Multi-Camera Live Streaming With Any Smartphone Or Camera

October 1, 2020

Live streaming with multiple cameras doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. We run through the basics of a cloud-based multi-camera production.

When you think of a complicated multi-camera setup, you might think of mobile TV studios, hundreds of miles of camera and microphone cabling, numerous wireless and wired cameras, massive audio consoles, scores or more of mics, video effects and slow-motion replay systems, powerful production switchers… the list goes on and on.

The good news for those with somewhat less ambitious plans, however, is that you’ll need nowhere near that level of technical complexity.

That’s especially true for producers of a multi-camera production live streamed via a website and social media platforms.

In fact, with just a couple of smartphones, media tablets, video cameras or some combination thereof and cloud-based production software, it’s simple enough to get a multi-camera live streaming production up and running and distributed around the world within minutes.

What equipment you’ll need

The hardware and software needed to live stream a multi-camera production of course depends on a lot of factors, but the scope of this article aims to determine a brief overview of what gear is needed.

Option 1. Using Professional Cameras

Cameras are many and varied. The continuum ranges from the video camera built into smartphones and media tablets to professional video cameras designed for use with interchangeable lenses and other kit.

Essentially you can create a multi-camera live stream with any type of camera, including smartphones. The type of camera you need will depend on factors such as picture quality, functionality and price.

There’s no substitute for a professional video camera, but for some productions they may be overkill

While tablets and smartphones are the least expensive option because much of the kit needed is already integrated, they are limited when compared to properly equipped professional video cameras.

That said, there are accessories that make using smartphones and media tablet cameras easier and improve their overall performance, including add-on phone lenses, neutral density filters, gimbals and tripods.

Option 2. Using a Smartphone as your camera

If you’re streaming an interview, speech or conference, in most cases you’ll be able to get away with just using a couple of smartphones as your main video source.

In order to link your phones to a switcher (so that you can mix and change different feeds) you can use an app such as TVU Anywhere.

streaming with smartphone
TVU Anywhere allows you to stream from your mobile phone

This is an essential video application for any video producer looking to use Android or iOS smartphones or tablets as sources in a multi-camera live streaming production.

Once loaded onto a device, it enables shooters to bond wireless bandwidth from different sources, such as Wi-Fi networks and cell phone networks, and contribute video and audio to a production.

Designed for easy integration with the TVU Producer virtual video switching solution, TVU Anywhere turns a smartphone or tablet into a highly portable, reliable contribution source for multi-camera productions. It also includes TVU Partyline, a rich new feature supporting multi-party production and guest communications. 

Sound and audio

Audio is the other major component of any multi-camera live stream, and like video, the equipment needed will vary based on each project and budget.

For contributions from pro video cameras, all that may be needed is a wired or wireless microphone with transmitter and a receiver. Many helpful guides to microphones and accessories, wireless mic kits and audio-for-video are available online. Some include guides from Wistia, Videomaker, Shure  and Rode.

Often a two- or four-channel audio mixer can help in the field with these shoots. Similarly, a larger audio console in the mixing room of a production control center is regularly used for larger multi-camera productions. Guides to mixing consoles, tutorials on audio setup for video production and selecting mixing consoles are also available online from several sources, including WindowsReport, Crutchfield, B&H and Sweetwater.

Other audio components, systems and accessories that are helpful depending on the nature of the production include in-ear monitors, headphones, audio cables and connectors, studio monitors, Interruptible Foldback (IFB) systems and intercom systems. However, it’s important to note that for many applications TVU Partyline can serve as a virtual intercom and IFB system replacing the need for their real-world counterparts.

audio mixer for multi-source streaming
With TVU Producer you can mix various audio sources

For multi-camera video producers relying on their smartphones and media tablets rather than professional cameras two must-haves for the field are an XLR adapter to plug an external microphone into the device and a microphone.

Video mixing and switching

There are several options out there in terms of video switching and mixing. These can be divided into hardware, software or cloud-based solutions. Whatever you decide on, each option has its pros and cons.

product photo of switcher hardware
Examples of hardware based solutions include the popular Blackmagic ATEM Mini

TVU’s low-cost, reliable video switcher for live streaming makes it possible for producers of multi-camera live streaming productions to switch between multiple incoming camera signals, add text and graphics, create picture-in-picture (PiP) screen shots, build an on-screen quad box for multi-person interviews, control audio for each video source and –with the TVU MediaMind AI engine—create closed captions on the fly.

vertical video for multi camera live streaming
TVU Producer is a cloud-based live video mixer / switcher, meaning users don’t need to buy any expensive hardware or software

Users simply setup and log onto their TVU Producer account from their computer to access all its features while the heavy lifting of actually switching between sources and applying graphics and effects is done seamlessly in the cloud.

For producers with more ambition productions wishing to do frame-accurate multi-camera production with professional cameras via the public internet, the TVU Remote Production System (RPS) is the answer. Supporting six synchronized cameras, RPS makes it possible to capture content live at a remote venue, transport it via IP to the cloud and switch the production with TVU Producer or from an existing studio.

How to set it all up

If you opt for the cloud-based setup, then launching TVU Producer is quick and easy.

