Axis YouTube Livestreaming CamStreamer Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Sep 25, 2015, 12:00am EDT (Research)

Broadcasting live video has historically been complex and costly, with manual setup and pricey monthly subscriptions required.

Now, Camstreamer is aiming to change that, with an Axis Camera Application claiming cloud-based connections to Youtube's free live streaming service.

We bought a $240 license for this app and have tested cameras in multiple streaming scenarios to see how well it works and whether it lives up to its ease of use claims. 

Recommendations

For livestreaming of events or 24/7 webcam use, Camstreamer offers simple setup without need of manual port forwarding or configuration. An Axis camera with this app, combined with Youtube's free streaming, offers live streaming at prices well below typical streaming services, typically $50+ per month.

Finally, for those using Camstreamer, we recommend using "Custom" resolution settings and manually configuring the camera for best results, including framerate, bitrate, resolution, and Zipstream settings, not configurable when using Camstreamer presets. 

Potential Applications

Because of Youtube's frame rate and resolution flexibility, as well as their allowing 24/7 streaming, Camstreamer may fit in the two key live, public video applications we hear frequent calls for:

  • Live event streaming: Houses of worship, city councils, school boards, etc., may find Camstream a simple way to stream services, meetings, or other events to the public. Web interface PTZ controls may be used for camera control, and an audio feed from the house sound system streamed along with the camera's video.
  • Webcam/construction cam: Using lower framerate and/or, users may broadcast the camera as a live contruction cam or webcam. These webcams are popular in tourism/hospitality industries, showing virtual views, crowd size, ski slope conditions, etc.

Key Findings

In our tests, Camstreamer setup was fast, with app installation on the Axis camera, licensing, and streaming all accomplished in under 5 minutes.

  • No manual port forwarding or UPnP was required for video streaming, with Camstreamer handling cloud connections from camera to Youtube automatically.
  • Streaming worked well up to 1080p at normal (~30 Q) compression levels, without significant artifacting, stream droppage, lost frames, etc.
  • Streaming is limited to 1080p60. No higher resolutions (5MP, 4K, etc.) are supported. [[Note: Camstreamer introduced 4K streaming in December 2016]]
  • Stream automatically restarted after camera power was lost and restored with no manual user intervention.
  • Axis Zipstream's dynamic ROI features are supported, but dynamic GOP caused streaming issues in our tests, with dropped streams or I frame/P frame errors.
  • Camstreamer is limited to Axis cameras only. No other manufacturers are supported. Most Axis cameras are supported (ARTPEC-4, ARTPEC-5, and ARM processors).

2017 Update

While we have not tested CamStreamer since 2017, the manufacturer reports the following improvements:

We have made a lot of progress since IPVM's test, added support for new protocols (mpeg-ts used by several IPTV operators to bring city surveillance cameras to living rooms of their customers, hls, ott video or newly SRT). Besides YouTube we support couple of new streaming platforms (Facebook Live, Dacast, Twitch, Wowza, etc.). Recently we released our new CamOverlay application, that adds dynamic graphics into the video stream right onboard of an Axis camera. Weather, infographics, score board data, all this is used by our customers to make their streams look even better. CamOverlay is not just about streaming though, we have customers that add alarm system status data into the video stream, LPR analysis outputs, different appliances’ operational data, etc. Look at this live video stream from AXIS P5624-E MkII camera installed here in Prague:

Both CamStreamer and CamOverlay run on that camera, CamOverlay adds Weather Underground live weather info and PTZ position based infographics into the video stream. Very cool and cheap production wise. Beauty of this approach to inserting dynamic graphics into the video stream is that no external server is needed to unpack H.264 video stream, insert graphics and pack it back, which saves a lot of resources and money. Currently it runs on ARTPEC-5 based cameras with 7.30+ firmware. ARTPEC-6 will be supported soon and this will bring processing speed into the solution.

Pricing vs Competitors

A single Camstreamer license is €199/~$240. No recurring fees are incurred, only the initial license cost. YouTube does not charge for streaming.

Compared to many streaming services, which charge a monthly access fee or variable price based on usage, this is very inexpensive, equivalent to just a few months of use. For example, other common services are priced as follows:

  • Livestream: $42/mo. minimum, including no live support nor webpage embedding. Users must move to the $199/mo. plan for these features. All plans limited to 720p. 
  • Ustream: $199/mo. and up for 720p video. Enterprise plan is required for 1080p, starting at $2,500/mo.

Youtube Limits

Youtube limits streams to 4K [[updated, December 2016, previously 1080p60]] though does not place any other restrictions on streams. Users may stream short term events only, or 24/7.

Streams up to four hours are stored to the user's Youtube channel. 24/7 streams show only the most recent four hours of video.

In our tests, streams were stable for over 24 hours without issues, despite bitrate spikes in low light.

Camstreamer Setup

After installing the app, streaming to Youtube is a simple process, only a few steps. We show the process at its most basic in this video:

Video Settings

We strongly recommend using Camstreamer's "Custom" resolution settings, as it enables fine grained control of all CODEC settings, not available when using their preset options.

Users should be careful of Axis Zipstream settings, as dynamic GOP caused stream and frame droppage in our tests. Zipstream's dynamic ROI did not cause issues, even at max settings.

In the video below, we review these settings:

Youtube Settings

In the video below, we review common Youtube settings for Camstreamer, including embedding, security/privacy, live control functions, and more.

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