Posted on Thursday, December 31, 2020
Recently I was asked to circle back around and take another look at the LiveU Solo. Based on my last experience with the LiveU Solo, I was more than happy to revisit, and was not disappointed at all. Getting back together with the LiveU Solo was like a visit from a good friend—solid, reliable, and there when you need them. LiveU Solos are being used everywhere, including college athletic departments, traditional broadcasters, and production units that need to put out a high quality live image without taking out a second mortgage.
There is a lot to be said about getting high performance without the high price tag. But before I can get into some of the particulars, we need to take a step back and get a handle on some of the technology that makes the LiveU Solo such an interesting product.
Making the Connection(s) Everyone (I hope) knows if you get to the most basic level of any live field production you have to start at the camera, connect somehow and get your signal back to the station or internet. You could rely on a mobile hotspot or try to shoot live on your phone, but do you really want that crucial one time shot subjected to a potential drop at the worst possible time?
The rub is that it will happen to you because it’s live and live productions have more gremlins than the movie with the same name. So how do we get the camera signal home? Well some of you might have access to a SNG truck or a microwave hop. Those are cool choices, but they can be expensive and not always readily available. My choice right now is the LiveU Solo with bonded cellular. So what is it? How does LiveU utilize a bonded cellular connection and why does it matter?
The LiveU Solo uses cellular bonding technology (LRT) that adds multiple cellular networks together to create redundancy and reliability to the video encoding. LRT technology expects cellular bandwidth fluctuation and corrects it in real-time, so the stream will maintain HD quality your audience knows and loves. LRT is optimal for productions that are live streaming from lots of different locations. With cellular bonding, if you are streaming you don’t have to worry about cell service holding up in certain locations with questionable connectivity. Now, let's get technical.
You have to have reliable bandwidth. You never want to rely on just one connection. Congestion, network fluctuations, or not enough bandwidth can all spell disaster for your live shot. LiveU provides network stability by bonding together multiple networks of varying bandwidths to create one single, reliable connection to transmit your live video content.
Next, you need to have an adaptive bitrate. By having a dynamically adapting video bitrate, LiveU Solo provides a high quality video that is transmitted even when mobile streaming. As the bandwidth changes, LiveU LRT informs the encoder and the technology adjusts to maintain a robust and consistent stream. In other words—getting your beautiful shot back to the station, looking like it is supposed to look.
Lastly, let’s talk about packet organization. Packet ordering is a requirement with connection bonding. LRT constantly communicates to the LiveU Solo in order to sequence the packets, recognize missing data or missing packets, then resending the missing packets.
Down to Business I was fortunate enough to get our review unit from Broadfield Distributors. They are absolutely great at getting just about anything you would need for production. The LiveU Solo is a nice compact unit that you can clip to your belt like an oversized iPhone if you are handheld, or do like I did and just loop it over the tripod for interview segments.
The outer cover is really quite sturdy and is quite “Portabrace esque” Well thought out and dare I say practical. Also the LiveU Solo weighs almost nothing. Honestly, everything else is very straight forward. The ports are all labeled (Image 7)and I had the LiveU Solo up and running in minutes. Yes, minutes.
The LiveU Solo will run about three hours on a full charge, but you always have the option of going to AC.(Image 4) For my review I used two modems(Image 5)along with the handy right handed USB mini cables which came with my unit from Broadfield. For the modems, (you do need to set up your own usage plan, of which there are plenty to choose from. I also really liked that the unit had a 3.5mm headphone jack (old school) and a slot for a micro SD card.
The display menu on the unit gave me plenty of quick info without the overload. Connectivity in the form of bitrate, battery life, and where I was connecting to.
The next step would be to get onto the LiveU Portal. You might decide to go there first. It has a ton of good information you want to review before you even get into the set up. In my opinion, it is always about your own preference as to where you want to start. When I logged on to the LiveU Portal the first thing I wanted to do was to look at how to get things going. The portal gave me plenty of options such as setting destination, bitrate and frame rates. I have to admit that I, like a lot of other users, gravitated to Facebook and Youtube not realizing (or forgetting) that there are lots of other potential streaming platforms listed on the LiveU Portal. The other interesting thing I learned is that it took me 24 hours to activate a Youtube Live feed. Not upload something, but a live feed. This is good to know if you have a client that suddenly wants to stream something in a hurry. That never happens, right?
Conclusions As they like to say on Wall Street I would issue a strong “buy” rating. Based on my previous experience and now after revisiting the LiveU Solo, it would be a no brainer to add it to your equipment inventory. You do have to make sure you understand how to best use the unit and the additional costs of whatever cellular plan you chose. Just make sure you add that into your cost analysis. In my opinion, it is still going to be a very affordable and reliable way to get your live feed to wherever you need it to go.
But don’t just take my word on it. Let’s wrap up with some thoughts from Jim Bask, Marketing Director for Broadfield said, “One of the biggest challenges this year was keeping up with the popularity of the LiveU Solo! The pandemic created an immediate need for broadcasters, churches and schools all over the Country to live stream. They needed an encoder that’s upgradeable with cellular bonding using SoloConnect modems and services. Our LiveU Solo with Solo Connect Starter Kits are still a top seller.” Bask concludes: “We expect LiveU Solo to be in demand for a long time.”
Mark J. Foley, MBA BA is an award-winning producer and director and the Technology Editor for ProductionHUB.com. He is on a mission to provide the best in new equipment reviews, along with exclusive analysis and interviews with the best, the brightest and most creative minds in the entertainment and production business. Have a suggestion for a review? Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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