Author: Leland Best
What is Bandwidth and How Much Do I Need for Streaming LIVE Video?
WHAT IS BANDWIDTH?
The term bandwidth, in general, refers to the volume of data per unit of time that a transmission system (www) can handle.
An internet connection with higher bandwidth can move a specific amount of information (like an audio or video file) tremendously faster than an internet connection with a lesser bandwidth.
Bandwidth is typically expressed in bits per second, like 100 Mbps or 100 Mb/s to define a data transfer rate of 100 million bits (megabits) every second.
HOW MUCH BANDWIDTH IS TOO MUCH?
To address the question above, there is such a thing, but we won’t be getting into the nitty-gritty of that, the only internet that is “too fast” is one that you don’t have access to!
You internet speed can be determined with relatively accurate proximity using any of the currently available internet speed testing sites. You’ll find more information on each of the representative test sites for many of the popular internet service providers (ISP) out there today:
- Armstrong Internet Speed Test (Zoom)
- AT&T High Speed Internet Speed Test
- Cablevision (Optimum)
- CCI (SureWest)
- CenturyLink Broadband Speed Test (Quest)
- Charter Speed Test (Spectrum)
- Comcast Speed Test (XFINITY)
- Cox Internet Speed Test
- Fios Speed Test (Verizon)
- FrontierNet Network Speed Test
- GCI Speed Test
- Midcontinent Speed Test
- Optimum (Cablevision)
- Quest Broadband Speed Test (CenturyLink)
- RCN Speed Test
- SKYBEAM Speed Test (Rise Broadband)
- Spectrum Speed Test (Charter)
- SureWest Internet Speed Test (CCI)
- TDS Telecommunications Speed Test
- Time Warner Cable Speed Test (Charter)
- USI Wireless Speed Test
- Verizon FiOS Speedtest (Fios)
- Wave Broadband
- WOW! Speed Test
- XFINITY Speed Test (Comcast)
- Zoom Internet Speed Test (Armstrong)
(Special Thanks to Lifewire.com for this list)
The amount of bandwidth you’re going to actually need depends on what you plan on doing with your internet connection. For the most part, more is better, only limited by the constraints of your internet service budget.
If you plan on only using social media sites like Facebook, email and the occasional video watching on YouTube, a low-end high-speed plan should suit you fine. However, if you have a few TVs that will be streaming Netflix, and another device or two that may be live streaming audio or video, I’d get the best plan you can afford. You won’t be sorry.
Speeds are increasing almost daily. In fact, our ISP (Charter Spectrum) just recently upped our internet service speeds from 60Mbps down/6Mbps up to 100Mbps down/12 Mbps up! And with no increase in our monthly plan! The next step is 200Mb then Gigabit Internet!
DATA IS TO BANDWIDTH, AS WATER IS TO A PIPE.
Plumbing provides a great analogy for bandwidth!
Just to be clear what I mean by this, think of the amount of bandwidth as the size of the pipe. As bandwidth increases, so does the amount of data that can flow through the “pipe”. So, let’s say you’re streaming a movie, someone else is playing an online multiplayer video game, and a couple of others on your same network are downloading files or using their phones to watch online videos. Everyone will likely feel that things are running a bit sluggish, if not constantly starting and stopping. This has everything to do with bandwidth.
Let’s put this another way: bandwidth is a fixed amount of service based on a monthly fee, so, while one person may be able to stream a high-def video without any lag (latency) whatsoever, the moment you begin to make additional access requests to the network, each user will have a portion of the full capacity taken away and applied to other tasks.
For example, if an internet speed test shows a download speed of 8 Mbps, it means that given no interruptions or other bandwidth-intensive apps, the user should be able to download an eight (8) megabit (or one (1) megabyte) file in one second.
So while I could theoretically download a 3.5 GB video file in an hour, if someone else on my network is using additional bandwidth, it could take MUCH longer for me to download the same movie file. If someone else were wanting to download a movie let’s say, technically, the network would now see 3.5 GB + 3.5 GB, for 7 GB of overall data that needs to be downloaded. The bandwidth capacity doesn’t change, the 8Mbps network is going to now take almost two hours to download the 7 GB file just like it would take just one hour to download half that amount.
THE DIFFERENCE IS IN THE DETAILS
One must understand that bandwidth can be expressed in any unit (bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, gigabits, etc.). Your ISP might use one term, a testing service another, and a video streaming service might use a third. You’ll need to know how these terms are all related and how to convert between them if you want full control over your bandwidth costs.
For example, 10 MBs is not the same as 10 Mbs (note the lowercase b). The first represents 10 MegaBYTES while the second is much smaller at 10 MegabITS. These two values differ by a factor of 8 since there are 8 bits to a byte.
Tip: This same concept applies to any data unit you might encounter. You can use any online conversion calculator like this one if you’d rather not do the math manually.
