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Connect Multiple Cameras to Computer for Webcasting

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Stan asks: Is it possible to use more than one video camera at the same time to broadcast live video to the web (Ustream)? I want to connect multiple firewire DV camcorders/cameras into a single firewire port on my Mac and was wondering what to use. How do you install around 5 webcams on one computer? is it possible? what equipments do I need? How do i set it up? Does this effect the quality of the picture coming from the cameras?

Answer: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down with the questions, cowboy. Your enthusiasm is leaking out of your ears and spilling all over the floor.

There are numerous ways to have multiple camera inputs to your computer and out to Ustream:

  • Software products like manycam, webcammax, camtwist etc. can bring in other sources. You can also use a video switcher, like the Tricaster or Datavideo’s 800 series, etc to do the job.
  • Some firewire disks have a second port so that you can daisy-chain camcorders together, but I have never seen it happen successfully.
  • A firewire hub can be used.  Some say it will not affect the quality unless you exceed the bandwidth of the hub or the interface – which means your computer is going to go on fire if it does? The original firewire bandwidth is 400 Mbps, and a standard DV stream is 25, so you could put 16 DV cameras on one bus. Now there’s “Firewire 800″ which could handle 32 DV cameras. Provided the computer behind it is up to the task, of course.

Keep in mind that there are a few things you need to be aware of when going the firewire route -

  1. Apple only supports one (1) DV Cameras/DV Devices, regardless of how many FW Controllers you have. Windows supports up to two DV cameras – but how reliable that is I’m not sure due to the design of the AVC/FCP FW protocol used to control DV devices.
  2. The number of FW ports on a Mac or FireWire card or FireWire Hub has nothing to do with usable bandwidth. It’s the number of FireWire OHCI Controllers that control how much bandwidth is available. Except for some models of the G4 XServers (which had/has two separate FW OHCI Controllers one at 400 and one at 800), all Macs ship with one FW OHCI controllers. The Apple Technical Specs for each computer indicate how many FW Controllers they have.
  3. I have not seen any multi FW OHCI Controllers on a single PCI Cards. To add more FW Bandwidth, you add more PCI Cards which each have an OHCI FW.

So what are your options and how could it work?

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One Comment »

  • Glen Liljeberg said:

    Wirecast is another option for multiple firewire camera support and directly integrates with ustream.

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