Livestream Studio HD51 Broadcast Switcher

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Livestream has announced a new addition to their all-in-one, complete live switching and Internet streaming solutions: the Livestream Studio HD51. The HD51 is an update from its predecessor, the HD50. It features five HD-SDI/HDMI selectable inputs with full-size BNC connectors. It can record a total of four isolated video channels (ISO) with or without graphical overlays. It has an HD-SDI/HDMI program output for IMAG or in-studio use and can stream multiple encodings at once with presets for desktop browsers, Android and iOS mobile devices, and the Roku. In addition, it can take two remote sources of video, which can be a computer connected to the network, or another broadcast on the Livestream cloud.

The HD51 combines a computer running Livestream's own professional live switching and web-streaming software with a multi-input capture card that supports up to five HD-SDI or HDMI video sources, packing it all in a rackmountable housing. With live web streaming being arguably one of the fastest-growing segments of the video-production industry, the HD51 is sure to appeal to a wide range of potential users. These will include online news services, educational institutions hosting online courses and seminars, houses of worship sharing their services with wider audiences, and companies looking for a way to deliver conferences to employees, clients, or customers across the country or even on the other side of the world.

The software in Livestream Studio HD51 provides the same live-switching functionality one would expect to find in a traditional hardware switcher, accessed through a graphical user interface that can be operated using a keyboard and mouse that are included. It features one Mixer and Effects Bank (M/E), two downstream keyers, and a total of seven video inputs: five local and two remote. Basic cuts, fades, and wipes are possible and you can choose from a selection of wipes for transitions with more pizzazz. These can be actuated using keyboard shortcuts or an on-screen T-BAR. For some this might be enough. But it would do the HD51 a disservice to talk about it just in terms of being a switcher because it can do so much more.

Gone are the days of needing a separate ISO monitor for each video source, or the awkward dance of hopping from one preview image to the next. On the HD51, you simply need to connect a computer monitor, TV, or production monitor that has either an HDMI or a DVI input. The software will automatically create a split-screen arrangement combining all of your incoming video sources onto one screen so that you can easily keep tabs on every camera angle simultaneously. Two displays can also be used, with custom display configurations possible. In a dual-monitor configuration, you might place the split-screen multiview on one display and run the switching software's GUI one the second. In addition, you might want to add a production monitor to program output to give a you full-screen, full-quality look at the footage that is going live. As you would expect from a professional switcher, additional information such as audio levels, tallies, input labels, and field rate can also be displayed within the multiview screen along with the video.

The HD51 is certainly designed with the high-definition age in mind. It can capture up to five HD-SDI or HDMI sources simultaneously by way of five pre-installed Blackmagic Design Decklink Mini Recorder capture cards. Updated from the previous version, all of the SDI inputs are on standard BNC connectors so you can plug your cameras straight in without having to worry about easy-to-lose adapters. A single Decklink Mini Monitor provides a full-quality out, allowing you to deliver a program feed to any in-house system, such as IMAG projection, that may require a high-quality signal that hasn't yet been compressed for the web.

Audio can either be tapped directly from the embedded stream in the SDI or HDMI signals or sourced separately via a separate 3.5mm mini jack input on the HD51. Alternatively, you can add your own USB audio interface to the system to provide a dedicated input for any audio source you want, such as an XLR microphone. An audio mixer that is part of the switching software allows you to manage your audio sources independently, creating a custom mix. If desired, you can also configure the mixer so that audio follows video. In this mode, the software will automatically take whatever audio channels are associated with the video input that is on air. To monitor audio, headphones or speakers can be connected directly to the HD51.

Because the HD51 is computer based, you can add graphics, titles, and overlays right in the switching software rather than having to depend on an external media source. A two-channel graphics generator allows you to create templates for graphics that can be dynamically updated on the fly, such as sports scores and lower thirds. Many types of graphics can be created, including basic text, transparent images, animated features such as countdowns, picture-in-picture video, as well as effects, including drop shadows, borders, crops, and more. A downstream keyer (DSK) allows you to superimpose elements that have transparent backgrounds (alpha channels), such as logo bugs, lower thirds, and other graphics, over the main image to add an element of professionalism, or insert additional information, such as the interview subject's name. In addition to compositing, the HD51 has a picture-in-picture feature allows you to combine up to five video channels into one image. This way you can show multiple camera angles at once; ideal for live on-air debates, or even to keep a cutaway of the scoreboard on screen at all times during a game.

You video doesn't only have to come from cameras or other sources connected directly to the unit. The software supports the inclusion of two remote video sources in addition to the five built-in inputs. One optional source is a remote computer desktop. By installing the Livestream Studio Remote Camera application on the computer you wish to display and connecting the computer to the same network as the HD51, you can use whatever appears on that computer's screen as a video source. This feature will be especially useful for presentations that require the inclusion of PowerPoint slides or religious services that use software like Easy Worship. The second option allows you to link the HD51 with Livestream's cloud-based service. You can then downlink other feeds being broadcast elsewhere from elsewhere to your Livestream account and incorporate them into your program. This feature is ideal for news services that wish to integrate multi-camera setups from several locations.