A FEW FINAL CRUMBS ON NETWORK PERFORMANCE
Some software lets you limit the amount of bandwidth that the program is allowed to use, which is really helpful if you still want the program to function but it doesn’t necessarily need to be running at a certain speed. This intentional bandwidth limitation is often called bandwidth control; which should not be confused with bandwidth throttling, which are the steps an ISP has the ability to take in order to regulate the flow of data during increased request times, power outages, and other situations that may affect the performance of the network.
Various download managers, online backup services, and some storage providers use code or programs that tend to use up massive amounts of bandwidth, so having options that limit their access to your available bandwidth makes perfectly good sense.
Overall Network Performance is determined by more than how much bandwidth is available to you. There are other factors involved like latency (lag), jitter, and packet loss that could be contributing to less-than-desirable video performance. If you’re stuck and can’t quite figure out where the “bottleneck” (place where the flow is backed up – remember the plumbing analogy), it’s always best to call in a pro.
Nowadays it’s ALWAYS good to look for UNLIMITED service plans, though in some distant rural areas that have no service, cost and availability are still a factor and you may be stuck with what you have. If that’s the case, when is the last time you moved? 🙂
SUGGESTED ENCODER SETTINGS FOR 3RD PARTY APPLICATIONS
Not all bandwidth issues can be contributed to your ISP’s speed and reliability. Network cable connections to the house or place of business, along with interior cable connections, internet hardware (modem, router, switches, incompatible devices, etc.), the computer your streaming from, even the software or accessories you use to create your videos may also play a part.
Here are a few suggested settings for your 3rd party streaming apps (ie. vMix, Wirecast, OBS, etc.) that may help you with laggy delivery, dropped connections, and even the overall video quality of your broadcast. Play around until you find what works best for you!
Internet Connections under 3Mbps upload speed
Video Codec: h.264
h.264 Profile: Main
Audio Codec: AAC
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Video Bitrate: 500-1200 kbps
Audio Bitrate: 64 kbps
Resolution: 960 x 540p
Internet Connections between 3-8Mbps upload speed
Video Codec: h.264
h.264 Profile: Main
Audio Codec: AAC
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Video Bitrate: 1200-4000 kbps
Audio Bitrate: 96-128 kbps
Resolution: 1280 x 720p
Internet Connections over 8 Mbps upload speed
Video Codec: h.264
h.264 Profile: Main
Audio Codec: AAC
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Video Bitrate: 4000 kbps
Audio Bitrate: 192 kbps
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Remember to monitor your CPU usage. If you find your stream is playing poorly despite the suggested settings, consider using the next settings down. As a general rule, a low video quality stream with strong frames per second will provide a much better experience than a high quality stream with low frames per second. As a result, we recommend the following:
PC/Mac: x264 CPU Preset in BIOS: Slow PC: VeryFast; Fast PC: SuperFast
To test your connection right now, click on GO!
Top 7 Live Streaming Software Encoder Applications of 2017
Why use a 3rd Party Software Application?
For all intents and purposes, you could just go jump into Facebook or Youtube or [insert site here], and use what is considered the native user interface, and stream away to your hearts content. The only problem with that IS just that. It can start to get boring. With no branding, lower 3rds, graphics or screen sharing capabilities, the “Plain Jane” look and feel is going to show up to the party just like everyone else. Is that how you want your brand to be remembered?
There is, however, a variety of 3rd party applications available for live streaming to both social media or any other CDN (Content Delivery Network). The purpose behind each app remains the same; deliver an audio/video feed to servers of any platform that are designated to receive a stream. These 3rd party apps give you unlimited control over sending your content to the channel of your choice, without ever having to be on the site to pull it off!
Software encoders apps contain all of the tools necessary to facilitate a professional looking broadcast and usually capable of creating their own High Definition recordings. Most of these software apps have professional features and abilities that are rarely, if ever duplicated on any kind of website that promotes itself as being able to stream live video. But that’s changing quickly.
With cloud-based server processing what it is today, the gap between apps and websites is closing quickly. It won’t be long before websites will be able to compete (as some already are) with the higher priced software in the market.
I’ll admit, it does take a certain bit of technical know-how and type of person to produce a show while it’s playing out LIVE on the air. It’s not for everyone. In fact, many people prefer to be just a talent. Producers work the scene as back-end program directors, able to pull all the strings, ring all the bells and blow all the whistles needed to run the show. This is easily achieved with the right software or SaaS website.
Let’s go check out the Best Live Streaming 3rd Party Apps of 2017!
Beyond the normal Facebook or YouTube/HOA interfaces, I have either beta tested, currently have installed and have tested every application that is listed here. There are a few other applications similar to these, but I wanted to keep it to the top seven so that if you’re new to this, you wouldn’t get caught up in some kind of shiny object syndrome and waste a lot of time trying to find the good ones. I only focus on apps that can at least stream to Facebook. Below, (in order of my preference), is a short list of those software apps. These are what I consider to be the BEST live streaming apps available to the everyday live streamer.
