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For broadcasters, covering events and breaking news has traditionally required significant capital investment in the form of microwave and satellite trucks. For live-event producers, it’s meant linking a camera to an expensive real-time encoder, and in turn to a fast, wired Internet connection. But now, with the advent of cellular-based transmission systems that sit atop a camcorder, that’s all starting to change.
Teradek’s Bond device provides a unique twist to cellular transmission by hosting up to five 3G or 4G USB cellular modems and slicing up an H.264 stream so that its bandwidth can be divided among the modems. The Bond is just a single piece of a full system, albeit a uniquely powerful one.
To unlock this advance in mobile video transmission, Bond needs to work with, at the very least, a camcorder, an HDMI or HD-SDI encoder and a handful of USB cellular modems. These all connect directly to Bond as it sits atop a camcorder. Teradek’s Sputnik software, the solution for recombining those H.264 slices and generating a usable video stream, is included with Bond bundles. You might also need a decoder at the station end if you’re using Bond in broadcast workflows to feed a switcher. These elements can be purchased as packages, such as the Bond HD-SDI Broadcast Bundle, which puts together an H.264 encoder, a decoder, a Bond, an MPEG-TS license and 30 days of premium support from Teradek. There’s also a Bond HDMI Live Event Bundle, which pairs the Bond with the Cube 250 HDMI Encoder.
For a camera operator, a Teradek Bond setup weighs little and merely sips power. Stacking an encoder, such as a Cube 150 HD-SDI encoder, and a Bond device with modems atop your camera adds only about a pound, and dimensionally speaking, it’s essentially two decks of cards plus antenna-like festoons in the form of those USB cellular modems. The Bond, the Cube, and your camera can all share a battery, too.
For transmission from any area with adequate cellular coverage, Bond represents a convenient, compact, low-power HD transmission solution that carries minimal ongoing costs. Eliminating the charge for satellite bandwidth, Bond has an operating cost that’s limited to the data plans for the cellular modems. There will also be cloud-computing fees if you’ll use the Internet to host the Sputnik decoding application that comes with many Bond bundles and perhaps charges from Livestream or another streaming service if you’re going that route.
If you blanch at the thought of relying on sometimes spotty cellular networks, Bond addresses that concern with technology that should allay your fear. Teradek’s Adaptive Internet Streaming technology adjusts transmission bit rates and buffering on the fly based on changing network conditions. Essentially, if your “bars” drop, your bit rate will, too, to keep the H.264 stream transmitting. So as long as you can get a signal of some kind, you’re in business. If one of your modems loses service, Bond’s baked-in technology redistributes the H.264 video stream with one fewer slice and tells the Cube to encode at a slightly lower bit rate. Teradek says that with high-quality modems, the interruption should only cause one frame to drop; at worst you’ll lose only a fraction of a second of video.
The field is an unpredictable environment to be sure, so it’s comforting that Bond’s light weight and low power consumption more or less eliminate the traditional pitfalls of operator strain and power depletion. Bond features a 2-pin LEMO connection for power input and a relay power output to keep the Cube encoder running. That power input can come from Teradek’s Cubit SWIT batteries, which come in Panasonic-, Canon- and Sony-style versions. The Bond itself draws only about 1 watt (not including the draw of the cellular modems), and the Cube 150 and Cube 250 both draw 2.5-3.8 watts.
The encoders that come with the HD-SDI Broadcast Bundle and the HDMI Live Event Bundle both have Wi-Fi antennae for streaming a live view of the captured video to an on-location device such as a laptop, iPad or other tablet. The line-of-sight range is about 300 ft (90 m).
The bar for broadcast is both higher and lower than ever before. Quality requirements have of course risen since the advent of HD newsgathering, but appropriate HD camcorders and transmission devices now come in at much lower price points than ever before. Also, codecs have advanced to the point that lower bit rates don’t necessarily mean inferior video quality. The Cube encoders use H.264 High Profile (Level 4.1) compression for excellent bit-rate efficiency.
The Bond HD-SDI Broadcast Bundle is an excellent system for going from field to broadcast switcher. Your HD-SDI-enabled camcorder outputs to the Cube 150 encoder, which encodes the video as H.264. Connected to the Cube 150 via USB, the Bond splits the H.264 into as many slices as you have modems, and the 3G or 4G modems transmit this stream to Teradek’s included Sputnik aggregation software.
Sputnik resides either in the “cloud” (hosted on a service such as Amazon EC2) or on a configured Linux server with a publically addressable TCP port. (Teradek sells compatible Linux servers, or you can configure your own.) Sputnik pieces back together the H.264 stream, and it can be set to generate an MPEG-TS stream or record. An MPEG-TS license is included with the Broadcast Bundle.
Also included with the Broadcast Bundle is a Cube 350 decoder with an HD-SDI output. This can be used one of two ways. For filmmaking, the Wi-Fi-enabled Cube 350 can be connected for output to high-quality HD-SDI monitors so that shots on location can happen at quite a distance from the video village, and the director still gets to watch the shot.
For broadcast, the Ethernet port of the Cube 350 can be employed to receive the recombined H.264 stream from the server or IP address from which Sputnik software is working its magic. This stream can in turn be put out of the decoder’s HD-SDI output so that a usable signal can reach your station’s broadcast switcher.
