Live Streaming 101
You’ve probably been itching to start live streaming for a while, but there was just never enough time to familiarize yourself with everything that’s required. Wait no longer. It might take a bit of practice to master the finer points, but here are a few things you should know about live streaming before jumping into this now or anytime soon.
Live streaming with a smart device
Many of you will probably be streaming from a smartphone – it’s one of the most convenient methods available – but be sure yours is equipped with a camera that’s up to the task, and look into buying an external mic: it’ll capture audio way better than your device’s built-in one. Although Facebook Live and YouTube Live are two of the most popular streaming platforms, remember that Facebook lets anyone stream directly from their phone. YouTube, on the other hand, doesn’t let accounts with fewer than 1,000 subscribers stream straight from their device.
Live streaming with a DSLR or mirrorless camera
If you’re serious about live streaming and aiming for a more professional production, you should really be using a proper camera or camcorder. Most DSLRs and mirrorless models produced in recent years can easily tackle live streaming, and some of them are even optimized precisely for this purpose.
Regardless of the type of equipment you’re shooting with, always use a tripod when live streaming. If you intend to introduce some movement into your shots, use a gimbal stabilizer to ensure smooth cinematic results. Shaky handheld video is hard on the eyes and ultimately off-putting to viewers. As with a smart device, an external mic will capture better audio than a camera’s built-in. And if you want to look your best on camera, get some good lighting – it makes a world of difference.
So that’s the easy part. Needless to say, live streaming with a camera or camcorder is more complicated than doing it with a phone. Here are a few other things you should know.
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Capture cards and encoders
Cameras will require the use of a capture card as well as an encoder. An encoder takes data from the capture card and repackages it into a format that the streaming platform can recognize. Encoders come in the form of software or hardware. Resolution (the size of the frame of the video you’re encoding) should be set to 720p or 1080p. With frame rates (the number frames displayed per second), 60 fps is ideal; 30 fps is standard; 24 fps is the minimum.
When using a capture card or box for your computer, you’ll also need streaming software: Open Broadcast Software (OBS) is a popular example. You can use it to set up scenes, starting with a basic view using your video capture device as a primary source, and then switching between various additional scenes you create.
A video switcher, such as the new Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro, is another option for this task. It’ll come with its own streaming software, allowing you to use more than one camera and then switch between various camera feeds with seamless transitions and other cool effects.