This young company brings multi-camera production to iOS devices
By Randi Altman
At NAB 2015, I got to see first hand what the Switcher Studio app was capable of. During the show, my mornings were spent at the iOgrapher booth interviewing product makers and post pros about news, technology and trends. In years past, I had just one iPad in an iOgrapher rig recording a two-shot for my interviews. This year, thanks to Switcher Studio and team, I was able to record multiple camera set-ups (here’s an example). I was so impressed with the product and the young team behind it that I wanted to know more, so I reached out to Nick Mattingly, the CEO and co-founder of Switcher Studio (@switcherstudio).
Mattingly is an eight-year industry veteran who prior to co-founding Switcher Studio was partner/owner at a digital media agency called Arcas Digital. His primary role was web/application development. “My business partner, Dan Petrik (who also co-founded Switcher Studio), ran the production side of things and did video consulting. Together we helped a number of media companies and stations get setup to do live video. We had clients that we’re spending $10,000-plus to get set up to do their own live video broadcasts. Sometimes they would even hire someone just to manage the equipment and productions because the set-ups were so complex and costly.” It was that cost and complexity that led them to create Switcher Studio.
What does Switcher Studio do, and when did you create the product?
Switcher Studio is a mobile video app that makes multi-camera video production easier and more affordable. With Switcher Studio you can sync up to four iPhones and/or iPads to record and stream live video. You can also insert photos and graphic overlays and manage multi-view effects.
Typically broadcasting a multi-camera production requires a significant upfront investment. The set-up alone is a time-consuming process and a complicated mess with cameras, cables, capture cards, computers and specialized video mixing and encoding software or hardware. When you add it all up, a traditional multi-camera setup is going to run $5,000 to $10,000 and can easily be more depending on your needs.
After years of running these types of multi-camera productions and providing consulting services for others wanting to create their own online content, we started looking for a better solution. When we couldn’t find one, we brought together a team of programmers, engineers and broadcast gurus and started working on a more convenient and affordable solution for video production. Switcher Studio is the result of this work and was launched in the fall of 2014.
With Switcher Studio, almost all of the extra hardware requirements have been eliminated for creating dynamic multi-camera video. This allows content creators to focus on capturing their story rather than time consuming set up. It also allows users to capture professional video for events they wouldn’t otherwise cover.
All you need to get started is a single iPhone or iPad. This primary device acts as a full-featured video switcher. With it, you can use the built-in camera on your device, add full-screen images and graphics, or insert pre-built image overlays, lower-thirds and corner bugs. In addition, you can use our desktop screen-sharing app, Switcher Cast, to bring your computer in as a source and trigger multi-view effects to show multiple sources simultaneously. Every cut and edit that you make gets saved in realtime and can be broadcast online to any service that uses standard video streaming protocols like YouTube, Ustream, Twitch and others. You can even remotely manage your streaming channels with our online dashboard.
If you want to add another camera you just connect the device to the same Wi-Fi network and launch the app (Switcher Studio currently allows up to three additional inputs). From there you just start switching between sources and when the event is done you have a finished product.
Is it only for streaming?
Switcher Studio was originally built to make live video streaming easier and more affordable. Since launch, there has been great interest in using Switcher Studio to create multi-camera productions for video-on-demand playback. By default the final mixed live output is saved to the primary switching device with every cut, transition and graphic recorded, so you always have a local recording of the production. We have also introduced a new feature to allow broadcasters the option of recording on all connected cameras so you can edit full quality video in post production if needed.
Can you talk about the technology?
All devices communicate over a local Wi-Fi network. This gives us the flexibility to set up camera angles wirelessly and capture perspectives that have been difficult to manage or sometimes even impossible to get in the past. Because of this, you can seamlessly transition between shots no matter where they are positioned.
If you are producing on-demand content, you don’t have to be connected to the Internet, just use your router or even a mobile hotspot as a hub for communication between the devices. When you’re ready to go live, just make sure the router is connected to the Internet and you can start streaming. The great thing about this approach is that you can always create a bigger network or even use additional antennas and access points to increase the distance between cameras.
How often are you updating the software?
Constantly. By subscribing to Switcher Studio you can access the main mixing interface on one iOS device and connect up to three additional iOS devices as cameras. You also get every update and new feature as they become available, as well as access to our desktop screen sharing app and cloud services. If you are out in the field for a production and need some help you could literally grab anyone with an iPhone, get them to install the free seven-day trial version of the app and bring it in as a camera.
What’s the learning curve like?
When it comes to multi-camera productions, Switcher Studio is intuitive and easy to use. We also have an expansive knowledge base and dedicated support team to help if you have any questions getting set up. Most of our users start their first production the same day they get the app. It’s just crazy to think that we used to spend hours setting up for a three or four camera production and now we can be up and running in just a few minutes.
If you are going to stream live video there is a little more of a learning curve. Streaming live video is a bit of a monster by its very nature. There are so many elements outside of the production that can impact the quality and delivery of your video, whether it’s related to bandwidth, networking conditions or your streaming destination or endpoint. In addition you have to have an understanding of how to adjust your resolution and bit-rate depending on available upload speed.
Switcher Studio is open and works with most RTMP compatible platforms, including YouTube, Ustream, Bambuser, Concert Window and Wowza servers to name a few. We also have tools that help streamline the process of linking Switcher with these services through our online dashboard and an integrated speed test that can check your upload speed and auto assign values for many of these settings.
How is the product being used?
We have had journalists broadcast live video using the 4G LTE connection from their phone. We even did a live video stream of a concert shortly after we first launched where the artist grabbed my phone and started shooting video of himself and the crowd from the stage. He handed my phone back without skipping a beat. We were able to stream that moment live — I don’t know if that’s ever been done before.