A Beginner’s Guide To Live Streaming

A Beginners Guide To Live Streaming image

Live Streaming Today

2020 is all about instant gratification. In Instagram we catch those “moments” that life offers as we have them and share them with the world. Facebook dedicates server space to building a “timeline” of your life. Meanwhile Netflix, Amazon Video, Disney+ and so many others offer us entertainment on demand. The world wants the here and now whenever it desires. That is why you should be embracing the opportunities live streaming brings to you and your organization.

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The Apocryphal Tale

It’s usual to begin a blog with a terrifying tale that highlights not listening to the expert so here goes. Back in March 2018, I was part of a crew tasked to film an all-day event in Manchester. Delegates were traveling from all over the country. As was the talent. Tickets were in excess of £700 and the client could taste success on the tip of their tongue. Then disaster. Storm Emma came across the Atlantic and blew the event, and the client’s hopes, out of existence. Travel chaos meant that not only paying delegates but paid guest speakers couldn’t get out of their hoses, let alone into the venue. With a heavy heart, the client refunded tickets and cursed the weather.

This year though the client has come to me with a plan; we are going to livestream the event and then not only could people choose to attend in person but watch from the comfort of their homes. This time his event will reach everyone and they will all benefit and he won’t need to issue apologies (or refunds).

Live Streaming Events

Be they conferences, sporting events or even staged webinars there are standard considerations you need to consider when planning your event. These need to be considered before booking the venue.

Internet Speeds

Internet speed is paramount when it comes to live streaming. For a successful live stream you need a solid WIRED connection. Wi-Fi won’t do. Most venues boast of their internet speeds but don’t account for the effects of potentially hundreds of people all on the internet via wi-fi at the same time. With so many people clogging up the bandwidth the chances of you getting a reliable internet connection are slim to none.

Download Vs Upload

Venues, and most Internet providers will give you a “download” speed as an example of their connectivity. That’s because they believe you’re more likely to download something (say a file, a photo or the latest episode of your favourite show) than to upload. Yet for live streaming whether you’re in Manchester or Timbuktu it is the upload that will make or break you. Remember you’re sending your video UP to the Internet and the disparity between download and upload speeds is very surprising.

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Test Your Stream

There are various websites that allow you to test your internet speed. The one that’s been around the longest is by Ookla.

It’s essential for live streaming that your Internet speed is stable and a minimum of 3mbps. Remember; it is the upload speed you are interested in.

The following speeds are recommended for each of the major streaming platforms.

  • Facebook Live recommends a max bit rate of 4mbps, plus a max audio bit rate of 128kbps
  • YouTube Live recommends a range between 1.5mbps and 4mbps for video, plus 128kbps for audio
  • Twitch recommends a range between 2,.5mbps and 4mbps for video, plus up to 160 kbps for audio

Now you’re thinking “Hang on! You said a minimum of 3mbps but now you’re saying 1.5mbps is fine for some streaming platforms?”

Yes, I am. The reason for this is that you need a bit of “room”. Upload is so dependent on download that, at busy times you can effectively halve your upload speed. So in a busy venue even with dedicated rely you can only rely on getting half your tested upload speed.

No Internet? No problem

You can use a 4g router as a back up. This router uses the same channels as the data on your phone in order to carry the signal to the Internet. A 4g router shouldn’t be your first solution as a few people on their phone eating data in your area can cut into your upload. You also need to ensure the 4g router’s pay as you go Simcard is well in credit so it doesn’t run out mid-stream!

Wired not Wi-Fi

This is why a wired network is always preferable. If need be to get the longest Ethernet cable you can and plug it into the router on whatever floor or hidden panel your router is housed. Also never, ever use a pubic Wi-Fi as although it may work initially once your event fills up and people are taking pictures, filming, uploading and browsing on their phones then your bandwidth will vanish.

Where Does The Wire Go?

