I get to use some pretty cool tools in the course of my work and interests. This weekend, I had some extra time, so I decided to figure out how to stream a multicamera show to YouTube Live.
To start with, I had a multicamera studio, the switcher for which is a Tricaster 850, which includes built-in the ability to stream live to services like Ustream and Akamai. The catch is that by now, many of the presets in the Tricaster are outdated, as streaming services modify their own settings, or close up shop.
In the case of YouTube, they changed the way they took in streaming content with the launch of YouTube Live a year or two ago. After a slow roll-out, pretty much any channel can stream live, once you jump through a couple authorization hoops. In terms of the Tricaster’s streaming options, this means the existing preset for YouTube is no longer relevant. Trying to load that preset pulls up a YouTube interface that is completely non-functional.
NewTek, the makers of the Tricaster products, came up with an alternate workflow, laid out in a PDF. It involves a great deal more legwork than Tricaster’s promise of “load a profile and go,” and there are some caveats, but it can be done.
The short version of how it works is below. Read the PDF for the blow-by-blow. You will need to have jumped through YouTube’s account verification hoops — inputting a two digit code delivered by text message, for one — prior to doing this.
- Copy an existing Tricaster preset and alter one particular parameter. This is your new YouTube Live preset.
- In the YouTube interface, create a live event. Tell it you’re using a custom encoder for a 720p stream, which generates a series of parameters in an XML file you download. Note that Tricaster’s maximum streaming resolution is 720p. More on this later.
- In Tricaster, load first the YouTube Live preset you made, then the XML file. Start streaming from the Tricaster; choose a looping motion graphic, or a still image with sound to serve as a test image so you can be sure video’s playing out correctly.
- Over on YouTube, once the Tricaster begins streaming, the interface should include a box describing the stream’s resolution and health, ideally “GOOD” in green letters.
- At this point, you’d want to use the Preview window in the YouTube interface to check whether your stream’s getting to YouTube, right? Well, in my experiments to date, the preview window hung on the spinning circle without showing any video.
- Click the button in YouTube to preview the stream, and then start the stream. If you have a test viewing window handy, you should see the stream start up, playing whatever you set up in the Tricaster as your test image.
- Congratulations! You are streaming at 720p to YouTube Live from the Tricaster!
There are some wrinkles to this, of course. As noted above, YouTube’s preview window has not worked in my attempts to date. The only way I could tell if the stream was live was to jump all the way to a live stream playing out to the YouTube channel. It wasn’t a public stream at the time, so maybe it’s possible to start with a private event, and then make it public once you’ve confirmed all is well.
The encoder settings downloaded from YouTube seem to be event-specific, generated when you schedule the live event in the YouTube interface. Every time you start an event, you have to apply those particular encoder settings within Tricaster. So conceivably you can schedule events in batches, and save the XML files for later use.
Tricaster’s 720p streaming limit is kind of a bummer if you’re otherwise working with 1080p sources and output and have bandwidth to spare. NewTek’s PDF suggests the possibility of using an external encoder as a primary device to send YouTube a 1080p stream via the Flash Media Live Encoder software, with the Tricaster’s own 720p output as a secondary backup. I haven’t had the chance to try this out yet, but I have a theory at the moment about how to pull it off.
My next avenues of inquiry are trying out the 1080p primary encoder method, probably with the auxiliary output from the Tricaster 850, which is going to involve puzzling out an AJA capture card’s control panel, which I’ve found opaque to date.
Additionally, I want to see if a Tricaster 40 is also capable of getting to YouTube Live. My initial stab at that didn’t work out at all, but my experiment this weekend points to what I may have done wrong in not pushing past the ineffective preview window of the YouTube interface.
2014-12-09 Update! I bring news of streaming to YouTube Live from a Tricaster 40.