Jim Long - Digital Media and Culture
The How and Why of Live Web Video Streaming

The How and Why of Live Web Video Streaming

While live video broadcasting is within the reach of anyone with high-speed broadband, “live” poses unique technological and performance challenges.  Senator Marco Rubio’s parched, water break delivery of the GOP response to the State of the Union will be remembered as a short-lived Poland Spring internet meme.  But what it really demonstrates is just how difficult it can be to connect to millions, in the solitude of a dark empty room through the unforgiving, unflinching lens of the live TV camera.  Live web video streaming can be equally daunting.  In this post, we’ll look how it’s getting done in the real world and how you can make it work for you.

Challenges to Successful Live Video Webcasts

Logistics, editorial content, technology, and execution are just some of the challenges live web video producers face. In many ways live video is antithetical to everything about the web in terms of discovery.  Just because you can stream live doesn’t really address the “why” of live web video streaming. If the editorial shelf life of your live webcast is the live event itself, you’ll need a significant promotional infrastructure to get internet dwellers to “tune in”.

The web has habituated us to have our content on demand. Getting large groups of people to gather around their computer screens is especially challenging. It helps if your content has archival value. Most live web streaming services have archiving options.

Live streaming webcasts can range in complexity to multi-camera, switched productions fed to the streaming service via satellite truck – to you, your webcam, and available wifi.  But people now have the expectation that the experience they have watching video on the web will be no different than watching TV.

So above and beyond the challenges of live, you should work to make your production look good.  Even if you’re just using your laptop webcam to broadcast live using available internet bandwidth, there are steps you can take to make sure your video looks polished.  LIVE is “no mistakes” time, so you’ll need to prepare for success.

Preparing for a Successful Live Video Webcast

  • Firstly, consider if your event best suited for live or for on-demand 
  • Research pricing, capabilities of available streaming services (more on that below)
  • Review any “getting started” primers available from streaming services
  • Bandwidth – where are you getting it? how fast? backup?
  • Reach out to live streaming services to discuss your live webcast plans
  • Rehearse your on camera delivery and program content
  • Do a dry run rehearsal on an unpublished live channel

I found a great set tips on preparing for a live video stream on Quora by Chris Sigfrids.  Popular mobile streaming production switcher “Tri-Caster” makers NewTek have a helpful tip sheet – “Top Tips to Stream Video Like a Pro.”

Effective video production is not as easy as content marketing gurus make it sound.  Live video only complicates things exponentially.  I urge you to sign up for my free copy “Five Simple Ways to Quickly Make Your Videos Better”.   I wrote it to be practical and useful and I’ve gotten terrific feedback.  Just sign up with your name and email in the blue box below and you’ll get it immediately.

Popular Live Streaming Services

Google Plus Hangouts On Air, Livestream and Ustream are the three services that I have some familiarity with and all are free… to a point.  Livestream and Ustream force viewers to endure video ads for their free services. Google Plus Hangouts On Air is probably a good place to start experimenting if you want to get up and running simply and quickly, but know that what you produce  will be immediately uploaded to your YouTube channel.

Ustream and Livestream offer more sophisticated and robust feature sets and Livestream especially is geared more toward high production value live events with large scale viewerships.  Here are some quick primers to get you acquainted with how each service works.

I like to poll my Twitter pals when I write a post and here’s what some of them had to say about real world use of these services.

A Word About Performing Live On-Camera

Some people were born to step in front of a live video camera.  For others, it’s a paralyzingly fearful experience – even for some veteran on-air talent.  Over my long career in television I’ve seen varying degrees of this fear.  In fact if you don’t feel a little amped up as a cameraperson, you’re not on top of your game.  It’s natural but for some it’s hard to overcome.

Try rehearsing in front of the camera and have someone count you down into a pretend live shot and see how you respond to the time pressures.  Much of this, you can only overcome by doing it more.  But I reached out to communications professional and former network TV news correspondent Joie Chen to see how she has dealt with live, on air stage fright.

“Like most people on television, I over think everything. And when I’m nervous, I do it even more.  Most people say when you look into a camera you should try to imagine your favorite person– your mom or your boyfriend or someone you’d be comfortable telling a story to.

I could never do that. It’s easier for me to look at a camera and see… a camera. Like talking to a box of metal and circuitry– I’m not looking for affirmation or feedback, I’m just talking to a box.

I think it’s probably easier to be on camera if you’re a little arrogant– if you’re convinced that you’re the smartest person in the room. I think the people who have the hardest time are maybe too modest to be comfortable demanding attention.”

Joie Chen – former CBS correspondent and CNN anchor.

How Would You Use Live Video?

Live video can be immensely challenging as I’ve outlined, but it’s also a heckuva lot of fun when you hit it out of the park with a nicely produced, engaging webcast that incoporates good content and good social participation.  Given what we have talked about in this post, how might you use live video for you or your brand?  Would love to see your comments below!

Related Reading

Best Practices For Planning a Live Video Event

Google Plus Hangouts for Business: Customer Contact on Steroids

  • http://www.smallbizsurvival.com/ Becky McCray

    Thanks for this guide, Jim. It’s one thing to say, “We’ll have a live stream,” and it’s quite another to have a live stream worth watching.

    • newmediajim

      And Becky that “worth watching” can mean different things to different publishers. As long as you can define those criteria, plan for them and measure the results. I think it helps to reach out to these services, especially if you’ve never done one before. You know me, I “live stream” with satellite trucks. :)

  • Richard Azia

    An essential aspect of most live streams is audio. Make sure you mic up the person. If I tune in to a live stream and the sound is from an on board camera microphone then I will leave almost immediately. The second important thing is punctuality.

    If you say you’re doing a show at 1300 do it at 1300. Make sure to give the time in GMT and whichever time your target audience is expecting. Converting from GMT is standard broadcast practice. Converting from PST is not. Make it easy for your international audience.

    Be punctual. Keep the audience informed if there are delays. We see certain bigger outfits scheduling some events at one time and they are sometimes an hour or more late. Start the stream anyway. People expect something. They will open the browser window and keep doing something else until the presser has started. At least they can see there is a delay rather than guessing that the live is already over.

    As a disclaimer I have both been camera operator and stream technician for various sports and current affairs events

  • Tony Pullen

    I just ran across on article on the web, and was very impressed with the content. I am not one to spam other peoples work, but I am the Dir of Sales for a Live Streaming Platform called http://www.yourbrandlive.com. We go above and beyond and create branded pages for many brands and businesses. All of our clients have had great success in doing their live events and their customers love to be able to interact with the brand managers during these events. Here is a good example: http://marmot.yourbrandlive.com/c/rei/

    Obviously, it is an archive of the live event, but you will see how we make the page look and feel like the brand. Here is another one: http://live.korkers.com/c/adaptabletraction/

    Oh, and the best part is that we have an e-comm solution built into our clients pages!

  • http://www.saltlakecitystudio.com/ Salt Lake City Studio

    This article is one of the reasons why I love blog searching. I learn a lot of things and makes me more excited to learn more. I found this article very helpful especially to those people who are planning to be in this industry like me.

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