There are other enterprise platforms available, but they are designed and operated by very large content delivery networks such as Ustream, LiveStream and other professional network-level corporations. Our opinions based on wants and needs may vary:
2. OBS – Orig. (End of Life)/Studio – PC/Mac/Linux (http://obsproject.com)
4. XSplit – Broadcaster/Gamecaster – PC/Mac/Linux (http://xsplit.com)
5. VidBlasterX – Home/Studio/Broadcast – PC/Mac (http://vidblasterx.com)
7. Wirecast v. 7.5 – Studio/Pro – PC/Mac (https://www.telestream.net/wirecast)
Follow the above links to the sites themselves, and look for the brief overviews of each app highlighting on the features available.
Winner of Streaming Media’s 2017 “Best of NAB” Award! vMix is where you’ll usually find me! I use this software for 90% of my in-house production work, and it’s surprising how long this powerhouse software remained under my radar.
Once I got my hands on their FREE 60 Day Trial version, I was hooked! No more wondering where I would find this feature or that feature. This software has literally EVERYTHING you would ever need, and then some, too much so!
The software may seem extremely daunting at first, and with a users manual reminiscent of a high school biology coursebook, I can understand why. When you first look inside at the intuitive interface, it’s just a blank palette.
Allowing multiple 4K inputs, overlays, lower 3rds, VLC streaming, chroma key, instant replays, playlists, title editor, separate recordings of video/audio, instant replay, and yes, desktop capture (screen share). In April of 2017, vMix Call brought it to life! vMix users could now invite remote guests through a Chrome Browser via WebRTC! In as little as a month, I was a vMix software reseller.
Keep in mind, this isn’t kid’s stuff. This is a high-end professional live streaming encoder software, Pro Edition that’s FREE for 2 months! After that, the software reverts to a Free Basic Edition for life.
The free download is still capable of high quality 768 x 576p which is far better than SDTV (480p), 4 inputs, 2 cameras, and 1 overlay channel for placing graphics into the stream for things like lower 3rds, screen sharing, branding images, video playback, etc.
The basic setup is simple, add a camera, start the output for the virtual camera, and go! Or if you’d rather, start with one of the preset destinations for creating an RTMP stream (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram).
Once you work your way up the learning curve, there’s probably no other software that is as reliable, less taxing on system resources or more enjoyable to stream with. I have never encountered a system crash attributed to the vMix software.
This ton of video trainings available on the website show just how quick and easy a live broadcast is to setup.
It’s only when you begin getting creative with various input sources, overlays, and virtual sets with multiple guests that things can get a bit tricky for a first-timer.
With an incredible array of input options (right), anyone would be hard-pressed not to feel a little lost inside the interface first starting off. I’ll be first to admit, I sure did!
Remember this, most pay-to-play software will charge extra to access all of the software’s features (# of cams, call-ins, overlay channels, etc.). No one rides for free when you’re talking about professional-grade live production products. Expect to pull out your wallet to get vMix Call, 1080p-4K video, and more than the default number of cameras, inputs and overlays that I mentioned earlier in this overview.
But straight out of the box, for a one time fee, and an entire year’s worth of FREE upgrades, you really can’t go wrong with vMix Live Production and Streaming Software! So if you’re serious, don’t leave this one on the table, there’s no reason not to at least grab your free copy today! If you’d like to purchase a license for vMix, be sure to get in touch. I’d be happy to help!
Both #1 and #2 on my list are what I call a 2-for-1 deal. A pair of FREE, open source software encoders that look and act about the same, both using less of your precious computer’s resources. Therefore, they will work well on older 2 core CPU desktops and nearly all laptops built in the last 5 years.
Quad-core processors are still recommended to stream 720p HD live feeds to social media.
What started as a simple one window application on Sept. 1, 2012, OBS has evolved into what is now known as OBS Studio. Having a robust UI has caused the development team to set aside it’s one track minded predecessor. OBS not only streams to the web via RTMP, but also works for in-house recordings to .flv, .mov, or .mp4 formats. Perfect for making quick, HQ videos using pre-built scenes, multiple local and remote devices, graphic overlays, lower 3rds, and screen sharing to name a few.
This software looks simple, but it has nearly every feature you’d need except for one thing, a virtual camera device. OBS doesn’t currently work with WebRTC protocols in use on most of the new streaming platforms like Smiletime, BeLive, Firetalk and others listed here. Yes, you can stream to Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and all the rest, but you must do it the old-fashioned way.
Instead, OBS sends signals via RTMP that connect to a remote location (URL). A user-generated Stream Key is created to “unlock” this resource. The key is a string of numbers and letters that act as a password to connect your stream to the servers. Never let anyone see your streaming key, (ie. Facebook/YouTube), or s could stream to your channel whenever they want. There could always be someone watching that may try to hijack your channel. Protect keys!
3. FFSplit – by Vincent Luong – FREE
Here is the other FREE, open source software program, but I noticed there hasn’t been any action on the website since early 2015.
