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Livestream lets you be a mobile content broadcaster with their newest mobile streaming product, the Livestream Studio HD500.

Livestream made its name by being a top-tier content delivery network with their Livestream service accepting a wide range of broadcast devices and configurations. Recently, as an natural extension to their original broadcasting desktop software, Livestream has created a brand new broadcasting suite called the Livestream Studio.

When combined with the supported capture devices, Livestream Studio allows you to transform your computer into a live production control room allowing you to switch, record, and stream a live broadcast to the Internet. While you can purchase the software separately and develop your own hardware platform, Livestream has a whole range of officially built systems with the most notable one being the Livestream Studio HD500.

It Fits as a Carryon!

hd500-lcd

The HD500 includes a built in LCD screen.

The HD500 is the ultimate portable live production switcher. Making the former case modder and LAN party enthusiast in me smile, the HD500 is a self-contained computer that includes an embedded LCD screen on the side panel with the entirety in a form factor that easily fits in a medium-sized carry-on bag.

hd500-back

The HD500 uses a Decklink Quad and an extra Decklink to provide 5 SDI inputs.

The HD500 includes 5 HD-SDI inputs (4 of which are mini-BNC), an array of analog and digital inputs, and a 500 gig hard drive, all while giving you a supremely short setup time. Simply put the HD500 on the table, plug the cameras in, plug your keyboard and mouse in, and turn it on.

hd500-bag

The HD500 has a durable carryon bag that fits the unit plus your keyboard and mouse

Overall, the hardware side of things is actually very simple, yet very elegant. At a weight of 15 pounds, the HD500 is easy to carry and easily fits under the seat on a standard airplane.

Software Simplicity

What really drives the HD500 though, aside from the great hardware, is the very featured Studio software package the system revolves around.

The Livestream Studio software has all your standard features you’d expect from a mixing system, live multi view of inputs and preview/program based switching, as well as additional features such as built-in broadcast recording and streaming.

When recording, the HD500 records at the same format of the session giving you about 10 hours of 1080i video. Recorded video will show up in one of the two media playback bins, and you can add your own media to the bins as well. The Studio software will transcode any media to match the session format as needed.

What really drives the HD500 though, aside from the great hardware, is the very featured Studio software package the system revolves around.

The Livestream Studio software has all your standard features you’d expect from a mixing system, live multi view of inputs and preview/program based switching, as well as additional features such as built-in broadcast recording and streaming.

When recording, the HD500 records at the same format of the session giving you about 10 hours of 1080i video. Recorded video will show up in one of the two media playback bins, and you can add your own media to the bins as well. The Studio software will transcode any media to match the session format as needed.

With the HD500, you can also stream to a variety of different CDNs. Unsurprisingly, it works the best with Livestream’s own service, but there is native support for Ustream and YouTube Live broadcasts. Even still, you are free to use any CDN you’d like provided they can accept a standard RTMP feed.

The Studio software includes an input follow-based audio mixer. It can optionally follow the input channel associated with a camera and mute other channels, or you can enable all audio channels associated with the cameras and do your own mix right in the software.

What really sets the Studio software apart though is the supremely featured graphics system. While many systems provide basic titling and overlays for on screen graphics, the Livestream Studio software’s implementation is by far the most elegant and likely the best featured system outside of a separate broadcast graphics system.

The graphics system works around the concept of layered objects. Cameras, images, video, and text are all different objects you can place on your canvas. It’s trivial to add the maximum 4 live cameras on top of a custom background to create a very nice looking multi-person interview look.

Texts and titles are also objects, but are special in their own right. These text fields are actually text fields backed by a data list similar to a printing mailing labels in a label maker using a list of addresses in a spreadsheet. Each text box field is linked to information on a separate tab in a list, allowing you to pre-populate and easily switch between different sets of information such as different names of on screen talent, bullet points, and lower thirds.

The graphic system also includes fun features such as countdown and clock objects, giving your viewers a dynamic count to when the next event will be. When the countdown reaches the appointed time, the system will even automatically transition into whatever is queued up in preview.

Quirks

No broadcast system is without quirks, and the HD500 is definitely not an exception.

While the system works really well with embedded audio coming from the camera sources, using off board external audio from an extra mixer is a bit finicky. You have to use the “extra” decklink card of the system to pull audio in, and it does require a video feed to go with it. One option to save an input would be to route the mixer audio back into a camera and pull the audio via the embedded feed.

Another interesting point is while the HD500 supports five camera inputs, you can’t use all the inputs if you want to have an broadcast output signal at the same time. To get a broadcast signal out, you’d have to convert one of the inputs into an output, reducing your camera support to four. While there is a dedicated HDMI output available for the program feed, it unfortunately does not include audio. It works well for conference settings to drive displays, but not for recording or rebroadcasting the program externally.

As a final quirk, while the Studio software contains many fun and silly wipes, it doesn’t contain a dip to black/color mode. It only contains direct fade transitions between cuts.

Final Thoughts

hd500-front

Overall, I think the HD500 is a great system thanks to its unparalleled mobility and elegant graphics system. For those of us who travel frequently to produce live productions, the HD500 should be a serious consideration.

The HD500 eliminates the need to bring a case for your mixer system, a case for your monitor, a case for your accessories, allowing you to potentially do your entire gig with a single carry on. Just show up, place your HD500 on the table, and plug the camera feeds into it. I think some of the best uses for the HD500 would be red carpet events and other small short events when you want to be able to produce an high end production with as little setup as possible.

At $8500, the Livestream Studio HD500 is not a cheap piece of gear, but compared to competing products, it’s a very compelling price point.

You can find out more about the HD500 from the Livestream website and be sure to check out the longer workflow run-though I did where you can see a whole production as well as a lot more detail into the system.

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About The Author

Avatar of Kien Tran

Based out of of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Kien is a long time technology and internet enthusiast. With a background in corporate IT and software development, he spends much of his time freelancing as an IT consultant and is currently the studio engineer for Livid Lobster. You can reach him via twitter at @kientran where he rants about television shows.

2 Responses

  1. Theo

    I am extremely disapointed by the software version as it does not support the overlapping of text. I needed it to overlap image from camera with text from power point. The basic and free Livestream Procaster does a better job.

  2. Sally

    Good review except you had 13 spelling and grammar mistakes in one article, 5 in just the first 3 paragraphs. Don’t you read through your articles before publishing? Don’t you have a spellchecker?