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 COVID-19 ENFORCED STREAMING.

Written by Brad Holder, 18/03/2020

Welcome to our guide to first time streaming! My name is Brad Holder, Director at PCC Productions Audio Visual Hire, based in Regional WA – it’s great to emeet you.

We’ve written this guide for two main audiences in mind – the arts community (Theatres etc), and churches. My learning has mostly been through creating a weekly live stream for a church based in regional WA however this guide is applicable to anyone who wants to stream.

The church we stream with started with a weekly audio feed only stream in 2016, and now four years later we run a weekly multi-cam stream on Facebook, Youtube and Church Online. We operate completely with volunteers, and so the equipment and systems we put in place have had to be very intuitive.

WHERE ARE WE AT?

At the time of writing this guide, all indoor events have been capped to 100 people nation wide. As a result, many arts organisations and churches are being forced to find innovative ways to keep their experiences reaching their audiences. One of these ways is via online streaming.

Please use this guide to set you on the right track to online streaming – please also note that there are many other methods not covered in this guide, and that it is intended to be used as just that – a guide, based on our discoveries.

Our team are also available if you would like to discuss custom packages or options that might suit your specific situations.

It’s also important to recognise that investing into quality streaming takes time and money. Developing a professional looking stream overnight can be a very hard thing to do, and should not be attempted unless you have the existing resources to do so.

I believe that in some cases a bad stream can actually cause your viewers to not come back. Even if you improve the quality of your stream, they may have a subconscious perception of what to expect regardless of your improvements.

Streaming is not like a live audience who more often than not will sit through a full experience even if they don’t necessarily like it, viewers online can and will click the little ‘X’ button at anytime, without even giving you a chance to check in with them.

It’s important to note that particularly for free experiences, unless they are already very invested at least 40-50% of viewers will also not stay attached to the full experience – don’t be discouraged by this.

Unfortunately in a microwave generation, this is the reality of streaming. Instead viewers tend to jump in and out of the experience for short bursts.

This drastically changes the way we need to develop our content, so that someone could pick up on something part way through and still be engaged and connected by it. For paid online experiences though (theatre etc), this drop off number tends to be significantly reduced based on the perceived value of it.

SHOULD I BOTHER?

It’s tempting to jump straight into streaming because in this international crisis everyone else seems to be doing it, but STOP! At this point you should ask yourself “Am I better off recording my experience and then uploading it after editing and premiering it on Facebook & Youtube?” 

This may be a better model for you – Facebook and Youtube have some great new Premiere features that feel live, but it’s likely you’ve already put some thought into this – otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this guide.

That said, there are still major benefits from live streaming such as the community that can be built through it and multiple people going through the same experience online with the ability to chat virtually is an amazing concept. You an also reach people anywhere, as you’re not limited to your geographical location.

Also given the recent reduction in social gatherings, Live Streaming may be one of the only options to continue doing what you do.

This guide may appear daunting at first, but it’s much easier than it appears. So, let’s jump into getting you streaming!

 

IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS.

Before embarking on this journey, it’s important to note that we assume you have at least some basic IT and AV knowledge. There are however some need to know terminology related specifically to streaming.

ENCODER: The software or hardware that streams to the internet. Typically hardware types have a HDMI and/or SDI input, and they connect to the internet to transmit your stream to the platform you choose. An example of a hardware encoder is the Teradek Vidiu GO units.

STREAM KEY: This is a secret code, anyone with this code can enter it into their encoder and then stream on your channel.

Stream Key’s are generated by the end source, so, if you wanted to stream to Facebook Live for example, you would generate a stream key for your unique page or group. When you enter this into your encoder, it will point your encoder to stream your content there.

VIDEO SWITCHER: This is a term used for the video switching unit that you will use to switch camera angles or sources. Like an encoder this can either be a hardware controller with buttons and switches or it can be software based depending on if you go the In The Box route or the hardware route (more on this later).

