As you may or may not know, I used to work in live streaming. I actually moved to New York to work at a company called (wait for it…) Livestream. I started as a production coordinator and did everything from creating budgets for prospective clients sent through the Sales team to helping the technicians pack gear for shoots and serve as an onsite PA. Due to my prior background in live events, I also served as production manager for some of our larger scale streams including the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, Yoga Solstice in Time Square, and various New York Fashion Week shows. These streams involved everything I was doing as a coordinator plus, creating schedules, managing freelancers and vendors, making sure everyone had all the constantly updating information, and most importantly – making sure everyone was paid and fed in a timely manner. From there I became a Project Manager, instead of creating all the back end paperwork, I presented it to the client, make sure we were on the same page with their needs and wants, worked with engineers to build wireframes for white labeled pages (i.e. custom webpages with no outside branding), and held the clients’ hand from kick-off call through event recap. Somehow throughout the course of this I actually learned (and retained!) a thing or two about how live streaming and the internet worked.
Fast forward to now (May 2020 to be exact) and we live in a world where everyone has something to share and no one can go outside. This is what live streaming was made for! Pretty much every social media platform offers some version of this service and all you need is an internet connection and camera phone to do it. But if you want to do it well, that’s another story. Now, I wouldn’t expect anyone to go out and buy tons of fancy equipment or pour over articles and webinars about latency and connectivity, but if you want to put on a quality live stream for followers, customers, or clients sitting by your window with a laptop is not gonna cut it.
I like to use the example of Gayle King on CBS This Morning. This is what we see as she broadcast the news live from her home:
And this is what it looks like when you see the rest of what she’s working with:
Now I don’t know about you, but my tiny New York City living room barely fits my roommate and I much less a broadcast camera, monitor, teleprompter, lighting stand, and staff of three. And I KNOW trying to plug in even half those things would turn this pre-war building into a pile of ash in no time.
So if you’re wondering how do you get that classy, professional quality stream with what you have at home, I have the answers for you! It’s super simple, you literally only ~need~ a handful of things. I’ve made a list of basics that you should feel free to download and share, but more details on each of these are below.
Preparation: Although this includes where you will stream in your home, it also includes what you’re talking about. Make an outline for yourself so you can stay on topic and make the most of your time. Did you know Facebook Live and Instagram Live cuts you off after one hour? Know how long your intro and outro will be so you can make sure the meat and potatoes of your content doesn’t get cut off. Are you going to do a Q&A? Make sure to leave time for people to ask live, or take questions ahead of time and answer them at the end. PRO TIP: Be sure to call out people watching your stream. Share the love, they are excited to share this experience with you. Let @thiscitygirl know you’re glad she’s watching you today. Tell @twizzlerp you’re psyched they’re tuning in all the way from Australia.
Lighting: My feelings would best be expressed by a series of gifs featuring global superstar and American royalty, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter:
When you have a light source behind you, i.e. sitting in front of a window.
When you’re light source is conditional, i.e. you sit next to a sunny window and a cloud comes by.
When you use overhead lights (Note: lights with a clear white or blue or pink hue look great on everyone).
When you use front facing lighting (i.e. a ring light or desk lamp shining in your eyes).
Audio: Aside from poor lighting this is the next major thing people notice in your stream. It’s especially distracting when you have a guest and your audio is vastly different. First up, find a quiet place in your home. If you can’t move away from windows, close them. Tell any other people in your house to keep it down, you don’t want background conversations becoming the main focus. Next up, get a pair of headphones with a microphone. Think gamer headphones or telemarketer style. But if that’s not in your budget, an old school corded pair that probably came with your phone will work fine. And if you’re hearing an echo, make sure only the headset microphone is selected as audio input in your settings.
Camera Placement: If you listen to nothing else please do this – put your camera at eye level. If you sit at a desk or table, place some books or boxes underneath your laptop to prop it up.
That being said, there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to camera placement. The widest your camera should be from the elbows up. The tightest is from the shoulders up. You don’t want to be so close everyone can see what you had for breakfast, or so far away we know you’re wearing red flannel pajama pants with cats dancing on them. Finally, make sure whatever is behind you doesn’t distract from you speaking. That means, no open doors where family members can walk by, don’t sit in from of a mirror, turn off the tv or turn it to a static screensaver. PRO TIP #1: Sit down! Standing will inevitably lead to shifting your weight and bobbing side to side in the frame is very distracting. PRO TIP #2: Make sure anything you need is within arms length. If you drop out of frame or get really close to the camera to grab a bottle of water or reach for your glasses, it will be jarring to the audience. PRO TIP #3: Make eye contact with the camera lens, especially when you are speaking. Everyone can tell when you’re looking down at your phone/at someone else in the room/typing on another screen/staring at your own face in the monitor.
Connectivity: I’d say it goes without saying, but…Teddy Riley. To test how fast your internet is, close all other windows and open a browser for speedtest.net. From here you will be able to test your computer’s upload and download speed. These speeds are based on many factors (what you’re paying for, interference, number of people on the network), but the sweet spot is 10Mbps upload/download. That is the bare minimum for a stream without hiccups.
Testing: You are more than welcome to skip this step, but doing it goes a long way. This is basically a dress rehearsal. Set up in the area you plan or streaming, make sure the lighting hits all the right angles and is free of any distractions. Create a fake profile to stream from so you can make sure the stream looks good and people are able to connect. If you’re adding a guest into your stream, test that functionality. You’ll want to know exactly which button to press to save time and have a flawless stream.
Random Fun Facts:
– If you stream music that is not yours, there is a chance your stream will be stopped and your account possibly locked for violating copyright laws.
– Creating a graphic with the name of your event at the beginning and end of your stream is a simple way to add polish.
– For panel discussions on Zoom, creating a custom background that ties together each speaker will make your production look like it cost a million bucks.
So that’s live streaming 101! Let me know if you have any advanced tips or if there are any other topics you want covered.
Go live and prosper!