IRL Backpack: How to build your own IRL Streaming Backpack (DIY)

Building an IRL backpack is simple, furthermore, it is very effective for live broadcasts. They have transformed how TV stations conduct electronic newsgathering.

Rather than relying on costly point-to-point microwave transmission that can only be done with a license from the Federal Communications Commission, streaming backpacks enable reporters to contribute live shots and edited stories from anywhere there’s a wireless network connection—and do so license free.

In this guide, you will learn what is an IRL backpack, how it works, and how to build your own for many different use cases. Discover all the equipment used, the best setups, understand IRL streaming kits, effective live streaming hardware, its cost, price, and much more.

Your IRL backpack streaming journey starts here.

IRL Backpack - How to build an IRL Streaming Backpack (DIY)
A streaming backpack is an affordable alternative solution to live stream from anywhere.

Try to get your head around these statistics. As of 2020, 37 million YouTube channels streamed content to subscribers. Nearly a 25% increase from the previous year. Every minute, people upload 500 hours of video to YouTube worldwide.

Every month 2.3 billion people log into YouTube at least once, and every day. People watch 1 billion hours of video, according to an Oberlo article.

Don’t forget about Facebook. Its video traffic in August hit 12.3 billion views, and in September alone hit 1 billion views per day. Then there’s Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, TikTok, Twitch. The list goes on and on.

With so many potential viewers, the desire to dive in and begin carving out an audience for your own streaming channel is understandable. But with so much competition for eyeballs, how can you set your channel apart from the rest?


What is a Streaming Backpack?

A streaming backpack, also known as an IRL Backpack, is an all-in-one live video streaming solution using cellular bonding technology. They are used for on-the-go live streaming and provide high-quality HD live video for long periods of time. Around 12 hours or more.

Streaming Backpacks are mostly used by IRL streamers that go out and stream live events, news, sports, or anything at a venue or in a remote location. For remote live streaming, cellular bonding really comes into play for streaming backpacks.

How to build an IRL backpack for live streaming

This allows the streaming device to connect to cellular networks and transmit the live video where it needs to go. In short, this is broadcasting video over IP, or over the public internet. When live streaming you always want to have a way to stay connected, have battery power and transmit the highest quality live video possible.

There are streaming backpack kits built and ready to be used for many different situations. Some backpacks can be very enhanced for professional use and others can be made for more simple on-the-go cases. But you can also build your own streaming backpack for a fraction of the cost. Find out more below!


How does an IRL Backpack work?

An IRL backpack encodes captured video and transmits the captured video over the public internet to a video server where that live video can be produced. In order to achieve this there needs to be an encoder, transmitter, and a reliable internet connection.

After transmitting the captured video it is then received by an IRL server or video server where the live production takes place. From here, the producer can switch between lives, add overlays, graphics, mix sound, and much more. The produced live video is then distributed over the public internet to any platform or destination reaching the viewers’ device to watch the live stream.

There is much more features and abilities to an IRL backpack than simply streaming on a social media platform. IRL backpack setups are different but all require a way to encode and transmit captured video. Video can be captured from a smartphone or a professional camera. Depending on your build will determine the quality of video and reliability of the internet connection for transmission.

If you’d like to know what happens during live streaming check out our guide Low Latency Streaming. It defines all steps taken for a live stream and also teaches you how to improve video latency when streaming.


What Setup do IRL streamers use?

There are a few options to consider for an IRL Backpack, but the most common setups for an IRL Backpack include these devices: a live streaming encoder & transmitter, an IRL server (laptop or PC), and a smartphone, mobile device, or camera. Following the process above, there needs to be a way to capture, transmit, and distribute the live stream.

In the end, it all depends on the quality of the image, reliability of the live stream, and then personal needs or accessories for longer streaming and ease of use.


IRL Backpacks using a Mobile Device

Many producers of live streaming channels available on social media simply rely on the camera in their smartphones or media tablets and their wireless connection. That’s a great solution if the connectivity and the bandwidth available from AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or any other Mobile Virtual Network Operator is sufficient.

A solution exists for producers looking for more production sophistication than simply streaming to YouTube Live or Facebook Live. Using TVU Networks’ live streaming app TVU Anywhere on their smartphone or tablet in combination with the company’s TVU Producer cloud-based video production and streaming solution offers a low-cost way to achieve professional results.

IRL Backpack streaming 700KM bike ride on Twitch.

Many live stream tutorials in this space have been devoted to using TVU Anywhere with TVU Producer together. Detailed information ranging from step-by-step walkthroughs to various case studies using this powerful combination.

Having the freedom to change lenses and input external mics offers producers far more flexibility than they typically have with their cell phones. Even if lenses can’t be interchanged, most cameras offer a variety of settings and features that give producers better control over their shots. These include, but are not limited to, image stabilization, high dynamic range support and more audio inputs. 

Affordable DIY IRL Backpack using android or iOS mobile devices

There are many benefits of using a live stream backpack such as this. 

