If everybody truly does get 15 minutes of fame, it’s best to make sure that it’s streamed live on the web.
That’s the purpose of these devices: plug in a camcorder or camera, hit a button and you are live on the Internet. It could be a school play you’re broadcasting to grandparents abroad, a concert friends can’t attend, or a street-level view of a political protest.
Of course, you can use a smartphone and one of a handful of apps to broadcast a video stream, but these dedicated devices let you it at a much higher quality. Foremost, you’re not limited by your phone’s camera; you can use a DSLR, a camcorder, or a compact camera with a special lens. Also, given the ability to fine-tune variables like bitrate and compression, you get more control over the file output. Best of all, with one of these small boxes, you don’t have to fiddle with software or arcane commands. Each device makes it painless, converting the video into an H.264 stream and sending it out over a Wi-Fi or 4G connection. Interested viewers can watch your broadcast either on the video services run by the companies who make the boxes, or in some cases, supported third-party services like YouTube. We looked at three of these devices: the $695 VidiU and the $1,590 Cube 255, both from Teradek, and the $495 Livestream Broadcaster.
All of these devices are about the size of a cigarette pack, but the Cube has two external Wi-Fi antennas. The streamer boxes are designed to fit on top of a camera or camcorder, and include clips to attach to a standard flash shoe or tripod socket. They then connect to the Internet over a built-in Ethernet cable socket or 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi networks (the VidiU and Cube also support the faster and less-crowded 802.11a standard). All three devices also have USB ports that work with a selection of 4G USB modems for the ultimate streaming setup: one that is portable and works anywhere with Wi-Fi or cell network coverage.
Have HDMI, Will Stream
The three devices are similar when it comes to ease of use, with all offering a small display and simple buttons. You can control the device completely using these hardware buttons, but the easier option is to use each device’s web browser interface, especially when it comes to things like typing in passwords.
The Broadcaster is the cheapest of these devices, but that’s because it is tied in with the Livestream service: it won’t work with other video streaming services. The VidiU and Cube will work with Livestream, YouTube Live, UStream and any other service that supports the RTMP streaming protocol. The Cube also adds support for the alternative MPEG-TS video codec and point-to-point systems, where you integrate the device into a larger video setup such as a NewTek Tricaster switching system. The Cube also allows you to view the live video on an iOS device on the same network, so you can preview the video as it is transmitted. The Broadcaster integrates with the companies own Livestream Studio software system, but not with other video systems.
If you use the Livestream service (or don’t mind having that as your only option) the Broadcaster is a great pick. It’s simple to use, performs well and integrates well with the other services that Livestream offers, like support for broadcasting from Google Glass. But it is limited: you are locked into Livestream. Your viewers will have a possibly unfamiliar web address to remember instead of good old YouTube, UStream and the like.
The VidiU offers the same features, but with wider video streaming service support including YouTube, UStream and the RTSP protocol used by most other services. Most users won’t need the extra features of the Cube (such as the support for 1080p and higher bit rate video) so the VidiU is our pick for those who want to pick up a camera, plug in and broadcast a live event to YouTube or other streaming video services over Wi-Fi. If you roam further afield, the bigger antennas and wider range of bandwidth controls might make the Cube worth the extra cost.
All Three Products Compared
- Livestream Broadcaster
- Teradek VidiU
- Teradek Cube 255
- Supported Web Services
- Livestream, YouTube, Ustream, RTSP/RTMP
- Livestream, YouTube, Ustream, Facebook, RTSP/RTMP, MPEG-TS
- Wi-Fi support
- 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz
- 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4 & 5GHz
- 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4 & 5GHz
- Streamed Video Format & Resolution/Bitrate range
- H.264 @720p 2.3Mbps
- H.264 @720p 250kbps to 5Mbps
- H.264, MPEG2-TS @720p 250kbps to 10Mbps
- Tested Battery Life
- 93 minutes
- 75 minutes
- 143 minutes