Although the COVID-19 has exploded the use of livestreams to disseminate live performance worldwide, live streaming has been around for a while.
Live streaming allows you to broadcast audio and video directly to your audience in real-time from anywhere, using a recording/filming device and the internet. It is a tool used by artists, gamers, and professionals all around the world.
You can go live with a set-up as simple as a single smartphone or as complicated as multiple video cameras, live instruments and numerous locations. Live streaming has almost limitless possibilities - from live concerts, poetry readings, performances, Q&As, movie screenings, and so much more.
Some live streamed events also have live, in-person audiences present - allowing online audiences to experience the event at the same time as those attending in-person.
Currently, there are several platforms offering a basic live stream service. These services allow you to stream right away using the camera from the device you are logging in with. Some platforms you may want to look into for your live stream event are:
- IBM Cloud Video
Each of these services gives everything you need to get started with a basic one camera live stream.
Depending on the live stream you’re trying to achieve, each live stream service has different options. The sites listed above are great for one host to broadcast to an unlimited audience size. Something important to keep in mind would be the content in your live stream. Facebook and Youtube will shut down any live streams using copyrighted - music even if you are mixing or DJing. Twitch, on the other hand, will not shut down your live stream.
Another thing to consider would be ease of access. If the majority of your fan base is on Facebook, bring the live stream straight to them! People will generally be more inclined to join a live stream they can see experience through a platform they're already comfortable in, than through a link bringing them to another site.
For more info on the streaming services offered by different sites check out this article.
Live streaming is LIVE. Meaning, anything can happen, so you really want to consider what, when, and where you will be doing your live stream.
- Make sure you have a strong and stable wifi connection. If possible, set up a closed network - a wifi network set up specifically for live streaming. The fewer things you have connected to the wifi, the better your stream will be! If you can, turn off any unnecessary devices using the wifi.
- If you are live streaming from a stationary point, make sure you have your camera in a sturdy place that has access to power so it won't die during your stream.
- Next, practice your live stream before doing it for an actual audience by recording a video on the camera you will be using for the stream. This will allow you to check things like sound and video quality and it gives you the opportunity to see how the stream looks aesthetically.
- Consider what the backdrop of your live stream will be and make sure everything that you will need throughout the broadcast is be easily accessible to you.
- If you are using any green-screen effects, make sure anyone in view of the stream camera is not wearing clothes that will blend into the green screen.
You may be coordinating multiple elements or a series of events during your live stream event. Create a schedule and practice some of the more difficult transitions before you go live. You can also use templates like this virtual event planning template from Airtable to make your event run seamlessly.
Third-party applications are necessary for multi-camera live streams. Think of them as an app for directing your live stream. Third-party applications like Switcher Studio, Socialive and Restream allow you to add titles, logos, and transitions to your livestream, have the capacity to switch between multiple devices, and let you broadcast to multiple sites at once.
Even though it isn’t necessary for single-camera live streams, using a third party application can boost the quality and product of your live stream. That being said, you do not need a third-party app to livestream using Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Periscope, Twitch, or IBM Cloud Video unless you are planning a live stream using multiple angles.
Open Broadcast Software (OBS) is a funnel for video streams. It allows the user to take multiple video feeds (or images), put them all together, and then record or broadcast the content through a single, unified video feed. It can be downloaded for free at OBS Project. You can to prerecord video, add background images, text, and additional platforms (Zoom calls, webcam feeds, CdnStudio etc) and livestream to YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook live with OBS.
SpiderWebShow/FOLDA has put together an OBS 101 Guide that walks through basic tools for streaming, recording, and accessing your videos.
Depending on your event, you may want multiple angles. This is where live streaming can get complicated. In order to achieve a multi-angled live stream on the above sites, you will need a third-party program or application in order to manipulate which cameras are being broadcasted to the live stream at any given time. Some options include Switcher Studio, Socialive and Restream.
