7 Common Live Streaming Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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  1. Not having a presence

First impressions are very important. Think abougiphy (1)t camera presence. Are you the host? If not, who? How well do they perform in front of a camera? Along with your personality presence, your physical presence should be reflective of your content and brand, too. If you are hosting a business seminar, dress professionally. If you are advertising your surf retreat for yoga moms in the Hamptons, dress like a yoga mom—we won’t judge, as long as it’s on brand.

  1. Location, location, location

After you (presumably) have an idea of the live video content you want to broadcast, you want to spend time considering how this content will look. Although sometimes overlooked in consideration of other factors, location matters. Your streaming location can be anywhere. Whether it is your home, a studio, or the great outdoors, keep your surroundings in mind, and consider how it looks to the audience watching it. Give them an interesting backdrop, or at least a neat, non-distracting one.

  1. Noise level

giphy-downsizedBefore starting your stream, check to make sure that you can be heard by your viewers. This includes both a sound check before the fact and ensuring that you have a quiet space throughout the entire broadcast. If you’re outside, is there wind or loud traffic that can interrupt your audio feed? If you’re at a café, are there steaming and brewing sounds? Are your kids going to stroll in during the broadcast like in the infamous BBC interview? The best way to prevent this is doing an audio check in the space you’re broadcasting in beforehand. In general, try not to live stream in poor weather. And make sure your door is locked or your kids are at school.

Don’t be afraid to use headphones and a professional mic, but do be afraid to use your phone mic. Having flawless audio but poor video quality negates the other and vice versa. Fuzzy, echo-y, and generally low quality audio is a turnoff for the user, and this applies twice over to video quality, which is the next mistake to be discussed.

  1. Video quality

Your live stream should not look like the Blair Witch Project. This is a given. Nobody really wants to watch pixelated, blurry, or dark video content that may or may not require a magnifying glass. Poor video quality is another way to lose your audience fast. Equipment is a big part in this equation. Among the obvious, like your camera, it is crucial to have a good encoder. It is also necessary to have the ability to stream in both SD and HD simultaneously. Not all of your viewers will have the network for HD quality, and making sure that everyone can enjoy your stream should be a priority, so select a streaming service that offers the latter.

Another overlooked condition of live streaming is lighting. Like in your Instagram photos of avocado toast, you have to have good lighting! Whether you are indoors or out, you must consider how the lighting will be on the day of your broadcast. Will there be natural light at that time? Do you have the proper lighting indoors? Will the lighting that you have cast shadows? Basically, be sure that your viewers have a clear picture of what’s going on so that they’re not left in the dark.

  1. Limited audience interaction

giphy (2)The presenter should welcome the audience and continue to make them feel welcome throughout your stream. This has been said again and again, but much like Mr. Mac, my middle school math teacher, we can stress one particular concept over and over again.  Engage! If you have a comments section, use it. On a related note, when embedding live video, do so with the comment side by side with (or under) it. If your video content is informative, take questions or run polls if possible. They are a simple way of making the viewer feel involved. Maybe it even makes them feel loved. Who knows.

Running Q&A sessions, polls, and surveys allow you to have a dialogue with your audience. This can also be beneficial to you, the streamer, to give you a good idea of audience demographics, which can in turn help you gain more viewers on top of improving your existing viewers’ experience.

  1. Inconsistency

giphy-downsized (6)Being consistent with your live streams, if they happen regularly, is a matter of credibility as well as accessibility. Your viewers want to be aware of your broadcast, and expect your stream to be there when you say it will.  Even if you live stream regularly, be ready to broadcast well before your stream is scheduled, ideally at least a half an hour before. Nobody likes a late loafer, and you certainly don’t want to be one when you have worked so hard to build up an audience.

It’s generally not a good look to be late—not only are you likely to lose your audience fast, it also reflects poorly on you. Most people don’t have the time or patience to sit around and wait for your stream to begin (unless your stream is, I don’t know, NBA playoffs or something. I don’t know sports). You can ensure that you don’t drop viewers by adding an overlay banner in case things are delayed or simply to keep your early audience in the loop. Professionalism is key.

  1. Poor connectivity

Is there anything more frustrating than poor internet connection? Well, maybe war and global poverty, but that’s a subject for another time. If it’s annoying for you, it’s twice as annoying for your viewers to be watching a stream, and then have it suddenly go out. Not having a stable internet connection basically means not having a stream, and this is actually one of the most common mistakes.

Like many things, this can be remedied by solid pre-planning, such as doing a test run. If you’re using a computer, make sure there are no unnecessary programs open and save on CPU. You can also test your internet speed. This factor is especially important if you’re going to be filming in an outside location—ask yourself how you can have reliable connectivity in that setting and be able to answer.

The Top 5 Video Broadcasting Software for Live Events

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So you have a live event to broadcast, and you want it to go as seamlessly as it possibly can. Who wouldn’t? But before you can share your earth-shattering event with the world, there are certain tools you need to have on hand, and these tools should have the features you need to ensure that seamless broadcast. Aside from the obvious like your cameras, mics, a streaming platform like Primcast (among other things), you should have solid encoding gear.

Now, this can be a software or hardware encoder depending on your needs or personal preference, but here we will focus on the pros and cons of the best broadcasting software out there so you can get a better picture of which is best for you, and ultimately make it easier to make the most informed decision.

