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December 10, 2019

Streaming multi-camera Switcher Studio into a Zoom meeting

Tech blog: Think you can stream multiple cameras into meeting software live? We did too. Until we were faced with several audio and video complications…

A client asked us if it would be possible to stream an event in Hong Kong to their other regional locations. Initially we thought they’d meant YouTube Live or Facebook Live — no problem. We could easily set that up with Switcher Studio and a multi-camera smartphone set-up. But after several discussions, we learned that the client wanted their offsite locations to connect into the stream remotely using a secure platform like Zoom or BlueJeans.

Mission Impossible?

This wasn’t the first time we’d come across this sort of request. Recently we’d tried to do the same with another client who uses the BlueJeans platform. The client works in a regulated environment so the option of doing something on public platforms or the Switcher Studio remote dial in wasn’t a goer. In that previous case, it simply wasn’t possible. We worked with a smart group from their IT and conferencing equipment provider and eventually decided it was too hard to do effectively in the time allowed.

Problem solved … nearly

Zoom was a little easier but not without challenges. In the end here’s how we did it.

The main location was in Hong Kong, where we had a multi-camera live shoot of a client event. Remote locations included Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Thailand. We had to simultaneously share slides and video which were playing out on big screens in Hong Kong and being shared on the stream to the other locations.

I’ll focus on the video stream first. (Audio is a whole other conversation.)

Starting with Switcher Studio, and using an iPad Pro to enable an HDMI out signal via USB C, we had four camera angles. The Switcher set up operated via its own wifi network (we used an Apple Time Capsule) which was connected to the client’s local area network (LAN) by network cable. Slides were coming in from one PC connected to Switcher using Switcher cast and also connected to the big screen in Hong Kong via HDMI. The video then outputs via the USB C port into a dongle that converts the output to HDMI which we then connected to a Black Magic Design Ultra Studio Mini Recorder that took the HDMI in and output it through a Thunderbolt mini display port.

We connected the mini display port to a Mac that was dialled into the Zoom call. The Mac took the Thunderbolt feed as an external camera, allowing us to send a multi-camera feed into the Zoom call. At the same time we had a third Mac that was on the Zoom call, and it was pushing the Zoom feed, including the external locations to a second big screen in Hong Kong.

That’s part 1. Part 2 — which is audio — was equally complicated.

We ended up having an audio deck at the client location, taking their usual signal from mics running through their speaker system. We took an output, ran it through a Rodecaster and output an audio signal directly into the Mac we were using to show the Zoom call on the big screen in Hong Kong. We had planned, as the diagram shows, to run it all through our Rodecaster from our own mics, but as you find on the day, not everything goes to plan. Miraculously, the audio synced with the video perfectly.

The bits that didn’t work so well

Now to the troublesome parts. It’s hard to deliberately switch the zoom from location to location so we had some issues putting the remote locations up on the big screen in Hong Kong, but that was fairly minor once the call host took charge of that aspect. The harder part was allowing everyone to hear. We had to mute the external locations while the Hong Kong speakers were talking and then do the opposite to allow each external location in turn have their audio be heard in Hong Kong. (If anyone reading has some suggestions on overcoming this, please comment.) We got there but it was hardly seamless.

At the end of the day, we succeeded in allowing the regional locations be there for the Hong Kong event and the company leadership could share the collective moment with several far-flung offices.

Fun Fact:
Platforms like Zoom/Bluejeans/Skype mirror our camera so the Facetime/web camera doesn’t look flipped. But because of this, any text that appears behind the subject will have an ambulance text effect.

Please let us know in the comments if you’ve had a similar experience? Or have any suggestions for us.

Read more from Click2View:

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5 thoughts on “Streaming multi-camera Switcher Studio into a Zoom meeting

    1. Hi Douwe,

      Sincerest apologies for the delayed response. Audio is always a tricky one and a very broad topic.

      The way we setup the audio is as such:
      1) The location uses a wireless mic with the mic receiver patched to an audio mixer. (With wireless mic, you’d need wireless receiver)
      2) We patch a feed from this audio mixer into the Rode RODECaster Pro mixer
      3) We then patch the rodecaster into switcherstudio and subsequently feed both audio and visual output into zoom through HDMI via Blackmagic Design Ultra Studio Mini Recorder.
      4) And because we need to hear the participants in the main speakers of event location, we feed the zoom audio signal back to rodecaster and then to the speakers on location.

      This was just the way we’d set it up, but it didn’t come without problems, like the audio feedback issues and audio sync issues.