The interface looks and plays much the same as the original OBS product, so most OBS users should feel right at home here.
It’s not that hard to explain why I really like these little one-off software apps, they serve a simple purpose, provide the tools to get the job done right with little concern over much other than production.
Put the scenes together and go, no overhead, not huge time suck, no real learning curve holding you back. Sure, there is some technical know-how attached to this whole process, but since you’ve come this far all you have left is to take the time to study some terminology (as in our glossary from Chapter 1), and learn the basic steps to open a stream, which are similar in every case.
Like OBS, I mention this small, outdated, but useful app, for three (3) reasons:
1. It’s Free (you know I like free)
2. There are Quick to Action functions that makes adding text overlays, other inputs and objects in real-time very simple -and-
3. The software includes a switcher (that connects sources with actions)
These are not the only reasons I keep it in my toolbox. FFSplit is pretty lean and mean (more so than OBS) when it comes to normal operations plus it’s full HD.
FFSplit also records the video output to a file on your PC for quick and clean professional looking video productions. If you like OBS, you’ll probably like FFSplit, too! Grab them both!
4. VidBlasterX – by CombiTech – $9-$99-$999/year
VidBlasterX is Mike Versteeg’s latest edition and is no longer the free product it used to be. VidBlaster is now a subscription based local software installation that provides live streaming and recording up to 4K/UHD. Send streams to Facebook, YouTube and other CDNs using RTMP or the virtual camera driver.
VidBlaster is a studio quality modular component software system with a built-in audio mixer and switcher. The user can combine any number of floating input or output modules (based on purchase) that can literally be placed anywhere within the user interface, or the modules can be docked to other modules to selectively create the studio layout of your choice, giving it a big plus for having the most customization of all the 3rd party encoder apps available on the market today.
The software comes in three (3) flavors: Home, Studio & Broadcast. The main difference between these editions is in the number of modules allowed in a single profile: Home edition supports up to 7 modules, the Studio edition up to 25, and the Broadcast edition up to 50.
The Broadcast edition also comes with several advanced features: UDP streaming, multiple recorder & streamer modules in a single profile.
Another difference is the level of support: the Home & Studio editions come with community support, the Broadcast edition comes with both community and priority support. The VidBlasterX Trial Edition is equal to the Studio Edition, with a watermark added to all output channels. The cost of Home is incredibly $9/yr!
The website says: “VidBlasterX is a versatile and powerful ultra-low latency cascading vision mixer and video router with built-in scalers, time base correctors, frame synchronisers, IP video encoders and decoders, video players, recorders, keyers, effects and much more.” Basically, anything that has a WebRTC or RTMP heartbeat can receive a signal pumped in by VidBlasterX.
5. XSplit | Broadcaster – by SplitmediaLabs – $15 for 3 mos.
XSplit has two offerings on their website. One is Broadcaster and the other is Gamecaster. With over 8 million registered players, and 200k joining every month, you’ll find XSplit is geared specifically toward the video gaming industry. If you’re just planning to deliver a message with video, download Broadcaster.
This was my go-to software during the Blab Days, until I won a copy of Wirecast Pro 6 in a live video contest! Looking like another OBS clone, XSplit is capable of desktop sharing, video playback, graphic overlays, multiple inputs and streaming via RTMP(Flash), RTSP(IP), and NDI (beta). This app will also record locally, but it trumps OBS and FFSplit thanks to it’s virtual camera driver.
And that’s just the FREE version…
It can be used for Skype, Hangouts or Facebook, and any other site that grants access via WebRTC in the browser, but a virtual camera is not the only selling point..
The array of other unique paid features available inside of XSplit include: .mov stingers, widgets for whiteboards, image slideshows, 8 addt’l scenes, local streaming. There’s even a built-in video editor! (WHAT?!) Setting up streams to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch and Mixer via RTMP are pretty straight-forward, but the controls are scattered about. The account and basic version are free, and you must be logged in first in order to use the software, which I suspect helps them with their user analytics. Full access requires a very inexpensive upgrade to the paid version for three months of use. They do have a Lifetime Plan for $199… software good until you die!
Previous versions included a software chromakey plugin, that seems to have been discontinued and is now handled natively. A substantial number of new features have been added to their latest 3.0 version. One clever concept that I haven’t seen in any other app besides this one is the ability to bring in remote guests using Skype.
Two years back, one of my biggest hangups with XSplit was it’s sluggishness. But then again, game aficionados tend to have the biggest, baddest machines on the planet. They care very little about processing overhead, because their machines are built to the nines. Hard-core gaming machines typically don’t have a problem with lag like your average business machine do. At the time, I was running an older 4 core AMD unit with 8 GB of DDR2 that could barely keep up.
Their website does admit that the system requirements are a little higher than your average box will bear.
Oddly, it states XSplit MIN spec is Windows 8.1 (?), a 2nd Gen. I5 CPU or higher, and 8 GB of RAM. Unheard of…
The only downfalls to the free version of XSplit is the constant reminding you to upgrade to Premium and the fact you’re restricted from using it for commercial use. So if this software suits your fancy, be sure to upgrade first.
