I’ve recently been trying to move GYT into the streaming space and have come to learn a lot. I thought this would be useful information to the community as we see more and more events being streamed and matches being recorded. So I decided to document everything I have come to learn about streaming in the past month or so and share it.
MIND YOU THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. I will update as I learn, and as I have time.**
** * Hardware ***
** * Capture Devices**
Matrox MXO2 Mini - Compared to the other capture device solutions, the Matrox MXO2 Mini is a bit pricey for a consumer level product. It will cost you around the $450 - $500 range depending on where you chose to buy it. However, for it’s price, I find it to be the most powerful and flexible of the devices I researched. It is also the device I opted to go with.
It’s flexible in the sense that it can do both component and HDMI inputs and outputs and it can interface with both laptops via PCMCIA express card and PC/Macs through a PCI express card. Depending on which package you purchase it will either come with a PCMCIA express card or a PCI express card.
The Matrox site has a convincing list as to why to choose the MXO2 over the Black Magic Intensity Pro which also showcases why it’s a powerful little device.
Of course it has it’s own set of drawbacks. The device is very temperamental. While using it with my Macbook Pro, you can’t have the device connected while you are booting or else the system will hang. Often times you will need to completely restart your system and power on the MXO2 in a specific order for the capture software to function properly with the device. Many of the restart issues have been documented in a review by Vade of “Create Digital Motion” I find that once I’ve set everything up correctly, so long as you don’t touch anything or have a stream crash, the device runs smoothly.
Black Magic Intensity Pro - I’ve had mixed feedback when it comes to this device. Some have claimed this as the “Gold Standard” for video processing and video I/O; however when speaking to Cicada who runs the House of Cicada stream, he tells me that the windows version of the drivers are a bit “hokey” at best. He’s had issues using the Black Magic Intensity Pro with streaming software such as VidBlaster.
DJWheat of Epileptic Gaming / LO3 has a resolution to Black Magic Intensity and Vidblaster issues.
One drawback with the Black Magic Intensity Pro is that it’s an internal PCI Express card. You will likely need a desktop PC to use it which is not as mobile as something like that Matrox MXO2 Mini and a laptop.
HDR Hauppauge - The Hauppauge is a powerful little device and is great for a cheap entry level recorder. It takes any HD input via component and records footage to your PC/Mac hard drive in h.264. It is important to point out that this device does hardware encoding straight into h.264, meaning your PC/Mac won’t be spending precious CPU cycles encoding raw HD footage as the majority of the processing is being done by the box itself. This device quickly outputs game footage in h.264 format which many online video sites such as youtube or vimeo accept.
Where the Hauppauge really causes headaches is in post production. Since it encodes straight into h.264 which is a delivery format, it will take quite awhile to convert the footage back into a format used in editing programs such as Final Cut Pro. There are limited amount of programs that do simple cutting of footage but adding stuff like logos, player names, intros, background music may take awhile especially if you’ve recorded an entire 64 - 128 man tournament.
Some other drawbacks of the Hauppauge is that it does not have HDMI input.
Despite some of it’s drawbacks, many people I have spoken to who own the device are generally happy with it. It’s relatively cheap compared to some solutions, and there are not many people out there who are worried about adding logos, player names, commentary to their footage. They are much more worried about getting the footage out there and keeping a record of the match which this device can do quickly and easily.
Other things to note about this device is that there is limited OS X support right now. It does however unofficially work with Elgato’s EyeTV video software.
Haunts from IPlayWinner.com discusses streaming with the Hauppauge
Hava Titanium HD
I don’t have much experience using the Hava series of capture devices but aggrastat has written about it in detail here.
** * Signal Splitters** - signal splitters are key for outputting footage from your source, whether it be a PS3 or Xbox 360, to both the television that players view and the capture device.
When dealing with splitters an issue that might come up is frame latency, in particular lag between input from the controllers and what is outputted to the television. It’s the same issue that many have come across when dealing with “laggy” televisions. Some games such as Street Fighter IV require strict timing to up to 1 frame. One way to mitigate this problem is to make sure the splitter is powered with its own power source, that way the signal is amplified. There are unpowered splitters on the market, but I don’t recommend them if the game you are recording/streaming requires strict input timing. Unpowered signal splitters can also lead to darkened picture quality since it’s not being amplified.
