Beginners Guide to Hosting a Live-Stream
Whether your marketing outreach has become unexpectedly limited due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or you’re just looking for new ways to reach your customers/audience, live-streaming content is critical to developing a stronger relationship with your network. From hosting seminars, Q&A’s, marketing events, and more, the options for the sorts of digital media you are able to deliver are limitless when you give your audience a front-row seat to your content as it happens.
Intro to Live-Streaming
Yet the technology needed to be able craft and host such events are among the most difficult of all digital media to produce. Not only does it require high-quality recording equipment, but there are also several other tools needed to be able to successfully operate a professional live-stream. While we here at Foundation Digital Media would love to put our years of Washington D.C. video production and live-streaming experience to work helping you with your next streaming idea, we also want to help you get started learning the basics right now. With that in mind, today we are presenting a basic rundown of the technology necessary to get started in professional live-streaming video production.
Video And Audio Recording
Like in all video production projects, this one begins with selecting the optimal camera for the job. There are various options available for different price points, which we have also taken the time to break down for you, depending upon your budget and your shooting needs. Ideally, you will select a camera that supports a sufficient resolution and overlay for your purposes, doesn’t shut off automatically at a certain time or overheat, and has the required output to connect your computer or intermediary device. Unless using the camera’s built-in audio capture, you’ll also need a suitable microphone (or multiple).
If you have limited resources, you can always stream directly from your smartphone for limited applications. The benefit of doing so does simplify the process and remove some of the other technology on this list as it has a more direct connection between what you’re shooting and the place you are uploading it, but obviously comes with the downside of being very low-quality and impractical for professional shoots.
This section is perhaps the most important when it comes to live-streaming specifically, as in order to stream video on the internet you will require a device or software that will allow you to compress the video file coming from the camera into a language that is reproducible on the internet, so to speak. In order to do so, you will need to obtain what’s called a video encoder. This is a device that you connect to your camera using your required input/output (HDMI, SDI, VGA, etc.) and it translates the data then sends it to your streaming destination.
You can also use what is called a software encoder, which handles the same process but using the computing power of your PC or laptop. This software can be incredibly powerful and memory intensive, so be sure your system has the necessary components to handle it while it is running. You’ll also still require one additional piece of hardware in the form of a capture card, which is connected between the camera and the computer, to “capture” the images being recorded. While most hardware encoders have internal capture cards and handle the entire process smoothly without the need of a computer, the capture card & software encoder combo is typically more affordable and user-friendly for simple streams.
A Streaming Platform
Next you’ll want to select your preferred streaming platform, also known as a Content Delivery Network (CDN). While seemingly pretty simple, these can vary just as much as the other items on this list. There are many free options you are likely already familiar with like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Twitch. Each is fairly simple to use but might have certain requirements to stream on (for instance YouTube requires you to have 1,000 subscribers first), in addition to catering to certain niche audiences (like Twitch and the gaming community). There are also more professional, paid platforms to consider like Vimeo and StreamShark for more robust productions.
The process for using them is quite simple. Typically you will set up the event on the platform’s interface with a description, name, and an option to start now or at a selected time. Once you’re ready, you just paste the stream name and key from the CDN onto the encoder and press start streaming (both on the encoder and the CDN). There may be a short lag between the two, but once you see your signal come through you are off and running! Don’t forget to stop streaming on both devices when you’re finished.
High-Speed Internet Connection
Your internet connection may seem minimal or superfluous to mention, but it really is very important to consider. Be sure that your connection is between 10-15 Mbps for HD streaming or at least 1.5-2x greater than the bitrate of your stream for maximum precaution and minimal buffering/interruptions. Don’t risk it, run a few connection tests before you plan to stream to guarantee you have the required bandwidth. You can also use your phone or another mobile hotspot when streaming while on the go, but these connection speeds can often be unreliable.
Optional Tools And Additional Tricks
There are several other tools you might consider, depending upon the circumstances of your stream. While the gear listed above is the minimum necessary to stream with, there are several other items that would greatly boost the production value of your stream like a tripod, microphone, and studio lighting. You also might need someone to design an overlay or “lower-third” for your stream if you are looking for a completely professional look for your stream, which can often be incorporated into your stream using your encoder or digital platform. If using multiple cameras or audio sources, you may also need a mixer or control station to switch between those sources while streaming.
Given that live-streaming is inherently dependent upon realtime shooting, it is absolutely necessary to be as prepared as possible. Execute your streaming process with a test run before the day of the stream to ensure fluidity, start setting up early to allow time for practice in the space itself, and try to maintain complete control of the space however possible (keep your equipment out of the way and have cords taped down, for example).
If this still seems like too much to handle, or if you’d just like a little help with execution and incorporating live-streams into your greater digital marketing strategy, get in touch with seasoned Washington D.C. digital media and live-stream experts like us for a consultation. We have all the tools you need for any live-stream production or event, at all budgets!