About ½ of the highly sought after broadcast features including, get this… a fully incorporated video editor, cause an annoying pop-up to engage that asks you for your money. The image above shows which of those features will trigger such an event. Pay the man already, and lose that annoying delayed “Continue” button they installed on the front end upon entering if you don’t.
If your machine isn’t built for speed or at least able to match the required specs, then XSplit might not be something you should even consider, but if your newly built equipment is up-to-snuff, then this would be a fantastic alternative to some of the other higher priced software out there, at a way more reasonable price!
XSplit does have some known issues and some other limitations, but overall I have no problem at all giving it a “thumbs up” recommendation to not only my gaming friends, but to anyone new to broadcasting as a first step to going pro.
If you’re reading this in hard copy, you may want to browse to the site to check on the known issues in relation to your hardware to make sure your system would be compatible with the software as it runs currently. Most bugs are sure to be worked out over time.
6. ManyCam – by Visicom Media, Inc. – Free-$49/mo
No matter who you ask, they’ve seen the bugs. As of late, Visicom has made a lot of improvements, and added many long awaited features directed more toward live streamers rather than just Skype callers, but this doesn’t change my love-hate relationship with this software. It has been around many years, has garnished many followers and I expect it to be around for many years to come. Did you see what I did there?
ManyCam is software I would classify as wonderfully fun and socially engaging. It’s really of no less professional quality than the rest of the bunch, but there always seems to be a few bugs under the hood. The new beta interface was recently deployed, so we’ll have to do some more testing to see if this one can hold it’s position like it has for the many years it’s has already. Puns you say? Why yes, yes they are…
ManyCam’s latest software offering broadcasts to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Ustream, Livestream, and a host of others. Multiple video sources, green screen, IP cameras, multiple channel broadcasting, PnP, fun effects and a mobile app, so you won’t be lacking in any department if you make this your software of choice. The free version output is watermarked and lacks .
The company recently changed its pricing structure from a one-time fee over to a subscription plan. Many are OK with it, and Many others are NOT. It’s my honest opinion that software of this nature should be licensed for use indefinitely, and not over-capitalized upon as a pay-as-you-go-kinda-service-thing.
If it’s highly scale-able, has certain aspects that no other vendor can offer, or is updated with new features so incredibly often that you would suffer from a terrible and agonizing sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if you didn’t, that’s different. But, rarely do you ever find such a software (except maybe Autocad)!
If you’re a ManyCam user at heart, please stop by this book’s Facebook page (yes, this book has its own page!), and let me know what you love best about it!
7. WireCast v.7 Studio/Pro by Telestream $499-$999
I was using Wirecast v. 6 Pro, before I came across vMix, and there were several reasons why I made the switch. I was excited when I first sampled the power behind the Wirecast interface, but that excitement quickly faded by the time v.7 came out, if only for the fact that within a few months, they were asking me to contribute another $299 to the developer’s kitty to upgrade the software.
I wasn’t thrilled, and I didn’t upgrade. Kinda lost me as a customer right there...
The high priced upgrade, along with discovering how clunky it was to use, kept me from being able to recommend it to my fellow live streamers.
Don’t get me wrong, there are several nice features found inside Wirecast, and there are many hard-core fans behind it, I’m just not one of them. The word on the street from users is that v. 7 has made some respectable improvements over previous versions of the interface and did reduce the CPU usage and overhead that bogged it down.
Wirecast fully supports NDI (Network Device Interface) protocols developed by NewTek, but from what I’ve gathered, they removed the virtual camera drivers entirely, making it useless with WebRTC, which put it at the bottom of my 2017 Best of List. This leaves support for only RTMP, MMS HTTP streaming, but I think I understand why they did it.
As for me, I haven’t seen enough added value to justify a $299 upgrade from v.6 to v.7.5 at this time to find out. They’d do well to mirror vMix’s 12-month upgrade policy.
Wirecast also has a free iOS app, to use any iPhone or iPad as an input device. Many software apps should consider these mobile options as incidental also.
Plan on digging deep inside the $$$ bucket to play in the Wirecast sandbox.
(Wirecast comparison: https://www.telestream.net/wirecast/compare.htm)
How to Zoom, Draw and Annotate on a Screen Share During a LIVE Stream Video. (PC Only)
I’m about to let you in on a simple little trick to get the most out of your video hosting experience, especially if you intend on using a particular feature: SCREEN SHARING!
As it stands today, there is MUCH lacking in way of many of the Google extensions required for screen sharing in many of the live video sites that offer them, but that hole can be filled (for Windows users anyway) with a little bit of software that has been around for quite some time now. What is that software?
Zoom It 4.5
(follow the link to get yours now.)
ZoomIt.exe is a perfectly safe and simple to use “portable” software program. Portable simply means it doesn’t need to be installed into your operating system in order to run. It is a self-contained program that consists of one file “zoomit.exe” that could even be run without ever downloading it from the website above. However, I highly recommend users download the .zip and extract it onto their desktops immediately!
