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How to set up a Zoo Cam Livestream for Free

Using security cameras for other purposes is not unheard of and is becoming more popular. Over time more zoos, animal sanctuaries, and even individuals are looking to set up a livestream over the internet. Live streaming animals and birds can help spread information on conservation efforts, assist caregivers, educate and entertain children, and offer a way to view animals online from around the world. Previously, the process of live streaming zoo cams, animal cams, and bird cams was difficult, involving many different steps and pieces of equipment. Fortunately there are cameras that come with built-in streaming features to push video to popular live stream platforms.

What do you need to set up a livestream animal cam or zoo cam?

Now that some of the cameras we carry can stream directly to YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and other streaming websites, the setup is less complex.

If you're interested in setting up your own zoo cam, such as this Panda Cam, it's fairly easy with the correct camera. Here is a summary of what is needed, with brief explanations below.

  1. Windows PC
  2. Internet connection with at least 5 Megabit per second upload speed
  3. Security camera with RTMP live streaming capability
  4. PoE injector and network cables
  5. Active live streaming account on YouTube

Windows PC for Setup

For a camera to stream to the internet, it needs to be configured to work on your computer network so it can talk to your computer and to the internet. To configure the camera you will need to use a Windows PC. You can use a laptop or desktop computer to access the camera but the computer and camera need to be connected to the same internet router.

If configuring the camera to work on your network sounds difficult, don't worry we can configure the camera for you for Free after you answer a few questions over an email. For complicated setups, there are IT services available at low cost.

Internet Connection - Is yours fast enough?

Since video is made up of several pictures or frames per second, video data can get very big really quickly. Similar to how watching videos from YouTube requires a fast internet connection, you need a fast enough connection to “upload” or push the video out to a livestream host.

Each IP camera creates a specific amount of video data per second, aka bitrate. For example a 1080P camera sending video at 30 frames per second has a bitrate of 4 Megabits per second (Mbps). Keep in mind this bitrate is per camera. If you want to stream 2 cameras at 1080P you will need to have 8Mbps upload speed and so forth. And it’s recommended to have even stronger upload speeds so the cameras aren’t hogging the internet connection and leaving no room for other internet traffic.

An easy way to test your internet speed is Speed Test.net.

Security camera with RTMP live streaming capability

RTMP or Real-Time Messaging Protocol is a technology that allows video data to be sent over the internet. RTMP is used by most streaming services like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Vimeo, and Twitch just to name a few. RTMP allows those websites to receive video data from the camera that is encoded in the proper format to broadcast it over the web.

Prior to 2020 you would have to have a dedicated “encoder” software on a computer to capture the video stream. As it captured the camera it would convert it to a RTMP-friendly stream. This made live streaming security cameras more difficult and costly by needing a dedicated PC that had to stay powered on. We covered the older method in our article on how to stream security cameras to YouTube Live.

Thanks to continued improvements in feature-set, some of our 4K security cameras for 2020 contain built-in RTMP streaming. The new feature reduces the amount of equipment, and know-how needed to set up a video stream. Make sure that the camera you purchase has RTMP streaming capability before following this guide.

PoE Injector and network cables

Powering security cameras for a live animal cam is easy by using Power over Ethernet (PoE). All that's needed to get the camera powered and talking is a PoE injector and two network cables of appropriate length. The PoE injector stays indoors next to a network router, connects to a power strip and the router. A second network cable, which is the longer cable, connects the camera to the power injector.

Active Live Streaming Account

It is important to note due that some streaming platforms make new users wait some amount of time before the user can live stream. The probationary period helps prevent profane, offensive, or stolen content from being live streamed. In this example we are streaming to YouTube which requires a 24 hour wait.

How to set up a Livestream camera?

Now that some of the 4K cameras by Avalonix feature the ability to send video to a live stream platform, the setup is easy. Since you no longer need third party software, and you don't need a PC to encode the stream, setup involves less steps and is essentially free. All you need is a camera.

Step 1) Connect the camera to your router

The first and probably most important step in the process is connecting the IP camera to your router. The camera will require a power source, and network cable connection to your internet router. This can be done in a number of ways which are discussed in detail in our article on How to Connect an IP Camera to a Computer. The simplest method to set up one camera for live streaming using a PoE power injector and two network cables. We've pictured a simple setup below of how your wiring should be.

