During the rapidly evolving crisis with COVID-19 we were contacted by Kim Jones, Executive Director of the Optometric Physicians of Washington

Her organization had been planning their 55th Post Graduate Seminar scheduled to take place 8 days from the time she reached out to us. We were able to collaborate with Kim and her organization to quickly find a new venue, figure out safe and sanitary practices for crew and presenters (including one immunocompromised individual), and get a custom viewing page set up with tabbed videos, embedded chat function, email capture for each session and linked quizzes for participants to earn their continuing education credits.

Thanks to this joint effort between our teams, the conference took place on time and around 600 doctors were able to get their continuing education credit from the safety of their home. 

Participants delighted at having free parking, no crowded hallways and other such light-hearted benefits from their devices. Many shared photos of them practicing social distancing at home while holding their babies, sharing a desk with their school-aged kids who are all home from schools, and enjoying the company of their furry family members.  

Some of the safety measures we took during the production and streaming were frequent hand washing, minimal crew, who did morning temperature checks for fever before coming into the closed-off hotel conference room that had only production crew (3 people) the OPW Executive producer, 1 moderator and 1-3 speakers safely spaced throughout the room. 

Our techs kept a minimum of 6 feet apart at their work stations and microphones, the presentation computer and clicker were all disinfected between each person’s use. In addition, we changed foam covers on lavalier mics after each presenter. 

Finally, we had our audio person, who would switch mics and disinfecting gloved and masked when coming into contact with speakers. 

Right now we serve many areas who are being affected by “shelter in place” orders or similar precautions.

As media professionals, our crews are small and carry press passes. We have also applied to have Varvid listed as an essential business in Washington state. 

Our hope is to continue to help create ways to keep people in corporate, education and community organizations connected through bringing meetings, classes and conferences together safely online. 

We also are offering consultations for individuals, groups and businesses who are sheltering in place and in need of a live streaming solution to meet their individual needs using existing gear they have on hand, and or by assisting them in making buying decisions.

Please reach out to us for your streaming and consulting needs. 

Live Streaming Essentials: How to Prepare for a Live Broadcast

Introduction to Live Streaming 

Over the last decade, live streaming video on social media platforms has emerged as a popular way for event organizers, brands, and individuals to connect and engage with a remote audience in real time. 

Whereas traditional broadcast television networks required their audiences to tune in to their television channel at a particular time, live video producers now have multiple social networks to incorporate into their live video content strategy to stream live whenever they want and host their videos on demand for later viewing. 

If you’re thinking of getting started with live streaming video, we’ve put together an essentials guide based on our 15 years experience that will make sure your first live streaming experience is as successful as possible.

Best Practices For Live Streaming

Live Streaming Video Production

     There are a ton of traditional video production companies that can shoot interviews and capture B-Roll, but multi-camera live streaming production is a whole different beast and requires a much different skill set. 

The first item in our live streaming tips are 3 things you should look for in a production company that will set them apart from the rest.

  1. IT Experience – Be wary if a company is touting their creative abilities but doesn’t talk about the internet connection at all during your conversations. 
  2. If they are experienced with live streaming they should be asking you to put them in touch with the venue’s IT staff to see if there’s enough bandwidth to stream, whether the right ports are open, and to ensure there won’t be any issues with firewalls.

    A company with technical expertise will also be able to assist you with backup solutions for your internet connection like cellular bonding and satellite internet.
  3. Event Experience – Some streamers work in a studio setting where they have the same gear set up at all times. Building a flypack and loading into a venue is a completely different style of work and if your vendor is not experienced streaming at events this could lead to negative results for your production.
  4. Strong Project Management Processes – The most crucial part of live streaming projects takes place before anyone gets on site to do the work. Ask potential vendors about their pre-production process, what tools they use, what project management styles and strategies they employ, and how they communicate with their team.

    If they’re unable to give a detailed answer, it’s likely they are disorganized and important details will slip through the cracks.

Set and Stage Design 

    When shooting video, what you see is what you get, so investing in stage design is one of the best ways to improve the production value. Here are five things you can do to improve the look of your event on camera.

  1. Logo – Invest in displaying your logo prominently on the stage. This can be with physical signage, or you can work with the Image Magnification team to display your logo on the screens between sessions.
  2. Screens – Make sure any screens are not directly behind your presenters so our cameras can get a clean shot of the people on stage. If you can’t raise your screen high enough to be out of the way, then designate a spot for your speakers that’s to the side of the screen.
  3. Aspect Ratio – Use screens that have a 16:9 aspect ratio and make sure all your content is also in 16:9.
  4. Branding – Showcase your company’s brand and culture through the stage design. You could add props to the stage that are relevant to your event, or use what’s called a cucoloris on your lighting which is the casting of a silhouette shadow in whatever shape you choose.
  5. Backdrop – Do not use black or dark colors for your drape or backdrop. This will make the image look flat and two dimensional. If this is your only option, then break-up the black background with other stage elements or backlights.