To start the program just double-click the .exe file, or drop it onto your task bar for one-click access anytime you need to use it. Once you start it, you can also set it up to auto-start whenever you fire up Windows.
When you first start ZoomIt, you may not see any windows pop-up. If not, it can be found in your taskbar’s icon menu. That’s where all of those startup programs are found. Look and you’ll find an icon of a window with a magnifying glass. By right-clicking on the icon, you gain access the “Options” dialogue box and three command lines within an item list. See the image below for a full screen view.
So as you can see, it’s relatively painless. But this tiny little program contains 3 major tools you’ll want to have in order to make the BEST of your Screensharing!
1. ZOOM (Just as it’s name implies) with quick access via the keyboard shortcut, or by right-clicking on the taskbar icon to access the program in dialogue, you now have a fully functioning magnifying glass, better than the built-in “magnify” application that comes pre-installed on Windows (which by the way, doesn’t work with Blab), or any ctrl+ or ctrl- tricks you may have tried in the past. I use Ctrl+1 as my short (by default). I recommend you set the initial level of magnification to 1.25 (to avoid “zoom shock” to your audience, and yourself!)
At the same time you may or may not want to check BOTH boxes in the bottom-left hand corner of the dialogue window so that ZoomIt will start each time you start Windows and will always end up in your taskbar tray as an icon. Keep in mind, if you ever “Exit” the software, you will have to start again by double-clicking on the .exe file.
2. LIVE ZOOM is a feature of ZoomIt that does NOT work with the Screenshare extension for Chrome that Blab utilizes in its software build. You can use it any other time you’d like, but since it’s not something we can utilize on Blab, I’m not going to cover its use here. You can try it out and see if it’s even anything useful for yourself. The default is Ctrl+2
There may be a work-around for this I haven’t discovered as of yet, but for now, when it comes to Blab anyway, I would recommend setting the shortcut to something like Ctrl+8 or 9 to avoid accidentally starting this part of the app.
3. DRAWING TOOL – One of my favorites. I shortcut this one with Ctrl+2 (Two = “Text Twool” in MY brain). This feature has several ways of working, but is pretty simple to figure out. First of all, once you start this one, you’ll see a colored “dot” on the screen that represents the default size and color settings of the drawing tool. You can immediately change the color setting by typing one of 6 letters right away (no enter key req’d) “r”= red, “b”=blue, “g”=green, “y”=yellow, “o”=orange and “p”=pink. Sadly, white and black are NOT options here. The default is Ctrl+3.
Once your color is established, now you can hold down the Left-Ctrl key and use your mouse wheel (or arrow keys) to increase and decrease the size of the brush. Try out a few strokes to see what works for you. Here, your BEST performance would come from a pen stylus and pad, because drawing and hand-writing text with a mouse is pretty difficult, but I do know of some who have mastered the technique.
There is a 2nd side to the Drawing Tool that can be preset on the next tab labeled “Type”. Here you can set the font, the font style, and the font size. This will allow you to personalize your annotation and labeling while sharing your screen!
In order to access the “Type” feature of the Draw Tool, hold and press Ctrl+2 to enter drawing mode, then type the letter “T”. That’s it. Your cursor will now become a vertical bar “|” and you can begin typing whatever you’d like.
To delete annotations you must use the “ESC” key, unlike deleting drawing elements which can use Ctrl+Z (step erase) or the letter “E” (full erase of all drawn entities).
- BREAK TIME – Last but not at all least is the “Break” feature. It may not sound like much, but I think this one could find itself used in some pretty clever ways on Blab! Break is a timer that can be set to any time from 0-99 minutes that begins to count down once it’s started. It’s default is Ctrl+4. The timer will continue to run as an “elapsed” clock if you check the little box.
Underneath of the “Advanced” button lies even more feature settings for the Break timer.
As you can see below, it’s not just a numbers game. You can locate the timer in any of 9 positions on the screen, include background images with or without opacity (the default is a white screen with timer centered) and you can even include an alarm or other sound (Windows sound file) that will play at the end of the time set. Hitting the “ESC” key will stop the timer and clear back to the previous screen.
To add a sound bite, check the box next to “Play Sound…” then select a sound file from the Windows folder or choose your own.
Timer Opacity = A timer that is solid in color or one you can see through to the screen.
Timer Position – 9 positions to choose from (UL, TC, UR, LC, CC, RC, BL, BC, BR)
Show backgroup bitmap – Gives you the choice of fading your existing desktop background or adding a completely different graphic for the timer when it’s activated.
Scale to screen – I’ll let you try that one out for yourself. (if you still don’t get it, get in touch with me!)
That’s about it! If you have any further questions on the use of this awesome little tool for bringing life to your LIVE Streaming Party! Just give me a shout by visiting my contact page.
vMix – A Biased Review and Brief Tutorial of the Best Live Production Software!