From the TVU Networks website, visit the TVU Producer page, click “Sign Up,” complete the form and continue. A verification email will be sent to the address specified in the form. Click on the “Activate account” button in the email. Complete the signup by entering the requested information. In the future, simply log-in to begin.

streaming software for multiple cameras
Sign up or login via the TVU Producer page

With the signup complete, you will be taken to the start page and asked to create a program. Click on the “+,” name your program and click “Next.”

Create multi-camera programs in minutes

Choose the right format for your project from the dropdown menu, check the tick boxes of the features, such as Partyline, Replay and RPS, that your project requires and select the geographic region you are working in from the dropdown menu.

Click save and a portal from which to access your project is created. Roll over the upper part of the portal and click “Start.”

Choose your input sources and special features needed

TVU Producer will begin a three-part initialization process for your project. When done, the TVU Producer interface will appear.

Now, it is time to begin connecting your camera sources to TVU Producer. Unlike connecting cameras to a real video switcher with cables, TVU Producer is a virtual switcher running in the cloud, so connecting source cameras is far simpler.

In Source Box 1, click on “+Add source.” Select from the four options presented for the type of source being connected: EXT IP Source, Anywhere, Pack and Grid.

Mobile phone sources can be added via simple QR codes

Fill in the requested information for the EXT IP Source if selected and name it.

If you are using a smartphone or media tablet with TVU Anywhere, select the Anywhere source option, open TVU Anywhere on your device, aim you device’s camera at the QR code on the TVU Producer screen and touch the “scan to pair” icon on the top right of the TVU Anywhere interface.

Make sure the QR code is inside the green on-screen guides on your TVU Anywhere interface. Once paired with TVU Producer, the name of your device running TVU Anywhere will appear on the TVU Producer “Add Anywhere Source” screen. Select that source and click the “Add to source” button on the bottom right of the screen.

Different devices running TVU Anywhere can be added to each input, but only one can be used at a time. Each time you launch the project, you will be required to scan the QR code of the device running TVU Anywhere and to select it so that TVU Producer knows which one of the devices will be used.

Adding multiple video sources is possible at the click of a button

Repeat this process to add more TVU Anywhere camera sources to the multiviewer source display. You can also add video stored on your local computer as well as video from other IP sources as TVU Producer sources in the multiviewer.

For more sophisticated productions, video sources from TVU Grid and TVU RPS can be added to the multiviewer and taken to air as needed.

To ready a source for air, click on it in the multiviewer. The desired video source will load into the “Preview” window on the multiviewer. To take it to live, click “Video Cut.” The “Preview” video will cut to “Program.” Alternately, use the spacebar on your keyboard to take the preview video live.

TVU Producer can be set for AFV, or audio-follow-video, switching to send the audio associated with a particular video source to air, or set for no AFV. The program gives users the ability to monitor audio associated with each video source.

Native JPG, PNG and GIF graphics can be added as overlays to videos, as well as intelligent overlays from the Singular.live, Flowics or Never.no cloud platforms. Follow this tutorial to manage your graphic overlays on TVU Producer.

Picture-in-picture functionality is supported as well as the ability to create two-shot and quad boxes directly from the multiviewer by clicking on “+Add custom video,” which enables you to add source videos and select a custom background.

TVU Producer also supports TVU Partyline, accessed through the “Intercom” button. It enables users to communicate with latency-free voice and HD video to remote crew and guests using TVU Anywhere or a TVU Pack device in the field.

live streaming a conference using mixer software
TVU Producer’s Intercom feature allows users to add remote guests via TVU Partyline

Clicking the “Live Captions” button, accesses the TVU MediaMind AI engine, which generates highly accurate captions using a powerful speech-to-text algorithm. Doing so, enables captions to be added in near real-time to program video.

Live shows switched with TVU Producer can be recorded for replay later. Individual sources also can be ISO recorded for use in post-production. Finally, use TVU Producer to live stream your multi-camera production to social media sites and web pages or to take your show to air via a TVU receiver decoder.

Distributing your content

With TVU Producer, outputting live video directly to Facebook, YouTube Live, Periscope, Twitch, Instagram and CDN platforms is simple.

live streaming a music concert on mobile phone
Live stream to Facebook or any social platform

Simply click the “Output” button, select the output method desired and enter the information needed by your specific output choice. However, if this is the first time a particular social media destination is being selected, you must bind your social media account to the output list in TVU Producer.

To do so, simply click the “Output” button, click “+Add” at the bottom of the pullout menu, click “Import social media accounts” and click “+Add” on the interface that appears. A list of social media sites pops up. Select the desired social media site name, enter the requested information and click “Save.” Repeat this process for each social media site you wish to use to distribute your content.

TVU Producer even offers a mode to output your livestream vertically to the massive audience that watches content on their smartphones.

Output video in a vertical or landscape format

Video producers have many decisions to make when it comes to producing a multi-camera live streaming show.

The amount of production gear from which to choose for use in the field is massive. Making the right selection will depend on a variety of factors, including the sophistication of the production, budget and the type of cameras that will produce the best video for the money.

Fortunately, at least TVU Producer makes the live switching and production of live streams easy when it comes to multi-camera productions.

From inputting camera sources, switching between preview and program and adding custom graphics, text and captions to controlling audio, setting up multi-person boxes and streaming the end result to viewers, TVU Producer offers the powerful, yet easy-to-use functions and interface to get the job done.