a thousand people (all probably connecting to one cell tower) there was no drop outs over 4G.
BlackMagic ATEM video mixer -> HDMI 720p50 (audio embedded) -> Livestream Broadcaster -> Ethernet -> TP-Link 4G router -> 4G dongle
I chose the Adaptive Medium setting (678kbs at 768 x 432) as this uses around 300MB an hour. This is the best setting for image clarity vs data usage. I could up the quality but the chances of dropouts are higher, and the data use increases.
Stats: So far we’ve had 6,600 views and 127 followers from the 5 events. People have accessed the video streams from 45 different countries.
Parts and Costing
- LiveStream Broadcaster ($495) http://new.livestream.com/broadcaster
- TPLink 4G router (£27) http://www.amazon.co.uk/TPLinkTLMR3420300MbpsWireless-Router/dp/B003WK62OS/
- EE 4G SIM + 6GB data (£17) eBay
- HUAWEI E398 4G USB dongle (£55) eBay
There has been plenty of positive feedback about live streaming as people have been grateful to be able to watch the meetings and feel a part. It’s also helped many of our overseas friends and church members stay connected.
I have tried some new kit which has proved to be rock solid, even in remote areas with weaker 4G signal.
I created a waterproof box that houses all the kit which can then be hoisted up in the air, and only needs one Cat5 cable back to the technical area. Inside the box is a dedicated 4G router which takes a full sized SIM card, and a POE splitter to power it. This has enabled me to put the 4G box right at the top of a marquee pole by pulley and rope and the signal strength is much better than at ground level.
Revised Parts and Costing
- Dlink 4G LTE DWR-921/B router with dedicated 4G aerials (£150)
- Waterproof box (£30)
- Grey Cat5 50m cable (£30)
- TP-Link TL-POE150S Power injector (£23)
- TP-Link TL-POE10R PoE splitter (£9)
I ran a whole weekend with this kit on a remote field in a marquee without any drop outs. That’s over 12 hours of streaming.
If you have any questions about the setup or details on how you’ve done it then please let me know in the comments below.