From the beginning, Sweetwater has proudly helped musicians make the most of modern media technology in order to best reach their audience. In the past, that meant offering quality optical media burners and duplicators – first as audio-only CDs and then as DVDs. Over the past decade, we’ve watched the world of streaming video services come into existence and steadily gain in popularity. With 80%-90% of viewers watching videos online, live streaming your performances today isn’t just convenient, it’s almost essential.
What is live streaming (and why should you care)?
At its simplest, live streaming is a method of broadcasting video and audio over the Internet. This medium allows viewers to tune in to your productions from devices ranging from their television to their phone. The freedom that live streaming provides is the ability to broadcast your performances in a way that is more powerful, as it allows you to reach more fans than ever before. It is also immediate, so there’s no need to record, edit, print, and distribute materials.
There are additional bonuses to live streaming. For starters, few live streaming services only provide real-time streaming. Virtually all of them also allow you to store and distribute your material well after broadcasting, completely eliminating the need for recording or printing physical media. What’s more, in many cases the amount you save on disc production equipment and the discs themselves greatly offsets the cost of a modest commercial live streaming service, and free options such as YouTube Live and Facebook are steadily gaining popularity.
What do you need to start live streaming?
Depending on how elaborate you want to get with your setup, live streaming can be as simple as hooking up a single camera to your computer, or it can be an elaborate process requiring a considerable amount of specialty equipment. Sweetwater recommends a middle ground, which typically consists of two or three cameras, a video mixer, a reliable computer, and a live streaming service that fits your needs. There are also audio considerations, which we’ll cover as well.
Depending on the size of your space, the distance you need to cover, and how sophisticated you want to get with your system, the actual cameras you choose will vary considerably. Any professional or semi-professional camera should be able to provide HD resolution, but you’ll want to make sure whatever encoding and connections they use are supported by your mixer.
Prioritize the audio feed
Nothing makes good video more intolerable than poor audio, and when it comes to getting the message out, being able to hear the words clearly is absolutely critical. The right microphones positioned correctly can make all the difference in the world. There are two basic directions you can go with audio: taking an auxiliary feed from the mixing board or using an all-in-one video mixer.
1) Use an auxiliary send
If you’re taking a feed from the board, think about what sources you’re actually using for your house mix. Chances are you’re only miking the quieter sources, such as vocals and keys through the PA, leaving drums and guitars out of the mix. If you only stream the mix from the board, then your performance may not sound its best. At the very least, you’ll need to set up a couple of room mics, but a far better solution is to set up more instrument mics and only send them to a dedicated auxiliary output that generates a mix tailored for your video stream.
Use an all-in-one video mixer
While a video switcher is a perfectly fine solution for video alone, you’ll probably find yourself better served with a full video mixer. The Roland video mixers Sweetwater carries are among the more flexible options on the market. Some include scaling inputs to make it easier to integrate standard-definition sources, and they all accommodate both live projection and streaming. Best of all, they combine video cameras, video sources, and multichannel audio all into a single unit.
Video mixers such as the Roland models we carry also typically include USB connections specifically intended for streaming and recording. When it’s a challenge to find a volunteer who’s technically savvy enough for audio or video, an all-in-one mixer that can also handle streaming to your computer is the safest choice you can make.
What to look for in a video mixer:
Number and type of video camera inputs
USB and additional video inputs for slide shows (lyrics) and other sources
USB for recording and streaming
Audio I/O for mixing and sound reinforcement
Additional video processing such as transitions and effects
Once you have the hardware side covered, it’s just a matter of finding the right streaming service. There are plenty of great options out there, and some of the more popular names in live streaming include DaCast, Ustream, Livestream, and Wowza – all considered standards. Finding the right streaming to fit your budget may be a bit tricky. While there are free services, such as YouTube Live or Facebook, they won’t offer you as much control of your content as a commercial service. These services cost anywhere from $20 to $100 per month for entry-level service, with the average being around $50 per month.
When it comes to choosing the right live streaming platform, the best advice we can offer is to take your time and do your homework. These platforms actually vary quite a bit, some specializing in security while others offer more or less online storage. Once you figure out exactly what your performance needs and what you hope to get from live streaming, finding the right platform shouldn’t be too difficult.