So you’ve got one end of your wired connection going into a router (which is good) but if you’re live streaming events where does the other end go? Well, ideally it goes into a mixer. Not a food mixer but a vision mixer. There are many on the market but as live streaming is a new-ish kind of deal some of them require you to go into a streaming box after leaving the mixer. The mixer mixes together the cameras and inputs that make-up your event.

If it’s a sporting event then you want more than one camera. Ideally at least one up high catching the action and another (or a few) catching close-ups on the ground.

If you’re live streaming an awards show you might one filming the stage and podium. You might want a wide shot of the whole auditorium and one facing the audience to catch the winner as they walk to stage. You’ll probably also need an “input” from a computer that’s telling you what the award is or featuring pictures of the nominations and winners.

If you’re streaming an event like live streaming a conference you might want multiple cameras on the stage if it’s a panel discussion. You might want one on the audience to pick up and questions or audience interaction. Again you may want to stream the PowerPoint from someone’s laptop or any slides and stills they are showing on the venue screen.

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Don’t Forget Sound

As well as visuals you’ll want to capture sound as clearly as you can. The fledgling live streamer usually forgets this but let me tell you; the sound is usually more important. At an awards show or conference capturing the voices of the participants is essential. Those people watching on a smart phone or computer will be eagerly listening to the livestream of your event so make sure they can hear it. This means multiple mics; don’t rely on the camera microphones. If you’re at a venue like a hotel or conference center they usually have a PA (speaker system) to hand. You can take a cable from this and put it in the mixer to make sure the sound your absent streaming audience is hearing is the same as that in the auditorium.

Where To Stream?

This generally depends on your audience. Most clients stream to YouTube as it’s a platform that “normal” people use everyday so they can easily navigate to it. But Twitter, Vimeo, Instagram and many others offer live streaming locations. Each has their own pros and pitfalls.

Steaming To Your Website

With a bit of back end programming it’s possible to stream to your very own website.
Advantages: It’s where your audience will look for you.
Disadvantages: Will need some back end jiggery-pokery
Some servers limit the number of visitors and data that can visit a site at any one time.

YouTube

Advantages: Ease of use
Can schedule events in advance
Free
Disadvantages: Not seen as “professional”
Difficult to moderate comments

Facebook Live

Advantages: Popular with a certain demographic
If you have your own business page then an audience for your “Facebook Live” is built in.
Disadvantages: Experiences occiasional technical issues

Twitch

Advantages: Again popular with a certain demographic (it skews young)
If you have your own business page then an audience for your “Facebook Live” is built in.
Disadvantages: Not really seen as “business” platform

Periscope

Owned by Twitter the streaming platform has some consequently has some advantages
Advantages: You can use #hashtags to draw attention to your event streaming live
Increases your audience engagement and is therefore great for brands
Disadvantages: Not as much engagement as Twitter Live (Periscope has less registered users)

Vimeo

Advantages: Seen as professional
Lots of options for adding text and even re-editing after your event
Disadvantages: Users need to register on Vimeo to participate
Professional features are very expensive

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Instagram Live

Advantages: Very popular with key demographics
Great opportunity for brands
Disadvantages: Only one hour of maximum streaming time.

A Note on Instagram

Instagram is considered a mobile only platform. Galleon Studios however is the only company in the UK who can not only stream to Instagram using “normal” cameras (as opposed to mobiles) but can also film vertically. Vertical/portrait filming is Instagram’s preferred method of filming (as opposed to horizontal). What’s more here at Galleon we can incorporate mobile phone footage “live” into the stream. In a future blog I’ll elaborate and explain how.

Live streaming your event is a great opportunity to boost your profile, generate interest in your brand and be seen as forward-thinking. It directly benefits the environment with fewer people attending your event in person, so fewer cars on the road and fewer strains on the transport system. It increases engagement with your event by welcoming interactivity through comments. For those wanting to be ahead of the zeitgeist then filming and streaming your next event is a no-brainer. If you need support then reach out to Galleon Studios. We live stream on-location or in our studios. Speak to us now.

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