Basics of streaming video production

There are 5 elements to any streaming production setup.

  1. Camera or video signal
  2. Microphone or audio signal
  3. Video capture or conversion
  4. Encoding
  5. Internet connection

Some streaming options combine some or all of these elements into a single device. For example if you use a mobile phone for streaming, your phone has all 5 elements built-in. For more advanced streaming setups, you may need to combine various pieces to meet your needs.

Streaming configurations

Basic

All streaming elements integrated into a single device, like a mobile phone or a laptop.

Advanced

Separate elements are used for increased flexibility and specialization in the video production and streaming workflow.

1. Camera or video signal

Learn more about all the different types of cameras that work with Ustream


The beginning of any live stream is capturing a video image. This can be done with a simple camera, such as the built-in one on your mobile phone or laptop, with a professional video camera, or with the output signal of a video switcher.

Video source

Basic

Built-in camera on your phone or computer, or a USB camera like the Logitech C920

Advanced

Analog, HDMI or SDI cameras, or the output of a video switcher, going into a video capture interface.

2. Microphone or audio signal

Learn how to configure and troubleshoot audio for your Ustream Broadcast


Capturing clean sound and broadcasting it at the right level is essential for any broadcast. Your mobile device or computer has a built in mic that works if you're capturing something right in front of you, but typically you'll want to use external microphones placed as close to your presenter as possible, or get a feed directly from the PA system soundboard. There are a couple ways to do this. You can input audio directly to your camera and this audio gets embedded with the video signal and fed into the encoder. Or you can input audio to your encoder via your computer's audio inputs, audio inputs on a capture card, or a USB audio interface.

Audio source

Basic

Built-in microphone on your camera, mobile device, or computer.

Advanced

External microphones, routed into an audio mixer and fed into the camera, computer, or a hardware encoder.

3. Capture or conversion

See Ustream recommended capture cards


If you're using a professional camera or video feed from a switcher and you're using encoding software on a computer rather than dedicated encoding hardware, you may need to add a capture box or card to digitize and convert the video signal so it can be recognized by the encoding software on your computer. If you're using the built-in camera on your mobile device or computer, a USB camera, or a dedicated hardware encoder, you won't need any additional capture device.

Capture

Basic

If you're using a built-in camera or a USB camera, you won't need any capture device.

Advanced

When you're using professional cameras, you'll need to either buy an encoder that has a built-in capture interface, or add capture cards or boxes to your computer.

4. Encoding

See all Ustream recommended encoding solutions here


The purpose of an encoder is to take a video signal and compress it into the correct format to stream across your internet connection and send it to Ustream's servers. In many streaming setups, the encoder is integrated with the broadcasting or switching software. For example, Ustream mobile apps, Ustream's Web Broadcaster and Ustream Producer all have built in encoding, so no separate encoder is required. In professional video setups it's common to have a dedicated piece of software or hardware that does only encoding and separate hardware and software is used for capture and switching.

Encoders

Basic

Ustream's mobile apps and Web Broadcaster have built-in encoding.

Advanced

Ustream Producer or Ustream Certified Encoders.

5. Internet Connection

See Ustream's recommended streaming settings

A solid internet connection is one of the most important aspects of being able to stream live. Without a good internet connection, you won't be able to stream at all.

  • Before streaming, you should always test your current upload bandwidth at cdn1.ustream.tv/networktest (test is for North America and South America, only)
  • Once you conduct your speedtest, you want to look at what the *upload* speed is and set your encoder's bitrate based on that. You never want to be using more than 50% of your available bandwidth.
  • A low quality stream can be done on as little as 600-800kbps upload speed.
  • For a medium quality stream, a minimum of 1.5Mbps upload bandwidth is required.
  • For higher quality and HD streams you'll want 4Mbps or greater upload speed.

If you are using Ustream's mobile apps, Web Broadcaster, or Ustream Producer and you have a strong internet connection, you might not need to worry about changing any encoding settings. If you are using a 3rd party encoding device or want to increase your quality, you will want to test your bandwidth and learn how to set an appropriate bitrate for your stream to maximize your quality and ensure an uninterrupted high quality stream.

Internet

Basic

4G, WiFi, or whatever connection you can find.

Advanced

Ethernet connection with dedicated bandwidth.