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Live Streaming At The TEC using Four Winds Interactive, Blackmagic, Wirecast, Duct Tape and Bailing Wire

By: Stephen Toback

The Technology Engagement Center, or TEC on Duke’s West Campus recently held two events that required live video streaming – the Duke Robotics Club Bot Battle competition and the TEC Open House. For the Battlebots, we wanted to live stream an overhead camera to all screens in the TEC so people working for the next round could stay in tune with the action. For the TEC Open House, we wanted to stream live from StudioONE to help entice people to come visit and try out teaching using green screen video.

We designed the TEC with a single digital signage player to feed all screens, so for these events, we decided to leverage that system to carry the live stream. We had tried using YouTube and Wowza but there was up to an 8 second latency which we didn’t think would be effective for this use case.

Here’s how the system came together. We used the Mac Mini in StudioONE as the main processor. For the Bot Battle Event, we installed an iPod Touch in the ceiling using a clamp and some duct tape and streamed that camera through the cloud using Wirecast Cam. We also installed a wide angle lens on the iPad touch that had been used for our video conferencing robot’s iPad. We rigged a wire to provide power to the iPod to make sure we didn’t run out of battery. That iPod Touch was joined by my iPhone as a second camera running Wirecast Cam and provided audio for both cameras. The wireless signal held up pretty well throughout the day and the cameras were switched from my laptop using Apple Remote Desktop to control the Mac Mini in Studio One.

We then used the virtual camera out of Wirecast to feed the 2nd HDMI port out of the Mac Mini. We used a mono price HDMI Extender because we are feeding the signal through the wall to the TEC Closet. The other mono price converted the signal back to HDMI which fed the Blackmagic Intensity USB converter. We had good luck with this device once we realized you have to manually match the signal you were sending with the signal it wants to receive – in this case we used 1080i. From there, we took the USB out into the small form factor PC that was our digital signage player. Although Four Winds claims they don’t recommend the Blackmagic, it is supported by their software Content Manager. We then built a template and sent the output of that PC to our distribution amplifier and all monitors were “tuned” to the digital signage channel. Pretty much the same process for the TEC Open House except we have 4 quadrants, 3 with pre-recorded video and one with the live video feed which was fed from our 4k camera in Studio One into Wirecast.

Were there problems, of course there were. We’re still chasing down issues with the Four Winds player that required us to restart some pre-recorded video and from time to time we’d lose signal and would have to restart things in a very specific order to get it to back up. All in all, it worked well.

We’ll be refining this process in the future and will document that process. Contact us if you’re interested in doing or have done something similar.


Categories: DDMC Info

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