What is vMix and Why Do I Need a Live Production Software Package?
If these are questions you’re asking yourself, then maybe you’re not quite ready for what vMix is, but let’s just test the waters you’re wading in a little bit before we go making rash decisions or just leave you there with that gawd-awful look on your face.
A Little About Me
Hey there! My name is Leland Best, and as a live stream broadcaster myself, it came as somewhat of a shock that I hadn’t crossed paths with vMix software sooner than I did. I’ve been involved with Radio, TV and DJ’g over the last 30 years in some form or another, but never so much as I have been lately. I started out young in a Radio/TV shop-class in high school that took up two years of my time as a teenager. I enjoyed it immensely, being able to broadcast radio shows to my fellow alumni and create fun little TV productions as either a talent or a production manager, sound guy or camera operator, it really didn’t matter to me. After leaving HS, I went and obtained training and a license for Public Access Studio Production and Editing from my local cable company (which at the time was known as United Cable Television).
Beyond that I got involved with All-Star Entertainment and spent a few years DJ’g local bars, bowling alleys, weddings and graduation parties in the Saginaw, MI area. Then came live streaming! First it was YouTube and Hangouts on Air, then just about any type of webinar platform you could think of. I took a couple years off while moving across the state to do other stuff, but look where I am…back at it. Only now it’s sooo much more fun!
What Does Live Streaming Have to Do With You?
You may still be asking yourself… “So what? I don’t live stream, what do I care?” Well, to be honest, you should care!
There is a wave washing around the world as I write this that not everyone is privy to. I’m going to take a little time to enlighten you here briefly. Now, most people know that YouTube creators have been producing some pretty cool content over the years, and that for at least the last 10 years or so, people have been using somewhat outdated methods to create “live streams” on the internet. That simply means that when someone broadcasts to the internet in a “live stream”, the audience is able to see the show in real time. Just like a LIVE broadcast on TV! Again you say, so what?
Well let’s say you own a store or you’re in business for yourself, or maybe you just have a crafty hobby that you want to take to the public to produce a little income with? How would you take to me saying that nowadays you have the ability to produce your very own LIVE (or recorded) video content with the same level of quality that you could find on just about any HD channel you turn to on your television set, right now? Well, you can!
Huge Benefits for Anyone with a Business
Having the ability to produce your own broadcasts have been the dream of many a business person for years. Many business owners pay THOUSANDS of dollars to run ads on Radio and TV, not to mention the cost of producing the commercial content in the first place. But what if, better even than any commercial, you could reach your audience DIRECTLY with your own equipment and software for probably less than the cost of a single professionally produced commercial? Does that sound a little more interesting? NOW you’re startin’ to catch my drift…
But I Don’t Own a TV Station, How Can I Broadcast to TV?
That’s the beauty of it all, you don’t! You broadcast to the Internet! And rather than pay some TV mogul or network conglomerate, you might pay a few dollars a month for a quality streaming platform. But it gets even better than that.
Thanks to the advent of WebRTC (Web-based Real Time Communications) and the recent announcements (like yesterday) by several major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Google) there are now a multitude of new FREE channels for you to send your message out to the masses! With Facebook LIVE, YouTube LIVE, Twitter’s Periscope, Firetalk, or the plethora of other streaming services popping up every day, you don’t have to pay anyone a single red cent in broadcasting fees! How crazy is that? This is happening RIGHT NOW!
This is where vMix comes in…
Now obviously, some of these new broadcasting platforms aren’t quite what you’d expect when it comes to “TV Quality” networks, but the fact remains that nearly every one of them allow you to broadcast a stream of audio and video content in High Definition to the audience of your choice. vMix has the software and hardware tools and solutions that help you to compete with your local and national television networks in REAL TIME from your office or living room!
So what does vMix bring to the table? Let’s make one point perfectly clear, vMix BRINGS the table!
All your inputs, when and where you need them.
- Video Cameras – 4K, HD and SD capable. Support for capture cards, direct link cameras, webcams, etc.
- Video Files – Support for all popular formats including AVI, MP4, H.264, MPEG-2, WMV and QuickTime*
- DVDs – With menu navigation
- Audio Files – MP3 and WAV
- Audio Devices – Mix multiple audio sources such as SoundCards and DeckLink Audio
- Video and Audio PlayLists – Combine multiple video and/or audio files into a single Input
- RTSP, PowerPoint, Photos, Flash, RTMP, Solid Color and more.
*Apple has recently discontinued support and is phasing out this player in Windows due to security issues in 2016
Simultaneous Streaming, Recording, and Output
Live stream to places like YouTube, Ustream, Daily Motion, Facebook LIVE, Firetalk… you get to choose where your feed goes!
Record in FULL High Definition (HD) to AVI, MP4, MPEG-2 or WMV
Output your data to nearly any source capturing device you prefer!
You’ll also have Virtual Camera support to send your stream to any WebRTC capable platform that exists!
