Software Video Mixers Suffer From Software Issues

In a blog post from yesterday I mentioned that I was going to be livecasting a political forum. And that I was hoping that my mix of software video mixing programs would finally allow me to use the cameras I have together … well it didn’t work out that way.

Some background: A video mixer is the device that lets you switch between various video signals and mix them together as required. I have been using a Roland EdiRoll V4. That device allows for 4 video inputs and has a whole bunch of functionality that I never use. What I do use is the smooth transition between sources as well as the Picture-In-A-Picture ability. But it’s old school. SD video, not HD. No computer sources, just SD video or S-Video. No streaming – it just puts out a video signal.

On the computer there are various software programs that try to do all that Plus more. After you have selected which video and graphics sources are configure which way they provide a ‘virtual camera’ so programs like Skype and Google Hangouts have something to show the world.

The big named ones might be able to do everything they claim but the field is evolving and the software makers are just keeping up – maybe. When someone with a limited budget goes to try and shop for a multi-camera solution it gets complicated. And expensive. I’d like to use pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras and there are a lot of them out there. Really cheap ones starting around $100 going to quite expensive ones over $1000. When you look at which ones are compatible with the serious software the list is really short and not inexpensive. It doesn’t help that when you go to shop for the cameras they advise you to use you find out they are discontinued items. That tells me the software makers are not keep up with what’s out there.

When I say serious software I’m talking VidBlaster and Telestream’s Wirecast. They start in the $500 region and go north of $1000 once you start adding functionality. I’m NOT about to plunk down $500 on a program when I cannot afford the cameras to go along with it. There might be less expensive ones out there but I live in a very small town so I cannot drop in at a shop and try out everything before I walk out the door.

So I look at the lower cost versions of things. XSplit and ManyCam are both in the $50 region.

XSplit I paid for last January because it looked promising. Unfortunately every time I go to use it it lets me down …

I thought ManyCam would solve that issue. It could see my IP Webcams with no problem (I ad to bring in a DirectX filter to make an IP cam emulate a webcam for XSplit to see it) But when I went to mix that with the USB Analog A/V interface I found that it would NOT see the USB Grabber. It kept complaining that some other progeam was using it when I could not see any other program running.

Then I heard that some had success using SplitCam to see cameras ManyCam could not and then have ManyCam use the SplitCam’s virtual camera output. I tried that AND IT WORKED! But when I ran Google’s Hangouts OnAir it would not see any video at all on the ManyCam virtual camera output … arghh!! I spent 15 minutes in the half hour before air time struggling with all this software until I finally fell back to just running Google feeding directly from the USB Grabber. Which would mean the only switching I could do was externally with the Roland.


Ok, I feel better now. I’m starting to suspect that the directX filter arrangement in my O/S has become polluted. I started to think this when Google showed me the XSplit logo screen instead of the ManyCam or SplitCam virtual cameras. XSplit was not running at the time. At least it wasn’t supposed to be …

So here’s how it impacted me: I brought 4 camcorders and two IP Cameras.

mic-camerasDown on the floor there were two microphones. I place a pair of cameras in front of each. One IP Camera sending video up to the laptop via a wireless network. One camcorder recording it all just in case the IP camera solution did not work.

I was situated on top of the control booth at the back of the room. With two more camcorders, the video mixer, the laptop and tablet.

base_webcast_rigI had the tablet so I could update facebook. The laptop was talking to the IP cameras through the wireless network and internet through the cable network jack. But the network is inside a school and the one web site  could not get to was Facebook. So I used the tablet to connect through my phone’s hotspot and sneaker netted the link info from laptop to table with a USB flash drive.

I should have taken the audio from the sound board … oh well. Audio is one area I’m deficient in. Lights is the other area I’m lacking in. (I’m sure there are more … 🙂

Anyway – IF the software mixer had cooperated I would have been using the video from the IP cameras in front of the mics … but now I have to take ALL the recordings from all four camcorders into the PC and produce a better product (I was going to do this anyway) BUT if the IP cams and software mixers had worked I’d have had a better live production and I’d feel more proud of it.

The irony of all this is that I’m able to bring an unprecedented level of live TV broadcast (on the web of course) to this event and I’m just as unhappy with it as I am proud of the accomplishment … last June I broadcast a 5 day baseball tournament by myself with only one person to spell me off two or three times. For Free. Doing it was a real accomplishment but I keep feeling I could have done better.

To see what I’m talking about here are the livecasts:

The Forum last night

The Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament

Some of the videos we did back in 2010


About xamble

Most things I do involve computers. Nowadays that sounds stupid to hear because everyone uses computers. Except I was saying that before the IBM PC came on the scene. (hint: my first programs were entered on punch cards in an IBM-29) Now I mostly use them. Mostly to provide a community service in my small town. Because I could when it was asked and still can. And I'm a wannabe writer. Various books in various states of incompleteness. A few short stories. Might do more of that.
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