  • First, it’s far less expensive than the streaming backpacks broadcasters use to shoot news. 
  • Second, leveraging the Galaxy 9 or higher or Google Pixel Phone with TVU Anywhere means that both the cell provider’s wireless network and an existing Wi-Fi network can be aggregated using TVU Networks IS+ technology. Together with HEVC encoding, this approach enhances reliability and maintains superior video quality.

Third, using a standalone video camera offers greater production flexibility, and finally, this setup is extremely lightweight, making it easy to carry for run-and-gun productions.


IRL Backpacks using Professional Cameras

However, some video producers want to forego using the video cameras built into their smart devices and instead rely on a professional video camera or cameras for their live production. The reasons to do so are many and varied.

IRL backpack using professional cameras

Unique Shots

One deals with lenses. Many professional cameras support interchangeable lenses so producers can optimize their video shots for certain circumstances. Such as a zoom lens for close-ups during sports coverage.

Custom Controls

Professional cameras also offer far more controls over imaging than a cellphone camera and the ability to match the video output of several cameras for a multi-camera live stream production. There’s also a full lineup of live streaming equipment to make certain shoots easier, plus more options when it comes to audio pickup.


Perhaps the most underappreciated –but most obvious—benefit is the form factor of a professional camera compared to that of a smartphone.

When someone in the public sees a camera operator with a shoulder-mounted ENG camera, they likely make a quick mental note that something important is going on. That can work to the advantage of a producer.

However, when that same member of the public sees a professional shooting a scene with a cellphone, that camera operator probably is seen as just another member of the public.


What is the best IRL Backpack Setup?

The best IRL Backpack is a streaming backpack that provides an easy workflow, high quality, reliable internet, transmission, and distribution. Overall, you will want an IRL backpack to work exactly as you intend to use it.

What do you want to live stream and what tools are needed to achieve that? Here are some use cases for IRL backpack streaming.

  • Live news broadcasting
  • Live streaming sports
  • Outdoor live streaming
  • Remote Live Streaming
  • Live Streaming Events

IRL Backpacks are essential for any live video production whether it be an individual IRL streamer to large production crews streaming big events. It’s also important to note that an individual may want lightweight equipment to carry for live streaming while also having the highest possible quality, whereas production teams may need that and more.

In both cases, cloud production is the solution that can eliminate the need for equipment while delivering the best quality on a budget.


Key Considerations for Streaming Backpacks

The most important details to keep in mind when looking to build your own IRL backpack are the features you need for your use. In the list below you can find the most important features needed for any live streaming backpack.

  • Capture high-quality images – From Full-HD to 4K. Providing the best quality for any IRL stream keeps your viewers coming back for more. The better the quality the more they feel closely involved.
  • Reliable internet connection – Make sure to have as many options as needed to connect to the internet. TVU One provides up to 12 different data connections to keep you connected anywhere around the world.
  • Live streaming encoder & transmitter – A high-quality live video transmitter that encodes your live stream best for the internet opens the opportunity to easily distribute wherever you need to.
  • Image stabilization – Stabilizing the image capture will help create a better quality live stream.
  • Microphone – As you are communicating with your viewers you want to have a quality mic to always give great audio to better their experience.
  • Easy live streaming workflow – Making it easy to launch and start streaming on the go can save much-needed time to completely focus on the live stream.
  • Long-lasting battery life – Make sure to have backup power packs to keep your backpack stream going.
  • Multistream to many destinations – The ability to multistream presents an opportunity to reach larger audiences.
  • Live video distribution – For large live production needs distribution can be very important to reach all audiences needed.
  • IRL backpack cost to build – make sure to keep your IRL backpack build within a budget while focusing on your needs.

The features listed above can come at a cost yet some can be optimized through cloud production as previously stated.

Yet, for those with low funds and no real desire to use an external camera, TVU Anywhere running on a smartphone and used in conjunction with TVU Producer live switching is a great approach. 

If some money is available and the flexibility offered by using an external camera is needed, a great IRL streaming backpack can be built using a smartphone, TVU Anywhere and a Magewell converter box.

If still more funds are available and there’s a desire to up the level of bandwidth aggregation by drawing on more and more varied sources of bandwidth, a DIY live stream backpack based on the TVU Networks Nano IP transmitter is the correct choice. 

Beyond that, the choice is a streaming backpack used daily by broadcasters around the world.

Selecting the right approach means knowing what needs to be accomplished, how the backpack will be used and how much funding is available. The answers to those questions will determine which approach is right. Regardless of the selection, however, there is a great alternative for use at any level.


Build an IRL Backpack with a Smartphone under $500

If you are a producer who for whatever reason believes a professional camera is the best solution for the project at hand, the problem is the camera likely doesn’t have the ability to stream video without a separate wireless video transmitter.

That’s a particularly big problem for producers on a budget because live streaming video transmitters used by TV broadcasters are expensive compared to a smartphone.

TVU Anywhere live streaming IRL backpack setup

However, resourceful video producers can build their own mobile live streaming backpack for under $500. Sure, it won’t have all of the bells and whistles of an expensive IP streaming transmitter, but if it’s based on TVU Anywhere, it will have what counts: TVU Networks’ Inverse StatMux Plus (IS+) technology.