Even if you do use the best powered splitter on the market, the splitter will still create some “lag”; however the delay created is in the microseconds which is unnoticeable. Humans can only discern delay when it gets to the millisecond range.
It is still important to use a non-laggy television or monitor, particularly the televisions or monitors that do not do post HD processing. If you use a splitter setup with known delay issues with a television that is laggy, you just compound the problem.
When dealing with streaming or recording gameplay from a PS3 or Xbox 360, there are two types of splitters to consider: component or HDMI. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type. Some devices, such as the PS3, encrypt HDMI signal in a protocol called HDCP. It’s a protocol used to protect againsts pirates who attempt to capture or rip Bluray movies, for example. There are splitters and devices that decrypt HDCP signals, such as the HD Fury , but it is still inconclusive what kind of delay or lag is created from decrypting the signal. Component on the other hand is unencrypted. There are, however, been industry talks and rumors about locking component output during playback of protected content. It is certainly something to look out for in the future.
One other unfortunate aspect of choosing component is there are known monitors, such as the ASUS monitor used at Evolution 2009, that have no lag but only have HDMI inputs and no Component inputs. You should also consider that older generations of the Xbox 360 do not have HDMI out.
In speaking to Robb aka “Jedi Robb” of the Devastation group, he sent me a list of powered splitters, both component and HDMI, that have had no complaints from players who played on the systems at Devastation '09:
CE Labs AV501HDXi 1 to 4 Component Splitter- This is the component splitter I opted to go with.
CE Labs HA4-3 1 to 4 HDMI Splitter
[Geffen 1 to 4 HDMI Splitter](CE Labs HA4-3 1 to 4 HDMI Splitter)
*** Get Your Tournament Streaming Setup Rev 2 ***
** * Software ***
I’ve used Wirecast now extensively for about 4 months, and I have to say that it is an impressive piece of software. It is very user friendly. It really makes incorporating professional style lower thirds, overlays, and logos into your broadcast simple. Having no prior broadcast production experience I was really expecting a steep learning curve – something akin to learning photoshop or final cut pro for the first time – instead I was surprised at how easy it was to use. Just from looking at it’s user interface you’ll notice that it almost takes a minimalist approach when compared to something like VidBlaster, a competing streaming software suite. There are not a lot of buttons to interact with yet it is deceptively powerful.
[*]Really easy to use. If you understand the concept of layers from programs such as photoshop, GIMP, or premier then it will feel right at home.
[*]Really simple to use chroma keying for green screen effects.
[*]It comes preloaded with professional style shot-to-shot transitions and even a set of preloaded lower thirds. Adding your own lower thirds, graphics and video is as simple as dragging and dropping or importing them.
[*]I had no issues so far with Wirecast detecting any of my connected hardware. It detected all my input sources, cameras, and audio devices right out of the box.
[*]It has preloaded presets for streaming to your favorite streaming services including the two favorites Justin.tv and Ustream.
[*]It has a slight chance of crashing the stream when you edit properties of shots during a broadcast.
[*]It has no support for ip cameras or network cameras as of yet. They are working on this feature at the moment.
[*]No easy way of queueing or adding playlist of shots. It does, however, have an scripting interface using various programming languages.
[*]No integration with Adobe’s Flash Media Live Encoder, though it does have it’s own flash media encoder.
[*]Its cost. This bad boy cost $449 plus $99 dollars for the HDV Camera plugin if you intend to use High Definition cameras. And yes for you people looking to Arrrrrrrquire this software, just know that the registration process “dials home” meaning it checks the key with Telestream’s servers.
Here is a sample clip of a stream we did using Telestream’s Wirecast. This was recorded on 12/1/2009 of a Street Fighter 4 stream: Wednesday Night Fights
You can also check out our Justin.tv channel which has matches from our latest stream using Wirecast playing on loop.
** * Other Useful Resources ***
Current Get Your Tournament Streaming Setup Rev 2 - Here is a diagram I made using Dia that diagrams our current setup.