You won’t likely be putting it to use in your personal live-streams, but media companies will soon have access to a new tool that could greatly improve the video quality of the streams you watch on Facebook Live. It’s called the ClearCaster, the latest product from Wowza Media Systems, a company that makes a range of high-end streaming equipment and software used by the likes of Boeing, Macy’s, NASA, and Facebook, itself.
Wowza has been an early Facebook partner in the development of the Live API. In fact, the ClearCaster was built in tight collaboration with Facebook to ensure the most seamless experience. David Stubenvoll, Wowza’s CEO and co-founder, told Digital Trends that 80 percent of companies they surveyed, said
The ClearCaster is a rack-mounted unit that broadcasters can easily integrate into their existing setups. It will cost $6,495, which includes three years of service, so it is certainly not the type of tool that DIY home streamers are likely to pick up. The ClearCaster is designed for the likes of corporations, content publishers, event broadcasters, but professional bloggers, who earn a living through mediums like Facebook Live, could find it to be a worthwhile investment. (If you’re interested in more approachable ways to broadcast yourself, check out the Mevo or our short guide on how to use Facebook Live with your smartphone.)
Wowza believes its close integration of hardware and software gives the ClearCaster an edge.
Users can start and stop streams straight from the Facebook Live interface, but can also control the ClearCaster through a web app from any location. A talent view option, using any external monitor, allows on-air personalities to see what their viewers see, and a stream timer counts down to the exact moment that the stream goes live, helping to remove any dead space at the beginning of the broadcast.
Wowza will be demonstrating the ClearCaster this week at the International Broadcast Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam, but Wowza provided us with a sneak peek prior to the announcement. While the ClearCaster looks complicated, it’s actually easy to initiate a Facebook Live session. The ClearCaster handles the brunt of the work in the back end, including encoding. All the user needs to do is plug a few equipment into it: a laptop or desktop, a compatible camera (Wowza used a Blackmagic, but also had a Canon DSLR on hand), and a computer monitor to serve as a talent display. To maintain a strong connection, the ClearCaster requires a hardwire Ethernet connection. To start a session, you just need to log into the ClearCaster portal and begin. A countdown clock lets you know when to begin.
During the Facebook Live demo conducted over the ClearCaster, the stream was clear and strong, with no noticeable lags or drops. Granted, it was a controlled demo, but Wowza told us that the ClearCaster is designed to maintain the most robust connection, as broken streams are a major problem for successful
The ClearCaster needs to be used in a studio environment or a setup with strong bandwidth, so mobile productions are not possible. But Wowza told us the ClearCaster will be continuously upgraded, in line with Facebook updates, like for when 4K is supported. So, what isn’t possible right now, may not be an issue in the near future. Again, it’s not a consumer product, but it could help make professional
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