IS+ is important because it intelligently distributes IP packets across multiple sources of bandwidth to make the best use of available wireless resources. It dynamically responds to the fluctuations in wireless bandwidth that inevitably happen while streaming to maintain optimal video quality.

In smartphones running the TVU Anywhere app, IS+ combines wireless bandwidth available via the cellular provider’s network with any available Wi-Fi network through cellular bonding to maximize the video transmission, live stream performance, and enhance the robustness of the wireless connection.

Using the IRL streaming app TVU Anywhere to live stream on Twitch

To build your own IRL backpack, you’ll need:

  1. A smartphone
  2. TVU Networks’ TVU Anywhere mobile broadcast app running on that smartphone (a Galaxy 9 or higher or Google Pixel Phone)
  3. And a way to convert the output of the camera to USB.

Magewell makes two converters that work, one of which will be right depending on the output of the camera.

The Magewell USB Capture HDMI Gen 2 should be used with cameras offering HDMI output, and the Magewell USB Capture SDI Gen 2 is the right choice for cameras with SDI outputs.

Each is available from B&H Photo for $299.

The converter comes with a mini-coax-to-SDI adapter cable to connect an SDI camera to the converter and a USB 3.0 cable to connect –using a separate USB-C adapter costing $8.99 at B&H—to the phone.

All that’s left to buy may be backup batteries, a charger, and a small backpack or fanny pack. Assuming a producer already owns a smartphone and has wireless service, the total cost of this setup is well below $500—probably in the range of $350.

TVU Anywhere live streaming IRL backpack setup

TVU Anywhere

IRL Streaming App


Increase Bandwidth for any IRL Backpack

Producers with a somewhat bigger budget might consider using the video transmitter TVU Nano, which measures just 6.2 x 3.25 x 1.2 inches and weighs 17 oz. Like the TVU Anywhere running on a smartphone, TVU Nano uses the IS+ algorithm to aggregate bandwidth.

Increase bandwidth for IRL backpack streaming

The difference is that TVU Nano can aggregate bandwidth from up to five different sources, including Wi-Fi and Ethernet with a USB adapter.

TVU Nano has two internal wireless modems and supports two external modems. It also can take advantage of bandwidth from microwave, Ka- and Ku-band satellite and BGAN sources.

Although this approach is more expensive than the smartphone-based backpack, it is far less costly than the IRL backpack transmitters, TV broadcasters, and high-end producers regularly use.

TVU Nano

Mobile Video Transmitter for IRL Streaming


Build a professional IRL Backpack

TVU Networks takes it up another notch for those with a larger budget looking for a solid cellular bonding solution that makes it possible to go live anytime and anywhere around the globe. For a complete high-level IRL streaming backpack with all the bells and whistles, the best bet is none other than TVU One live video transmitter.

IRL backpack streaming encoder TVU One live video transmitter

Professional IRL streamers need a turnkey solution with no worries and all features covered from reliable transmissions, high-image quality, encoding efficiency, connectivity, battery life, and bi-directional communication, and that’s not even the full list.

TVU One comes complete with high-broadcast quality transmissions and unmatched connectivity. It contains both a built-in wireless video transmitter and live streaming encoder.

Use TVU One for any IRL Backpack Setup for Twitch

Using enhanced cellular bonding technology this flagship live video pack transmits 4K60p at 3Mbps in 10bit HDR/HLG picture quality with up to 12 data connection points and a 4.5-hour battery life that extends to 8 hours with the TVU PowerPac.

TVU One has proven its features in the most remote areas around the world showcasing its ability to go live in more than 180 countries while in the most unstable conditions imaginable.

TVU One features for an ultimate streaming backpack include:

  • Live Video Transmission: Up to 4K60p
  • Image Quality: 4K HD/HLG 10-bit color depth
  • Live Stream Encoding: H264, H265, HEVC
  • Transmission Speed: Up to 100Mbps over 5G bonding
  • Cellular Bonding Compatibility: 3G/4G/5G, LTE, WiFi, Ethernet, Ka-band, Ku-band satellite, microwave, and BGAN.
  • Data Connections: Up to 12
  • Battery Life: 4.5 Hours
  • TVU PowerPac: 8 Hours
  • Bonus: Comes ready with a full backpack set.

Being one of the most resilient and reliable live video transmitters you can stay focused on IRL streaming without an ounce of a hiccup in any live stream or transmission.

IRL Backpack streaming encoder TVU One


4k Live Video Transmitter & Streaming Encoder


Create the IRL live stream for your Audience

So, back to the initial question. How do you cut through the crowd, stand out and build an audience on your YouTube Live or Facebook Live channel? Certainly, the most important part has to be producing relevant, informative or entertaining content that tickles the fancy of your target audience.

But having the ability to go after that content live wherever it happens to occur and stream it reliably with great video and sound quality will definitely set your channel apart from the pack. A DIY streaming backpack is an affordable way to make that happen.


Talk to our team to learn more about our solutions

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