Theatre Setup - Cameras & XLR into vMix? Capture Cards?

Hey guys! I apologize in advance for the wall of text that I’m basically going to ask.

I’ll try to give some background for what we’re doing - I’m the assistant technical director for our upcoming production of She Kills Monsters in January. We were already planning on doing live streaming at some point for our productions this year. Our school would like us to keep things safe and isolated as we are still in between virtual and hybrid depending on the week. As such, we are doing a “virtually adapted” production of the script (but are planning on buying cameras and whatnot so we can transition later in the year).

Our director has hired an animator to create scenes for some of the “narrated voice overs” and setting animations to help set the scene for the show. The voice over would be live by an actor on screen, separate from the video. (There are regularly characters in their own boxes on the screen that appear in one scene and not in the next, and the video panels on the “screen” account for that). I am certain latency will absolutely kill this if we tried to do it over Zoom or another video conferencing program - it would just be awful. So, I am thinking we will build small sound stages for our actors - where they would be in a “room” where the backdrop is a painted drop, and each sound stage will just be like 10-15ft apart. There would be 5 or 6 of them and then our actors could remain unasked and talk into microphones to maintain audio quality. If we use the cameras we will later use for live streaming as their “webcams,” I think this setup will work perfectly and give us far more control over what is streamed, latency, audio and video issues, lighting, costuming, etc.

My problems start there - although I have a decent amount of knowledge regarding networking, hardware, etc. I know very little about actual camera/AV/live streaming equipment. My current plan is to buy 5 or 6 cameras - because of our budget they would only be giving us HDMI, no SDI, but that’s not really an issue imo because I don’t think we’ll ever be trying to stream more than 1080p60 (and more than likely 720p60). We would mix in audio from our audio mixer. Actually connecting everything is where I get a little lost. It was recommended to me that I build two computers. One would have a semi-decent GPU, CPU, etc (PCIe lanes are important) and would have multiple HDMI capture cards to capture all our video feeds individually. Then I would also have some sort of XLR capture card to get the audio from our mixing board to the PC and link them to different video feeds and try to match the delays (I’m not sure if the cameras at different places in the room would affect latency for each actor so we’d need to sync each audio feed separately?) I’m just guessing about all of these parts, I’m not sure, that’s where I need guidance.
Is there some sort of external video “switch” I can use to pass all the video feeds into a PC and keep them separate so I can still use them all individually? I can’t use a hardware switcher since it only gives a main program out, and I need to be able to adjust which cameras (or already recorded video files for animation playback) are in each scene. Maybe I do just need to buy a lot of PCIe capture cards? Can I take that all into a program like vMix and write cues/scenes where different cameras are placed in different locations on screen? And then whatever final program feed I want to output once sound is added would be ported over HDMI out to HDMI in? Into another PC that would actually be streaming the show (so perhaps could output program feed as NDI into the streaming PC) in order to distribute the mixing and streaming workloads.

I’d like to think I’m at least guessing in the right direction… Please help if you can. I’m very new to this world and just trying to figure out how to put our production together. Thanks!

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So if you want to use a program like VMix, Wire Cast or OBS, like you said you would have to use a video capture card and if you don’t want to run SDI which I would highly suggest for any cable runs over 25 - 50 feet. I would probably go with 2x “BMD DeckLink Quad HDMI Recorder Capture Card” or 1x “BMD DeckLink Quad HDMI Recorder Capture Card” and 1x “BMD Design DeckLink Mini Recorder” this would give you 6 to 8 HDMI inputs. For audio I would suggest using a digital audio mixer that has a USB Interface this will allow you to rout all audio signals separately into the computer. If you want to use a pre-existing audio mixer you could rout all the feeds through the AUXs to a external audio interface like a Focusrite SCARLETT-18I8-3RD-GEN Audio Interface. If all the cameras are the same and have the same amount of latency you should be able to sync them all together, if not you would have to put audio delay on each audio input and do a sync test. I would suggest just building one computer that can handle streaming and mixing. There’s really no point of building two computers, if you didn’t want to stream on the mixing computer you would be better off buying in encoder and “DeckLink Mini Monitor” to output from the mixing computer to the encoder.

What kind of cameras are you going to buy?.
What type of audio mixer do you have?.

Also hear are the recommended specs for VMix:
https://www.vmix.com/software/supported-hardware.aspx

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Yeah, I might end up having to do HDMI to ethernet converters but I’m pretty sure we can’t afford camcorders with SDI. We have a digital audio mixing board - hopefully I can just use USB out, if not then I’ll do what you suggested. What sort of CPU/GPU do you suggest for a PC to handle 6-8 camera inputs, video playback, and streaming? I was thinking either 10700K or Ryzen 7 3800X. Probably 32GB RAM, GTX 2060 or 2070 (depending on prices. May be able to snag a 30-series card but I doubt it). Would it be better generally to do it from the computer or from a dedicated encoder (and could I choose the streaming location? Would probably be like BookTix Live or something)? Would there be any sort of difference?

GPU will probably be driving 3 monitors as well. One for me and our stage manager to see with all of the inputs live, one for me to see presets/other info, and one for the full program out.

The cameras I’m thinking of:
Sony FDR-AX43 UHD 4K (this would be our wide angle when we transition to full stage streaming since I think it has the best zoom/dark sensor).
Panasonic HC-V770K (this would be our closer follow cam and/or third angle, either will get 1 or 2 of these maybe).
Canon VIXIA HF R800 (will probably use these as our generic other cameras for our “webcams,” and then can use them as fixed angles in real shows and they’ll just sit on our front facing lighting rigs I guess. We’ll get 1-2 maybe).

