3-2-1,You're on the air!

It's here! In a previous blog post about Falcon Middle School and their live stream, I mentioned that the equipment for our techKNOWvator TV live stream was slated for an upgrade. We received the last component yesterday and are now ready to go. Much of the new gear has a small footprint and gives us the capability to do a live stream from a remote location, in theory at least, since it's really dependent on the available upload speed to YouTube. We'll be attending the yearly national Schoology NEXT conference in Boca Raton, Florida, and plan to do a remote live stream from the conference. Fingers are definitely crossed for that! Success or epic fail? We shall see.

With a small footprint, the gear is easily transported in a backpack designed for use with laptop computers. Here are a couple of pictures of what this mobile live stream setup looks like. The first picture shows the various components: computer, computer stand, tripod, camera bag, and multi-port adaptor for USB-C on the computer.

The next picture shows the full setup of the gear unpacked and ready for a remote live stream. We are using a dedicated external camera, a Zoom Q4N Handy Cam that shoots in 1080p, instead of the MacBook Pro's FaceTime camera . It surprisingly provides a better picture than the built-in FaceTime camera.

In my testing of the this live stream setup, I came across an audio sync issue with the new OBS video encoding software and had to adjust the settings as the audio was not syncing with the video. There could be a number of factors contributing to this symptom but that's a topic for another blog post. Both the audio and video from the camera is coming into the video capture card via HDMI, out of the capture card via USB 3.0 and then into the multi-port USB-C adapter connected to the computer. After working with the audio properties for a little bit, I had to add a 300 milli-second delay on the audio properties in OBS to get a good sync between audio and video.

The Zoom Q4N is not exactly the right camera that many would use for the type of live stream we want to do but the small form factor, superior microphone, and low cost is what we were aiming for. Zoom cameras are known for their great microphones and are typically used for live recording of music events. I believe it should do the trick for us in this case.

When we do a live stream from our Ed Tech office, we actually use a large USB mic (Yeti by and a large pro level SONY camera that we have on loan from our district communications department. Taking the larger gear with us to a conference was a no-go for me.

One thing I noticed with the Zoom Q4N camera was that the video had a deep saturation of the color hues. I used a neat little feature in OBS called, you guessed it, filter. I added a filter to the scene in OBS to get a less color rich video. I think I will need to adjust it again when we do the actual live stream because, from what I can tell, changes in lighting also seem to affect how the color looks.

As I mentioned earlier, our upload connection speed to YouTube will be an important factor when we do the remote live stream. The wi-fi hot spot we have is a ZTE Warp Connect unit that uses BOOST Mobile by Sprint with a 4G LTE cellular connection. We need at least 5-6Mbps upload speed and the use case reviews by consumers tell us that we should be able get the necessary bandwidth. Our bit rate for the live stream is set to 2.5 Mbps in the OBS video encoding software. This typical for a YouTube live stream using modest equipment and should be sustainable during the broadcast with the ZTE Warp connect hot spot.

Another benefit from our upgrade is that the 13" MacBook Pro we got came with Apple's Pro Apps bundle. I used the Motion app to create the graphics that will appear in our live stream. The graphics will come on screen mostly as "lower thirds", those are the ones you commonly see on newscasts near the bottom of the screen where there is a description of an event or a person.

The Pro Apps Bundle is a collection of five industry-leading apps from Apple that deliver powerful creative tools for video editors and musicians. -

There is definitely a learning curve using the pro software but I was able to put together two basic lower thirds using some pre-made templates that I purchased for a couple of dollars. I had to work with it a little to come up with a custom design for us. The production quality of our live stream will be much improved with access to the pro apps.

So, here is a rundown of all the items used for this remote live stream setup:

  • 13" Apple MacBook Pro (i7 Processor & 16GB RAM)

  • Zoom Q4N Handy Cam

  • Epiphan HD video capture card

  • ZTE Warp Connect Hot Spot

  • SLIK Mini-Pro V tripod

  • Elekin Adjustable Laptop Stand

  • Tuwejia USB-C Mulit-Port Adaptor

  • OBS: Open Broadcaster Software

  • Apple Motion Graphics Software

We're really excited about the upgrade we were able to get for our live stream equipment. The new gear will not only improve our current live stream capabilities but, if we are successful with our remote live stream from the Schoology NEXT conference in Florida, it will also provide a viable option for us if we need to do a live stream from outside the district network.