      Audio feedback issues
      – There’s no fast way to go about solving the audio feedback issues except to get testing done prior and noting certain areas that the mic might pick up the speakers again.
      – Now that we know the reason for feedback is because the same audio gets picked up and played out over and over again,
      the general guide to quickly identifying and solving the issue is to know the following few points:
      1) If you are speaking, your mic should not be “hearing” you speak, if there is no way around it, you should simply minimize the exposure.
      2) Particularly in this case, because our location sound system are surround sound speakers, there is no way around it, therefore it can be solved with bidirectional mics or placing mic closer to mouth. It is a broad topic in itself, and requires testing to a certain degree.

      Audio Sync issues
      To quickly identify why there are audio sync issues, keep in mind that:
      1) Both audio and visual source should come from one single point.
      2) In a zoom conference for example, I want my video camera, and my audio source to be both from my laptop. With any external camera/mic, there will have more delay than a build in mic/camera. The reason I said “More” is because if the signal travels fast enough to the intended location/output, the lag/sync becomes negligible.

      But if I need to use an external camera (In this case) then I’d prefer to patch an external microphone into the camera, and receive both the audio and visual together.

      You may ask, then how do people just plug an external usb camera and use the laptop’s mic and still be in sync? I’d like to say, that they are still out of sync, just that on the human eye, it is negligible and unnoticeable because the transfer speed from that external webcam is fast enough.

      Once you have this concept in mind, it’d be easy for you to solve any audio sync issues.

  1. Great write up on your zoom setup.
    We are trying to send a live studio feed into a zoom meeting. Zoom does not like this at all. Lots of sync and feedback problems.

    Alex, what audio issues have you guys had.

    Thx Tim Foster

    1. Hi Tim,

      Sincerest apologies for the delayed response. Audio is always a tricky one and a very broad topic.
      But I’ll highlight the issues we faced for this particular setup.

      Problems we faced : Audio Feedback
      The audio we had created a feedback (infinite loop): when the audio was played out on the system, it was repeatedly picked up by the mic over and over again.

      What we learned:
      – There’s no fast way to go about solving audio feedback issues except to get testing done prior and noting certain areas that the mic might pick up the speakers again.
      – Now that we know the reason for feedback is because the same audio gets picked up and played out over and over again,
      the general guide to quickly identify and solve the issue by bearing the following in mind:
      1) If you are speaking, your mic should not be “hearing” you speak, if there is no way around it, you should simply minimize the exposure.
      2) Particularly in this case, because our location sound system was surround sound speakers, there is no way around it. We had to solve this with bidirectional mics or placing mic closer to the mouth. It is a broad topic in itself, and requires testing to a certain degree.

      Audio Sync issues
      To quickly identify why there are audio sync issues, we want to keep in mind:
      1) Both audio and visual source should come from one single point.
      2) In a zoom conference for example, I want my video camera, and my audio source to be both from my laptop. With any external camera/mic, there will have more delay than a built-in mic/camera. The reason I said “more” is because if the signal travels fast enough to the intended location/output, the lag/sync becomes negligible.

      But if I need to use an external camera (in this case), then I’d prefer to patch an external microphone into the camera, and receive both the audio and visual together.

      You may ask, then how do people just plug an external usb camera and use the laptop’s mic and still be in sync? I’d like to say, that they are still out of sync, just that on the human eye, it is negligible and unnoticeable because the transfer speed from that external webcam is fast enough.

      Once you have this concept in mind, it’d be easy for you to solve any audio sync issues.

  2. For what it’s worth, and not entirely related to the fine write up above: I have been doing training courses over the internet lately. I prefer keeping the groups of attendees small. I also want to give them the chnace to participate and contribute with questions and comments live. As it would work in my IRL classroom.
    Not a problem you say? -Just go with Zoom or Microsoft Teams you say?
    So I do, but it gets more complicated.
    (Btw, am I the only one that think that the user interface in MS Teams is horrendous?)
    If I want to ad multiple camera views, Power Point presentations, pre recorded video, lower third banners, (the list goes on), AND make it look professional just switching between cam sources in the ap just doesn’t cut it. (Oh the pun..)
    So i have been using OBS Studio to pull it all together, then sending it as a virtual cam to Teams or Zoom.
    For quickly changing input sources I’m using Elgato Stream Deck.

    I am about to play a bit with Switcher but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    So is it flawless and everything I want? -Nope, still looking for the perfecgt soulution.

    Sorry for deviating from the fine content above, but maybe it can trigger some response that could be of use.

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