With surging demand for live video, your success in live streaming starts with an understanding of how to broadcast live content. The process is much easier than it used to be, but there’s still a lot to learn about live streaming production in order to support the best possible streaming quality.
In this guide, we break down all the ins and outs of live stream production.
Table of Contents:
What is Live Streaming Production?
The term “live streaming production” refers to the process of setting up and broadcasting live video to an audience online. Generally ‘live streaming’ differentiates from ‘live broadcasting’, which is used to refer to TV production.
In this guide we’ll run through the basics of a live stream setup, of course your setup will vary depending on your use case but this should serve as a good reference for getting started.
Why Use Live Streaming?
There are a huge number of statistics out there that all point to the growth and dominance of live video, but more importantly for brands and live streamers, there are also a number of encouraging statistics around how live video can increase user engagement and loyalty, such as:
- Facebook Live users spend 3 times longer watching live video as they do pre-recorded [Source].
- Facebook Live videos get 10 times more comments than regular videos. [Source]
So not only do users watch live streams for longer, but also comment and engage more too, compared to pre-recorded video. This is great news for brands and businesses wanting to grow their audience base with engaged, loyal fans by using live video.
Live Stream Production Equipment
Here’s a quick sampling of the equipment you can use for streaming. Just remember, the category of equipment you choose should fit your use case.
Your first step is to decide how to capture video for a live stream. You don’t need to overspend on a video capture device, but it’s still worth getting a good enough device for your most demanding streaming needs.
Choosing the right type of camera will depend a lot on your use case.
These days, you can actually create an excellent stream with the phone in your pocket. All streaming platforms will compress video quality on upload, so resolution doesn’t become a major factor when choosing a streaming device. Smartphones have the added benefit of being able to stream direct to major platforms such as Facebook or YouTube, whereas you may need to buy a third-party device if using a professional camera.
The downside to smartphones is that they are notoriously bad in low light environments due to their small sensor size, in-built audio is generally poor and they lack optical zooms. But if doing a basic shoot in a well lit environment, then a good quality smartphone could be your best bet.
Of course if you’re doing a simple single-camera production straight to Facebook then you can stream straight from the Facebook App. But if you need to do a multi-camera production, or you want to stream to multiple platforms at once, then you will need to look at purchasing some software simulcasting solutions (more on this below).
For remote video streaming on your phone there are also bonded cellular apps, such as the LU Smart App, or TVU Anywhere App. These are used by major news organisations and media production companies to ensure a stable connection when live streaming.
Although resolution may be compressed at upload, professional video cameras will on-the-whole give you a smoother, sharper image quality compared to a smartphone (this obviously depends a lot on which smartphone and camera you are using). They also have the benefit of being able to add more inputs and have greater control around functionality and picture settings. Professional cameras can include DSLR, Mirrorless or PTZ (Pan-tilt-zoom) cameras.
This would be a last resort but webcams can be useful for live feeds, interviews or talking headstreams. Built-in computer webcams or professional external webcams can be a convenient way to start streaming quickly without a lot of setup required.
One of our top choices for a webcam is the Logitech Brio Ultra HD webcam.
As important as video is, nothing will make viewers click away faster than garbled or uneven audio. Even for use cases where you don’t really need the audio, it can still be reassuring for the audience to hear an ambient sound as it helps communicate that the live stream is working.
Audio is just as important as video, but you don’t need to invest big bucks to get acceptable quality
For the simplest audio setup, you can use the built-in microphone in your smartphone or camera – whatever device you’re using to capture video. Just note that this is usually lower quality, especially if you’re trying to capture audio from multiple people.
Headsets and headphones
For a step up from the internal microphone, consider a headset or pair of headphones with a built-in microphone. A headset typically offers better sound quality and is perfect for an individual streamer who needs mobility or is doing a screencast.
For the highest possible audio quality, you should spring for one or more matching broadcasting microphones, especially if you’re streaming interviews with multiple people talking. A broadcast microphone may require an audio interface or mixer with an XLR cable, but the higher sound quality is well worth it. Stay away from USB microphones if you can – even though they conveniently plug into the computer, they’re not very versatile and the quality is lacking.