Switcher allows you to turn any IOS device into a live-stream camera that you can control from a tablet. Switcher is available for free on a two-week trial basis and is the most reliable and user friendly application for broadcasting multi-angled live streams.
The key thing to remember when doing a multi-angled live stream is set up time. You will need to set up and test each camera individually. If your live stream is going to be longer than a few minutes, each device will need its own power source. Lastly, you will want to confirm how strong the wifi is in the location you are streaming. In order to stream at the highest quality, the wifi that you are connected to needs to have a large bandwidth speed. The more angles you want = the more bandwidth you need. A basic one camera stream requires a bandwidth above 20 Mbps or more. Multiple devices will require a bandwidth of 50 Mbps or more. If your wifi isn’t up to speed, you will have to sacrifice video quality in order to be able to produce a constant live stream without buffering.
You can create a live stream experience between multiple individuals in different locations by broadcasting a video chat, like Zoom or Google Hangouts (Google Meet with a business account). You may want to choose a group chat service where the host can control who is seen and muted. Zoom offers this feature.
Your live stream will have the greatest success if all broadcasted participants are set up in a quiet and well lit area near the wifi router. If participants can use one device with a good camera to join the video chat and a different device for other references they may need (like a script or itinerary), that would be ideal.
The most ideal way to share a group chat would be through a third-party application to broadcast your group chat. This keeps the group chat closed and prevents people from joining. Once you have everyone connected to the video chat, start your live stream using a third party application such as Switcher Studio and then share your screen from your laptop. Make sure you take the time to fully understand and practice the set up required to broadcast your stream. You will want to rehearse the execution of this beforehand, and it may be necessary to hire some additional technical help.
You don’t need anything special for a basic live stream besides your phone or laptop. Keep in mind though, the better the camera on your laptop or phone, the better the video quality will be. You can also look into cameras specifically designed for live streaming - but these are not necessary to get started.
If live sound is a key component in your live stream experience, you may not want to rely on the audio quality from a laptop or phone mic. You do have the option to plug an external mic into any device recording for your live stream, which will create a better sound then the internal mic of your device. Make sure the mic is connected correctly and you have selected it as the audio input on your device before starting your live stream.
If your live stream event involves live instrumentation, you can pull sound directly from instruments via an audio jack using programs like Switcher Studio. You will however, need something like the IRig to make this work. Simply connect an IRig type system to your sound mixer and then connect that to your main device. Test for levels, and you’re ready to go!
Unfortunately, Live streaming is not a perfect performance platform. Issues can happen and it’s important to handle them calmly and quickly as you do have a live audience watching you or waiting to watch you. Common issues that may happen are;
The first thing to check when anything goes wrong is your wifi connection. Poor wifi connection means poor live stream quality. If possible, try and be the only thing connected to the wifi when streaming. If you’re at home, turn off all your unnecessary devices. If your wifi signal is strong it may be a temporary glitch from the site itself. Try refreshing the page. Yes, this is not ideal during a live stream as it requires your audience to leave your stream and come back but it will be worth it in the long run. Lastly, ensure any device streaming is not running programs in the background that may slow down or interrupt the stream.
If you are still encountering issues after these steps, you may need to lower your stream video quality. This is an option that can be found in the stream settings on each of the sites or in your third party application.
The Social Distancing Festival is an online artist’s community made to celebrate and showcase the work of the many artists around the world who have been affected by the need for social distancing that has come about due to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Check out the list of live streams or submit your own project here.
Check out this ReStream article that features 7 free live video streaming sites to watch and upload real-time events.
Check out this extensive article by Howlround on How to Produce a Livestreamed Event: A Producer’s Guide to the Tools and Embedded Values.
Moving your meetings and workshops online? Check out this free e-book on Leading Groups Online for some digital facilitation tips.
The Guardian's article "The next act: how the pandemic is shaping online theatre's future" discusses the great creativity and accessibility of live-streaming, and explores its financial sustainably long-term. Worth a read.