Sling Media’s first foray into its video-production business, the SlingStudio, is really cool; not cool in an “OMG that’s epic!” way, but in a “sounds really nice if you livestream on a budget” sense. It’s a reasonably low-cost and portable ecosystem for livestreaming multicam video wirelessly, complete with live switching and simultaneous recording for editing later. In other words, you can combine and livestream 10 phone videos in real time to make it look like you’ve got better gear.
The box is essentially a specialized wireless access point (and looks like one) which manages a private, video-optimized network that uses the Wi-Fi transmitters in devices like phones and can connect wirelessly to up to 10 devices as far as 300-400 feet (90-120 meters) away. It uses a built-in dual-band Wi-Fi transmitter to stream from the box over the internet, initially to Facebook Live and YouTube. You can also connect one camera physically to its HDMI port.
The special sauce is Sling’s compression, which lets it wirelessly transfer up to 30 megabits per second of 1080p video from the cameras to the SlingStudio and then sends an 8Mbps stream out over the internet. The app for iOS and Android compresses and transmits the video; to wirelessly connect cameras and camcorders you need the extra-cost CameraLink, which mounts in the shoe and receives the video via the HDMI port. It can record both the multicam and individual video streams to an SD card in the box or connect a USB-C drive; the extra-cost USB-C expander will let you record to a couple of USB 3.0 drives or connect to an Ethernet network.
One of the best tricks, though, is that it stores the mixed as well as raw video assets as a project file (probably MXF), which you can directly import into Premiere.
The SlingStudio hub measures a comparatively tiny 7.8 by 5.6 by 3.5 inches (200 by 142 by 90 mm) and weighs only 1.4 lbs (649 g). That’s because the console controls have been offloaded to an iPad app, which lets you monitor 4 video sources and switch among 10, as well as a single audio line-in source.
That small size also reflects the lack of a battery — in its base configuration, the SlingStudio needs to be plugged in. The optional battery base runs for about 3 hours, which means you might need several of those, depending on the event. The CameraLink has an internal battery which is rated to last about 2 hours.
You can see how the cost can add up quickly, but you’re paying for convenience, flexibility and ease of use. It’s also completely firmware upgradable, so it won’t obsolesce too quickly. Plus, unless it tanks, I expect more accessories. And it would be neat if you could form a Mesh with multiple devices to cover more area. For now, the console is iPad-only as well. One big drawback is the inability to work with some devices — such as action cameras — they have to be directly connected since there’s no way to attach a CameraLink (and you wouldn’t want to).
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