Streaming Video: Creating a Professional uStream Show

Design & Development

Ian Lurie Sep 12 2007

A few weeks ago I streamed Conversations With the Candidates. Two years ago a project like that would’ve cost my client a small fortune to encode, stream and then deliver the video to a large audience.

This time? The price of my plane ticket, plus my time in Orlando.

The difference is a service called uStream.tv. With it, you can quickly create your own shows, then stream them, live and/or record them for later playback. This tutorial walks you through what I did, the tools I used, etc..:

The Tools
I used two tools to create the show: CamTwist, to combine graphics with the video ‘on the fly’ and send the combination to uStream, plus Adobe FireWorks to create the graphics.

If you’re on the PC, CamTwist won’t work, but WebCam Max will. CamTwist is free. WebCam Max costs $29.95, but is well worth it. Plus their logo is great.

Part 1: The Foundation
In my experience, three things will make or break your show:

  1. Bandwidth: When you broadcast, your outgoing bandwidth will be very important. That’s your upload speed. Note that most cable and DSL providers give you high download speed, but lousy upload speed. At my house, for example, I get 4 megabits as my download speed, but only 500 kbps as my upload speed. I won’t get all geeky about it – suffice it to say I have a river for a download stream, and a small straw for upload. You can do a uStream show with only 300 kbps, but the video will stop and start a lot. For high-quality video, you’ll need at least 900 kbps, and more is better.
  2. The camera: The higher-quality the original video, the better the show. You can use your webcam (Apple’s iSight does a great job). But if you have a DV cam, you can use that for far better results. For my show, I got to go one better and get a stream directly from the TV cameras using a DAC converter.
  3. The computer: Really any laptop can handle uStream. I used a MacBook Pro (2 years old). If you’re going to use extra tools like CamTwist, make sure you have something fast: A Pentium PC or an Intel Macbook will do the trick. A slower laptop may not deliver the video as quickly as uStream needs it, which again will create stops and starts.

You can experiment to find the best configuration. As you’ll see below, you have a lot of control over your stream settings, so you can deliver something marginally viewable under almost any conditions.

Part 2: Prep Work
[Note: If this part makes no sense, just skip it. You don't have to create a graphic. It's just a nice touch. You can use many of CamTwist's other effects without any graphics at all. For example, the 'Text' effect will let you superimpose text without creating any graphics.]

You want the show to look professional. I’d decided in advance that I wanted to have a graphic superimposed over the video, news-style, like this:

News Video Overlay

To do that, I needed to first create the graphic. I used Adobe Fireworks. You can use Photoshop, or Paintshop Pro, or whatever you prefer. I used my client’s logo, plus a high-contrast color that would stand out against the video, over a transparent background. The transparency will let the video show through when you superimpose it. I added a drop shadow so the graphic would appear to float over the video:

Customized video

I saved that as a .PNG graphic for later. You can use either PNG or GIF format – both support transparency. JPG won’t work.

Part 3: Set Up The Show
Before showtime, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the graphics and the video all set up the way you want them. I’m going to use CamTwist in my example:

Camtwist

  1. Start up CamTwist.
  2. Click ‘Advanced’, next to ‘Settings’.
  3. Then click ‘stage’.
  4. Choose your video source. In my example, I’m using my iSight camera just for test purposes. You should now see your video feed.
  5. Choose any effects you want to use. Don’t go overboard. You can turn a great show into a fun house in no time at all. In my case, I picked the versatile Image Overlay. Double-click the effect.
  6. Click-and-drag the graphic you want into the lower right-hand window.
  7. Use the sliders below the settings area to scale and rotate the graphic as desired.
  8. You can set the transparency, too, but I don’t recommend it. Transparency effects will put a lot of strain on your audience’s computers. Be nice to their computers, OK?
  9. Then position it by dragging the button in the top settings window.
  10. Finally, save the effect so you can use it again later: Click ‘Save Setup’.

Part 4: Create the Show on uStream
This part’s easy – uStream walks you through the process.

  1. Go to uStream.tv.
  2. If you don’t already have one, create an account.
  3. Click ‘My Shows’.
  4. Then click ‘Create New Standard Show’.