    This will create separation between the speaker and the background on your video recordings and make it look much better.

Lighting For Your Live Stream

     Lighting for video production is much different than lighting for a theater audience and it’s arguably the biggest factor in ensuring you have a high quality video production. The better the lighting, the better it looks on camera. Here are 7 things that will ensure the lighting looks great for your live stream.

  1. The Key Light – This is a primary light source that illuminates the speakers typically at a 30-60 degree angle not too far above the speaker’s head. Do not place lighting directly above your speakers as it casts dark shadows on the eyes, below the nose, and under the chin.
  2. Fill Light – This is a light placed on the opposite side of the Key Light and set at a dimmer level. The purpose is to reduce the harsh shadows cast by the Key Light.
  3. Backlight – Placed behind and/or to the side of the speaker, the backlight creates a sharp edge that separates the speaker from the background. Without a backlight, the video image will look flat and two-dimensional.
  4. No Single Spot – Do not use a spotlight. Spotlights are typically much brighter than other lights and do not look as good on camera as they do for the on site audience.
  5. Backdrop and Stage Lighting – Light enough of the stage so the speakers will be lit no matter where they go and put a light on any important set props, signs, or logos.

    We strongly recommend you add colored uplights to your drape or background as helps add more separation from the background and makes the image more dynamic.
  6. Audience Lighting – If you have a camera capturing audience reactions (and you definitely should), plan to have enough light on your audience so viewers will be able to see them.
  7. Keep light off the presentation screen – Make sure your lights don’t spill on to the projector screen as it makes the screen much more difficult to read.

Audio For Your Live Stream

     Audio is the most important aspect of any production. There are many ways to get creative and fix issues with video, but this is not the case for bad audio. Here are four tips for getting the best results from audio at a live event.

  1. The Mix – Send a master mix of your audio to your video crew via an XLR cable. Also, notify your audio team that this audio mix is for the live stream as they will likely want to send a slightly different mix to the online audience than what they are mixing for people on site.
  2. Types of Mics – We strongly recommended using DPA headset mics, as they have all the advantages of a lavalier microphone without the risk of brushing up against clothes or jewelry.

    If you don’t like the look of a headset mic, lavalier microphones will suffice. You typically want to go with omni directional microphones unless you have a singer that’s not using a handheld mic in which case you’ll want to use a directional microphone.
  3. Microphone Positions – It’s obvious you need microphones for everything on stage, but have you considered micing the audience?

    You should definitely consider adding mics around the room so you can incorporate the ambient sounds of the audience at a low level for the live stream. This subtle touch can add a lot of production value.
  4. Backup Multi-Track Recording – If there’s any chance at all you might want to edit these videos later, we strongly recommend you add a multi-track recorder to the workflow.

    This means your post-production team with have a separate audio track for every single microphone and audio source, instead of having a single track that contains all the audio sources one.

Live Streaming on Social Media Distribution

The distribution strategy for your live stream is crucial, there’s no point in going through all the trouble if no one tunes in to watch.

  1. Public or Private – We strongly recommend to make your stream open to the public whenever possible to maximize viewership.

    There are definitely circumstances like internal company meetings that demand a secure private stream, but if you don’t have a reason to keep something private then you should definitely put it out to as wide an audience as possible.
  2. Paywall – Many people who are streaming for the first time are intrigued at the idea of using a paywall to charge online viewers access to the stream as a way to make money.

    Unless you have a star studded lineup to compete with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go, or proprietary educational content that’s not available anywhere else online for free, the only thing a paywall accomplishes is making sure no one watches your live stream.

    Instead of charging people to watch, you should try to maximize viewership and include a call to action towards other revenue streams for your organization.
  3. Simulcasting – One of the best ways to reach a wider audience is to stream to multiple platforms at the same time. Unless you have a well defined marketing plan that calls for live streaming to a single platform, we recommend streaming to all your public channels that support live streaming. The most popular are Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Twitter & Periscope, Twitch, and Mixer. Also, take note that LinkedIn is going to start supporting live video soon and will be the perfect platform for professional related content.
  4. Pre-scheduling Events – Unless you have strategic reasons for your stream to be kept secret, we recommend you schedule a live event as soon as you can to notify your online audience. Every platform is different, for example YouTube allow you to create an event as far in advance as you’d like, whereas Facebook requires that you be at least seven days away before you can schedule a live stream event. You should also consider releasing regular posts about your live stream every few days to build excitement.

Get Started

The nature of live production ensures there will always be hiccups, even professionals in the highest level productions make mistakes like the 2017 Academy Awards announcing the wrong winners and the NFL Network accidentally airing a video announcing the New England Patriots as winning the 2019 Super Bowl before the game was even played.