It’s important also to note that some video switchers don’t carry a constant connection. They’re designed to switch the source once, and then they take a few seconds to connect. This is not ideal in a live production scenario – the switching must be instant, and hence the switcher must keep a constant connection.

Check out my recommendations of video switchers here: https://kit.co/bradface/basic-vision-switchers-for-streaming

SDI: This is a signal type, delivered by a BNC cable. It replaces a HDMI cable in most cases, however can be run over a far greater distance. Typically this is used to connect cameras to switchers in a larger venue or in cases where cable runs are needed to be over 15m.

BNC cables have different ratings that change depending on what quality you want to run through it, but for most standard HD signals HD Coax cable with BNC ends is sufficient. If you move to higher end broadcast, 4K etc, then you may be required to get 6G or 12G HD SDI cable which can handle the higher bandwidth.

NDI (Network Device Interface): This is essentially a digital version of SDI – it allows you to deliver video sources digitally, a bit like a virtual cable. Some software such as Wirecast allows you to send video from an iPhone over NDI (through the network) to your broadcast computer running Wirecast. 

TIME TO TALK GEAR.

There are multitudes of equipment combinations available for live streaming. The market is constantly flooded with new products and possibilities. As a disclaimer I’d like to note that the packages I’ve mentioned below are not the only ways to stream.

There are countless other options and packages available and some may suit you better. What I have done is package up some kits that will give you progression options without blowing the budget. Even if you start at Level 1, then almost everything you’ve purchased will also be needed for future levels – so you won’t have wasted money if you decide to upgrade down the track.

There are two main paths of equipment to stream with however both start with the inexpensive smart device options. This is important because once you go down one route, it’s must harder or at very least far more costly to jump over to the other option as opposed to levelling up.

Once you get beyond the capabilities of the Smart Devices, then you’ll need to choose between staying ‘In The Box’ or ‘Hardware Based’.

 

SMART DEVICE PROGRESSION (Leads onto either the In The Box Progression or Hardware Progression, You’ll need to pick one after Level 3!)

#

TYPE

EQUIPMENT REQUIRED

PROS

CONS

APPROX COST

LEVEL 1

BASIC – Smartphone to Facebook or Youtube Live

View the kit here: https://kit.co/bradface/level-1-streaming-kit

– Smart Phone

– Tripod for Phone

– Inexpensive

– Limited Setup

– Quick & Easy to get going

– Will work on any connection speed or type

– Stream quality Limited

– Camera needs to be close to source

– Restricted to single camera angle

– Assuming you have a smartphone already

– Smartphone Tripod – $35.00

TOTAL: $35.00

LEVEL 2

BASIC – With Audio Link

View the kit here: https://kit.co/bradface/smart-device-streaming-level-2

– Smart Phone

– Tripod for Phone

– Audio to phone cables AND/OR Rode GO wireless kit with SC4 adapter for sound desk feed or close mic using internal Rode GO mic

– Inexpensive

– Limited Setup

– Quick & Easy to get going

– Will work on any connection speed or type

– Good quality audio

– Stream quality Limited

– Camera needs to be close to subject – not ideal for stage related work

– Restricted to single camera angle

– Assuming you have a smartphone already

– Smartphone Tripod – $35.00

– Rode GO & SC4 Adapter – $300.00

TOTAL: $335.00

LEVEL 3

INTERMEDIATE – Switcher Studio App

View the kit here: https://kit.co/bradface/smart-device-streaming-level-3

– iPad

– Switcher Studio App

– Multiple Smartphones

– Tripods for Smartphones

– Dedicated WIFI network recommended

– Rode GO wireless kit with SC4 adapter for sound desk feed or close mic using internal Rode Go mic

– Reasonably inexpensive for Multicam setup

– Allows you to use Smartphones as wireless cameras

– Limited Setup

– Allows overlaying of graphics in app

– Completely Wireless, so no cabling necessary. Great for portable options

– Wireless network can be unreliable

– Assuming you have an iPad and multiple smart phones available already

– Switcher Studio App – $49/mo

– 3 x Tripods for Smartphones – $90.00

– Rode GO wireless kit with SC4 adapter for sound desk feed or close mic using internal rode GO mic -$300.00

TOTAL: $439.00

 

After you surpass the capabilities of Smart Device Streaming, the choice is yours as to whether you would prefer to go with the In The Box Progression, or the Hardware Progression.