    Screensnapz-1

  5. Fill out the form. Don’t worry about the show picture, etc. just yet.
  6. Pick your show options. The Chatbox is a great option – it involves the audience, and I highly recommend it.
  7. Click ‘Create Show’. You’ll see the show saved in your ‘My Shows’ list.

Part 5: Action!
Ready? Click ‘Go Live’.

Recorder

  1. The uStream.tv Recorder window will appear. If it doesn’t, make sure you have turned off any popup blockers.
  2. The Flash Player will ask permission to use your camera. Click ‘Allow’.
  3. In CamTwist, click ‘Deploy’.
  4. Click ‘Advanced Settings’.
  5. Under ‘Video settings’, make sure you have ‘CamTwist’ selected.
  6. Under ‘Audio Settings’, select what makes sense. If you’re using an external microphone, select ‘Built-in Input’. If you’re using a DV cam, select ‘DV Audio’. Otherwise, you’ll probably use ‘Built-in Microphone’.
  7. Leave quality and FPS (frames per second) alone for now.
  8. Click ‘Apply’.
  9. Click ‘Start Broadcast’.
  10. If you want to record the show at the same time, click ‘start recording’.

That’s it – you’re now broadcasting.

Part 6: Tweaking Things
Streaming is a balancing act: The higher-quality your video, the more outgoing bandwidth it requires at your end, and the more incoming bandwidth it requires from your audience.

You may need to lower the sound or audio quality to compensate for bandwidth issues. Or, you may be able to increase quality. Here’s how you do it:

  1. In the uStream recorder window, click ‘Advanced’.
  2. The first thing I usually do is decrease the FPS, or Frames Per Second. You can go as low as 8 frames per second and still have a decent show, and this will save a lot of bandwidth.
  3. Next, try lowering the audio quality by selecting a lower kHz. At 5 kHz, it’s going to sound like your show is under water, so I suggest going no lower than 8, or even 11 kHz.
  4. Finally, lower the video quality. You can preview it in the recorder window, or by watching your own show.

It takes some practice, and I found that I had to raise and lower quality as my network got busier or quieter. If you have a chat room running as part of your show, you can just ask your audience. They’ll give you great feedback as to which settings work best. This isn’t TV – everyone works together, and your audience appreciates it when you ask.

Part 7: Customizing
You can use uStream’s site to deliver the video. You can also cut-and-paste the embedding code into your own site. Cut and paste the ‘Embed’ code and you’ll see the uStream show on your site. Cut-and-paste the ‘Embed Chat’ and you’ll get the chat room, too.

Showcreated-1

Worth Doing?

If you’re not sure, here’s one strong argument: The IAMAW saw a 100% increase in incoming links from major blog search engines Technorati and Bloglines when they ran their show:

Technorati Mentions

Bloglines Mentions

Lots of Possibilities
uStream is very, very easy. Try it! If you’ve got any questions, post ‘em in the comments area, below.

tags : conversation marketingtools

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30 Comments

  1. Ian,
    What a great case study on how to use Ustream and what kind of results it can drive. Do you mind if we use it when we talk about Ustream?

  2. sgrow

    Now that Ustream has updated the Go Live with Broadcast now, the option to choose CamTwist is missing. Any ideas how to set it up now?
    Thanks ahead of time.
    sgrow

  3. Ian

    Hi sgrow,
    When you click Broadcast, look for ‘video source’ in the window that appears. Click that – you’ll see ‘CamTwist’ in the drop-down.
    If you don’t, check in with uStream – I see it here but there may be a browser compatibility issue.
    Ian

  4. Ross Jacobs

    that was great
    anyone know of a program like camtwist but for windows XP any help would be great
    thanks

  5. Jonahtan Shemran

    Wonderful! Any suggestions with getting iSight to work though? I’ve tried changing the flash settings to USB Video Class and all that, but still nothing’s showing. I’m running at 2GHz Intel based MacBook with latest Flash. Any ideas? The audio is working, just no video. I tested to make sure iSight is working in PhotoBooth and it is just fine and works fine for Skype, etc. any ideas??? Thanks!