The best way to become proficient at live streaming is to do it often and run a rigorous debrief process with everyone involved to take notes on how to improve next this.

This is how we’ve built up our project management processes over the years and it’s done well for us.

Live streaming has certainly grown in popularity over the last five years due to massive increases in internet connection speed as well as the near-constant connectedness of audiences via their smart devices.

Having been in the live streaming industry prior to all of this, we’ve become quite familiar with how folks talk about live streaming, and it seems like there are a few myths that are very typical of people looking to hold their very first live stream.

We’d love to share our expertise with you here to help you understand the benefits of live streaming just like we do!

1. Live streaming your event will decrease in-person attendance

While it might seem logical that people would prefer to stay home and watch your live stream rather than attend your event in person, studies show this isn’t the case. 

In fact, live streaming has been shown to increase in-person attendance. 

According to Digitell, 30% of people who watch a live stream of an event will attend the same event in person the following year. 

We watch our clients grow their events in subsequent years after live streaming all the time because it gives their audiences a glimpse into why they wouldn’t want to miss the event and helps their brands and events gain the exposure they need to grow. 

Coachella is a great example of this; after they live streamed their 2011 festival, they turned around and sold out their 2012 festival in record time — 3 hours! 

Our founder and pioneering live streaming IT guru Aaron Booker always says…

“We can’t get you more ticket sales by live streaming this year, but if you do it, we can get you more butts in seats next year!”

2. Live streaming is too expensive

Live streaming your event can be done cheaply with your cell phone camera or professionally with a crew that will provide broadcast quality coverage of your event. 

Whichever route you decide to take, the value of the live streaming is unquestionable. 
When you consider that your online audience may be three or 4 or more times the in-person audience when the event is live, AND create even more reach for those who couldn’t tune in live watch the recording on demand, you can start to see the value in investing in your live stream production. 

At the end of your event, not only do you have the live stream online for people to watch on demand, but if your event was professionally streamed, you should also have a high resolution recording of the entire thing as well. This footage can be used to make stylized recap videos, bite sized social media postings and added to your content library to pull bits out of for future videos, commercials and more. 

3. Broadcasting your event on Facebook or Youtube is the same as having it played on TV

This is a common idea I find that gets unearthed when I work with clients who want to Facebook live stream their event. 

Live streaming has a world of potential to connect you, your brand, your ideas, your contributors, your audiences and even your management team and employees! 

Here are some awesome examples of this we’ve seen:

1. Giving away prizes to someone who comments with the correct answer to a question
2. Random drawings for a swag bag to the right commenter
3. Displaying comments and reactions from online viewers on screens for the in person audience to see in the room 
4. Major collaboration between online and in-person audiences to solve a puzzle
5. Listen to ideas from the audience
6. Post up polls for them to vote on what happens next
7. Submit fan art to share
8. Even donating to a cause!

Another thing this myth leaves out is the rich metrics you get from streaming online. Streaming online gives you great metrics for your marketing team to use to set and evaluate goals, find out which parts of your programming were popular, how long your audience will stay engaged in a video, as well as a host of demographic information like the age, time zone, and occupation of your viewers.


facebook live stream

One cool way we recently saw Twitch engagement being used by a client was for creating “end of the day” wrap up and recap videos. 

Rather than having a dedicated team sit through hours of footage to pull out clips people might find interesting, we used Twitch clips to pull out content that had been clipped by the client’s audience had told us they connected with and strung them together for quick and easy crowd sourced recap videos. 

4. When your live stream is over, the reach is over

In our experience, you will see at least 10X the views on a video after the live stream is over, over the following week. 

While some platforms like YouTube allow you to trim and make minor edits to your video after the live stream is over, others like Facebook do not yet have that feature. 

So definitely keep in mind when you’re planning your streaming content that you may or may not, depending on the destination, have the ability to trim off time at the beginning of your stream that you started before your programming began, which may be really boring for those watching post-event. 

5. If  we live stream, the programming will need to be perfect

While streaming your event to thousands of viewers may make you think that your programing needs to be perfectly polished and scripted, quite the opposite is true. 

Some of the best audience reactions happen during mishaps, awkward timing and candid moments at an event. People watch live content because its more authentic and fluid, that’s the nature of the live space and it’s something we know and love.

If you’re professionally streaming your event, the director of the stream will know just how to call camera angles, graphics and cuts to keep your stream moving along for your online viewers while making them feel like a part of the event and highlighting perspectives that make your brand stand out.

If you want an expert team to help you plan out your next live event, we are here to help. You can contact us here to tell us about your project!

Orchestral Tools is a brilliant symphonic software company that creates robust toolsets for professional film and video game composers. For their product launch during NAMM this year, they wanted to stream their event in the style of an Apple Keynote and they chose Varvid to handle the video production and streaming.

