Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Choosing a Live Streaming Camera

What’s the best camera to use for live streaming?

Not exactly an easy question to answer. Live streaming cameras vary in quality, price, functionality and how they connect into your particular system.  It really depends on exactly what you want to do.  Some are more flexible, some are more user-friendly and some provide a higher quality image than others. First, determine what it is you want to accomplish, know your budget and then do some research.
There are several different kinds of camera for live streaming.  We’ll start with talking about the most basic and inexpensive and go from there.


Webcams are cameras that are connected to a computer then sent from the computer to the Internet. Webcams, nowadays, are built right into most computers or they may be separate units that connect to the computer via USB. A webcam doesn’t have its own Internet connection or IP address, so a computer is required to connect to a network and then process the image into a format that can be streamed.
The advantages of webcams are simplicity and price. You can find a decent-quality webcam for around $50 - $100.
Webcams are easy to use. The controls are simple, it connects directly to the computer which means you don’t have to worry about external power sources, and you do not need a capture card. Using a webcam for live streaming is the most basic way to stream your program over the internet. Assuming you have the software to create the finished video content, you’re able to embed it to a website or upload it to a streaming platform, there are no additional tools necessary.
One downside is webcams do not generally deliver as high image quality as other options. They have no storage capabilities so it’s not possible to use them other than with a computer. Most come with built-in microphones, but the sound quality is not high. We recommend using a separate mic and sound channel if you want professional, quality audio. Most webcams are very basic, with not much control. They usually lack zoom capability, variable focus, and any ability to customize the image. What you see is what you get
If you just need to embed video of a conference or lecture to provide information to viewers then using webcams might provide all you need. For more professional quality video you should consider other options.

IP Cameras

An IP camera has an IP address and the ability to connect to the Internet separately from a computer. IP cameras are a little more complicated than using webcams, but much more versatile. Their connection is wireless, they can be positioned pretty much anywhere you need them. Because many IP cameras include power over ethernet (POE), you can run them 24/7. This combination makes them ideal for video streaming nature, a concert or other performance where you need multiple perspectives, and similar functions.
As I mentioned, using IP cameras with streaming video is a little more complicated than using webcams. It does require a video encoder.  This is because the protocol most IP cameras use isn’t suitable for live streaming. You’re also looking at a more expensive camera. A good IP camera is likely to run at least $600-$800 and could be higher, depending on the features you need.
An IP camera is a good choice if you need a lot of flexibility.  If the camera has access to the Internet over a wireless network, it can be placed anywhere.

Professional Cameras

The most expensive option is to use a professional-quality HDMI or SDI output camera . We here at Chisel Multimedia use Sony XDCAM cameras but we understand cameras are subjective to the user.  In addition to the camera itself being more expensive than most IP cameras, this option requires a capture card to facilitate using the camera for live streaming. A capture card is a separate device connected to a computer that converts the video signal into a form that can be used for live streaming. Capture cards can be either internal or external devices. Internal versions generally are a bit cheaper and sometimes offering more advanced functions. External capture cards are normally plug-and-play and don’t require a lot of technical knowledge. They are also much easier to use with a laptop computer.

It’s important to make sure that your capture card will work with your camera’s input. Some work only with analog and don’t accommodate digital signals. Check the particulars of the card and software before making a purchase.
Professional cameras offer more flexibility and power than any of the cheaper options. You can change and upgrade lenses and do all of the things expected from a professional camera. Professional video cameras today are quite compact compared to older versions. While not as portable as a webcam or IP camera, they’re fairly easy to transport and use on site. For the more polished production, a high-quality camera is necessary to achieve real professional quality video.  Professional video cameras aren’t as simple to use as a webcam. A good quality HDMI camera will start at minimum $600 – $700, while the price for a top of the line HD-SDI camera runs into the thousands. If you don’t already have experience with them, you may look into taking some video production courses.
Figure out what it is you intend to do then do your homework. Research what’s out there and choose what you think will best fit your needs.
Happy Streaming!