More and more churches are jumping on the live streaming bandwagon. While that may or may not be a good idea (and I have some thoughts on that, but that’s another post), as TD’s we are charged with figuring out how to make it happen. There are of course, many ways to to it; you could go with a Mac or PC with a video card and streaming software, a custom solution like 1 Beyond’s Stream Machine, or an all-in-one box like a Matrox Monarch HD (and as soon as Matrox sends me one, I’ll be reviewing it…).
Those are all great options, and up to a few weeks ago, I was planning on a Mac Mini with an interface running Wirecast. My thinking changed when I was invited up to Teradek’s headquarters to see some new gear they’ve been working on. A few weeks ago, I told you about the Bolt—wireless 3G video up to 300’ with no delay. But what caught my eye was a new product called the VidiU.
Smaller Than a Breadbox (by a lot)
The VidiU is a small, lightweight box about the size of a deck of cards. It has an OLED screen on it along with two joystick menu control buttons. On the back it has an HDMI connector, an 1/8” audio in jack, Ethernet and power jacks. The side contains a small power switch along with an 1/8” headphone jack as well as a USB port. It even has a 1/4” hole right through the box so you can mount it to a camera if you want.
But don’t be fooled by the diminutive size; this little box packs a big punch. Inside, video is converted to h.264 and packaged for streaming via almost any streaming service. It has native support for UStream and Livesream (just enter your account details), and can also use RTMP to stream to any CDN such as Wowza, Brightcove, Ooyala, etc.
It will handle video inputs up to 1080p, with data rates up to 5 Mbps. Audio can come in on the HDMI input or via the analog 1/8” jack. The OLED screen gives you full access to the settings of the device, however, using the iOS app is a lot easier.
Wireless Streaming or Access
The VidiU has a dual band, MIMO Wi-Fi radio built-in, which can connect to a local Wi-Fi network or be used in AP mode, which lets you connect directly to it with your iPhone for full control of the device as well as real-time preview of the video. I found the preview to have just a frame or two of delay. The device can also stream out the Ethernet jack.
Should you need to be completely wireless, a built in LiOn battery will power the device for about 60 minutes.
When I saw this, I immediately thought it would be a great way for us to stream our services. With embedded audio, a single HDMI connection would get our program out to Livestream; we have plenty of upload speed for a full HD broadcast. We tried it for a weekend, but ran into a few problems.
The firmware on my unit when I picked it up was 1.0.0. There seemed to be a few bugs in it, and the stream kept dropping. After a few e-mails with Teradek, they released firmware 1.1.1. It took but a few minutes to update and since then it has worked completely perfectly. We streamed about 10 hours of video this past weekend without a single issue. So I think they’ve got it worked out.
I could see this as a perfect solution for a portable church as well. Because you can plug a 3G or 4G modem in via USB, you could easily stream services from anywhere, whether or not you have network. It’s so small, you could velcro it to your switcher and have it all ready to go all the time.
Or maybe it could go up to camp with the students for a “live update” of the camp week. Clearly, it has a ton of applicants for event videographers as well.
All This And A Low, Low Price
The Mac Mini solution I was looking at was going to run about $2500. The Stream Machine, while very cool and robust is closer to $5000. Even a Matrox Monarch HD is $999.
But the VidiU is just $699. I love things that work well and save my budget, so this one makes my list of cool products. We’re still waiting to get the green light that we need to start streaming, but when we do, this is my most likely solution.
What Doesn’t It Do?
For $699, you do give up a few features. There is no audio delay compensation, so you’ll have to do that outside the box (something that’s easy for us in our application). It doesn’t record locally, and it does but one stream at a time. It doesn’t do the cool multi-layered video stuff that WireCast does, nor will it do lower thirds, graphics or anything like that. It takes video in, and spits it out to the web. It also doesn’t have SDI input, but we found the $90 Monoprice SDI to HDMI adapter worked great.
Right now, there is no desktop control app, but I’m told they are working on it. So the bottom line is simple: If you just want to stream, this is a great option. It does one thing, does it well and doesn’t cost a fortune. That’s why it’s a the top of my streaming solutions list for Coast Hills right now.