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.