After watching a few live streams over the past few weeks from Chase Jarvis, Philip Bloom and Chris Jones, I decided to do a little bit of research into what's currently available for online video streaming on the cheap.
In the past, several years ago, I'd used Microsoft's Windows Media Encoder, which was great for the intended uses at the time, as I knew all the end users watching the stream were running Windows. I could send out desktop captures, webcam feeds, live input from capture cards, or even saved pre-recorded videos that were already on my PC, and I could switch between them at will with a playlist.
Now, my intentions have changed, as have the capabilities of the audience. As well as the various non-Windows desktop operating systems out there (MacOS, Linux, etc), there are also mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Android, etc., so sending out as a Windows Media stream is no longer really a viable option and nor is a Flash-only option if I want to keep iPhone and iPad visitors happy.
My initial goal was simply to find somewhere that I could stream live and recorded video at little-to-no cost that would be viewable on the iPhone. I hadn't really considered recording videos or streaming out from the iPhone, but it turns out I can do that to (hence this little blog post).
I've been taking a very close look at Ustream (as well as TwitCasting, but we'll get on to that later). Ustream has three different applications available via the iTunes store that can be used on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad in order to be able to utilise various features of the site.
The Ustream Recorder lets you use your iPhone's camera (3GS only according to the info) in order to record video to your phone. Nothing new here, you can do that with the 3GS anyway, but it also allows you to review and manage your local and remote (on Ustream) videos, set tags and schedule uploads.
It will also allow you to import and upload videos previously recorded using the iPhone 3GS's default video recording application. You are also given the ability to upload to Youtube or Facebook and automatically post a tweet when the upload is complete.
Finally we get to the Ustream Live Broadcaster. Firing this up immediately presents you with a box asking whether you want to run in "Local" or "Live" mode.
Running in Local mode is not that much different to using the Ustream Recorder, except slightly more limited. Using the Recorder, you can touch the screen in order to select your focus & exposure point as you can when shooting stills normally with the iPhone; Using Live Broadcaster, you can't.
Running in Live mode, however, is very nice. It automatically (depending on your options) logs you into UStream, selects the channel, turns on your camera and gives you buttons to manage your remove and local videos, change your options, or start broadcasting.
Once broadcasting, you can start or stop a poll on the fly, mute or unmute your audio, send out a post to twitter (presumably announcing your feed), or stop the recording. A little status section at the top tells you for how long you've been broadcasting, and how many viewers are currently watching your feed.
It takes a minute for your feed to properly kick into action once you've got it started up, but once it's up and running, it happily chugs away with about 15 seconds of lag (my iPhone is connected to the net via WiFi, experiences and speeds will obviously vary depending on your iPhone's connection).
Upon completion of your stream, you are asked if you wish to save and announce the stream to Ustream, Facebook, Youtube and/or Twitter.
That's pretty much it. I don't plan on doing a whole lot of streaming from my iPhone out to the rest of the world, perhaps a few minutes here and there, but it's nice to know the ability's there if I ever need it. Now just to see how well it all works from the PC.
I also mentioned TwitCasting earlier. This is quite a neat little streaming app, which embeds your twitter feed below the video you're sending out. Not quite as useful as the Ustream applications, but something cool to play with if you just want to make some quick little video segments to post on Twitter. It will also allow you to save and store your recordings, although it won't allow you to stream/upload previously recorded videos.
Edit : I will be popping images up for this article within the next few days.