Kit Clinic: upgrading my cameras for live streaming

Live streaming

Blue studio set
Streaming ready: a vision mixer simplifies multi-camera broadcasting
At the moment we use webcams for live streaming our events and Hangouts. These work quite well but I’m looking to improve image quality and maybe set up so we can move to multiple cameras. What would be a good upgrade from our Logitech C920 webcams?

The Logitech C920 is a very popular webcam for live streaming, and for good reason. It is very easy to use, and produces a very decent image for the price. Of course, a dedicated video camera will do a better job. But you may have to spend a fair bit more to improve on the C920.

A standalone video camera will give much more control. Even the most basic models come with a powered zoom lens, and typically an infra-red remote control. Some can even be controlled over WiFi from a tablet or smartphone.

This immediately puts them ahead of a webcam, because it lets you focus in on the subject and even change the composition of a shot during a live event. A couple of cameras, such as this from Canon, even have the option of pairing them with a motorised Pan and Tilt table, which gives even more control. A couple of these cameras could give something that has the type of flexibility once reserved for very expensive TV studios.

Again, all but the most budget camcorders now support full HD video recording, usually using the AVCHD video format, and they will have a built in stereo, or even a surround sound, mic. But more on audio later. Depending on the model you go for, you will also have control over the exposure, either through scenes — on the more basic consumer camcorders — or full manual controls on the semi-pro models.

For the maximum flexibility, look for a camcorder with fully manual modes and ideally separate controls for the iris (aperture), focus and zoom. A manual focus option is really useful, especially if you ever feature product close ups in your webcasts. For livestreams, though, don’t worry about sophisticated image stabilisation, as it’s likely you’ll always use a tripod. Look instead for a camcorder with WiFi or an included remote control.

Next: Picture in, HDMI out