Mixer or audio interface with EQ
If you’re opting to stream with broadcast microphones or external mics like lavs and shotguns, be sure you have an audio interface, mixer, or preamp – whatever your broadcast microphone needs in order to function. The number of channels you need will dictate how expensive your mixer needs to be (though you typically won’t need more than 2 or 3 at one time).
Quality mixers provide phantom power and allow you to adjust your audio settings – including EQ, gain, and noise reduction – to ensure the best possible audio. We like the Alto Professional Compact audio mixer as a nice balance of quality and price.
When you’re about to live stream, you probably won’t forget about your video and audio equipment, but what about the other random equipment that makes live streaming possible?
Here’s a quick list of additional equipment you should remember:
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start!
One helpful practice is to mentally walk through the entire live stream production ahead of time – think it through from start to finish to make sure you’re not missing anything important!
Live Production Software
If you plan on doing a multi-camera production, want to add graphic overlays, input pre-recorded footage, or do cutaways then live video software is a must.
The most widely used live production package is OBS, followed by vMix.
An excellent choice for live video software is OBS (it’s free), as it allows you to add graphics to your stream on the fly. To actually create the custom graphics you’ll use in OBS, a typical workflow starts in Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, followed by Adobe After Effects to turn still images into motion graphics effects.
vMix is another great option that offers source switching, multi-destination streaming, live stream recording, cinematic effects, and more. The basic pricing options are around $60 and they also offer a 60 day free trial.
For a slightly more advanced package, check out Wirecast from Telestream.
If you’re interested in streaming to multiple destinations at the same time to maximize your live stream’s reach, you’ll need software that supports simulcasting. Some live production software programs support multiple output destinations (such as OBS and vMix), or integrate with existing simulcasting platforms, so check before going live.
Here are the common destinations where you can simulcast to:
Most social platforms want to be the only place you stream, so they don’t make it convenient to share your stream elsewhere.
With that said, your simulcasting software must help ease the burden on your network connection in order to maintain the video quality. A few good paid solutions for simulcasting include Restream and Splitstream.
Hosting & Encoding Software
If your audience is on a platform like YouTube, Twitch, or Facebook Live, you may not need to worry about additional software, but if you want to host your own streaming platform or you need a slightly more complicated setup, then it may be worth thinking about hosting and encoding software.
Live stream hosting
Again, if you’re streaming through an existing platform like YouTube, you may not need to worry about hosting – but if you want to do your own professional stream on your website, it’s important to find a host that can handle the stream.
Most new cameras and mobile devices are internet-connected, so you won’t require any encoding hardware to stream online, but you will need software to help with encoding and transmitting the stream to your audience. “Encoding” simply means turning RAW video data into digital data that can be sent across the web.
One free encoding software solution that’s suitable for beginners is Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) Studio. It’s a fairly basic option that doesn’t include some helpful features – like multi-bitrate streaming – but it’s a good way to get started. For an affordable paid option, consider VidBlasterX.
The LiveU Solo bonds multiple cellular connections together to increase streaming bandwidth
If you’re streaming from an outside or remote location and you may struggle to obtain a good internet connection, then you may want to think about purchasing a LiveU Solo. The LiveU Solo is a small transmission pack which bonds internet (cellular) connections together in order to give you enough bandwidth to go live. It also serves as a great backup if one of your connections drop mid-stream.
Once you have the right equipment and software, you’re ready to broadcast! Right before it’s time to go live, you’ll want to check a few things:
- Your network connection. Prior to broadcasting, make sure that you have a strong Wi-Fi or wired connection with an upload speed that’s at least 2-3X your chosen bitrate settings. This buffer will help prevent hiccups or interruptions in your live video.
- Your crew. Hire everyone you need to ensure the production goes off without a hitch, including a sound technician and a videographer. If you’re not personally experienced with every aspect of live stream production, we highly recommend hiring a live stream production crew to help you!
- Your talent. For most live streams, you’ll have live talents on-air, such as a host, speaker, or presenter. Make sure your talent is warmed up, the lighting is right, and the environment is presentable.
After you’ve gone live, you’ll just have to monitor the live stream in progress, checking audio levels and ensuring smooth video playback for viewers.
We hope this guide has helped you fully prepare for your next live stream production. To recap, you should first define the use case for your live stream – and then, you can choose the right live stream equipment, software, and broadcasting setup for the job.
With all of these things in mind, you’re ready for a successful live stream production. We wish you the best of luck!