Software runs on your desktop or laptop. It is often low cost, but can be on the higher end for more professional, heavy duty service. For many services, this means it can easily be upgraded. It is generally more customizable than hardware, and is able to change some features of codecs. In general, event producers should be on the lookout for software that is user-friendly but has advanced features.

The process of live streaming is streamlined with quality software. For one thing, users can use one application for multiple steps in said process, including capturing video content and publishing. At the same time, it allows the user to stream their video content to a number of different platforms. There are some functions of software encoders in particular which make for much better quality live video streaming. This can be a number of things, including simultaneous broadcasting and live camera switching. As we discuss the pros and cons of each service, take note of which features would best fulfill your requirements.

XSplit

  • Pros
    • Personal and premium versions offer superior audio codec support, full HD broadcasting, and professional level production tools
    • Premium account allows you to create up to 12 scenes
    • Can switch between scenes while broadcasting live
    • Simultaneous broadcast with a paid license—so you can stream to multiple services at the same time
    • Plugins can extend functionality, including but not limited to slideshows and playlists
    • Has some selection of built-in transitions such as wave and fade which can add video content value
    • Supports interactive flash files – the user can interact with .swf using keyboard and mouse inputs
    • Video and audio can be delayed with source delay support
    • 3D positioning
    • Skype interaction
  • Cons
    • Premium version required for commercial use
    • Free version overlays ads on your stream
    • Stream delay behind a paywall
    • Plugin needed to add text
    • 1080p limit
    • Yearly registration fee
    • Cannot preview other scenes while broadcasting
  • Operates on
    • Windows
  • Pricing
    • Limited free version
    • 12 months of Personal – $39.96
    • 12 months of Premium – $60

Wirecast

  • Pros
    • High level of user friendliness—easy to use
    • Pre-loaded professional transitions and lower thirds, with the option to add your own
    • Integrated titling tool
    • Social media integration
    • Unlimited sources—Wirecast Cam App allows input feeds from many sources, including cameras, video files, picture files, iOS devices, and your desktop
    • Easy to use chroma key for green screen effects
    • Ability to create 3D titles and live scoreboards
    • Instant replay
    • IP cameras and web streams (RTMP, MMS, HTTP)
    • Supports live switching
    • Live scoreboard overlay feature
    • Functionality can be extended via plugins
    • Can create and automate playlists
    • 3D virtual sets
    • Support for all common encoding formats
    • Recording to disk
  • Cons
    • Expensive
    • Difficult to queue or add playlist of shots
    • Can crash when editing properties of shots while broadcasting
    • Does not integrate with Adobe’s Flash Media Live Encoder
  • Operates on
    • Windows 7 or later
    • Mac OS El Capital or later
  • Pricing
    • Studio – $495
    • Pro – $995

Open Broadcaster Software

  • Pros
    • Free and open source
    • Easy to use for beginners
    • Unlimited number of sources and scenes
    • Live RTMP streaming to most outlets
    • Supports Intel Quick Sync
    • Can make your own overlays and buttons
    • Can be integrated with most capture card setups
    • Easy to find configuration & troubleshooting guides online
    • Has 20+ plugins that enhance functionality, including an audio mixer plugin
    • Light resource usage
    • Supports NVIDIA’s NVENC
    • Intelligent enough to figure out best stream settings
    • Scene previewing allowed in studio mode
  • Cons
    • No support for IP or network cameras yet
    • Nearly impossible to queue or add playlist of shots
    • Can’t output to multiple streams at once
    • Can’t link to an audio file as a source
    • Uses more CPU
    • Lower quality encoding
  • Operates on
    • Windows Vista or later, OSX, and Linux
  • Price
    • Free

vMIX

  • Pros
    • Support for HD and 4k resolution in paid plans
    • Ability to add video effect to inputs
    • NDI and IP source support
    • Efficient H.264 encoding
    • Transitions and green screen (chroma key) support
    • Remote control via web interface
    • Picture-in-picture and multiview, including overlays
    • vMix Social offers social media integration
    • With vMix Replay, you can select up to four cameras to run a buffer of selected footage, ie sports replays
    • DVD playback
    • Compatible with essentially every file format
    • Live video effects such as zoom, rotate, pan, and crop
    • Support for a touchscreen web interface
    • Graphics accelerated
  • Cons
    • Only operates on Windows
    • Expensive
    • Professional level features are more complex than others, with a steeper learning curve
  • Operates on
    • Windows
  • Pricing
    • Free basic version
    • Basic HD version – $60
    • vMix Pro – $1200

Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder

  • Pros
    • Support for popular codecs including: VP6, H.264, Nellymoser, and MP3, as well as additional code AAD and HE-AAv plugins
    • Support for multiple bitrate encoding, up to three streams at once
    • Auto-adjusted delivery bandwith
    • DVR functionality
    • Auto restart in case of crashing
    • Supported by essentially every live stream video host
    • Minimal setup time with the ability to import XML files into the encoder to connect your software with your video host account
    • Basic, which works for live event productions with basic requirements.
    • Advanced broadcasts with multiple camera feeds and complex workflow will need to look elsewhere*
  • Cons
    • Limited features
    • Not for advanced broadcasts with multiple camera feeds
    • Prone to crashing
  • Operates on
    • Windows and Mac OS
  • Pricing
    • Free