Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Following our recent successful Paranormal Investigation livestream from The Real Mary King's Close I put time aside to investigate a range of livestreaming options and technologies.
In the covid era we find ourselves in almost everyone is used to livestreaming video into their Zoom sessions, and the concept of sharing a single camera stream is nowhere near as daunting to your average user as it would typically have been. However to produce a higher quality "livestream broadcast" is obviously a different ball game requiring creative and technological skills - and nerves of steel! There are even further technological options out there worth investigating - VR180, VR360, Stereoscopic 3D and in the not too distant future some forms of holographic style volumetric video.
Livestream in VR
One obvious area of interest for Deep Vision Studios was investigating livestreaming in virtual reality. We have access to the hardware and software required and have toyed with a few short tests over the last year or so but never delved too deeply into the livestreamed vr world. This is actually a relatively straightforward thing to do so long as you have a recent 360 consumer/prosumer/pro camera as they typically have this built into their apps/software as an option. So it can be as simple as pressing a couple of buttons and telling the stream where to be posted.
For example the consumer level Insta360 One X can livestream in 4K by simply connecting a USB lead between your camera and your mobile, linking your Facebook or YouTube accounts and pressing go. Sadly the side effect of tying up the USB port means you cannot attach a battery pack so are limited to running your stream for the length of one charged battery - Insta360 claim this is an hour but in real-world tests I've not managed over 45 minutes.
For the Insta360 Pro it's a little more cumbersome but you have the benefit of potentially streaming a higher quality stereoscopic feed and not being limited to the length of the battery life of the one x tethered to the mobile phone. However this will only livestream in 4K, likely due to the limited live stitching power which is required.
The new (but pricey) Teche 360 VR camera (as of writing 26/11/2020) is gaining a lot of praise for it's livestreaming capabilities with it's powerful onboard stitching capabilities enabling up to 8K monoscopic streaming straight from the camera. Equally the QooCam 8K Enterprise appears to offer a much better option for something like half the price.
There are such a large number of 360 cameras that natively livestream so I'll leave it at that. If you want more detailed information on the range available Google is your friend!
VR Livestream Software
However how about if you want something a bit more slick than a single camera? There are a wide range of software and hardware options available running from a few hundred $'s to $10s of thousands to create complex live mixes for streaming or broadcast of course but most of these, superficially at least, don't appear to offer any support for immersive 360 or VR content.
vMix is one of the few software packages I've found which does offer support for 360 streaming, up to 4K, and overall this looks like a pretty powerful and slick option to produce broadcast type live shows mixing in live VR cameras and pre-recorded 360 video content with options for graphic/video overlays etc. All of this does come at a price though and although it is a one off purchase, as opposed to a subscription, the $1200 PRO license required does place it out of reach for a part of the market where they may just be dipping their toes in the livestreaming arena.
A well produced multi-camera VR livestream would really be an interesting challenge to undertake, I'll certainly post more details should I get the chance to produce or direct such a show.
Andrew Murchie is a creative technology consultant based in Edinburgh, Scotland specialising in virtual reality, augmented reality, stereoscopic 3d and a range of more traditional digital filmmaking skills. He has produced Virtual Reality films, livestreams & experiences for clients including The Real Mary King's Close, Dynamic Earth & Social Enterprise UK.