You may know Sling as Dish Network’s over-the-top service that allows you to watch TV on your mobile device, but with the release of the SlingStudio, the brand is expanding their offerings into content creation.
The SlingStudio is a live switching product that connects wirelessly to mobile devices and HDMI-enabled cameras connections. Using an iPad, you’re able to switch between up to 10 different sources and stream to YouTube or Facebook. Outside of streaming, you are able to capture each input or program out for deeper post-production work.
What You Need and How It Works
There are a few major parts of the SlingStudio. The first is the hub, which has an HDMI input and output, an eighth-inch audio input and a USB-C port. It supports video streams at resolutions up to full HD at 60 frames per second (fps) and up to 10 simultaneous full HD, 30fps inputs. With their Capture app, your smartphone becomes another video source. All inputs go through the Hub to an ipad. With the Console app, you gain full switching capabilities, control of audio and some limited graphics via an iPad. The Hub runs off of AC power, but for $150 dollars, you can get a battery that will allow for up to three hours of battery powered streaming. And lastly, it can record H.264 ISO video to an SD card or hard drive.
The Hub connects to external HDMI wireless transmitters called the CameraLink. The CameraLink is a Wi-Fi video transmitter that supports video at up to full HD and 60fps at bitrates of 30 megabits per second. It has an internal rechargeable battery that will last up to two hours and includes a cold shoe mount, charging cable and mini to micro HDMI cable. Each camera input requires a CameraLink and although you need an HDMI cable to go to the CameraLink, there are no cables needed to connect the CameraLink to the SlingStudio.
With the optional USB-C Expander, you also get two USB 3.0 downstream ports and a Gigabit Ethernet input for LAN connection. Even without the USB-C expander, the SlingStudio can connect to a wireless network.
You can buy each part of the SlingStudio ecosystem alone, or as a part of a kit. The Hub is $1,000 dollars and each CameraLink costs $350 dollars. The Expander sells for $50 dollars. In this review, we used a SlingStudio Hub, three CameraLinks, a USB-C Expander, a Hub Battery, an iPad and an iPhone.
Our Setup and Experience
We used the SlingStudio for a few of our Facebook Live streams. The goal was to see if we could both host and direct a live stream as one person. I both presented the information and directed the stream. The cameras connected via HDMI to the CameraLinks. We used the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4K as our primary camera. For secondary shots, we used a Canon 1DX Mark II and a Canon 5D Mark IV. We connected the Canon cameras to separate CameraLinks, and the URSA Mini was connected via SDI to an Atomos Shogun Inferno then to an CameraLink via HDMI. We also used an iPhone 6S as a input camera using the Capture app. Lastly, we connected a 2015 MacBook Pro via its HDMI output so we could share our screen during the stream.
Before we turned anything on, we verified that we had charged batteries. The CameraLink charges via USB cable. With the USB-C Expander, we charged two CameraLinks simultaneously through the Hub. The third, we charged through the computer we were using for screen sharing. Each CameraLink has a ¼”-20 thread to either mount to an included cold shoe attachment or just using the thread. It's nice that you have the option for different mounting situations outside of a cold shoe. Once we connected each camera to their respective CameraLink, we moved on to connecting the computer to screen share. We did this through the HDMI input on the Hub using a short HDMI cable.
We installed the SlingStudio apps on both the iPad and iPhone. To get the iPad working, it will need to connect to the Hub, then the Hub needs to connect to the internet. The Hub can connect to the web either wirelessly or wired if using the USB-C Expander.
We were lucky and each CameraLink was already paired with the Hub, but we wanted to pair them ourselves to experience the process. Each CameraLink came with a single piece of paper with simple instructions. Following them went fast, and we quickly paired each camera to the Hub. They then appeared in the Console app on the iPad, where we could re-name each source for easy identification.
Getting everything working together was not a hard process. However, not everything was intuitive. Read the instructions as you go along and even the most complex set-ups are easy to achieve.
The best part of the pairing process is that after you do it once, it’s done. Unless you get more CameraLinks or change up what camera you use them with, everything stays set up. Each set-up after the initial one only requires turning on and setting up the stream. Capture will even save your log-in information for YouTube and Facebook.
One thing to keep in mind if you use the cameras in your set-up for other uses: make sure to put them back to the resolution and framerate of your project, or they won't show up to stream. All cameras must have the same resolution and framerate as the project they are in. To get the best quality stream, don’t overload your bandwidth with high resolutions, especially if your platform doesn’t stream those higher resolutions anyway. Facebook only streams 720, so there’s no need to shoot in 4K unless you want to work with the footage after the stream. Some cameras can capture in one resolution and output a different one for monitoring. This is ideal if you want to capture the highest resolution.
To get the best quality stream, don’t overload your bandwidth with high resolutions, especially if your platform doesn’t stream those higher resolutions anyway.