  6. Brian

    You’ve provided excellent info however I’m very new to all of this and not very technical.
    I don’t understand fully how broadcasting on ustream.tv increased the sites incoming links from major blog search engines Technorati and Bloglines.
    Are the ustream.tv feeds of shows automatically picked up by the blog search engines or did you have to somehow submit your broadcast feed?
    Thanks again for going into detail on the setup.
    Brian

  7. Ian

    If you embed the uStream show in your site, folks will link to it, generating more traffic.
    Plus, the show itself is a great attractor – folks love to see live content!

  8. I am having trouble with the audio on ustream. I recorded a test run and you can view it by putting otbntv in the search window. If you click on the otbntv live icon you will see the recorded event. There is a high pitch sound that comes on around 1 minute. We could not get it out. We had the audio repeat with loud noises close to the mike or at high sounds (decibels I think). Have you ever experienced this and can you help?
    I dodn’t find this covered in your tutorial.
    Thanks, Don Akerlow

  9. Ian

    @Don I haven’t seen that problem before. But it sounds to me like you recorded feedback from a mic, or from something in the audio feed. Best I can recommend is to edit out the audio in that segment and replace it.

  10. Rose

    I have also had the issue Don is having but this is for ANY sound. It repeats and gets louder. I have a MBP (spring ’08). Why is this happening?
    Thanks, Rose

  11. Yes Webcam Max and Camtwist are both brilliant programs to use when live streaming but you left one thing out….. The Quality Of Stream
    For getting the best quality out of your stream whether it be on Ustream, Stickam, Mogulus, and other broadcasting websites I personally recommend the use of Adobe Flash Media Encoder. I’ve found it to create crystal clear images and in my opinion is the most crucial piece of software to have when broadcasting.

  12. Alex

    I’d like to add ScreenCamera to the list. ScreenCamera allows users to stream the desktop inside video conferencing programs and websites such as Skype, Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, AOL Messenger, blogTV, Justin.tv, Mogulus, Ustream, and so on.
    ScreenCamera can also connect to your Webcam and stream both Desktop and Webcam at the same time.
    It works with a video resolution of 640×480 and it is hard to find something not to like about it.
    You can find ScreenCamera at:
    http://www.pcwinsoft.com/screencamera/
    http://www.pcwinsoft.com/screencamera/download.asp
    Best,
    Alex

  13. wow, i never heard of this thing. in germany we say “das ist cool”. :) (= that’s cool)

  14. This is a great post – and MUCH appreciated Ian.
    I’m considering creating a daily home exercise show for the clients who purchase my home gym (The Atlas Unit) that we are releasing by end of summer. (Like having your own personal trainer for a fraction of the cost, etc…)
    I’ve been told to check out Ustream for this concept.
    I’m not the ‘techie’ type – but I can ‘get by’.
    I’ll keep you posted – and let you know how I fare.
    Best,
    Joey Atlas

  15. Ryan

    what is the best way to get the camera into the computer. do you need a converter or will a fire wire work? Also is there a way to get a composite or component signal into ustream?

  16. Ian

    @Ryan FireWire works, but I used a converter so I could tie the sound and video in together. Sound was coming from an on-stage mic.

  17. Renate

    Hi Ian,
    Thanks for the informative article. When you are ustreaming a show that involves music, how do you get rid of that “wavy” sound? Its like when you are on a cell phone and someone asks you to listen to music at their end, it cuts in and out. We are newbies at this, but its an amazing learning process.

  18. Babegirl

    Hi Ian how are you :)
    what camera is the best to use for you Ustream thats can zoom in and out nicely..and i always got problem with the audio specially close to the speaker when the band is playing :)sounds terrible :(

  19. JJ

    Hi Ian, thanks for this great article!.btw, i’m new to this live streaming and i wanted your suggestion what type of software & hardware(video cam) should i get to properly do live ustream.tv, i’m using windows7/laptop and i’m going to use it for our highschool graduation..please help me.
    Thanks!
    JJ

  20. Ian

    @JJ I’d use a decent video camera that can connect to your computer via Firewire or USB. Personally, I use a Canon GL1, but that may be overkill.
    Sound will be more difficult. If you have a mic by the computer, you’ll get ALL of the sound – every cough, sneeze, laugh, etc.. If you can get the folks who are handling AV for the event to give you a ‘line in’ feed that’d be best. Otherwise, I’d get a decent directional mic like the Blue Snowball.