For covering events and streaming live to the Internet, Bond functions essentially the same way at the camcorder end as in the previous section. With its included Cube 250 encoder, the Bond HDMI Live Event Bundle works with HDMI-enabled camcorders, not HD-SDI. Some of the newest HDSLR cameras on the market, such as the Nikon D4 and the Canon 1D C, put out a “clean” HDMI stream, so those cameras would be appropriate to use with the Live Event Bundle, too. Just don’t build a system around a DSLR such as a Canon 5D or Nikon D3, as their HDMI output signals are intended for monitoring only—not transmission or recording. Any HDMI-enabled camcorder, professional or prosumer, will work as well.
In this configuration, the Bond device again transmits a sliced-up H.264 stream over cellular networks, and this stream is pieced back together by Sputnik aggregation software. Now for this application, Sputnik can be configured to pass along the reconstructed stream directly to a web-streaming service such as Livestream, Ustream, or Akamai. Cube encoders come with a 30-day premium membership to Livestream.
As one high-profile example of Bond’s use in a live-event situation, the New York Post used the device atop a camcorder to transmit a live stream of pre-game and post-game coverage of the 2012 Super Bowl to Livestream, where the newspaper/website maintains a channel devoted to local sports.
|Bond Cellular Transmitter||Cube-150 HD-SDI Encoder||Cube-250 HDMI Encoder||Cube-350 HD-SDI Decoder|
|Inputs||N/A||1x BNC for HD/SD-SDI; 1x 3.5mm line or mic audio||1x HDMI||N/A|
|Outputs||N/A||N/A||N/A||1x BNC for HD/SD-SDI|
|Interfaces||1x USB 2.0 Mini B (receives H.264 video from Cube); 5x USB 2.0 Type A (powered ports for USB modems)||1x USB 2.0 powered port; Wi-Fi / Dual-Band Wi-Fi: Internal 802.11n||1x USB 2.0 powered port; Wi-Fi: Internal 802.11n||1x USB 2.0 powered port; Wi-Fi / Dual-Band Wi-Fi: Internal 802.11n|
|Supported Resolutions||N/A||1080p/PsF @ 23.98, 24 Hz; 1080i @ 50, 59.94, 60 Hz; 720p @ 50, 59.94, 60 Hz; 480i @ 50, 59.94, 60 Hz||1080p @ 23.98, 24, 25 Hz; 1080i @ 50, 59.94, 60 Hz; 720p @ 50, 59.94, 60 Hz; 480p @ 50, 59.94, 60 Hz||1080i @ 50, 59.94, 60 Hz 1080p @ 23.98, 24, 25, 30 Hz 1080PsF @ 23.98, 24 Hz 720p @ 50, 59.94, 60 Hz 576i @ 50 Hz 480i @ 59.94, 60 Hz|
|Network||N/A||Ethernet: 10/100 Base-T; Network Protocols: TCP/IP, UDP, HTTP, DHCP, NTP, SSL, IGMP; Transport Protocols: RTP, RTSP, RTP over HTTP, MPEG-TS, HTTP Live Streaming; Point to Point (TCP or UDP), Multiple Unicast (UDP)||Ethernet: 10/100 Base-T; Network Protocols: TCP/IP, UDP, HTTP, DHCP, NTP, SSL, IGMP; Transport Protocols: RTP, RTSP, RTP over HTTP, MPEG-TS, HTTP Live Streaming; Point to Point (TCP or UDP), Multiple Unicast (UDP), or Multicast (UDP+IGMP)||Ethernet: 10/100 Base-T; Network Protocols: TCP/IP, UDP, HTTP, DHCP, NTP, SSL, IGMP; Transport Protocols: RTP, RTSP, RTP over HTTP, MPEG-TS, HTTP Live Streaming; Point to Point (TCP or UDP), Multiple Unicast (UDP)|
|Audio||N/A||Audio Compression: AAC-LC, MPEG layer 2; Embedded stereo||Audio Compression: AAC-LC, MPEG layer 2; Embedded stereo||Audio Compression: AAC-LC, MPEG layer 2; Embedded stereo|
|Video Codec||N/A||Compression: High-profile H.264 (L4.1); Bit Rate: 250 Kb/s to 10 Mb/s||Compression: High-profile H.264 (L4.1); Bit Rate: 250 Kb/s to 10 Mb/s||Compression: High-profile H.264 (L4.1); Bit Rate: 250 Kb/s to 10 Mb/s|
|Power Input||LEMO 2-pin, 6-28V||6-28 VDC||9-24 VDC||6-28 VDC|
|Looping Power Output||LEMO 2-pin (for Cube)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Power Consumption||Less than 1.0W (Bond only, without modems)||2.5-3.8W||Not specified by manufacturer||2.5-3.8W|
|Dimensions||2.5 x 3.5 x 0.9" (64 x 89 x 23 mm)||2.5 x 3.5 x 0.9" (64 x 89 x 23 mm)||2.5 x 3.5 x 0.9" (64 x 89 x 23 mm)||2.5 x 3.5 x 0.9" (64 x 89 x 23 mm)|
|Weight||Without Modems: 6 oz (170 g)||7 oz (190 g)||7 oz (190 g)||7 oz (190 g)|