I wish I knew the exact brand of audio mixer we have. Hopefully I can get back to you after I’m in the building tomorrow. Personally I think the ideal audio setup is giving each actor a monitor so they can hear where the others are, and then having a different stream mix where they are all equal (and be muted through the mixer when they don’t have lines. Our sound board op will take care of that).

We will be using stage lighting, in this case LED ellipsoidals, hung from catwalks probably ~20 feet above the stages. I will try and see if we can provide at least a constant warm white front light, but our lighting will probably vary on the backgrounds. I’m not sure if that will mess with appearances on camera or not.

Thanks so much for you help, I hope this gave you a better idea. If you have better camera recommendations I could definitely be interested in that too. I’m trying not to go over $4-5K for the whole setup.

I probably wouldn’t use HDMI to Ethernet as the cheaper converters are unreliable, I have had good luck with more expensive ones but they’re more expensive than HDMI to SDI. What you listed for computer components sounds good but I’m not an expert as I use hardware switchers. I personally stream off of the computer running OBS, VMix or Wire Cast, I would say if your computer can handle it streaming and switching off the same computer is the best idea. but I know a lot of people like hardware encoders I’ve only ever really use the “Teradek Cube 600” but there’s cheaper options like the “Epiphan Webcaster X2”. As long as your destination can handle RTMP any of these solutions can stream to it.

I understand camera choice and the cameras look good. My only concern is they are all different brands and probably will have different latency issues. You can solve this in the computer software by delaying the audio or delaying the video or both. it may be easier to delay all the video and sync the cams all to each other and only have one audio delay.

Your audio setup should be fairly easy as your operator Will only be mixing for the stream and will most likely be able to do a basic monitor mix as well. If you really want to do a separate room mix and stream mix, and if you can bring all the audio inputs into the computer separately you can mix in the computer for the stream and you can even set it up so the main audio consequences controlling mute with “Post Fader”.

As your cameras are all different brands you may have to do some color balancing and of course white balancing to make them look all the same with your lighting.

HDMI to SDI with Power Supply : $55.00 www.bhphotovideo.com
Pearstone 50’ SDI Video Cable : $29.95 www.bhphotovideo.com
2x Blackmagic Design DeckLink Duo 2: $495.00 www.bhphotovideo.com

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Thanks man, that should be super helpful! Once we add in the PC/vMix/monitors/any additional cables that basically makes it perfect for the budget!

I’m not sure we need to do a full room mix - probably just a monitor for our stage manager, a monitor for each of our actors, only the stream will be getting a full mix (unless our director says otherwise but I don’t really see a reason for it). I appreciate the advice!

Would I see any difference streaming straight from vMix versus outputting vMix to OBS and streaming from there? Also, do you know if it’s possible to build almost like a cue-list of presets in vMix I can execute one after the other? (Or maybe I just need to make a ton of presets and get a macro to do the next one in order?)

You shouldn’t see any difference streaming from vMix or OBS. There’s probably a way of doing it in VMix. But I personally like using “Qlad 4” on the Mac to do my cue list, if you had any Mac laying around running Qlab you could probably use a software to network and control a windows computer running vMix with Midi commands. but I have never done it as I don’t use vMix.

Cue App: qlab.app
MIDI Network Routing App: rtpMIDI

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Hmm alright, awesome. The school gives us Macbooks so I can absolutely use QLab - I just have no idea how to send MIDI commands, or what MIDI commands would be used for vMix (or if it even takes them in / can be used for presets). I think at this point that’s really the only remaining issue.

I also checked our sound board - we have a Yamaha TF3 24+1. I didn’t see any USB outputs and the manual I found online doesn’t list any but I’m sure our sound designer will have some sort of converter in his own gear that he might be able to use.

TF3 has a dante interface, so you can get all the audio through the network, usb not needed. You’ll need Dante Virtual Soundcard probably.

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Yep, that looks right. Thank you!

The only thing I think I need to know how is if there is a way for me to macro and/or write presets in vMix as cues (since there’ll probably be ~50 different orientations of cameras + scenes with video playback).

that’s where qlab comes in

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Tbh on top of vMix and Dante Virtual Soundcard + everything else I’m not sure we have room in the budget to buy the version of QLab with MIDI commands. Maybe I can write some AutoHotkey scripts for the presets menu… Thank you though!

You should be able to use the free version of qlab for the commands.

Their website lists it as a premium feature, supposedly you can’t do it on the free version (but I haven’t tried it). However, one of my friends has a Streamdeck that I’m going to borrow and I think I can write vMix triggers to it so we should be all good. Thanks so much for all your help guys!

Yeah the Streamdeck would probably work better

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I hate to necro this thread, but I had one more question - if I needed to add more “cameras” (I end up having 8 or 9 in a later scene) could I use phones as webcams for Macbooks (my school provides Macbooks) and output NDI from OBS over ethernet to the main vMix PC? Then I’d just connect the NDI connections to a switch and run a cable from the switch to the PC for the extra inputs. I think that should work?

You can just use a NDI camera app plug-in on the phone and go directly into VMix.
You also might want to buy a RJ-45 to phone adapter just in case Wi-Fi doesn’t work well

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Oh awesome, that looks great. If my phones are as far away as cameras and I don’t trust our WiFi network, can I do it over a USB-C to ethernet adapter into the phone? It would be even better if I could go through a USB hub to give the phone power (would need to stay on for ~2-3 hours) & the ability to transmit NDI but I’m not sure if a USB hub will work that way.

That sounds like it should work. but here’s some adapters if not.

USB C to Ethernet: www.amazon.com
Lighting to Ethernet: www.amazon.com

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Great, thank you so much! I appreciate it. I’ll order one and make sure everything works before I order anything else.

Thank you for all your help!