Keynote style product release live stream at the Paramount Theatre in Hollywood, California delivered via Youtube and Facebook.

We delivered a three camera live stream with a mini jib for this well-produced show that streamed on their Youtube channel and their Facebook page, which used to also crosspost to one of the presenter’s Facebook page as well. This was the company’s first live stream and the online views and interactions tell us, it’s just what their audience was hungry for.

The Facebook Live stream, the first for this company received over 2,000 engagements!

Frontgate is a leading home luxury multichannel retailer who does recurring live streamed events with us from their storefront locations. Because Facebook is really prioritizing live content, we find that for many of our clients, it is a great fit for getting the most viewers on your streamed event.

Nathan Turner talks food and entertainment at Dallas retail location for Frontgate

Frontgate’s last event was streamed from their Dallas/Plano, Texas location and featured a prominent designer, author and gourmet guru, Nathan Turner, who shared recipes and favorite products for holiday gatherings to a small local audience and reached thousands more via their Facebook Live stream.

Frontgate interacts with their audience in real time on their Facebook Live stream

We love the big brand’s use of live streaming to bring in promoters of their brand that share content that both in the room and remote audiences want and can engage with. Frontgate, stepped it up by holding a prize drawing that featured people in the room and anyone who left a comment of the live stream. We also think that our clients gain the most, by having someone on your team interacting with the live audience on Facebook live stream, via comments. You can view the recorded live stream here.

Live Webcasting and Event Coverage

In today’s fast paced world where everyone is on a device and on the move, live video streaming for business and networking events is becoming strategic to event planners and event companies providing solutions for client events.

In a recent blog post written by Sandra O’Loughlin, Savvy Marketers Are Bringing Their Events to a Screen Near You, she declares that “events can be the stuff of great stories,” and some marketers “are taking the next chapter online.” So, if you are marketing your event you need to be able to stream live video.

[pullquote3 quotes=”true” align=”right” variation=”orange” textColor=”#666666″] Marketers are taking the next chapter online.[/pullquote3]

The ability to provide live video streaming is like having a live satellite broadcast on television, but instead live streamed via the Internet. This concept isn’t new, but when you consider that YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and videos (live or recorded) are being watched everywhere online, it only makes sense that live streaming is becoming an integral part of marketing for events where not everyone can attend in person.  Just as Netflix has become a fantastic online way to view top shelf Hollywood content – live streaming is a great way to deliver great event content.  Ted Talks are a perfect example of expanding the reach of one’s event.  (We LOVE Ted Talks, whether live or on demand!)

This powerful combination of video and live streaming is what Varvid is calling The Connected Event. In fact, a recent case study highlights how Virgin used video marketing to boost sales by 28.5%. It’s here to stay!

If you’d like to experience this in person or by live streaming video, you can register for an upcoming event called The Video Marketing Explain-A-Thon put on by Wistia at The Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Hard Rock Cafe – 116 Pike St  Seattle, WA 98101

Varvid will be working in conjunction with the following participating companies to teach Event Planners, Marketing Professionals, Business Owners and Marketing Directors how to use video to market their businesses:

[fancy_box]We’re very excited to be participating in this great educational event. Register if you want to attend.[/fancy_box]


Webcasting — it’s one of the first services Varvid initially offered and it continues to be a cornerstone to our overall success.  While most of our projects have us traveling to wonderful locations across the globe, we are pleased to be planning, preparing and testing for one right here our own backyard.  On Friday, January 18th, we’ll produce and live stream Technology Alliance Group Northwest’s (TAGNW)  Annual Predictions Luncheon from Syre Hall on the campus of Whatcom Community College.  Living in Bellingham is wonderful and working in Bellingham is even better!  We are honored to be part of what we expect to be a long running tradition.

[pullquote_right] Living in Bellingham is wonderful and working in Bellingham is even better![/pullquote_right]

The event and webcast gets underway around 11:45am with some formal introductions and organizational announcements.  Once the formalities are out of the way, the program moves right into tech-savvy prognosticator Mark Anderson’s predictions and some Q&A until about 1:30 or so.  After a little research, his ability to forecast the IT future is pretty darn good…  he’s been right more than 90% of the time over the last 10 years!

There are a couple things that make this webcast really cool:

  1. You can participate via our live chat feature. So if you have questions, we’ll ask them on your behalf.
  2. This is a great way to save on travel costs and time away from the office.
  3. If you are not in Bellingham but would like to attend, no problem.
  4. We’ll be broadcasting in H.264. So, it’ll work on your mobile device.

If you’d like to be part of the audience, either live or virtually, contact the good folks at TAGNW and they’ll set you up.  We’ll see you there or “there.”