Hangouts On Air for broadcast: producing multi-camera shows

Live broadcasting

Multicam Hangout
Covering the angles: Hangouts on Air can work with multiple cameras. Picture: Zoltán Mészáros


In the second of our series on Hangouts on Air for broadcast, we look at setting up a multi-camera shoot within the Hangout itself.

Google’s Hangout video chat service is one of the more flexible online conferencing services. And, combined with YouTube streaming and playback – as a Hangout on Air – it offers a cost-effective way to broadcast live events over the internet.

The basic Hangout service supports 10 simultaneous participants, or seats. This limit carries over to Hangouts on Air, but the potential audience can be unlimited, as anyone can view or replay the YouTube livestream and video. This makes it a potential rival to dedicated, paid-for streaming services.

And Hangouts on Air also contain a range of features that add to their usefulness in a broadcast environment.

These include support for basic graphics, such as title cards and lower thirds, and even trailers. Some of these features are available directly in Hangouts on Air, as we showed in our previous feature in this series. Some, such as Pro Studio, are plug-ins that the Hangout user needs to install in their web browser.

But the controls in Hangouts on Air also let the host, or director control which speaker’s video and sound is broadcast, and whether viewers see a “film strip” with all participants’ images, or just the main speaker’s video. Google can do this automatically, but controlling the image you want broadcast is simply a question of clicking on the film strip with the mouse.

This means that the Hangout on Air environment can be used to emulate the basic functions of a vision mixer, without the need for any external hardware or software.

By tapping into multiple camera angles, producers can put together a visually more engaging programme than is possible with a single camera – especially for programmes with multiple guests, or which include other visual elements, such as a product demonstration.