In Part 1, we covered some basic facts about livestreaming (ICYMI: 3 Questions You Were Afraid to Ask About Livestreaming), and I left you with some questions to help guide your decisions on how (or whether) you should incorporate livestreaming into your next event.
In Part 2, Will it Stream?, we dove into different types of content created at events, and which content makes the most compelling livestreams.
In this installment, we’re going to talk about the different types of tech you’ll need to get your livestreaming program up and running – i.e. cameras, microphones, software, online platforms, etc.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, mobile streaming is the fastest growing segment of the livestreaming movement – and it’s not hard to see why. Smartphones are everywhere, and Silicon Valley keeps churning out new social streaming apps (like Periscope, Meerkat, Ustream, YouNow – the list goes on). You can even stream straight from Facebook!
Technically, all you need to create your very own mobile live stream is a smartphone or tablet and network connection. That said, there are a few pieces of equipment that you can buy to significantly improve the quality of your mobile livestream.
In a mobile live stream, your mobile device (smartphone or tablet) serves all three functions of your video production – it’s your camera, your microphone, and your transmitter. So if you’re buying a device specifically for livestreaming, look for one that has a high-quality camera (nothing less than 5 megapixels) and a decent processor (at least 1GHz).
If there’s any possibility that you’ll be streaming from areas without a WiFi signal, then you’ll need a tablet that will accept a 4G SIM card (not all Android tablets will handle 4G, but all iPads do). And unless you plan on being stationary the whole time you’re streaming, you’ll want a device with a decent battery life.
As far as internal microphones go, not even the best ones are all that good. Besides, why stick with your built-in mic when there are so many great external mic options?
There are loads of microphone options for mobile devices – most will plug into your device’s microphone port. For tablets and other mobile devices with USB ports, you can select from the many digital microphones (I’ll describe these later on in the post).
Another accessory you might consider is a mount for your mobile device (I like this one, personally – it’ll allow you to rest your your device upright on most surfaces, mount it to a tripod or even attach it to a bicycle!)
For most meetings, educational sessions and seminars, a laptop streaming setup will meet your livestreaming needs. It’s also remarkably simple, and relatively inexpensive.
As you can guess, central to your laptop livestream will be your laptop. Now, your laptop doesn’t need to be a beast in order to livestream – nearly any current, middle-of-the-road laptop will do – but if you plan on livestreaming a bunch, it would be nice to have a single laptop dedicated to your livestream equipment.
You’ll need a good webcam – preferably with a resolution in the 1920 x 1080 pixel range. Other features you may want to look for are auto focus and a tripod mount. The Microsoft LifeCam Studio is a pretty good example – its wide-angle lens and face-tracking means you can set the camera in the back of a conference room and capture your speaker as she walks from one end of the stage to the other. Most high-quality webcams come with built-in microphones – some of which are also quite high-quality. But again, with so many great external mics out there...
Speaking as someone who’s attended a ton of virtual conference and watched more livestreams than I’d ever admit to, nothing ruins the spectator experience quite like bad audio. And it’s a crying shame, since it’s such an easy fix.
You’ll want to have a variety of digital mics on hand, so you can pick the microphone that best fits your livestream needs that day. For example, if you’ve got one speaker at the front of a large room, you’d want something like the Samson Stage XPD1 Presentation, whereas you might prefer an omnidirectional, middle-distance mic if you’re capturing multiple speakers.
About here is where someone asks, “can I use multiple microphones with my livestream?” The short answer is “yes.” But it does increase the level of difficulty a bit. It took me personally two weeks to configure my laptop recognize the two Blue Snowball mics we use here at Lanyon HQ Studio. So I’ll save that topic for a later post.
If you Google “livestream platform,” you’ll quickly see that there’s a wealth of options for the laptop livestreamer. From Youtube and Ustream to Vivo and the all-too-appropriately-named Livestream, chances are, with a little research, you can easily find a platform that meets the needs of your event.
When choosing a platform, keep in mind the goals of your event’s livestream. Are you trying to stream on a tight budget? There are plenty of free livestreaming platforms, but they only off a very restricted set of features – and might even put advertisements in your feed. Do you want to restrict access to your stream? If so, you’ll need a platform that is password-protected. Want to track your viewers? You’ll need a platform with an analytics package.
If you’re new to livestreaming, then you’ll probably want to start with a laptop streaming setup. Here’s why:
Full-scale streaming can get pretty intense. To get started, you’ll need a pro-level camcorder, a set a quality condenser microphones, some studio lights and the tripods, booms, mounts and rigs need to mount it all. And then, once you’ve captured your audio and video, you’ll need to pass those output signals through mixers and digital converters before running them into your laptop and out onto the web.
A lot of planners simply aren’t interested in jumping such a hurdle, and I don’t blame them.
The exception, however, is if you’re already engaging a production company to record your events. If that’s the case, then setting up your livestream might be as easy as running their audio and video signals through a couple converters, into your laptop and onto your chosen streaming platform. In fact, more and more event production companies are willing – if not eager – to do this for you (For a fee, of course).
Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment of “Streaming You Event”, where we’ll tackle the question, “what to do with all that livestream content once the event is over?”