DIY Live Streaming IRL Backpack: Boost Your Live Video Broadcasts

Streaming backpacks have transformed how TV stations conduct electronic newsgathering. Rather than relying on costly point-to-point microwave transmission that can only be done with a license from the Federal Communications Commission, streaming backpacks enable reporters to contribute live shots and edited stories from anywhere there’s a wireless network connection—and do so license free.
IRL Backpack setup for live streaming broadcasts
A streaming backpack is a cheap alternative solution

Try to get your head around these statistics. As of 2020, 37 million YouTube channels streamed content to subscribers. Nearly a 25% increase from the previous year. Every minute, people upload 500 hours of video to YouTube worldwide.

Every month 2.3 billion people log into YouTube at least once, and every day. People watch 1 billion hours of video, according to an Oberlo article.

Don’t forget about Facebook. Its video traffic in August hit 12.3 billion views, and in September alone hit 1 billion views per day. Then there’s Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, TikTok, Twitch. The list goes on and on.

With so many potential viewers, the desire to dive in and begin carving out an audience for your own streaming channel is understandable. But with so much competition for eyeballs, how can you set your channel apart for the rest?


Live Streaming via Smartphone

Many producers of live streaming channels available on social media simply rely on the camera in their smartphones or media tablets and their wireless connection. That’s a great solution if the connectivity and the bandwidth available from AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or any other Mobile Virtual Network Operator is sufficient.

A solution exists for producers looking for more production sophistication than simply streaming to YouTube Live or Facebook Live. Using TVU Networks’ mobile live streaming app TVU Anywhere on their smartphone or tablet in combination with the company’s TVU Producer cloud-based video production and streaming solution offers a low-cost way to achieve professional results.

Mobile live streaming backpack with iPhone or Android devices
A smartphone integrated with TVU Anywhere enhances reliability and maintains superior video quality

Many live stream tutorials in this space have been devoted to using TVU Anywhere with TVU Producer together. Detailed information ranging from step-by-step walkthroughs to various case studies using this powerful combination.

Having the freedom to change lenses and input external mics offers producers far more flexibility than they typically have with their cell phones. Even if lenses can’t be interchanged, most cameras offer a variety of settings and features that give producers better control over their shots. These include, but are not limited to, image stabilization, high dynamic range support and more audio inputs. 

There are many benefits of using a live stream backpack such as this. 

  • First, it’s far less expensive than the streaming backpacks broadcasters use to shoot news. 
  • Second, leveraging the Galaxy 9 or higher or Google Pixel Phone with TVU Anywhere means that both the cell provider’s wireless network and an existing Wi-Fi network can be aggregated using TVU Networks IS+ technology. Together with HEVC encoding, this approach enhances reliability and maintains superior video quality.

Third, using a standalone video camera offers greater production flexibility, and finally, this setup is extremely lightweight, making it easy to carry for run-and-gun productions.


Live Streaming Via Professional Cameras

However, some video producers want to forego using the video cameras built into their smart devices and instead rely on a professional video camera or cameras for their live production. The reasons to do so are many and varied.

IRL stream backpack using professional cameras

Unique Shots

One deals with lenses. Many professional cameras support interchangeable lenses so producers can optimize their video shots for certain circumstances. Such as a zoom lens for close-ups during sports coverage.

Custom Controls

Professional cameras also offer far more controls over imaging than a cellphone camera and the ability to match the video output of several cameras for a multi-camera live stream production. There’s also a full lineup of live streaming equipment to make certain shoots easier, plus more options when it comes to audio pickup.


Perhaps the most underappreciated –but most obvious—benefit is the form factor of a professional camera compared to that of a smartphone.

When someone in the public sees a camera operator with a shoulder-mounted ENG camera, they likely make a quick mental note that something important is going on. That can work to the advantage of a producer.

However, when that same member of the public sees a professional shooting a scene with a cellphone, that camera operator probably is seen as just another member of the public.


TVU Anywhere DIY Streaming Backpack

If you are a producer who for whatever reason believes a professional camera is the best solution for the project at hand, the problem is the camera likely doesn’t have the ability to stream video without a separate wireless video transmitter.

That’s a particularly big problem for producers on a budget because live streaming video transmitters used by TV broadcasters are expensive compared to a smartphone.