  21. Bob

    Anybody have some suggestions on how to upload or, if that term doesn’t fit, record a program to Ustream so it can be broadcast? The SD program I have is already recorded as an mp4 file (1.2G) but plays for more than the 10-min. allowed by YouTube, so can’t use Y/T.
    Thanks…. Bob

  22. retired_techie

    I would like to know if you have any suggestions on how I could economically do an upload of live video with audio in an outdoor public city park? There is an event scheduled that is too last about 9 hours and they wanted to be able to have live streaming video for people who could not make it to the public park. My cellular provider says that my cell phone should have between 300KB and 500KB of upload bandwidth, but it may drop off if the crowd in the park uses their cell phones. In addition the cost would be about $2,500.00 I would have to pay 10 cents a MegaByte. for everything over 3 Gig. I estimate about 30 Gig for the event.
    Do you think my estimate is in the ball park?
    Thanks

  23. Hi:
    First, I’d like to say great article!
    Second, I am preparing for the debut of my first OracleTV Show. I need to understand what video capture device I can use (product names please) to stream my show.
    I am using my Built-in iSight Camera and one external camera (Sony DCR SR85). I need to be able to connect my external camera to a video capture or converter and stream when I do live interviews.
    I have no idea which product to use or which ones work for streaming on my MacBook Pro 17 (Purchased August 2009).
    Any help would be appreciated!
    Thanks!

  24. Ian

    @shinshuri Unfortunately, that camera doesn’t support USB streaming, so you’ll need to get a capture device. Give the Pinnacle a try: http://amzn.to/d7ilTR It’s a bit pricey but cheaper than a new camera.
    The other thing to consider is sound – I’ve found that quality sound is far more important. Take a look at the Blue SnowBall, which I can’t compliment enough.
    Between that and the capture card you’ll spend about $200, but it’s worth it, and you won’t need to upgrade again until you’re on Oprah :)

  25. @Ian do you know if the Pinnacle Video Capture Device allows for streaming? Will it work with my camera? Is it USB driven?
    I already have the Blue Yeti so I’m good for audio.

  26. Ian

    @stuart I’d never, ever trust a cell network to stream video the way you’re describing. You don’t say who your carrier is, but I don’t know any who can actually handle anything approaching a clean stream.
    So, look for some other options. First:
    1. Where are you located? Any chance the park has wifi coverage? Many do.
    2. If not, can you get a subscription using a service like Clear? That’d be a better bet.
    3. Last resort: Look at the 4g adapters and subscriptions you can get from a company like Verizon or Sprint. That has a better chance of delivering a decent stream.
    Then check with them regarding the cost for an all-day stream. And manage expectations! We’ve done streaming via direct satellite uplink from helicopters and aircraft, and we still have 3-4 glitches in a 9-hour webcast.

  27. george

    I am trying to do streaming video in a church and would like to find up to date articles about HD cameras and software to stream 3 cameras. i would like to have fairly good camera resolution and HD. Which cameras at a reasonable price would work?

  28. Bridg

    Hey Alex, you forgot one service on your list it’s the one I use: http://www.dacast.com. It is a very complete software and easy to implement.

  29. Ross

    Hi, great info here well done. mt question is this;
    i want to switch between 3 cameras using cam twist on my ustream broadcast, so far i have set up 2 cameras and used the time line to create an automatic dissolve between the 2 cameras which is on a loop, so when i’m broadcasting, it switches between cameras (for different angles). I want to use a third camera, but when i set up the buttons in the camtwist studio and click the dissolve button (to the right. Dissolve is the effect ive choosen), it will only switch between 2 cameras and knocks one of the 3 cameras off! any suggestions on how to switch between the 3 cameras using the set up ive created?
    Thanks mate

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