Live Streaming By Necessity

Live Streaming By Necessity

Posted by Mark Helms on Mar 17th 2020

Are you finding yourself suddenly in need of the ability to communicate with an audience that can no longer come to you? A lot of people, us included, are being faced with new challenges and having to learn very quickly to use technology that we weren't quite ready to jump into.  Regardless of your circumstance, this is a quick outline of things you should be keeping in mind.

Thanks to these sudden changes thrust on us by the global pandemic, we are having to learn new and different ways to get a message across.  Over the next several days or even weeks you will see us posting ideas, concepts, product concepts, demonstrations, and other content related to how Audio/Video technology might be able to help you meet new goals and adapt to these new challenges.  

Prior to diving into this, we wanted to clarify a couple things:

  • Obviously we are a business and are interested in selling products, however we are most interested in creating a relationship with you as a customer that can be ongoing even after this crisis is over.  As such, we may reference products that we can't get or point you to other vendors where it makes sense.  
  • We are experts in Professional Audio equipment first and foremost and while we have some expertise in house for professional video and even network or IT infrastructure, we want to be quick to say that we may not know every answer ourselves.  The advantage we can offer is if you are needing more advanced professional help in an area outside of our 'wheelhouse', we will say so and try to connect you with a professional in that area.

This particular primer is designed for distributing a single message to a larger audience, normally using a social media service like Facebook or YouTube.  Most of these concepts apply well to video conferencing setups where there is a main presentation point, but we will probably have a separate post focusing more on conferencing another day.   In general there are 5 key areas that we will focus on: Content, Capture, Ingest, Software, and Service/Platform.

Content is king is a common saying around social media circles, and it's really a fairly true statement.  If you are involved in social media at all, at some point you've probably seen a viral post with absolutely awful video (shaking, blurry, not in frame) and horrible or no audio, and yet it's generating 10's of millions of views.  This is because the content is so key and maybe the bad conditions even play into the believably of what the content is.  We mention this to say: please have your content in mind before spending ANY money.  Do you have content that you absolutely know people want to see?  Chances are you do if you are looking for this solution, but if you are trying something different than your normal content or adding something new, keep in mind that not only will the content be a key component, but it will also drive the rest of the steps.

Capture is how you see or hear the content in the context of a digital share.  It's the camera and microphone part.  This is definitely something we can help with if you need to do it well, but the first question you should ask: is the device you carry around with you every day (your phone) enough to share your message?  If you have a relatively simple message that you can present in a well lit room with no background noise, you might only need a tripod and adapter (or even just a steady handed friend).  That said, if your content demands higher quality or your environment isn't ideal, not only could you end up wanting multiple cameras and microphones, but that might require lighting, switchers and mixers, additional team members, and even video overlays for text and teleprompters.  

Again, chances are that if you are looking for an article like this, you probably need more than just your phone, but do evaluate what you have and how it does or doesn't work for you.  Often the video on your phone is acceptable, but you need an audio improvement to better communicate, plus maybe a tripod and lights to assist your phone camera in getting a good picture consistently.  Just give it some thought and maybe even do a trial run with your phone or a simple camera and evaluate what works and what doesn't.

Ingest is the part where your audio and video gets pulled into a device that can do something with it.  This step is often taken for granted because if you are using your phone, tablet, or even laptop with webcam, it's already got this step handled.  What you need to have in mind is that often in professional equipment, this is a very specific and intentional step in the process.  If you are using your phone, but want to add a microphone, you have to consider how that microphone's sound will make it into the phone and if that step presents the quality that you desire.  If you want a full professional camera and audio mixing setup, the output of that has to get into a computer and normally if there is something built into the computer, it's not meant to keep up with the quality of good equipment and can ruin the quality you've spent money to achieve.

Software is another thing that is easy to overlook, and while it might be very automatic on a phone (all you probably have to do is give your app permission to access the camera or microphone), keep in mind that even on a phone, some apps might not know what to do with professionally connected audio device (connected through Thunderbolt or USB-C), so understanding the compatibility of your app is important.  This is even more true with a computer as some basic apps or web applets (such as the built-in Facebook live streaming client) might not be able to identify some professional high bandwidth video ingest cards and only be compatible with pre-compressed cards that the computer identifies more like a webcam.  Similar can be true of audio interfaces.  There is more advanced software that might be able to use better interfaces and even stream to multiple services simultaneously. 

Service/Platform is most likely something you already have in mind, but it's worth at least addressing.  You have to use a platform to get your content to multiple people.  Most people use Facebook or YouTube for basic streaming needs, but there are a number of different platforms, not to mention the video conferencing if that's more applicable for your needs.  The main things to consider is what if any additional services or capabilities you want or need, how advertising might work on whatever platform you choose if you want it for free, and if you already have your potential audience plugged into a particular venue.  Services do exist for embedding live streamed content into a website with no advertising, but those likely cost money.  There are even services that will help you create a Roku or AppleTV channel, but again, at a cost.  Just make sure you have something in mind for this and consider how your choice might affect your audience.  

Please stay tuned, we are planning on diving deeper into these topics and will go back and update this article with links and information as we create it.  If you are interested in help with a full professional solution, please feel free to contact us and we'd love to assist.