Our digital production class at Talawanda High School was started four years ago as an idea that our school needed just a couple of student to do a short daily news video for the student body.
We started with a small Panasonic camera in a storage closet, recorded to an SD card, then edited in a generic iMovie format for release that day. Five students took the class that first semester, and we had no idea where we would go from there, or how we could improve our production. Since then, we have grown to a class of over 20 students each semester that produce over 160 shows a year, with over 100 special content videos, that include news reports, interviews, and all sorts of other community relation and school outreach projects. When we acquired more equipment and gradually learned more about what we could do, we started to ask ourselves, why not Livestream?
As we started to explore the concept of live-streaming sporting events and school functions, we discovered several limitations that we needed to find fixes for. Number one for us was mobility of our camera crews. Because of our limited budget, we had relatively few options when it came to placement of cameras. Our studio equipment is stored in a rolling case that we move to wherever we need it, and the cameras we use have component output connected to our Tricaster 40. The second issue we had was quality of video when we started to expand. The longer cables we used with the cameras we had available caused signal degradation that we couldn’t resolve on our current budget. When we switched shots, the difference in video quality was so noticeable that it rendered our livestreams unwatchable. We needed something that could move quickly, without cables, over a great distance - but we couldn’t spend the type of money for a mobile video system, nor did we really have enough experience to build one ourselves.
This is where the Connex Mini came in. As we searched for a solution to our problem, the Connex Mini became number one on the list for affordability and ease of use. Our school district generously agreed to purchase one, and it has elevated our production to a whole new level. The first time we used it was for a home basketball game, and we were very pleased with the video that was sent back to us. Stationed at the baseline on the court, we were able to collect close ups that were impossible with our modest set up before. The quality of video was indistinguishable between our wired cameras and the feed from the Connex Mini. From there, we moved onto Lacrosse, Soccer, and Football games with very few issues.
Our setup is very basic, and works like this - our Tricaster 40 has video inputs for component cables, and that is primarily what we use as our video input. A separate soundboard provides us all the sound control we need into the Tricaster. The Connex mini will send an HD signal to the receiver, which we then feed into a HD converter, then out to the Tricaster with component cables. This might not be the best way to utilize the power of the Connex Mini, but for our small video production team, it works great. The camera we use is a Sony Vixia HF G20, hooked onto a small shoulder mount for mobility, which also helps us place the Connex Mini transmitter in a secure spot. This helped us because we found that the HDMI port needs to be very stable in order to get seamless video. In order to communicate with our camera people we have to use a simple single channel Porta Phone wireless headphone set. We use The Cube to livestream all our events, and the Tricaster allows us to connect to this service seamlessly with a stream ID we use to broadcast live to our page on the thecube.com.
Our crowning achievement with the Connex Mini was a livestream of our Graduation Ceremony in May at our local college’s basketball arena. We used a three camera setup, and the mobile cam worked very well for jumping all around the arena.
We had anchors, student interviews, pre-made videos, and live commentary leading up to the event. Using the wireless video system, and a wireless mic and receiver fed into our sound board, we conducted interviews with the graduating seniors as they lined up on the concourse to be led out into the arena, and filmed all over the arena during the graduation. We did some testing to see how far our system could reach, and were able to go well over 1,000 feet across the ceremony to the opposite side of our Tricaster and anchor desk, as well as about 400 feet and up a set of stairs to reach the concourse for our interviews.
Overall, I would recommend the Connex Mini for use by any school video production organization that needs great mobile video but can’t spend a lot of money on it. For us, it was a good introduction into the concept of mobile HD video because it was easy to use, we had a very basic understanding of the concept before our purchase, and we have a very modest video production setup in a smaller school. If you were ever curious about how to incorporate inexpensive mobile video into your productions, the Connex Mini is really a great option.