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MS Teams and Wirecast - Never Again

We recently produced a live stream encoded at 720p for an awards ceremony which was relayed to an audience of about 300 persons via MS Teams.  The result was thoroughly unsatisfactory for the audience and client.  We're writing this recap so no one should experience the same.  Bottom line is, if you have an audience larger than 200 viewers, use a proper webcast CDN, not a videoconference application*. 

Our setup is Wirecast 13.0.1 which is almost the latest version (but sadly is now unsupported).  We are running on Win 7 Pro with i7 CPU and Magewell SDI capture cards.  The virtual camera and microphone were fed into MS Teams 1.3.00.13565.  Our internet connection was dope - 100 mbps up and down.

1.  The most recent version of MS Teams apparently does not support virtual camera, so we had to roll back to an earlier version and then (since we were testing over several days) prevent the software from auto-updating.  Big hassle and I never experienced this issue using Zoom.

2.  It was not possible to hear the encoded output when using the virtual mic to feed into MS Teams.  To hear what we were sending, we had to open a separate window and run Audacity, which was extremely clumsy.  I'm still not sure that this isn't a Wirecast issue, but it frustrated me during setup, especially playing prerecorded video intros or roll-ins, and we did not have good control over levels.

3.  When sending switched video into MS Teams, there are no encoding settings.  This is different from say YouTube, where you have some control of the transmission quality.  And there is no fail-over redundancy provision like what you'd have in YouTube.  So with Teams you're basically hoping they don't throttle your stream.

4.  Keep in mind that feeding switched video into an MS Teams meeting is not what Microsoft calls a "live meeting".  Simply put, a live meeting is a webcast with chat facilities.  According to Microsoft: "Live events are an extension of Teams meetings that enable you to schedule and produce events that stream to large online audiences - up to 10,000 people. If you need a meeting for more than 300 people, use a live event."  Yeah, we were warned!

5.  There are multiple reports online that MS Teams is limiting video quality for larger meetings, due to popularity of the service during the Covid-19 pandemic.  We had continuous monitoring on two laptops and one mobile device and all looked good on our end.  But the anecdotal reports and screenshots coming in from viewers complained about blocky and blurry video for some users, many of whom seemed to be viewing on mobile devices.

6.  The client claimed that a post-event survey indicated only 20% had clear video.  But we could not get meaningful reports.  MS Teams reports are only available while the meeting is in progress and unlike YouTube, they do not provide information about the bit rates or screen resolutions delivered to viewers.

7.  Adding insult to injury, we also experienced at least 3 connection drops, due to the presenter (our encoder) being blocked (either muted or removed) by someone in attendance during the meeting!  This is a known issue in Teams, but it cannot happen in a proper webcast.  Obviously, it's very disruptive for all viewers and wrongly makes it look as if the presenter (that's us) is at fault.

* Honestly, I would not even call MS Teams a video conference application - it's a messaging app like Slack.  And Teams should not be confused with MS Teams Live Meetings aka 'Microsoft Streams', which is a separate webcasting service running on a proper global CDN.

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  • Bill Claxton said:
    Our setup is Wirecast 13.0.1 which is almost the latest version (but sadly is now unsupported).  We are running on Win 7 Pro with i7 CPU and Magewell SDI capture cards. 

     Current Wirecast users would be on 14.0.4 and Windows 10 and may have a very different experience than you describe at least regarding Wirecast. Teams may be another matter.

    Bill Claxton said:
    Our internet connection was dope - 100 mbps up and down.

     Given the number of participants you had in Teams you'd want to check how much was being used locally. 1Gbps up/down is not uncommon these days. Generally, any conference platform will begin to limit quality with a large number of participants.
    While Wirecast doesn't need that much, I can't speak for the efficiency of Teams with 300 participants.  It's also possible that your Windows 7 computer may be under-resourced by current standards. It's also possible Zoom might have handled all this much better. Teams often require the attention of corporate IT for certain things. 
     

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    • CraigS Your points are legit though the problems are mostly in MS Teams and upgrading Wirecast wouldn't help.  I stand by my main assertion: "if you have an audience larger than 200 viewers, use a proper webcast CDN, not a videoconference application". 

      Don't take it wrongly Craig, but if you're going to comment on this fiasco, please explain why the audio monitoring is so problematic.  Does v14.x fix it?

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      • CraigSModerator
      • Telestream Desktop Forum Moderator
      • CraigS
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Bill Claxton While these Virtual Mic monitoring instructions mention Windows 10, they may be relevant to Windows 7. This was done with Zoom so it may be viable in Teams as well. They were originally written for Wirecast 13.1.x I beleive. You can try the equivalent on your system though. If it doesn't work then this may be the viable workflow for 13.1.3 and up on Windows 10.

      BTW we also have this for Virtual Mic with Wirecast (and Windows 7 as it was compatible with that version) in case this helps as it's a bit different than Wirecast 14 and Windows 10.

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  • Bill Claxton said:
    the problems are mostly in MS Teams and upgrading Wirecast wouldn't help.  I stand by my main assertion: "if you have an audience larger than 200 viewers,

     I think the "quandary" is that some businesses decide to use Teams due to internal security reasons (even though there are other secure methods to stream). I think MS is trying to improve the experience as they've added NDI as a feature for example (requires IT approval to use). The current version of Teams on Windows 10 does support virtual camera (but not on Mac) although I found the process a bit convoluted. Perhaps the current version of Teams on Windows 10 would have been a better experience... but I can't say that with any assurances though.

    It generally is easier to stream to a CDN but some businesses are reluctant to do that given their own IT and trust in Teams security for businees.

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  • Perhaps my headline gives the impression that I'm unhappy with Wirecast.  That is not the case and CraigS  I specifically noted that my version was unsupported to avoid the inevitable push-back that my bad experience would miraculously go away if I just upgrade (blah, blah).  I wrote in order to warn others using Wirecast with MS Teams about the following gotchas, which except for item #2, are not related to Wirecast:

    1. MS Teams support for virtual cameras is dodgy.
    2. MS Teams support for virtual microphones requires a separate audio monitoring capability, especially if you need to roll-in prerecorded video during a show.
    3. MS Teams provides no control for encoding quality or stream redundancy.
    4. MS Teams explicitly does not support events larger than 300 viewers.
    5. MS Teams is widely reported to throttle bandwidth for large events.
    6. MS Teams reporting features are limited and only available during the event.
    7. MS Teams viewers are able to block the live stream by muting or removing the presenter during the event.

    The key takeaway message is that if you're using Wirecast to feed a switched live stream into MS Teams, beware of the gotchas especially the throttling when audience is larger than 200 viewers.  I would give the same advice for those using Zoom, though it is not so problematic as MS Teams.  For larger audiences, use a true CDN like YouTube or LimeLight.

    Would love to hear similar experience from others.

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      • CraigSModerator
      • Telestream Desktop Forum Moderator
      • CraigS
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Bill Claxton I suspect all this began with the explosion in use of Zoom due to current circumstances and a push that they accommodate features like Virtual devices, NDI, etc. I think people are looking for large scale, low latency, interactivity with professional production values. Currently, it looks like most systems, including CDNs have compromises in those regards. With CDNs the weak link may be interactivity.

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