Cerevo LiveShell Review

Over the past 3 days I have been using the Cerevo LiveShell in real world scenarios testing reliability  and how the unit performs in bandwidth challenged connections. For the purpose of the review I utilized at Cannon Vixia HF G10 camera, and a Lower end Sony Camera all using HDMI as the video source.  I used a Verizon Mifi in both LTE/3G modes, wired ethernet and cable based Wifi in the tests. In all use cases I streamed in the highest resolution the device was capable of 724×528.

When I had sufficient bandwidth the Cerevo LiveShell performed well, the highest stream rate that I observed was just north of 800kbps and 30 frames per second. In the video below the unit was streaming at 650kbps between 24 and 29 frames per second. I opted to use the mic on the camera which in a professional situation will not work.  I will be using this device in a situations which will require the audio input wired to a high quality master audio source that I can monitor and have volume control over.

Controlling the device/stream via their mobile phone interface was easy and intuitive, their software was smart enough to know when I was controlling with my phone or using the website interface. In this trial I was using a standard ustream account, luckily the software allows for configuration to your own Flash Media Server but it is not as interactive. The integration with ustream.tv is pretty compelling as you can adjust the stream as needed based on your bandwidth availability. The team at Cerevo have worked hard to make sure you can manipulate stream settings and a variety of other settings.

One very cool feature is how they help you enter wifi data I was able to update the devices ssid using my cell phone . You enter the ssid and password on their website, and then you hook a provided audio cable between your cell phone or computer and the mic-in port on the LiveShell and then literally sync the new wireless connection data to the device they send audio tones to program the LiveShell.

Anytime you are bandwidth challenged streaming is going to be an issue and you have two choices lower the resolution and lower the frame rate. The same is the case with this device. If a crew where going to rely on this unit to stream a major event where they did not have a ethernet connection, they would need to spend some time testing to determine what is the best configuration.

For those that have a dedicated connection connecting the unit to the wired ethernet is the best solution. As to battery life for the LiveShell in my test I used three energizer AA batteries and got 1.5 hours of live streaming out of them. The manufacture makes some battery recommendations, my plan is to get some 5vdc battery packs to get extended stream time. They claim using the recommended rechargeable batteries that they can get three hours of live streaming out of 3 AA batteries.

I see a number of usage cases primarily streaming remote events, or using it part as a mobile studio where you want to reduce your pack-out and not carry an extra streaming computer. The use cases are unlimited and for the purchase price of $300.00 I will get my moneys worth.

The only thing I worry about, is if the Cerevo website/service gets discontinued you will have to manually configure this device by hand and that could end up being more trouble than it’s worth. Check out a stream done from my backyard using only a Mifi, LiveShell and my Cannon Camera. Apologize for audio quality we where using the camera mic and its pretty noisy.

 

Amazon Cloud Front – Flash Media Server Review

For content creators like me that have 3-4 live shows a week, there have been few affordable live streaming options. While there are literally hundreds of companies in the live streaming business, their pricing plans are designed to support their significant capital costs in running those services. Generally the pricing, terms, caps and limitations they set in their offerings are a barrier to entry for most small content creators.

Earlier this week when Amazon announced a new service, Live Streaming using Amazon CloudFront and Adobe Flash Media Server. I immediately jumped on the opportunity to see how well it would work and how the pricing would flush out.

Here is how the pricing breaks down, you incur a re-occurring $5.00 a month charge for the right to use Flash Media Center Enterprise. If you are going to have less than 1000 people watching the stream you can get away with the default single large EC2 instance which cost you .44 cents an hour, if you are expecting more people you simply invoke a larger instance that can handle 10,000 or a 100,000 viewers, while the per hour cost goes up, it is not that outrageous when you’re doing a short events. Bandwidth is charged at .10gb inbound and .15gb outbound.

The service took me about an hour to setup the first time, largely because I had no clue what I was doing but the instruction page was pretty decent minus figuring out the DNS issues. But within 60 minutes I had my stream up and running. Now that I have it pre-configured launching is simple 1-2 minutes, although a little planning is in order because it takes about 15 minutes from the time you initiate the server instance until it is ready to stream.

For my first real test, I changed all embeds on the variety of sites where my stream is available. I then brought the service online 30 minutes prior to show time, and streamed the live show followed by 8 hours or replay. All told the service was running for about 10 hours. Feedback from the audience via my own chat server was positive and everyone was happy with the stream quality.

Looking at the logs, we had nearly 500 people watch the stream over the 10 hour period for a variety of times.

With any streaming event you just really have no way of knowing on other services how much bandwidth your really moving so I was curious to see the charges for a single show. The total server and bandwidth charges from Amazon, was less than $10.00 for a single event. Perfectly reasonable for a single event where my message, branding and advertising was front and center! As you know Justin,  Ustream and Livestream have become very aggressive in their often non-related advertising, and media player branding presence. I now have a dedicated sever hosting my stream and the quality was exactly the level that I determined.

Some will say, well I use Ustream because they have a community which will build awareness, Ustream as a company could care less about tech as is apparent from their home page try finding tech content via a tech category, I will give you a hint there isn’t one.

While I love what Ustream does and while some of their features are great, the price to remove the advertising and branding via their pay service is very expensive. I will likely still use them as a secondary streaming point until they start to do some revenue sharing otherwise I cannot see them being our primary streaming source for live events. I will probably use their service for replays of my show when it is not as critical that our message and branding be at the forefront.

Here is where this streaming service by Amazon is going to kill other streaming business. Commercial Streaming providers make you choose a plan, and then they have viewer and bandwidth caps. If you bust the viewer limit or bandwidth cap you have to upgrade your plan which your are generally locked into for a year. Different events have different stream requirements. With this service i configure on a per show basis and pay as I go.

That being said, every year I hold the Podcast Awards Ceremony virtually, we will have 5000 people that show up to watch that single event. For events like the Podcast Awards, I can set the server size or clone more servers on the fly at Amazon to handle 10,000 or a 100k viewers for the event, I can then stream the event for 2 hours and when I am finished I can shut down the stream/service and incur no other costs for a whole year.

It boils down to this. I use this service on a demand basis as I need it. I am no longer locked into some companies 12 month contract very few people have the need to do 24/7 live streaming. For those that do the price is still pretty good considering what the service is capable of from a large server instance.

In my humble opinion Amazon CloudFront and Adobe Flash Media Server service is something I have been waiting on for a very long time.