Live concert streaming with Ustream Producer

January 23, 2013

Sunrunners, a San Francisco-based rock band are playing a live show at The Elbo Room, a live music venue in the heart of San Francisco's Mission district.   Since two of the members of the band are members of our Product Marketing team at Ustream, we figured it would be a great opportunity to stream a show using Ustream Producer and document how it can be done for any of our community who wants to do the same.  

Check out the the video of the setup: 

The Gear

4G Hotspot

Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi

Computer

MacBook Pro 15-inch, Late 2011  2.4 GHz Intel Core i7, Mac OS X Lion 10.7.4 Similar Current Model: Apple 15.4" MacBook Pro Notebook Computer with Retina Display

Software

Ustream Producer Studio 2.0.4

Cameras

Logitech C910 (2)  Similar Current Model: Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam

Sony HXR-NX70U NXCAM Compact Camcorder

Capture

Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme HDMI and Analog Capture & Playback Device - Thunderbolt

Tripods

2 cheap generic brand  Similar: Velbon CX-300 T/F Tripod
(1) Davis&Sanford Provista 7518 Tripod w/FM18 Head

Audio

M-Audio FastTrack Pro USB Audio Interface  Similar Current Model: M-Audio MobilePre Mk II - USB Audio Interface
Sony MDR-7506 Headphones

Cables and Accessories

Apple Thunderbolt Cable (6.6')
Tether Tools TetherPro Mini HDMI Male to HDMI Male Cable - 15'
USB over ethernet extenders

Similar:

Iogear USB Xtra Booster Ethernet Extender
or
Startech USB2001EXT2 1x Port USB 2.0 over CAT5/6 Ethernet Extender

25 Foot Ethernet Cable (2)
50' XLR Cable (2)
Gaffer's Tape

We gathered up all our gear into some rolling cases and bags and arrived at the venue at 4pm.

We got there a little too early and were promptly kicked out by the manager because they had a meeting in the club part of the bar.

Luckily we had time to set up a few things first. 

 

We returned an hour later at 5pm and began setting up the rest of our equipment. We wanted to get everything set before sound check so that we wouldn't have to be worrying about running cables and setting up tripods while there were people and gear moving around on stage.  We made sure to stake out a couple key spots for our streaming table and tripods before someone put their amp or something else there.  In addition, we also wanted to get everything up and running early enough so if we ran into any snags on our initial tests, we would have enough time to troubleshoot the issue or get additional gear if we needed to.

We set up a small table on stage right and also put our main camera, the Sony HXR-NX70U there on our higher quality tripod.  We needed this camera there because it had to be close to our streaming setup as we didn't have a particularly long HDMI or Thunderbolt cable to work with.

It was also advantageous to have our streaming setup on stage right, becuase we needed to run the XLR cables all the way down the left wall of the club from the sound board in the back to our USB Audio Interface on the stage.  We ended up only being able to do mono audio because we forgot to bring our additional 50' XLR Cable, but this didn't turn out to be a big deal.  We figured the mix that the sound guy would give us probably would not feature a ton of panning and many people may end up listening to the stream on laptop or iPad speakers without much stereo separation, so we were okay to go with mono.  Typically for a concert you do want to do two cables so you can get a stereo mix.     

The last thing we had to set up was the Logitech C910s and the USB over ethernet extenders that these plug in to.  We put one Logitech C910 on stage left, in a roughly similar position to our Sony HXR-NX70Uon stage right.  The other C910 was placed right next to the drummer.  The newer version of the C910, the Logitech C920 features a tripod mount. Lacking this, we used Gaff Tape to attach the C910s to the tripods. We used the USB over ethernet adapters to be able to use the Logitech C910 cameras even if the distance is greater than regular USB cables would allow.  The limit on USB cables is somewhere around 16 feet, whereas you can run the ethernet cable 50 or more feet.

We placed all our cameras, ran our cables to them, and ran our XLR Cable to the sound board from our streaming setup.  The timing was excellent because now the band was loading in and also ready to soundcheck.  While they soundchecked, they would be in the same positions they would be for the actual show and the sound guy could send us a mix down the XLR Cable so we could check the audio signal as well.  

For our internet source we used a Verizon 4G Hotspot.  We connected the computer to its WiFi network and did a speedtest.  We were clocking in at around 2.5Mbps upload speed, so it looked like we could probably pull off an HD stream if we wanted.  

Another thing I did was go to my system preferences on the Mac and turn off the screen saver and sleep modes.  This way if I walked away from the computer in the middle of the stream and didn't touch the mouse for a few minutes it wouldn't fall asleep on me.  

We got all our cameras and audio connected and launched Ustream Producer Studio.  

I added the Sony Cam, the M-Audio USB Audio Interface, and the two Logitech Cams
I opened the camera preview window in Ustream Producer Studio so I get a live preview of each incoming feed
I set the transition to a hard cut (these look better on streams as the crossfades will tend to look pixellated if they are too slow)
I checked my Broadcast Settings.  I set it to the HD preset in Producer.

Now we were ready for our first test stream.

Rather than streaming to our main channel, we streamed to a different channel under a different account so that none of our real audience would see our tests.  This can be a good trick if you are worried about your audience seeing the live feed early.  If its not a big deal, its also ok to do your tests on the same channel you will stream on -- this gives your rabid fans who might show up very early a sneak peek behind the scenes and this can be very exciting and fun for them.  It helps them see they are in the right place and starts building the anticipation early, they may even Tweet or Facebook to others to come watch.  

During our test stream, the band was soundchecking and we were adjusting the cameras.  We wanted to ensure a few things.  

1. We had the cameras in the right positions
2. We were getting a clean feed from the sound board that wasn't too quiet or too loud and was free of any hum or noise.  
3. All three cameras were working in Producer and we could switch between them
4. Our bandwidth and CPU resources were sufficient to stream at the desired quality, or did we need to dial down any settings.  

Everything looked good in our tests so we had one more thing to worry about. We already had permission from the Sunrunners to stream the show, but we wanted to check with the other bands.   Luckily all the bands were independent bands who allowed us permission to stream, so we could do both opening bands and the Sunrunners.  If you are working with artists on labels, make sure you are getting permission from the bands, the labels, and the venues before streaming any concert.    

We hopped off the stage and went to grab a beer before the show began.  

About 10 minutes before the first band started, we started streaming a little early to build the excitement and make sure none of the viewers left.  Right before they started, we started our recording in Producer by clicking the start record button.  We started and stopped a recording at the beginning and end of each of the three bands so we could have a separate video for each.  

Since my CPU usage was relatively high (70-95%) and my bandwidth relatively low, I did not want to try to watch the stream on the same computer I was broadcasting from.  So I instead used my iPhone 4 to watch the stream off the Ustream channel page, http://www.ustream.tv/sunrunners  I was able to watch the feed over a 3G connection and make sure everyhting was looking good.  

Want to see how it turned out?  Watch the recorded video of the Sunrunners stream below!  

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