Review Index:

DIY Control Surface for Wirecast and XSplit

Author: Ken Addison
Subject: General Tech

Current Setup

Fast forward just a few years to today, and the world of streaming has changed even more. New names (and some old ones) have entered the video capture space, including Avermedia, Elgato, and the stalwart Hauppauge. I have done my best to get my hands on this hardware to evaluate, and have been impressed with what these companies have been accomplishing along the way. We actually use an Avermedia Live Gamer HD in production for certain scenarios where we have found it has better driver support.

Thanks to our Indiegogo campaign earlier this year, we have been able to really expand our studio. Currently our setup involves a 4 input SDI capture card, the Blackmagic DeckLink Quad, an Avermedia Live Gamer HD, and a DataPath Vision DVI-DL. With all of these capture cards in one computer, we get access to 6 inputs. We also have a few Thunderbolt Blackmagic Intensity's which we can add to the machine to give us a few more inputs if needed. In addition to upgrading the captute hardware, we moved our cameras to Canon HF G20's and added a few more to the mix.

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The software game has changed significantly as well. When we started streaming, just about the only solution for software switching on a computer was Wirecast. We definitely had some growing pains with Wirecast, and were eager to switch to any alternative we could find. This is when we started testing XSplit, over a year ago. While XSplit is built for more of a gaming focus than studio videos like we do, it turned out to be a great alternative and is what we currently use in production. However, I do constantly test new software revisions, and Wirecast has gotten a lot better over the years. Other pieces of software I have tried include OBS, and I am currently messing around with FFsplit. These new software competitors help keep the market fresh, and are making access to streaming even more ubiquitous.

While this software is extremely powerful and important for lowering the barrier to entry, there are certain things from the broadcast-oriented world that I feel are lacking in the development of this sort of software and hardware. The main thing that I've desperately wanted to see is some sort of tally interface for software-based switching setups.

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For those of you who may not know what a Tally system does, it is a simple but extremely vital part to any major broadcast. Tally systems consist of lights on top of each camera in a studio, which receive a signal from the video switcher, and light up when that camera is the active shot. While this may seem like an unneeded thing, sitting in front of 3 or 4 cameras becomes very confusing very quickly. Being able to quickly glance and see which camera you should be facing and talking to is an invaluable resource.

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However, these pieces of software don't support Tally, and I have never been able to find a piece of hardware that is built around what I wanted. So naturally, I decided to build my own.

Video News

September 19, 2013 | 05:57 PM - Posted by rodgersk24

Very nice, that looks really cool!

Just out of curiosity, how did you get involved in this, or gain the knowledge to be able to figure this out? Did you study this in school, or is it more of a hobby thing you picked up? I've always wanted to work with Arduinos and circuits, but don't know where to start.

Can't wait to see future updates!

September 19, 2013 | 06:54 PM - Posted by Ken Addison

I learned some basic stuff about electronics in school, but just about everything in this build is self-taught. The nice thing about Arduino as a development platform is that there are tons of guides and help available, and easy to find through google. The Arduino forums themselves are pretty awesome as well.

September 19, 2013 | 06:46 PM - Posted by Andrew (not verified)

I have been attemting to setup a live broadcast system that inputs to the broacast system over an analog signal that i had hoped to put through an s-video output on a geforce 6200, but i have had no luck getting it to cooperate with the geforce gtx 660 in the system (for adobe premier) and put the digital signal to the monitors through the 660 along with the analog through the 6200 for the broadcast system, i am using wirecast, any suggestions?

September 19, 2013 | 06:49 PM - Posted by Branthog

I just wanted to say that after many months of PC Perspective not showing up in my news feed (on multiple readers), this showed up in my feed today. WELCOME BACK YOU DELIGHTFUL BASTARDS! My RSS reader is looking forward to relaying more of your goodness to my eyeballs!

September 19, 2013 | 08:40 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Good to be home! : D

September 19, 2013 | 07:13 PM - Posted by Kusanagi (not verified)

Man, this looks really awesome. I could use this myself.

September 20, 2013 | 09:55 AM - Posted by JustWondering (not verified)

Why not instead create an app for touch surface like surface pro or ipad or android?

This is what's being done in the music industry to replace audio mixers and then you can make money selling the app...

September 22, 2013 | 12:19 PM - Posted by DaVolfman (not verified)

Personally I would have mixed output with input to multiplex things. Basically you use an output to address a row and then read out a column on inputs. It only gains you about 3 pins on the buttons but that's still 3 pins freed up. The LED's being diodes are open to charlieplexing using 4 outputs to drive 12 LEDs. That gets you all your IO done with up to 3 pins to spare, though it does sacrifice a bit of brightness on the LEDs.

September 22, 2013 | 12:22 PM - Posted by HeavyG (not verified)

Very impressive, Ken! For a work in progress, it sure is making some good progress.

October 16, 2013 | 11:48 AM - Posted by gratv (not verified)

Hello, we are a small tv station from Athens Greece. Can we bay this control for wirecast? Thank you.

January 28, 2014 | 01:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Love what your doing with this. I have worked in TV Production for a long time using Tricaster boards but they are big and as you mentioned really expensive. This looks like a great alternative.

Recently I was considering getting a HDMi video Switcher to work in line with my current setup (between the camera HDMI output and the intensity HDMI input) just to give us more camera angles, but i dont know if this would work.

Our Setup : Wirecast, 2 Intensity shuttles, iMac, and 1 Sony hdr-cx380, much smaller inexpensive setup. Do you know if this would work?

Also are you selling your switcher?

January 31, 2014 | 02:40 PM - Posted by Eric Wroldsen (not verified)

Your Concept looks really cool. It would be great to see an updated video on this project. are you going to be selling this any time soon? I could really use one!

November 10, 2014 | 01:49 PM - Posted by ButtonPuncher (not verified)

Here's an alternative idea for you... It would be a little more cumbersome but it may be more versatile in the end. Does and of the software allow you to switch more then two channels of audio at a time? Or do you use a separate audio board for mics and whatnot and use it's output? Here's my idea...

Use DTMF. There's 16 DTMF tones and you can get the generator chips and decoders chips for cheap. If the switching software can do more than 2 channels, feed the DTMF tone into channel 3 or 4 on the capture cards. Then the main output would have the DTMF tone of whatever camera is live. Also, if the software outputs a "preview" channel, you could use that DTMF tone to show the talent/floor crew that they are about to go hot. Use bi-color LEDs to have green if you are in preview and red when you are on air.

If you mix the audio with a separate dedicated audio board, that opens up your options even more. The you can use channel 1 or 2 on your capture cards. You could make a little battery powered DTMF generator, and put a 1/8" male cable on it to plug in to any camera that you have laying around.

Just my $0.02.


December 11, 2017 | 02:41 PM - Posted by Trane (not verified)

How's the development of this hardware switcher? I'm really excited about the tally lights, as we always struggle with talent not following the stage mgrs' hand gestures.

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