The awesome, yet sometimes daunting, possibilities of the internet are limitless. Often there are simple, free tools out there to get the job done in almost any area.
With a little larger base of resources, though, like expertise, budget, and manpower, we can really take any initiative to the next level. It’s the same with streaming live and on-demand video.
Production is where the content originates from. It’s captured through cameras, run through a switcher, cut together and then sent off to the encoder for streaming. I know this is familiar.
Thinking a little beyond entry-level gear, though, the better quality we capture our events in, the better the end viewer will engage with the experience.
We need to think about three main aspects of the content. Audio, video, and lighting.
1. Acquire a second mixing board for audio and do a separate audio mix for just online viewers. They need very different levels for watching in their environment, versus those who are sitting in a sanctuary.
2. Invest in some specific camera lenses for your cameras (ones that can be interchanged) in specific locations. A camera required for waist up (medium) shots should have a sufficient lens to zoom far enough and open the iris enough for capturing more light. The handheld/jib on or by the stage should have a wide angled lens. to show the greatness of the room and be able to acquire the right frame from up close.
3. Plan to have balanced lighting across the stage, with the ability to sufficiently light for video. The same lights/lamps and a light meter should allow for a well-balanced look. When we can produce a no-distractions program mix in these three areas, the viewer will be fully engaged.
Encoding is the process of taking the video and audio signals from production and compressing them to send through the internet. There are a lot of options here, and one way to narrow down the right one, is by identifying the goal of the live stream.
Is an encoder needed to just simply stream? Press go and see it on the web? Or is the encoder needed to add some extra videos, audio, or overlays to the stream? I would suggest thinking through what would create the most inclusive experience for the viewer.
Online viewers can very much become their own community, needing initiatives designed just for them. For example, providing the ability to send online viewers a prerecorded video of the senior pastor inviting those viewers in a special communion is being inclusive in a huge way.
Encoders are capable of queuing videos to intercut during a live stream and then returning to the program mix. They are also capable of having multiple ‘bugs’ or overlays that can be displayed, like a hashtag and Twitter handle or a copyrighted music license.
In addition, encoders can record the compressed stream locally. This is a great way to add redundancy in your recording, but also have a web-ready file to upload if needed.
Streaming providers allow us, the user of the platform, to manage the live and on demand content. There should also be analytics to show the health and growth of the viewership.
Oftentimes, using a streaming provider will provide a level of personable support to take care of the streaming. Nothing can be more frustrating than the inability to get a hold of a service provider to get assistance, especially during a live event.
Think of the important aspects of streaming. Create a plan and goal, and then align with a streaming provider that will enable those goals to be reached. I personally think reliability, customer service, and ease of use are the three most important staples of a streaming service.
There is definitely a list of features, though, that should come standard. Live and on demand streaming, analytics, chat support (along with phone support, of course), a customizable player, links for your website embed and mobile app, and free trial period are just a handful. Test them out and figure out which works best with your workflow, operators, and budget.
Going to trade shows, like WFX, talking with other venues that live stream, and Google research should provide a handful of options. The best advice in finding out everything you need is to just call (or chat) in, ask some questions, and explain the goals of the streaming initiative. That will only help identify the service that can most completely provide all the needs.
Multiple platforms have become a desired destination in streaming these days.
Why not, right?
We want to reach viewers where they are. The internet.
We should also want to lead them where we want them to end up, like your website. What better way than to connect with viewers on the social platforms or TV platforms, provide really engaging content, and then lead them to your website to get more? Facebook and YouTube are by far the most popular social platforms, but others like Twitch and Periscope are up and coming.
I’m sure we’ll see more pop up in the near future that are geared toward specific audiences. These platforms allow for free streaming and will notify those that are subscribed or following groups when we are streaming.
Let’s not limit ourselves, if we have the resources to reach a wider audience. It may take a more robust streaming provider and encoder to do this most successfully than not, so be sure to make this a part of the conversation when deciding in those areas.
TV platforms are also becoming more and more popular as TVs are cheaper and allowing for more people to congregate together and watch. Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon FireTV provide a super simple solution to watching live and on demand streams, right from the comfort of your living room. Also, they provide perfect opportunities for holding streamed studies or smaller venue gatherings.
Don’t forget about those that need assisted living or are hospitalized and need the convenience of operating something remotely, like a TV across the room. These are usually very simply designed to allow the easiest operation. I think every content creator that has live and archived content for free, should jump on the opportunity to provide these outlets.
With a growing number of people on the internet, it has become more important to not just provide content, but to be purposeful and strategic about its creation and delivery. There are going to be more and more outlets competing for the attention of our viewers. Let’s put a little extra effort into it and provide an experience that is captivating.