Professional Transition Effects (Boom!)
Cut, Fade, Zoom, Wipe, Slide, Fly, CrossZoom, FlyRotate, Cube, CubeZoom, Vertical Wipe, Vertical Slide and Merge transitions available via on screen macro-like buttons!
Professional HD production on nearly any PC
vMix is the perhaps the most effective at producing HD content through multiple sources without burning out your CPU or putting a whole in your wallet. Thanks to it’s limited use of computer resources and full 3D acceleration, you’ll be able to create professional results on even a somewhat modest computer setup.
Don’t have the room for a Studio Set? Ever heard of Chroma Key?
With vMix’s built in Chroma Key features, and 4 built-in Virtual Sets you can turn any small bedroom into a mega studio in minutes! vMix also gives you the option to create your own personalized virtual studio using the studio builder!
PC and Mac Desktop Sources
With vMix’s Desktop Capture, you can use data from remote desktops on your business intranet, or create a private virtual network (VPN) and connect to outside audio and video streams via the latest NDI (Network Device Interface) technology over the world wide webs from around the world, just by having the devices IP address! (gigabit internet speeds recommended)
This is a great way to present a guest’s PowerPoint presentations! With vMix, Audio Capture support for Skype and other video-conferencing software is available under Windows 7, 8 and 10.
Find out more about running vMix on a Mac.
Looking for Lower 3rd Title Templates? They’re INCLUDED!
With a few clicks of the mouse, you can add or edit a host title bar (lower 3rd) or perhaps a scoreboard or a news ticker. With the correct template and a social media account you can even broadcast a Twitter feed or Facebook comments in REAL TIME during your broadcasts, with full control over each post inside a comment “cue” which allows you to pick and choose how posts, tweets or comments show up in your feed!
Use built-ins or add your own designs that you may have already created inside your favorite graphics or vector editing software. Adjust Text, Font Size and Color and do it in Real-Time with instant updates.
I Missed that….where’s the Instant Replay? Maybe you want Slow Motion?
Create a Video Delay input and assign it to any available camera or output device. Save multiple clips of awesome events for playback at any time. With vMix you have configurable slow motion playback – from 5 to 400%
Throw that old analog mixer in the trash!
vMix’s built-in (I say that a LOT don’t I?) audio mixer allows you to easily keep track of all of your connected audio sources (mics, webcams, audio files) and includes the ability to Mute, Follow (Auto Mixing) and Delay any source.
The Master Output includes it’s own separate VU meter and can be modified via the included equalizer. The VU meter also includes the ability to provide peak outputs and allows for signal gating to ensure each inputs level is ready to broadcast at the best quality possible, without background interference or over pick-up.
Perhaps you’re the type who likes to play with Live Video Effects?
Color Correct, Deinterlace, Sharpen, Zoom, Rotate, Pan and Crop any input on the fly.
All effects are processed in 4:4:4 32-bit color for optimal video quality.
Multi View – 2 Down, 4 to Go!
With Multi-view you can combine a number of input devices into one output to create awesome screen effects for interviews (2 panes), demonstrations, party calls (more than 2 people) or set-up a seat for your co-host and invite a guest to your show!
Overlay Channels (PIP: “Picture-in-Picture”)
The basic versions of vMix only include 1 overlay channel, but even as early as the SD version, vMix adds in 3 more, giving you a total of 4 Overlay Channels in addition to the Multi View feature. Each overlay channel can have its own transition effect, position and border. This is where you should be saying to me, “Are you serious right now?”
Check out this short video I created to give you an idea of what’s possible using overlays:
Control your LIVE video production with your Touch Screen tablet or laptop!
With the vMix Web Controller on your Surface, iPad, Android or other touch screen device you can control your entire production without touching the keyboard (unless you need to edit a title of course). This is a built-in web interface accessible through a simple url port on your network. Customized shortcut buttons similar to macros can also be created to activate common production functions.
Compare the Features:
What Comes Next? Secure the Quality of your Stream with UL Listed Hardware!
Let’s say that computer box you built back in the 90’s isn’t quite up to snuff for broadcasting video. Well, you have a few options at your disposal, so let’s take a moment to consider them all:
- You could certainly try your hand at another build, do what you can to catch up to all the new hardware specs, memory modules, video cards, sound cards, monitors, webcams, and networking devices available in today’s marketplace…or
- You could go browse Amazon or Ebay and try to find a used gaming machine some 19 y.o. kid trashed just so he could get another new one as a graduation present from his dear ol’ rich daddy…or
- You could “trust” your local Best Buy or Office Max store to direct you and your best interest toward a flimsy cookie-cutter machine loaded with all kinds of software you’ll never use…or
- If you’re really serious about broadcasting and creating some totally awesome LIVE (and recorded) video content to help build up your budding business into an empire by reaching more customers than you never thought possible…then we need to talk. Allow me to show you how the enterprise solutions available will make certain you will never have a “bad streaming experience” like the one in this Verizon commercial!