Some event managers are fine with allowing their webcasts look amateurish just to save a few bucks – ignoring the fact that their corporate image and the image they project to members, clients or prospects will suffer as a result.
Not us! Here’s what we do to ensure that your Live Event Streaming Video looks Totally Professional…
Among other things, we’ll look at ways to increase quality, ensure reliability, streamline the technical process, and much more..
We Use the Best Equipment Possible: The single best way to boost the quality of your stream is to use high-quality equipment. That includes cameras, encoders, and all audio recording equipment like microphones and mixers.
When it comes to video cameras, quality matters as well. While the cheaper, consumer video cameras available today can produce good results, the quality of the imaging depends on other factors like perfect lighting. In low light, a cheap camera will produce grainy video with poor color.
To maximize video quality with video, we use Professional Panasonic Camcorders that shoot in full 1080p HD (High-Definition. Using a 3-CCD camera with 3 large chips (one for each RGB color) sensors and features like manual white balance, focusing assistance, etc. adds to the quality of the stream. These cameras also have XLR audio connections built-in, which is vital for capturing good sound.
Good Audio is often more important than Video:
We invest heavily in professional audio equipment as well. Built-in microphone in laptops, and even in expensive cameras are more often than not very poor in quality. Good-quality external microphones are pricey but that is what we always recommend. In a professional, hotel ballroom setting, the venue will generally have a reasonably good quality audio setup with multiple mics coming into a professional grade audio mixer – this allows us to run a high-quality XLR audio cable from their mixer into our setup, so we can capture good quality audio from multiple mics, directly into our system.
THE INTERNET CONNECTION: the most important element one can often overlook:
The quality, speed and reliability of the internet connection that will be used to broadcast your stream is critical for determining its quality. When it comes to broadcasting video, upload speed is particularly important. Upload speed refers to how fast you can send data out to the world.
Take listed internet speeds with a grain of salt. In general, most internet connections commonly publicize their download speed as a factor of their quality. This marketing is aimed at the end viewer but is not what we look for as a streaming provider. Much of the hype around internet speeds is deceptive. Typically their upload speeds that are way slower than their download speeds – usually less than 25% as fast. Advertising often highlights speeds “up to” a certain rate. In practice, the average speed you actually get could be half the posted rate. Download speed is only important for the viewing audience, not the broadcaster.
SPEED: So how fast is fast enough?
For example, an SD (Standard Definition) broadcast stream may require 750 kbps (kilo-bits per second) of data – in which case the internet connection should offer an upload speed of at least 1000 kbps in theory.
There is a catch though – Internet speeds are not constant and fluctuate from moment to moment. We try to ensure a fast, reliable connection to stream our video – by running a speed test at the venue (www.speedtest.net) to check the available ‘bitrate’ to see if the available upload speed is at least double the required speed of our broadcast.
SETTINGS: An important factor in enhancing the quality of a live stream is by choosing the correct settings on all our equipment.
Camera Settings: On our cameras, we carefully adjust settings such as resolution (as high as possible), white balance and of course, frame rate. Exposure is carefully adjusted using our cameras ‘zebra’ function. Of course we are alsways shooting in HD even if we need to send out an SD stream – this ensures picture quality is as high as possible.
Audio Settings: We choose sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz. which is more than sufficient. A Bit depth is important and 16-bit captures enough data. Of course we are also continuously recording whatever we stream so if we plan on editing the audio from your recording in the future, we can record in 24-bit quality which gives us more latitude during post-production editing.
Encoder Settings: An encoder is a device which converts the signal coming in from a camera (audio and video) into data which can be streamed over the Internet for viewing by your audience. The settings here are quite complex but we have them dialed-in in advance depending on our audience. Once again, we select the appropriate resolution, frame rate, and bit rate for your stream, which may be quite different to what we set up in the camera, since these depend on how much internet bandwidth that is available to us.
Additionally, we broadcast in multiple bit-rates simultaneously using a technique called ABR Streaming, which allows people with varying internet speeds to view the broadcast without any problems.
HOSTING THE WEBCAST:
We select the best hosting company to work with – the CDN (Content Distribution Network): No free video players for us with their own logo smack in the middle of your screen! This allows us to brand your broadcast the way you would like it to be seen. Professionalism in branding is a key factor which is why we don’t use social platforms like YouTube or Periscope.
Branding aside, Reliability is a key factor in choosing a CDN – while any Internet connection can go down, a reliable CDN will have a backup option that will allow the broadcast to continue almost without interruption.
We can also ‘White-label‘ your webcast by creating a micro-site which has your own corporate colors, logo, header, etc. without our presence intruding into the event.
The problem with Embedding: When it comes to YouTube, embedding the video onto your/our website is possible, however, when anyone clicks on the video, they’ll be taken straight to the YouTube site. While this is beneficial to them in terms of ‘page-views’ (and more importantly the advertising revenue), you do not want your audience to be diverted to YouTube – which is another reason why we don’t use social or free hosting platforms for our clients.
When you embed using our white label platform, we can arrange so clicks can lead to your website, which boosts your page views.
We can include features that incorporate your own monetization system – on-page advertising, pay-per-view systems, paid registrations, etc. These methods can generate additional revenue—and best of all, you get to keep it all!
LICENSING & CONTROL:
Another benefit of using a white label video host like ours, is that you get to retain all your licensing & content rights. Social platforms, make you agree to licensing agreements in their Terms of Service. These mean that anything you upload could be used by the company to advertise their service. They don’t have to pay you anything, or even ask permission.
Live streams have a lot of moving parts, including Audio gear, Video equipment, Encoders, Cables, Internet connections, Hardware settings & Software setup. With so many elements, involved, Murphy’s second law is inevitable (“If anything can go wrong, it will!) We take all these risks into account knowing they can be mitigated by having a solid back up plan which is essential for the success of any consequential live event.
Essentially, this backup plan involves setting up a parallel second live stream which can stay offline, but otherwise everything will be ready and set to go. Settings are entered into the encoder and saved, spare cameras, mics, cables and connectors are kept on hand – this way, even if a problem does arise, we have a backup in place
TECH OPERATORS: The “People Factor” cannot be overstated. With a Pro Tech Operator on-site, one who is an experienced problem solver, it is your insurance policy against any mishaps (remember Murphy) and you can rest assured that any issue that crops up will be dealt with quickly and professionally.
TESTING: Test, Test & Test Again:
We test our setup multiple times. There is nothing more annoying than an unforeseen technical issue that crops up at the last minute. We try and ensure that the stream works for everyone with no issues. We start testing days before the event and keep testing till we are doing the final round of tests on-site. We test streams of high and low quality, on various different browsers for compatibility, ‘accidentally’ unplug cables and reconnect and more.
Making the viewer experience last:
Professional events don’t end when the curtain drops. We record our stream in web-ready and edit-ready qualities so the whole event can be used for on-demand viewing on our/your website.
And that’s how we make our live stream productions look really “Pro.”