For archival purposes or editing later, the HD51, like its predecessor, allows you to record the program feed, which is compressed in MJPEG and wrapped in an AVI container. But, in case you might want to use a different camera angle than what went live for some future use, the software now supports recording of up to four isolated (ISO) video channels. For the ISO recordings, you can choose from your program feeds or any of the five built-in inputs. These can be recorded "clean" with no graphics overlays, or "dirty," with any overlays present backed into the recording. Not only that, but you can open a recorded clip during the show, trim it, and replay it on air using the Media Player, letting you compose a highlights segment right on the spot.

The HD51 can store and play back previously recorded or imported content. There are two built-in media players in which to compose your media. You can choose to have one clip play on a loop, play through a pre-defined playlist, and even autoplay on transition. The media players support H.264 video as well as MP3 and WAV audio. If a particular clip does not match your project settings, a transcoder built into the software will convert your footage to the appropriate settings.

The HD51 can certainly be used exclusively as a switcher and recording system if that's all you want to do. But if your needs include streaming video live to the Internet, this product has you covered. To benefit from full support from one service provider, from switching to streaming, you can opt to have Livestream host your video for you. They offer several plans, starting with a basic free service, all the way up to an Enterprise option. However, just because the HD51 is a Livestream product doesn't mean you have to use it with Livestream's streaming server. The software also supports UStream and YouTube Live, or you can use your own server; any RTMP-compatible services or CDNs, such as Wowza Media Server, Akamai, or Flash Media Server may be used. The HD51 connects to your network or router using a Gigabit Ethernet port. The streaming encoder supports H.264 video with AAC audio and multiple bitrates. It can simultaneously output settings appropriate for multiple devices, including desktop web browsers, the Roku, and iOS and Android mobile devices. To achieve this, the HD51 uses a combination of Flash and adaptive bitrate HLS and RTSP encodings.

Under the hood, the HD51 is a purpose-built computer running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional. It features a six-core Intel® Core™ i7 processor with a 3.2GHz clock speed, and 8GB of 1333MHz DDR3 RAM. To drive up to two HDMI or DVI displays, it features an Nvidia GeForce GT 520 graphics card. For internal storage there is a 1TB WD hard drive that can hold up to 20 hours of MJPEG video recorded at 100Mbps.

To help you monetize your production, the software supports mid-roll ad insertion. You will need to create a Livestream Platform Enterprise account and register with your Google DFP ID to start using this feature. Once enabled, you can insert ads into your show with the press of a button.

Built-In Video Input/Output Cards 5 x Blackmagic Design DeckLink Mini Recorder
1 x Blackmagic Design DeckLink Mini Monitor
Input 5 x HDMI
5 x HD/SD-SDI
Note: Only 5 total inputs can be used concurrently 
2 x Remote cameras (desktop capture or live feeds)
1 x 1/8" analog audio
Output 1 x SDI
1 x HDMI
1 x 1/8" analog audio

Graphics card:
1 x DVI
1 x HDMI

Embedded Audio Input 6 stereo or 48 mono inputs
Media Sources 2 x DDRs (video clip playback with built-in transcoder)
2 x GFX (graphics)
2 x Color bars / background color
Video Switcher/Mixer 1 x M/E with no upstream keyer
Supported Formats HD: 720p50, 720p59.94, 720p60, 1080PsF23.98, 1080p23.98, 1080PsF24, 1080p24, 1080PsF25, 1080p25, 1080PsF29.97, 1080p29.97, 1080PsF30, 1080p30, 1080i50, 1080i59.94, and 1080i60

SD: 625/25 PAL, 525/29.97 NTSC, 525/23.98 NTSC

Recording Format AVI MJPEG with uncompressed audio
Recording Capacity Approx. 20 hours at 1080i with recorder set at 100 Mbps MJPED AVI (using 1TB built-in HDD)
Playback Media Formats GFX: JPEG or PNG image files (PNG images fully adjustable in transparency)

DDR: AVI MJPEG with uncompressed audio, DV video, WMV (7/8/9), H.264 (.mov and .avi), MPEG4 Part 2 (.mov and .avi), MPEG4 V1/V2 (.mov and .avi), AAC, MP3

Live Streaming Live HD streaming via Gigabit/100/10 built-in Ethernet
Presets in up to HD 720p
Multiple simultaneous bitrates
Mobile quality for playback over 3G on mobile devices (iPhone / Android)
Integrated live streaming to RTMP compatible servers/services
Operating System Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
CPU Intel Sandy Bridge-E Core i7 3930K 3.2 GHz Six-Core processor
12 MB L3 cache, 130 W, Socket LGA 2011
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForm GT 520 Commercial Series PCIe
Storage 1TB WD Red SATA 2.5" internal hard drive, 7200 rpm
RAM 8GB DDR3 1333 MHz RAM, non-ECC (4 x 2GB DIMM, triple-channel configuration)
Processing Video: 4:2:2, 10-bit color (REC 601, REC 709)
Audio: 48 kHz, 24-bit REF IN/Genlock (Requires genlocking the two Blackmagic Design cards via two separate connectors)
Dimensions (DxWxH) 14.0 x 17.0 x 3.5" (35.6 x 43.2 x 8.9 cm)
Weight 13.2 lb (6.0 kg)

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This looks like it could fit in my carry-on.