The Teradek VidiU allows you to broadcast straight from your camera without a PC.
Streaming to the internet has always required some kind of computer system to manage the encoding and delivery of the content. Recently though, a number of portable products have come out that allow you to stream directly from your cameras via some type of small battery operated device. Now, Teradek, one of the kings of dedicated streaming devices, comes out with their own pro-sumer version called the VidiU
Like other streamers, the VidiU is a small and self-contained streaming device. It boasts an internal battery that lasts about an hour, and can accept HDMI signals up to 1080p. What sets it apart though is the sheer simplicity of how it works, and the enhanced streaming options available to it.
The VidiU is a small device measuring just 3 inches by 4 inches by 1 inch at 5 oz. It easily fits on top of any camera via the included hot-shoe mount.
The VidiU has a bright LCD screen to give you current status information about the device as well as a button to start and stop the stream and a 4-way menu button.
On the back, you have your basic HDMI port, a microphone input port for off board audio if you don’t wish to use the embedded HDMI audio, and your network jack. A couple of indicators on the back also shows when the device is running of off DC power and when it is charging the battery.
On the side you have your power switch, a headphone jack for monitoring your stream audio, and a USB port for your modem.
As expected, the VidiU supports the traditional set of networking connectivity with a hardline ethernet jack and a built in dual-band MIMO Wifi antenna, the latter allowing for greater stability and better wireless throughput though a traditionally unreliable transmission. In addition, the VidiU supports the same kind of USB 3G/4G dongles that the big brother Cube streamers use, allowing you to take your live stream on the road with no local network support at all.
Though the VidiU natively supports Livestream and Ustream via simply providing your account details, the device will also stream to any CDN that supports the standard RTMP interface via a manually entered RTMP URL and key. The unit itself can push out streams that work anywhere from low bit-rate mobile connections to a maximum 5 megabit HD feed, depending on what you select. Using h.264-AAC encoding in real time via on board encoders, the data feed is compressed efficiently and the quality is great.
Now the VIdiU does have an built in LCD display and menu control that allows you to set any configuration item that you want directly from the device, but in reality, it’s the not most efficient way to control the device.
Instead, using the VidiU iOS app, you can not only get direct access to any of the configuration options of the device (which is far easier to use than attempting to input long complicated passwords and stream keys via the 4 way button), but you can also get a real time preview of what the VidiU is seeing from the camera.
The app works by joining the same network as the VidiU, either via the same wired/wireless network the VidiU attaches to, or via the device’s own internal access point mode with the built in dual-band WiFi antennas.
To test the VidiU, I took it through a variety of situations to see how well it fared.
The first situation I took it though was to stream a walk though an art show in downtown Dallas with one of our Vixia cameras. While I wasn’t able to get the VidiU on their internal WiFi network (it required a web-login and the VidiU can only work with standard Wifi passwords), I was able to get it paired up with my iPhone 5 in hot-spot mode. Streaming wirelessly over to my iPhone 5′s WiFi, I was easily able to run around for an hour interviewing artists and showing off their work. The VidiU internally has an adaptive quality system that will adjust the transmission as needed, which is helpful for streaming to unknown environments such as via LTE or WiFi.
The second situation I took it though was a recent live streaming gig last month in Las Vegas. While the show itself had its own streaming providers and equipment, I was able to get an extra feed out of their mixer. With more than enough bandwidth available, I set the VidiU to stream full blast at the maximum 5 megabits HD for 6 hours non stop (via ethernet and plugged in of course). The device held up with no problem, happily streaming along the whole time.
While the VidiU has a lot of great things to offer, there are a couple gotchas I hope they will resolve very soon.
Firstly, while there is manual support for RTMP, entering those credentials is not easy. Entering long urls and keys via the inboard displays is extremely tedious, and entering them via the iOS app is problematic sometimes. While you can copy one part of the credentials via the iOS copy/paste system into the appropriate fields, you have to task out to copy the second part. That task switch will reset the status of the VidiU, losing what you had just copied. Once you get both in and save things, it works great though.
I’ve been told that Teradek is working on bringing a web interface to the VidiU to make previewing and configuration easier via a laptop when needed, so hopefully we’ll see that soon.
Secondly, the management app is only available for iOS devices, and Android users are out of luck. While iPod Touches are relatively cheap today, it would still be nice to have a native Android app for the very large Android device market out there.
I think the Teradek VidiU is a great device not only if you are looking to stream via your camera, but even if you want to stream from a general production system. While it’s made to be portable via running off of batteries, the internal 1 hour life limits how long you can stream without having to rig together a DC battery, which is easy enough to do. When attached to a wall plug, the VidiU is a great workhorse that can go on and on during a live stream.
At $699, the VidiU isn’t the cheapest device, but when you consider the functionality, the value seems right up there. Between building the computers, setting up the software, and training, you’d be hard pressed to build a computer system for that cost that can stream as efficiently as the VidiU. Furthermore, such manually built systems will still be difficult to keep completely mobile at the same time, the smallest of such likely being small laptop.
You can find the Teradek VidiU directly from their website, at Teradek.com