CU-Boulder student Bethany Morris, who is breaking news editor for the student-run CU Independent, had an additional element for her first-ever experience sky-diving: Working with fellow students and with cooperation of her instructor, she live-streamed her first time stepping out of an airplane.
More than just a souvenir of her skyward experience and a story for the CU Independent, Morris helped CU Journalism students try out live-streaming video, using a GoPro extreme-sports video camera and some mobile equipment recently added to the CU Journalism program’s equipment inventory. It was a trial run for using small cameras with live-streaming capability in future student news coverage.
Here’s the archived version of Morris’ flight up and drop down to earth. (Read below the video for details of the equipment used and challenges in getting the live-stream aerial show to work properly.)
The equipment1. GoPro HD Hero2 camera: These inexpensive ($299) small video cameras, encased in a plastic shell, have been used by many an extreme-sports enthusiast (base jumpers, acrobatic pilots, extreme skiers, etc.), but only recently have journalists recognized that GoPros can be useful in certain news-reporting situations. The rugged and small cameras, which can be mounted in many ways and attached to a body or object, can accompany a reporter into situations where a larger “pro” video camera might be too awkward or risk getting damaged — say, a raucous protest or a clash between riot police and protestors. One limitation is that the cameras only shoot in wide-angle view (with three wide-angle settings). New for GoPro cameras is a Wi-Fi BackPac, which turns the camera into a wi-fi hotspot to communicate with a GoPro remote control or the GoPro App for iOS devices (Android version promised soon). Unfortunately, the GoPro App does not at this time support live-streaming video from an iOS mobile device. With a future upgrade of the GoPro app, it is expected that the Wi-Fi BackPac will allow streaming directly to the phone; i.e., the only equipment needed to live-stream video will be the GoPro camera, Wi-Fi BackPac, and a modern smartphone running the GoPro app and a streaming-video app.
For Morris’ jump, fellow CU students Stephen Kasica and Robert Denton outfitted Morris and her instructor with additional equipment described below rather than the Wi-fi BackPac.2. LiveStream Broadcaster: This small device in an orange plastic case, which can fit in a pocket, contains the ability to stream live HD video to any device without a PC. Functioning as a portable wireless encoder, it can be mounted to any camera and plugged into an HDMI port. The device then can stream video via wi-fi connection or a USB 3G/4G wireless modem. With Morris’ jump, the LiveStream Broadcast unit was tucked in her instructor’s pocket, and connected to the GoPro camera which he mounted on his wrist.
3. 4G Mi-Fi Mobile Hotspot: The final piece of the mobile live-stream puzzle used for Morris’ jump was a mobile hotspot, a small device that provides a wireless connection to Verizon’s 4G network, and wi-fi to receive the streaming video from the LiveStream Broadcaster box. This, too, Morris’ instructor tucked into a pocket for the trip down.
If this configuration sounds a bit cumbersome and complicated, a near-future mobile live-stream package will be streamlined even more once GoPro updates the GoPro App. Then, the camera will be able to stream live video directly to a smartphone, which can then use its 4G connectivity to stream the video to a live-stream service like LiveStream or UStream.
The slides below, from CU student journalist Stephen Kasica, detail the set-up of the GoPro camera and live-streaming equipment prior to the flight and skydive.
So-called “sports” video cameras like the GoPro show great promise for journalistic applications, well beyond documenting the exploits of extreme athletes. Thanks to Bethany Morris, Stephen Kasica, and Robert Denton for showing their fellow students the way forward with mobile video live-streaming, and to Independent Skydiving Co. for their cooperation.