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Posted by Carl on May 27, 2012

Tutorial: How to Live Stream Games

So you want to broadcast or record your games eh?
Since we covered the Adepticon 40k Championship Finals in 2011 and 2012, and are now filming 40k Games live from The Boiler Room, I have been getting a lot of questions on how we do the filming so others can do it as well.

Well I can tell you it isn’t particularly difficult to do, but it does take a little money and some ingenuity. I will go first into the equipment and software we use, then I will discuss how we get the cameras into position. I am sure there are other solutions out there, but this is how we have done it. Hopefully people take this solution and improve upon it!

Let me know if you come up with something better.

Requirements
This is the equipment I use for the coverage we have done at Adepticon and here in the studio – links are in the titles where appropriate:

A Decent Computer!
You’re going to need a pretty decent computer if you want to film your games with more than one camera. But if you are just looking to do a top down shot with one camera, you can get away with a pretty low end computer or laptop.

However, if you are going to film with more than one camera, you are going to be pushing the bus on your USB ports really hard. You can probably get away with two webcams on a low end system, but three simply will not work. So what I ended up doing was buying and building a new Intel i7 Shuttle PC. It’s small, so it’s a bit mobile. But it’s really pretty powerful and has plenty of USB ports available. Again, while this isn’t required for a single or even double camera system, you are going to need something powerful for three cameras. We have not been able to get four cameras to work at this time.

A decent Internet Connection
You are going to need a hard line Internet connection for this. Don’t use wireless. It will lag out frequently and cause you no amount of trouble. Make sure you have an ethernet cable connection. We use a DSL connection here in the studio and that works fine.

If you are planning on doing this at another location than one where you control the connectivity, make sure that they are not actively blocking streaming. We ran into problems at one location, when we got there and found out that every 8 minutes we would lose connectivity, because they were blocking streaming.

Microsoft LifeCam Cinema Camera
These are amazing little camersa put out by Microsoft. Not only do they film in Widescreen, but they can do HD if required. We use three of these little cameras when doing filming. They are affordable, durable and get you a great picture. They also have built in microphones, but we will talk about how we don’t use those in a bit…

USB extension cables
You will need one 10 foot extension cable for each camera you intend to film with. Power to the cameras is sent through the USB cables, so there is a limit of about 15 to 16 feet for the cable. There is a way around this, but it requires a powered USB hub, which will need to be near a power outlet (or have an extension cord used). I have found this to be pretty annoying so I limit myself to the one USB extension cable per camera. This also means you will have to have your computer fairly close to the game table…

Ustream Producer (or Producer Pro) Software
We broadcast all of our productions over Ustream. We do this for a couple of reasons

  1. Ustream provides you with an unlimited number of connections to the channel for people to watch. Some services limit you to 50 to 100 users watching your channel.
  2. The Podcasting community is familiar with Ustream at this point. Many Podcasts use it when broadcasting their live shows. So many listeners and viewers are familiar with it.
  3. The Ustream software is pretty easy to use and has actually become really stable over the last year.
  4. To film with multiple cameras, you will need Producer Pro – this costs roughly $200 to purchase though.

Mounting the Camera(s)
Okay. So you now have all of the basic equipment and software that you need to start filming your games, but you need to get the cameras into position to get a good shot.

There is a couple of ways to do this. First, I will talk about the overhead camera shot as this is probably the most important one.

I have found that the camera needs to be about 56.5 inches above the center of the table. This will give you enough clarity to see what is going on with the game you are filming, but unfortunately, you will miss about 2-3 inches off of the long table edges (in a 40k Game). You can raise the camera higher to try to get these table edges, but you will lose clarity on the game.

Filming Remotely
The way we do the filming when we are remote. For example at Adepticon, is we build a rig out of PVC piping and duct tape (it is cheap, simple to construct and we can typically dispose of it easily after we are done).

To do this, you will need the following items:

  • Three 8 Foot long 1 and 1/4in PVC Pipes
  • A roll of duct tape
  • Two file crates (the kind sold at office supply stores)
  • A couple of cinder blocks or some bricks to weigh down the crates

PVC Filming Rig

We then need to brace the upright poles. To do this we typically use a file crate (the kind sold at office supply stores for storing files), we then push the PVC piping through entirely through the holes in the crate and then weight the crate with cinderblocks or bricks.

If there is too much room around the PVC Pipe, and it is not snug against the crate, we have been able to wrap something around the pole to increase the diameter of it, and then wrap duct tape around that to make sure it fits snugly.

We then duct tape one camera directly over the center of the table from the center pole. We then duct tape the other two cameras to the mounting poles and point them at an angle that can cover the table from both ends. This allows us to choose shots between both table ends and directly overhead.

Filming in a Dedicated Space
Here in the boiler room we mount the camera from the cieling by a piece of wood affixed to it. The camera is attached to the wood by zip ties. The side cameras are attached to camera tripods for the side angle shots.


   

Adding voice
So now that we have talked about the video setup, next comes the audio. While the cameras do have microphones built into them, they are not really sufficient for broadcasting clearly what is going on.

Putting lapel mics on the players is, so far, the best way we have found to give a clear understanding of what is going on during the game and on the table. To do this however, you will need a wireless lapel mic system.

Wireless Lapel Mics
There is a really decent system you can pick up from Amazon (again!). This system can serve two microphones with really good quality, however I’ll warn you that it burns through 9 volt batteries in about 4 hours.

You can plug this directly into the sound card of your computer, or into a sound board (like we do). Both players can then wear the mics and talk, while their voices are broadcast.

However, you are going to want to disable the microphones on the cameras, through Ustream first. You will want to do this for each camera you have plugged into the system. To do this – you just access the feed for the camera through Ustream Producer, and add the feed for the soundcard (where you have the mic or sound board plugged in).

In Conclusion
Recording your games can be pretty fun overall, but as you do so, remember that watching a game of 40k (or Fantasy, or whatever) isn’t typically all that exciting without some banter between the players. So make sure you practice explaining what you are doing with each of your moves, and have some fun with your opponent while you play. It will transfer over the broadcast if you are having fun!

I hope this has helped answer your questions. Please feel free to post here if you have any others.

Carl

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