IRL Backpack live streaming using TVU Anywhere with smartphone device

However, resourceful video producers can build their own mobile live streaming backpack for under $500. Sure, it won’t have all of the bells and whistles of an expensive IP streaming transmitter, but if it’s based on TVU Anywhere, it will have what counts: TVU Networks’ Inverse StatMux Plus (IS+) technology.

IS+ is important because it intelligently distributes IP packets across multiple sources of bandwidth to make the best use of available wireless resources. It dynamically responds to the fluctuations in wireless bandwidth that inevitably happen while streaming to maintain optimal video quality.

TVU Anywhere live streaming backpack setup

In smartphones running the TVU Anywhere app, IS+ combines wireless bandwidth available via the cellular provider’s network with any available Wi-Fi network through cellular bonding to maximize the video transmission, live stream performance, and enhance the robustness of the wireless connection.


How To Build A $500 IRL Streaming Backpack

To build your own IRL backpack, you’ll need:

  1. A smartphone
  2. TVU Networks’ TVU Anywhere mobile broadcast app running on that smartphone (a Galaxy 9 or higher or Google Pixel Phone)
  3. And a way to convert the output of the camera to USB.

Magewell makes two converters that work, one of which will be right depending on the output of the camera.

The Magewell USB Capture HDMI Gen 2 should be used with cameras offering HDMI output, and the Magewell USB Capture SDI Gen 2 is the right choice for cameras with SDI outputs.

Each is available from B&H Photo for $299.

The converter comes with a mini-coax-to-SDI adapter cable to connect an SDI camera to the converter and a USB 3.0 cable to connect –using a separate USB-C adapter costing $8.99 at B&H—to the phone.

All that’s left to buy may be backup batteries, a charger, and a small backpack or fanny pack. Assuming a producer already owns a smartphone and has wireless service, the total cost of this setup is well below $500—probably in the range of $350.


Streaming Backpack with Enhanced Bandwidth Using TVU Nano Transmitter

Producers with a somewhat bigger budget might consider using the video transmitter TVU Nano, which measures just 6.2 x 3.25 x 1.2 inches and weighs 17 oz. Like the TVU Anywhere running on a smartphone, TVU Nano uses the IS+ algorithm to aggregate bandwidth.

The difference is that TVU Nano can aggregate bandwidth from up to five different sources, including Wi-Fi and Ethernet with a USB adapter.

IRL Backpack streaming kit with high bandwidth using TVU Nano
TVU Nano-based streaming backpack offers various connectivity options and great bandwidth aggregation

TVU Nano has two internal wireless modems and supports two external modems. It also can take advantage of bandwidth from microwave, Ka- and Ku-band satellite and BGAN sources.

DIY IRL backpack with TVU Nano and TVU One

Although this approach is more expensive than the smartphone-based backpack, it is far less costly than the IRL backpack transmitters, TV broadcasters, and high-end producers regularly use.


Key Considerations On Streaming Backpacks

For those with low funds and no real desire to use an external camera, TVU Anywhere running on a smartphone and used in conjunction with TVU Producer live switching is a great approach. 

If some money is available and the flexibility offered by using an external camera is needed, a great IRL streaming backpack can be built using a smartphone, TVU Anywhere and a Magewell converter box.

How to make IRL streaming backpack - A DIY streaming Backpack setup

If still more funds are available and there’s a desire to up the level of bandwidth aggregation by drawing on more and more varied sources of bandwidth, a DIY live stream backpack based on the TVU Networks Nano IP transmitter is the correct choice. 

Beyond that, the choice is a streaming backpack used daily by broadcasters around the world.

Selecting the right approach means knowing what needs to be accomplished, how the backpack will be used and how much funding is available. The answers to those questions will determine which approach is right. Regardless of the selection, however, there is a great alternative for use at any level.


Create The Live Stream For Your Audience

So, back to the initial question. How do you cut through the crowd, stand out and build an audience on your YouTube Live or Facebook Live channel? Certainly, the most important part has to be producing relevant, informative or entertaining content that tickles the fancy of your target audience.

Affordable DIY IRL backpack using iPhone or Android mobile devices

But having the ability to go after that content live wherever it happens to occur and stream it reliably with great video and sound quality will definitely set your channel apart from the pack. A DIY streaming backpack is an affordable way to make that happen.


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