We liked using the SlingStudio, but it isn’t without flaws. The audio monitoring is difficult since there is a delay between what you see on the iPad and when it happened in real time. This makes listening for a problem somewhat difficult. Along with monitoring, the default setting in Console is AFV, for audio-follows-video mode. In one of our first setups, we had one camera for our host. It had the mic for our host going into it and transmitting to the Hub through HDMI. When we cut to another camera, the audio source switched from the shotgun mic setup to capture the host to the internal mic of the new camera. This is only an issue if you are unaware of this default setting and don’t take time to test your stream. When out of this setting, you can mix the audio like a typical mixer.
A feature we would like to see in the SlingStudio — or any streaming solution — is the ability to monitor comments during a Facebook Live stream. This would only be possible if Facebook allowed it, but monitoring comments in other ways isn’t always straightforward. It would be great if the comments went out HDMI so you could put them in a monitor, or better yet, a teleprompter so they could read while still making eye contact with the camera lens.
The SlingStudio is a unique product, so there isn’t any one product that does what it does. However there are other switchers that stream online. Let’s take a look at a couple of them and how they compare and contrast with each other.
The first is the Newtek Tricaster Mini at $6,000 dollars. This is much more expensive than the SlingStudio, but it’s an all in one unit that offers 16 channels and four HDMI inputs. All you need is a keyboard and mouse, whereas the SlingStudio requires an iPad and enough CameraLinks to connect all your cameras. However, even if you need to buy more parts to complete your setup, it’s still much more affordable than the Tricaster Mini. The Newtek supports resolutions of up to 1080 at 30fps and also has software switching and audio mixing. It offers two HDMI program outputs whereas the SlingStudio has only one. The Tricaster Mini has a built-in 750 gigabyte hard drive and can import effects, titles and 3D sets along with including a large selection. The Tricaster Mini offers much more than the SlingStudio, however, you have to pay for it.
Next up is the Datavideo SE?500HD at $1,100 dollars. It’s just a video switcher. It will not stream on its own — for that you’ll need to pair it with the NVS-30, which costs $800 dollars. Together, the set-up comes to $1,900 dollars. This is on par with the SlingStudio. The SlingStudio requires an iPad, while the NVS-30 requires a computer. Datavideo is more flexible on what additional hardware is compatible. With four HDMI inputs and a six channel digital audio mixer, this supports a more typical broadcast workflow. The switcher operates with buttons and everything is straightforward. The SlingStudio is all in-program, so if you like buttons and switches, you should consider the DataVideo SE-500HD and NVS-30 combo.
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
The sling studio is easy to use and simple to set up. You will need an iPad and monitoring audio and chat is a challenge. It’s a good value for the money and a great solution for multi-camera switching and streaming.
Hub – $1,000
CameraLink – $350
Battery – $150
USB-C Expander – $50
- Easy to use interface
- Wireless HDMI
- Easy to pack and transport
- Monitoring audio
- Audience monitoring
- Can’t import your own graphics
The SlingStudio is a switcher and online streaming device. It incorporates an iPad and wireless HDMI transmission. It’s easy to use and simple to set up. It’s a good value and an innovative product.
- Event Videographers and Corporate filmmakers
- YouTubers and Social media enthusiasts
- Journalists and Travel videographers
- Houses of Worship
A/V Inputs: 1 x HDMI Type A, 1 x 3.5 mm analog stereo audio
Wireless: Up to 10 via Wi-Fi network
A/V Outputs: 1 x HDMI Type C
Other I/O: 1 x SD card slot, 1 x USB-C
Wireless: 1 x 5 GHz 802.11 ac, 1 x Dual-band 2.4/5 GHz 802.11 ac
Video Recording Format: H.264, High Profile, 4:2:0
- 1080p60 up to 30 Mbps
- 1080p30 up to 16 Mbps
- 720p60 up to 16 Mbps
- 720p30 up to 4 Mbps
Audio Recording Format: 2-channel, 16-bit/48 kHz, up to 320 kbps
Live Streaming CDNs: Facebook Live, YouTube Live
Maximum Bit-Rate: 8 Mbps
A/V Inputs: 1 x HDMI Type D
Format Support Format: H.264, High Profile, 4:2:0
- 1080p60 up to 30 Mbps
- 1080p30 up to 16 Mbps
- 720p60 up to 16 Mbps
- 720p30 up to 4 Mbps
Audio: AAC-LC, 2-channel, 16-bit/48 kHz, up to 320 kbps
Other I/O: 1 x USB Micro-B, charging
Wireless: 5 GHz, 802.11 ac
Transmission Distance: Up to 300' / 100 m (line of sight)
Chris Monlux has been addicted to Playerunknown Battlegrounds lately. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.