Livestream, one of the leading video companies enabling live web broadcasts, is taking a big leap today into the hardware business by offering its own video production switcher. Years ago, creating a high quality live show outside the studio required an expensive TV production truck. Major network events, like the conventions and sporting events still need a truck or several. But, most webcasts don’t support that level of investment. A typical webcast uses just one camera, which can be pretty visually boring . Livestream is looking to give live event producers who use its platform a more cost effective option with its new multi-camera studio-in-a-box. It may also give viewers of web videos a more professional-looking, engaging show.
The Livestream Studio HD500 (nice to start with a high number like 500?) is not for everyone. The new hardware, announced this morning, costs $8,500 and starts shipping next month. The product features 5 live video inputs and 5 outputs in a variety of formats from SD to HD. It also features audio mixing, graphic overlays, and a digital video recorder and player. In one-click, it can also stream to Livestream’s platform.
Max Haot, CEO and Co-founder of Livestream, says the move to become a hardware seller fits the company’s mission “to make it easier and more affordable for producers and event owners to produce high quality HD multi-camera live streams.”
Livestream appears to be taking aim at the Tricaster, made by Newtek, one of the current major studio-in-a-box providers for webcasting. (TechCrunch uses two of them when we produce our Disrupt conference webcasts.) Newtek announced new models in April priced at $20,000 and $30,000. But just last month, Newtek announced its TriCaster 40, priced at just under $5,000. Newtek has been a player in the all-in-one production space for many years. It introduced the Video Toaster back in 1990 that ran on the Commodore Amiga computer. The technology has certainly come a long way.
TechCrunch hasn’t had a chance yet to test the HD500. It will be interesting to see how well Livestream, mostly known for its streaming infrastructure, can sell this hardware product.
This isn’t the first move Livestream has made into selling hardware. Earlier this year, they released the Livestream Broadcaster which enables single-camera HD productions to be webcast without a computer.
Livestream also says they will release a software version of the switcher in the first quarter of 2013. It will work with some Blackmagic video input cards and webcam, and let your PC or Mac become a broadcast quality switcher. Other companies already offer ways to turn your computer into a tv truck, such as BoinxTV. While computers have gotten much more reliable, there always the risk they will freeze up during a show.
That’s one of several reasons why major broadcasters are not likely to abandon their million dollar production trucks anytime soon. But, these new hardware and software products do go a long way toward making webcasts look like bigger budget shows.
You can view Max Haot’s interview last year on our Founder Stories show here.
Disclaimer: TechCrunch’s streaming partner on our live events is Ustream, a competitor of Livestream. We also partner with Newtek and use their Tricaster.