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Choosing the right camera for live streaming your next event

February 20th, 2017 by Nathan Mount

IP live streaming cameras

When it comes to choosing a camera for live streaming, there are plenty of options out there from high-end HDMI cameras to cheap USB webcams, but if you’re looking for that best-value balance between quality, versatility and price, we recommend that an IP camera is the way to go.

But which one is right for you? And what features should you be looking for?

If you’ve read our recent blog post – 5 mistakes to avoid when live streaming an event, you’ll know it’s important that the camera you choose has great image quality and supports high quality audio but there are some other features worth considering to ensure you get the best results.

We’ve picked out a few of the main attributes that you should look for when choosing a camera for live streaming your next event.

High definition

Picking a camera that can record in high definition (HD) is a must. With the resolutions on monitors and mobile screens increasing, standard definition (SD) just doesn’t cut it anymore. HD has become the standard for all forms of video, including streaming, so your viewers will expect nothing less. Choosing an HD camera will allow you to capture a clear and crisp image which is especially useful when your subject includes small text or images e.g. a white board. Streaming HD video was not seen as a viable option in the days of data limits and slower internet speeds, but that’s now improved significantly with the increase in popularity of Video-on-Demand (VOD) services and YouTube. Be sure to check if your camera supports HD resolution.

Connectors

One part of the camera that is often overlooked is what connections are available. Choosing a camera that provides a variety of input and output options offers versatility and helps cover all the bases. For audio you should look for units that have XLR inputs, these will allow you to connect external microphones to the camera for recording higher quality audio. Some models will even allow you to connect mixers, giving you more control over audio levels. An SDI port allows a high quality feed to be sent to live production or broadcast systems, and by having an HDMI port, you can view your live stream directly through a separate high definition monitor. If you plan to share your stream afterwards but your chosen provider does not let you download it, consider a camera that also includes an SD card slot. This will store your footage on the card for you to use afterwards.

Compatibility

Cameras compatibilityTo live stream your event you need a provider to host it for you. While there is a wide number of providers available to choose from, you might find your options limited if you pick the wrong camera. Not all cameras are built with live streaming in mind as a primary use, meaning that some may require convoluted setups, extra cables or hardware just to get them to work, potentially increasing cost. This is why we recommend an IP camera and in particular, an IP camera that’s purpose-built for live streaming. You’re more likely to see a camera designed specifically for streaming is compatible with most of the big service providers. Also some of the leading IP camera manufacturers, such as Axis, have dedicated software which allows their cameras to be used with third party services, helping you to make the process simpler.

Viewing angle and zoom

Whether you want to film a single podium or an entire stage, you need a camera that will give you the versatility to adapt to whatever is called for at the time. A zoom lens offers the flexibility of being able to switch between a wide viewing angle, allowing you fit more into your frame, and a narrow viewing angle (telephoto) to isolate the presenter or other activity.

Depending on the layout of your location you might have to position your camera further away or right in front of the speaker, for example in a lecture hall you would set the camera behind the seats, to avoid obstructing the view.

Choose a camera with a zoom lens – look for an optical zoom of at least 8x power.

Pan and tilt

Maybe you have a presenter that likes to pace the stage while giving their talk, or you are streaming a graduation ceremony with students walking from one side to the other. Even with a wide angle lens you will find it a struggle to keep everything in shot. If you decide to move the whole camera manually, the stream could suffer from stuttering movements. This is where pan and tilt comes in handy because it allows you to remotely control the direction of the lens with a precise and smooth motion, giving a more professional feel to your stream. If you want to keep up with your wandering presenter or graduation students, you’ll need more control over camera movement – look for a model with pan and tilt. Think about what you can do when you combine this feature with zooming! Think about what you can do when combining zooming with pan and tilt!

Conclusion

If you consider these features when choosing your camera then you should be on the right track for getting the best results from live streaming your next event.

Keep your eyes peeled in the coming week, as we will be highlighting the purpose-built IP cameras that we feel encompass all the features listed above and should be your go-to choice for live streaming.

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