IP cameras will usually come configured with an IP address of 192.168.1.109. Please feel free to let our team know if there is an IP address you would like set on the camera when you order. Otherwise you will need to configure the IP address on the camera manually. If you’re unsure how, or what an IP address even is, then you’ll want to follow our guide on How to connect your security cameras to the Internet.

Step 2) Get the stream key from the streaming service website

In this example we’re setting up a stream to YouTube Live so we will need to login to our YouTube account to access our YouTube Studio. For other streaming services they will usually have an online guide or video that shows where the stream key is located. No matter which service you use, there will be a stream URL and stream key has to be entered in the camera to authenticate the video stream.

To set up a Free YouTube Live Stream, you will first need a YouTube account. This can be an account you already own, or a new account. However, it’s important to keep in mind YouTube requires a 24-hour waiting period before you can stream if you’ve never tried before.

In order to get your stream key you will need to navigate to the Livestream Youtube Studio. The easiest way to get here is by clicking the Camera with a Plus icon at the top of YouTube’s homepage. It will have an option called “Go live”. This will take you to the guided YouTube Live streaming setup.

Getting to the YouTube livestream wizard

Give your stream a title, description and don’t forget to set the category. This is what people will see on YouTube when looking for animal streams, or are looking at your stream. You can even upload a custom thumbnail to get more views. When you’re done personalizing your stream, click the Create Stream button at the bottom right.

Youtube livestream wizard

After you’ve personalized your stream you will be greeted with a “Stream Help Setup” window. This help window will give you a stream key, and stream URL that you will need to copy or write down. Don’t forget to reveal it first if you are writing it down, or copying it manually. You will need this stream key and URL to enter into the camera settings.

Caution: Do not share your stream key with anyone. Whoever has access to your stream key can broadcast anything to your live stream.

Copy your stream key and stream URL

If you don’t see the above screen you can still find your stream key and stream URL in the Livestream Studio window.

Step 3) Connect the camera to a stream server

Almost there! Now that we have our stream key and the stream url we can move on to add them to the camera settings. This step involves logging into the camera using a web browser.

You will need to type the IP address for the camera into Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox. Using a browser will allow you to login to the web interface of the camera and access the camera’s settings.

Navigate to the settings tab at the top of the webpage. The RTMP stream settings are found under the Network section and then Access Platform subsection. Select the RTMP tab in the Access Platform screen.

How to navigate to the RTMP settings

Once you are in the RTMP settings you will need to enable the RTMP stream first. Make sure the Enable button is checked.

Select Custom for the Address type. The Custom Address text box will be where you need to enter the Stream URL and Stream Key. You will need to join them together with a forward slash. The URL will go first, and your Stream Key goes after the forward slash. Here is an example:

rtmp://a.rtmp.youtube.com/live2/870w-7sjr-cbve-st5v

Click Save to start the stream to YouTube! You should see a preview of your stream appear inside of YouTube Studio. Give it 30 seconds to a couple of minutes before the preview starts.

Enable the stream and enter your stream URL
Successful livestream preview

If your stream preview does not start after a few minutes you will want to set your camera Encoding settings. The video stream must be set to H.264 and have a bit rate supported by your internet. You can tinker and tune these settings after you start your stream to get better results. These settings are found in the Camera section and Video subsection in the camera settings. Below is an example of the settings we used for a 4K 15 FPS video stream to YouTube.

Set the encode mode to H.264

You will also need to set the Audio settings to “AAC” encode mode as shown in the screenshot below.

Set the audio codec to AAC

Once you have your camera up as a preview you’re ready to go live! Click the Go Live button at the top right of the Live Studio. This button officially starts your live broadcast from your camera for the world to see!

Click the Go Live button to start your stream

Make sure you check the stream quality and that it is not skipping or buffering the video. If it is then double check the encode settings are the same as above. For best results, we recommend having at least 5Mbps upload bandwidth reserved for the camera. For tweaking, here are some of the things that you can do to improve the stream:

  1. Have ample internet upload speed from your ISP
  2. Lower the resolution of the camera
  3. Lower the frame rate of the camera
  4. Adjust the bitrate of the camera to be a lower setting

Matt Rossi is a Technical Support Manager at CCTV Camera World, a leading CCTV Camera distributor located in Buffalo, NY. He is a technical support expert for everything video surveillance related.

 

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