With most of the world locked up at home due to the Covid-19 outbreak, more and more people are looking to live stream on all the popular social networks. But, not everyone is a seasoned techie when it comes to sound and video. We have compiled 10 tips to get you started and easily improve your live streams from home! Whether that is a live gig for your followers, a book club for your friends, or a work conference call, these tips will help you improve your setup for you and your viewers.
Tip 1: Streaming Platform
Streaming 1 to many
Almost every social network platform lets you stream. Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Periscope (Twitter’s offering), among others will let you sit in a field with 4G on your phone and stream to your friends. Youtube, the most popular user generated video streaming platform offers a streaming option too. In our opinion, stream to Youtube, and share the link to your friends/followers. As a Bonus, youtube lets you record your streams, and preview them before going live!
Group Video Chat/Conferencing
Another type of video streaming is that used in video conferencing. Zoom has become incredibly popular almost over night. Despite historic security issues, it’s ease of use meant it soared on popularity as the world scrambled to find a way to video chat to their friends. With its ease of use and high video quality, it became the go-to for people looking to chat with friends and family during the crisis. Microsoft Teams, part of Office 365, has a video chat feature built into it and with its close ties into the 365 ecosystem, it makes a great tool to use if you are video conferencing for work. Other corporate options include Webex from Cisco, but these are targeted at corporations.
Tip 2: Streaming Device
Almost everyone has a smart phone these days. Modern smartphone are more than capable of streaming an HD video stream. The cameras are continuously getting better, and they are getting more powerful every year. Most smartphones have a better camera than most of the laptops out there. Macbooks have a decent camera on them, as do iPhones and high end Samsung phones. Record a video using your device to see what the quality is like. If you’re happy with it, chances are it will work for your stream. Cheaper brand laptops such as Acer and cheaper Dell’s have varying qualities of webcam. It might be a better idea to get a USB webcam that has a microphone built into it if you have one of these laptops that you want to use.
Tip 3: Setting
Getting a good background to your live stream is essential for you to look professional in your stream. If you have a busy messy room behind you, your viewers are going to spend most of their time looking behind you and trying to see what books you have, rather than concentrating on what you are saying on your stream. If you can, try and pick a neutral background. Having a bit of interest is fine, just as long as it’s not too busy. Some streaming apps even let you change the background or blur it.
Tip 4: Lighting
Make sure there are no bright windows or bright lights behind you. This will make your camera under expose and make you look dark in front of a bright background. Ideally, the brightest light source needs to be behind the camera so it is lighting you directly. One option would be to draw the blind on a window.
Lighting you directly will also improve the quality of your image. If you have a desk lamp you can turn on, or maybe a bendy Ikea light, you could use that to light your face/body up. Bendy Light Example on Amazon
Now that you’ve lit yourself up, your backgrounds probably looking bit boring? How about some coloured lights to light up the wall behind you? Simply putting a coloured light on the floor and uplighting a wall can create some interesting shadows and brighten up your stream.
Tip 5: Sound
Noise Cancelation can be troublesome
A lot of streaming apps have built in noise cancelation. This will stop whatever is playing out of your speakers going back into your microphone and making the stream sound echoey for your viewers. However, if you are singing along to a backing track playing from the laptop you are streaming with, the app will try and cancel this out, leaving you with a horrible choppy sound that isn’t anything like you want it to be! An easy way to get around this is to play the music from another device. Have you got a bluetooth speaker laying around? Use something other than the device you are using to stream with to play back the music.
Use an external Microphone
Most devices have a built in microphone that is tiny and can struggle to pickup sound well. If you have a separate microphone that you are able to plugin to your laptop, this can vastly improve sound quality. A USB microphone is the easiest to plug in. A pro microphone with an XLR connector will require a USB sound card interface to use with a laptop. Getting the microphone on a mic stand or table top stand so it’s as close to your mouth as can be will improve the quality of the sound. The more direct sound the microphone can pick up, compared to the reflections in the room, the clearer it will be.
There are also many microphones that exist for your iPhone. Have a look here.
If you are in a conference, another way to improve the quality of the sound is to not have any speakers playing back the rest of the people in the conference. Simply wear headphones to listen to everyone else, and your mic won’t need to cancel the sound coming from the speakers. It should also be easier for you to hear what everyone else is saying. Apple’s Airpods and headphones have built in microphones with their headphones, and offer a great cheap way of you streaming to your followers.
Some apps have settings
Are you using zoom for a lesson? this has automatic noise cancelation built in. However there is an option to turn this off. It’s called ‘original sound. Find out more.
Tip 6: Video
Think about how you’re going to frame your shot. Play with different angles, make sure you or whatever you are streaming are in the frame. Check the lighting section on this page too. Dark video looks bad!
If you are using a phone, get a tripod and a mount, or maybe a selfie stick that you can support on something. Whatever you do, make sure it doesn’t fall over mid stream!
Tip 7: Test Test Test
Whatever device you are using, you need to make sure you have a good strong internet connection. Most of the time people do speedtests on their home broadband, they are looking at the download speed – the speed at which you can download a webpage from the internet to your device. However when you are streaming, you are uploading your video to the internet. Most home broadband connections have a download speed 10x bigger than the upload. You need to make sure you have a good enough upload speed. Anywhere over 2-3Mbps should be enough. Have a look at speedtest.net to find out your broadband speed.
Are you using Wifi at home? Make sure the signal is strong. Wifi bounces around the walls in your house to get to the router, so once you’re set, try not to move your phone too much. Also don’t use your microwave! This is know to interfere with Wifi. An alternative is to plug your device directly into your router with a cable. Or if you are on your phone, make sure you have enough data and a strong 4G signal. That might be enough to stream.
Do a test stream
Why not? Do a quick test to a couple of friends to see what the quality is like. Check the stream doesn’t drop out, check they can hear you and see you well enough.
Tip 8: Before you Go Live
Make sure you know what you are going to do in your stream. There’s nothing worse and you babbling endlessly about nothing. People will stop watching and find something on Netflix to watch instead! Make a bullet point list of what you’re going to do or talk about.
Tip 9: Start early, on time.
If you have set a time that people are expecting you to start streaming, start the stream early. Let your device sync up to the streaming platform you are using and let your internet connection stabilise. It also means that if there is a problem, you can find another way to stream before people are expecting you to go live! You have nothing to loose by starting it early and just saying hello to everyone as they start joining. People are bound to join late, so give it a few minutes before actually starting what you are there to do.
Some streaming platforms let your viewers send comments to you during the stream. This gives you an option to interact with them. During or at the end of the stream, it might be a good idea to look back over some comments and reply to them. It will make your viewers feel more involved.
Tip 10: A more professional Setup
Live streaming can get more complicated if you want to start sharing your screen or have multiple cameras. This is where a piece of software called OBS can come in handy. It acts as a virtual mixer and lets you switch between multiple cameras, multiple audio sources, add logos, backgrounds and more. This obviously involves a lot more setup and technical knowledge to accomplish.