Live video experiments go all the way back to 1927. However, it wasn’t used by mainstream TV until the 1950s to broadcast breaking news and spread important messages from key figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.
In the digital age, live video is accessible to all of us. It’s an exciting time, where ideas and thoughts can be shared simply by clicking the “Go Live” button from your smart phone.
If you’re a video creator, an artist, or part of a business with a large following, you may have been asked by someone in the last year: “Do you livestream?” And if you don’t, you may be wondering if it’s time to start. Here’s what you need to know.
Live video is an easy way to create content without the extra work that comes with standard video-on-demand production, like hours of filming and video editing. Once you go live, you can also make your video available to watch after, so it serves a dual purpose.
If you post a video on Facebook or YouTube, you can always respond to your community in the comments section. But with live video, you can respond in the moment. This is why streaming has become so popular — it’s not only a visual experience, but also one with an interactive element and a new relational value between the creator and the audience.
Live Content Ideas
The traditional livestream features a talking head or a panel with a host, but there are many different ways you can broadcast — it doesn’t always have to be the same content or format. Here are some ideas on what you can do during live video:
• Live Q&As
• Live Tour of Your Work Space
• Live Stream of Art Creation
• Live “Life Update”
• Live Giveaway
• Live Reveal of a New Product
• Live Coverage at Trade Shows and Events
Popular Live Streaming Platforms
I recommend that users stream from their most liked or followed social media page, but there are reasons to use other platforms, as well.
YouTube Live: YouTube features the No. 2 search engine, second only to Google. Due to this high volume, live tutorials and “how-to” videos on YouTube are very popular, because the content is constantly “searched.”
For example, Adobe Creative Cloud streams live with artists and creators every week covering a new topic or tutorial, such as “Live Illustration with Logan Faerber.”
You can go live simply using the YouTube mobile app on your phone; on your desktop with a webcam and Google Hangouts on Air; or you can use an encoding software to livestream your screen and your talking head at the same time.
YouTube can also generate income for you while live. For example, YouTube’s Superchat feature enables viewers to send what they call a “Superchat,” which is a comment or question with money attached. So you can earn some money while you stream. If you are a YouTube partner, the ads on your video will also generate revenue, depending on how many views you have.
Instagram Live: Instagram Live is a quick and easy way to stream. If you’re at an event or just want to chat with your audience, this is the best platform. You can see who’s watching the video, so it’s standard practice to greet your viewers as they come on — that way it really feels like they’re there.
Facebook Live: Facebook’s algorithm pushes and favors live content, so if you’re already making videos and publishing them, you should try a live video to see how it performs compared to the published ones. Facebook is best for Q&As and livestreams of events, but can also be used for live tutorials or product reviews.
Twitch: If you create artwork or you’re a gamer, Twitch is an excellent platform for you. Just like YouTube, Twitch has a partner program and ways for artists to earn money from viewers as they stream.
It’s also possible to stream to more than one platform at once. There’s a new device called a YoloBox that you can connect to your camera, which will push the stream to both Facebook and YouTube or Twitch at the same time. That way you get double the engagement.
You can also use it as an opportunity to test and see which platform performs better, which can help you decide which platform you want to stream to in the future.
Budget Desktop Livestream Setup
You don’t need the highest quality cameras to be a “pro” streamer — it’s more about creating content your viewers will find the most valuable. But if the viewer can’t see or hear you well, it takes away from their experience. For starting out I recommend at using an HD webcam and a USB Microphone.
Webcam: If you’re just testing out livestreaming, you use an HD webcam and Google Hangouts on Air for a live interview, or you can use a livestream encoder, like OBS, to share your screen and a video of your face at the same time. Most computers come with built-in webcams, but if you want to get an HD wide-angle webcam they are fairly cost friendly now. The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 is an excellent choice.
USB Microphone: The built-in mics on laptops and desktop computers are often poor quality. If your audience can’t hear you well, it’s likely that they will not engage. This is why it’s recommended to get an external USB microphone that you can connect to your computer. The Blue Snowball USB Microphone is a good deal and comes with a built-in desk stand.
Pro Livestream Setup – Apple (MAC)
The key to moving from a beginner to a pro livestream setup is adding on higher-end DSLR and/or mirrorless cameras to your computer.
Compared to PCs, Apple’s computers are not as advanced when it comes to livestreaming technology — but you can still create a pretty awesome setup. Below is what I use with my Apple Mac Pro setup.
Computer: You want a machine that has at least quad-core processing speed. I currently own a Mac Pro 8-Core with 32gb RAM, a D700 graphics Card, and 512gb of flash storage.
Camera: To make your video look better, get a mirrorless camera you can can connect to your computer. The Canon M3 is what I use and it has a mini-HDMI out port that you can connect to your computer via an HDMI cable. Just be sure to have a desktop tripod that you can set up to situate the camera toward your face as your stream.
HD Capture Card: You may think a computer is all you need to be able to hook up your HD or 4k camera, but you actually need to attach a special device for streaming as well, called a capture card. This allows you to convert the HDMI signal from the camera through a USB 3.0 port. The one I recommend is the Elgato HD60 Capture Card. Simply connect the card to your USB port, and then the HDMI output into the capture card HDMI input.
Software (Encoder): Rather than using YouTube’s Google Hangouts on Air or going live directly from YouTube’s mobile app, you can download streaming software that will allow you to screen-capture and connect a camera window on the same screen. The best free software for Mac is OBS (Open Broadcaster Software). On the backend of YouTube, you’ll find a special code that you can enter into OBS that will send the livestreaming signal from the software to YouTube.
Microphone: Just like in the budget kit, you’ll want to make sure that your audio quality is captured by the streaming software. If you want to upgrade from the budget options available, you can try the RODE NT-USB Condenser Microphone. This microphone comes with a tripod stand, noise reduction capability, and a pop filter.
High-Speed Internet: This is a given, but it’s recommended to have a direct ethernet cable line into your computer, rather than using WiFi for professional streaming.
Pro Livestream Setup – PC
The Pro MAC setup outline above can be also used for PC computers, but the live-streaming software available for PCs is superior because of the existence of the online and live-gaming community. While you can still use OBS on a PC (and it works great for free software), you can also subscribe or purchase live-streaming software that can help you better engage with your community.
Sean Cannell, a YouTuber and Tech Reviewer, recommends using vMIX. Unlike OBS, it comes with pre-loaded title templates, live video effects, chroma key (green screen) virtual-set capability, and much more to level up your livestream quality.
Check out Sean’s DSLR livestream kit with his PC system in the video below:
I interviewed Cannell at Social Media Marketing World 2018 to get more recommendations on getting started in live video, what equipment you need, and how to start earning money through livestreaming on YouTube. Check out the video here for more!
Meanwhile, we’d love to hear about the ways that you use live video or how you’re planing to livestream in the future. Tell us and share any questions in the comments section below!