The Budget-Friendly Cinematic Live Streaming Kit (2020)
Do you dream in bokeh?
Is 24p your love language?
You lack the Hollywood budget?
Have no fear...
This is a list of everything I recommend to create a cinematic looking live production without breaking the bank.
In this list you'll find:
- Tripod & Fluid Head
- Preview Monitor
- Required Accessories
- Recommended Accessories
- Recommended Packages
But first, some expectations...
Not Your Father's Production
This package doesn't wear a fresh pressed suit and tie to a 9-to-5.
It rides a unicycle.
It brews its own kombucha in reclaimed oak barrels.
It joins pyramid schemes that build from the bottom up.
It wrote its thesis on why focus is a rule made to be broken.
This package belongs in the Criterion Collection!
Therefore, it's important to understand a few things.
What Makes Something 'Cinematic'?
The cinematic look is a sum of many parts.
Many will say a shallow depth of field and 24 fps is all it takes.
I would say there are more things involved:
Lighting can make or break the shot. Creating a cinematic look starts with the light. Working on your lighting will go a long way to achieving a look you want.
Camera movement creates a more dramatic and compelling product. Handhelds, dollies, sliders, and stabilizers keep things interesting. Don't expect putting all the cameras on tripods to get you cinematic results.
More dynamic range means more details in shadows and highlights, which gives you creative freedom to paint a more customized and creative look.
Composition helps tell a story and guide the viewer. Being able to (tastefully) get a variety of angles and framing can set your video apart.
What Are The Pros & Cons To This Kit?
- Switch/mix a maximum of 4 sources
- Re-sync, frame rate conversion, and format conversion for every input
- Can accept and output broadcast formats up to 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps
- Control settings like iris, white balance, gain, and recording on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras (in this kit) through the ATEM control software
- Record directly to USB 3.1 hard drives in MP4
- Send a single RTMP stream directly to a platform of your choice
- Multiviewer output for viewing all inputs, preview, program, recording info, and stream info on one monitor
- Camera & Lens
- Record up to 4096 x 2160 at 60 fps internally in high quality codecs (ProRes and Blackmagic RAW)
- Simultaneous output up to 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps via HDMI
- Windowed sensor mode gives you a 2x crop when recording in 1080p formats - get the equivalent of 2x optical zoom without changing lenses
- Control settings like iris, white balance, gain, and recording through the switcher's control software
- Add LUTs (custom color looks/styles) to the HDMI output while keeping the internal recording flat for post production
- Tripod and fluid head give the camera solid support and smooth pan/tilt movement for standard shots
- The right lenses help you achieve a shallower depth of field for a more creative and stylistic look
- Only one physical HDMI output - will not offer room for growth or a way to feed signals to local displays or recorders
- HDMI ports are more fragile and prone to potential issues compared to professional connectors like BNC/SDI
- Recording quality/bitrate will be the same as streaming quality/bitrate - no way to record higher quality/bitrates while streaming at lower bitrates
- Program audio can only be monitored through HDMI output or a computer connected through USB-C output
- Camera & Lens
- No motorized (servo) zoom - zooming can only be done by manually turning the zoom ring on the lens
- Camera-subject distance - this setup works best for distances less than 50', and 30' or less is ideal
- Battery life for the camera is very short - constant AC power to the camera or an external battery solution is recommended
Now, on to the list...
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Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
Image quality and features for the price are impossible to beat.
Output up to 1080p60 while recording in high quality codecs including ProRes and Blackmagic RAW.
Apply your own LUT to the HDMI output for creative control.
Outputs: HDMI (Type A - Full Size)
Recording Formats: Up to 4096 x 2160 at 60 fps
Output Formats: Up to 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps
My Favorite Feature: VersatilityView on Amazon
The great thing about Micro Four Thirds (4/3") sensors is that they strike a good balance of cost, image quality, and depth of field.
When you need a fairly standard shot without a super shallow depth of field, then an aperture like f/4.0 or f/5.6 usually works well without losing too much light sensitivity.
But, when you really want to throw the background out of focus for more creative shots, you can use lenses with apertures all the way to f/0.95 to get some wonderful results.
Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8
My favorite standard zoom for Micro Four Thirds.
Extremely sharp and great contrast, even at f/2.8.
Full Shot: 8'-24'
Medium Shot: 3'-10'
My Favorite Feature: Classic Olympus sharpness and contrastView on Amazon
Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8
A great telephoto zoom with built-in image stabilization.
Full Shot: 20'-60'
Medium Shot: 8'-25'
My Favorite Feature: Built-in image stabilization is nice for handheld useView on Amazon
SLR Magic 8mm f/4
A low budget wide angle with very little distortion.
Great for handheld, gimbals, or wide cover shots.
My Favorite Feature: Low distortionView on Amazon
SLR Magic 25mm T/0.95
You want bokeh?
You got it!
A great lens for creative handheld work.
Be aware - it is manual focus only and has no built-in stabilization (neither do the Blackmagic cameras), so it will require some practice and a steady hand to work well.
My Favorite Feature: Shallow depth of field for the priceView on Amazon
Voigtlander Nokton f/0.95 Lenses
These are great lenses for creative handheld work.
Be aware - they are manual focus only and have no built-in stabilization (neither do the Blackmagic cameras), so it will require some practice and a steady hand to work well.
- 10.5mm is equivalent to a 21mm f/1.9 on a full frame sensor
- 17.5mm is equivalent to a 35mm f/1.9 on a full frame sensor
- 25mm is equivalent to a 50mm f/1.9 on a full frame sensor
- 42.5mm is equivalent to an 85mm f/1.9 on a full frame sensor
My Favorite Feature: Build qualityView 10.5mm on Amazon View 17.5mm on Amazon View 25mm on Amazon View 42.5mm on Amazon
Other Lens Options
Here are some other lens options that can work well:
- Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Lens and a Viltrox EF-M2II EF to MFT Adapter
- Canon 50mm f/1.8 Lens and a Viltrox EF-M2II EF to MFT Adapter
- Canon 24-105mm f/4 Lens and a Viltrox EF-M2II EF to MFT Adapter
Tripod & Fluid Head
Manfrotto 755XB MDeVe
Solid support and good build quality that won't break the bank.
Maximum Height: 64.9"
Minimum Height: 16.4"
Folded Length: 25"
Weight: 5.25 lbs
Payload Capacity: 15.4 lbs
My Favorite Feature: PriceView on Amazon
I probably use this head more than any others with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras. It just works.
I love the quick release plate and overall consistency this head provides.
Base Mount: Flat Base with 3/8"-16 Mounting Hole
Camera Plate: RC2 Quick Release
Load Capacity: 8.8 lbs
My Favorite Feature: Standard RC2 quick release plates are super fastView on Amazon
Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro
I was not a big fan of the original ATEM Mini.
While it filled a niche, I think Blackmagic aimed too low on price and compromised important features like a multiviewer.
Blackmagic Design thankfully listened to customers and delivered BIG with the updated ATEM Mini Pro.
It still fills a niche, and while it's not a great fit for everything it is a solid option for those wanting a professional, low-cost solution.
Be aware, though - it only has one physical HDMI output.
If you use the only HDMI output for a preview or multiview monitor, you have no other video outputs available.
But considering it has 4 inputs, frame rate and format conversion on every input, built-in recording to USB-C drives, built-in RTMP streaming, and a multiviewer output, it all adds up to one wonderful package.
Inputs: 4x HDMI
Audio Inputs: 2x 3.5mm
Program Outputs: 1x HDMI and 1x USB-C (to computer or hard drive only)
Aux Outputs: N/A
Multiview Outputs: 1x (only on HDMI output)
Supported Formats: Broadcast formats up to 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps
My Favorite Feature: Built-in recording and streaming puts this in a previously under-served, low-budget market
*At the time of this update, the ATEM Mini Pro is still under pre-order and is also a very popular item. Don't be surprised if it takes a few weeks, or possibly even months, to receive one or find them in stock.View on Amazon View on B&H
A computer is not necessary for the main tasks like switching, encoding, and recording.
I recommend having a good computer that is always connected to the switcher running the control software. That way you can adjust settings, administrate the live stream, and get more advanced features like adding graphics and setting up keys.
Since this part comes down mainly to personal preference and taste, I will include the computer I would choose.
Apple MacBook Air 13"
- Intel Core i3
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB SSD
If you have a director and camera operators, you need a reliable way for them to communicate.
In my experiences with many production intercom systems, Pro Intercom LLC has consistently provided the best bang for the buck systems I've used.
Their products are built very well while remaining quite affordable, and all of their systems are hardwired so you get the best quality and reliability for the lowest price possible.
They have many packages to choose from to fit various system sizes and budgets.
I recommend the econoCom systems with BP-1 belt packs for smaller budgets.View on ProAudio.com
Use it for a switcher preview, program, or multiviewer.
If you choose another monitor, be sure it accepts broadcast formats through HDMI (this info can be hard to find for many models). A lot of computer monitors will not accept all formats like 1080p23.98.
TCL 40 Inch 1080p TV
Input: HDMIView on Amazon
Important: In order to maintain the camera control features between the ATEM Mini Pro and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, you must use a direct HDMI to HDMI connection with a cable that has the CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) protocol. All the HDMI cables listed below have CEC.
Also Important: If you use HDMI fiber cables, be aware that fiber is inherently fragile. If the cable will not be permanently installed in conduit, then I highly recommend using armored, kevlar, or tactical fiber cables made for more rigorous use.
AmazonBasics Snagless Cat-6 Ethernet Cable (5')
Connect switcher to computer, network, or Internet.View on Amazon
RUIPRO Fiber Optic HDMI Cable (50')
Connect any camera to switcher (further than 15' from switcher).
Includes CEC - maintains camera control feature.
One cable required for every camera.View on Amazon
Samsung T5 500GB SSD
For recording from the switcher's USB-C output.
Interface: USB 3.1 (USB-C to USB-C cable included)View on Amazon
SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB SDXC
For recording in camera.View on Amazon
Core SWX Powerbase Edge for Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras
Battery base for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras gives you up to 4 hours runtime.View on Amazon
Canon LP-E6N Camera Battery
Internal battery for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras gives you around 30 minutes runtime.View on Amazon
If you have any questions or suggestions, don't hesitate to send me a message.