The key is that from this point on, neither are very compatible with each other – so it’s best to make a decision to either go In The Box (PC/Mac Driven) or Hardware Driven (Seperate Physical Hardware for everything).

IN THE BOX PROGRESSION (Follows on from Smart Device Progression)

#

TYPE

EQUIPMENT REQUIRED

PROS

CONS

APPROX COST

LEVEL 4

INTERMEDIATE – Existing Camera & Computer

View the kit here: https://kit.co/bradface/in-the-box-level-4

– Mac or PC

– FREE OBS Software

– Camera

– USB/Thunderbolt Capture Card with HDMI in

–  Audio to PC cables AND/OR Rode GO wireless kit with SC4 adapter for sound desk feed or close mic using internal Rode GO mic

– Inexpensive

– Limited Setup

– Great for people who already own a good video camera

– Good quality audio

– Single Angle Video Shot

– Assuming you have a PC/Mac already

– Assuming you have a good quality video camera already (Canon XA40 or similar which are approx $2500)

– Rode GO & SC4 Adapter – $300.00

– USB/Thunderbolt Capture Card (HDMI in) – $200.00

TOTAL: $600.00 (Add $2500 if no camera)

LEVEL 5

PROFESSIONAL + Smartphones

– Mac or PC that meets Wirecast’s requirements here: http://www.telestream.net/wirecast/tech-specs.htm

– Wirecast Software

– Multiple Smartphones

– Wirecast Cam App on Smartphones

– Tripods for Smartphones

– Dedicated WIFI network recommended

– Audio cabling to PC/MAC from Sound Desk (Ideal) OR Rode GO wireless kit with SC4 adapter for sound desk feed or close mic using internal Rode GO mic

– Allows room for growth, can add pro level cameras and input/output hardware later

– Allows you to use Smartphones as cameras

– Much more stable solution to earlier options.

– Expensive

– Can take time to setup

– Comprehensive Training recommended

– Assuming you already have a compatible Mac or PC

– Assuming you already have Smartphones available

– Assuming you already have a WIFI network available

– Assuming you already have at least one good quality video camera (Canon XA40 or similar which are approx $2500)

– Wirecast Software – $1056.00

– Tripods for Smartphones – $300.00

– Rode GO wireless kit with SC4 adapter for sound desk feed or close mic using internal rode GO mic -$300.00

TOTAL: $1656.00 (Add $2500 if no camera)

LEVEL 6

PROFESSIONAL + CAMERAS

– Mac or PC that is compatible with your Input/Output Card and meets Wirecast’s requirements here: http://www.telestream.net/wirecast/tech-specs.htm

– Wirecast Software

– Input/Output hardware and cabling (Blackmagic DeckLink Duo 2 Card or similar)

– Professional Cameras (Look at 1 or 2 x Canon XA40 and 2 x Marshall CV502 Cam’s as a starting point)

– Multiple Smartphones

– Wirecast Cam App on Smartphones

– Tripods for Smartphones

– Dedicated WIFI network recommended

– Audio cabling to PC/MAC from Sound Desk

– Professional Level

– Allows room for growth, can add more pro level cameras and input/output hardware later

– Allows you to use Smartphones as cameras

– Allows you to add a range of pro hardware controllers later

– Expensive

– Can take time to setup

– Comprehensive Training preferred

This package is really a custom tailored solution depending on quality and your unique setup. It’s likely that at this stage you will need a custom built PC or MAC to suit the input cards. I would start by budgetting somewhere around $5,000-10,000 for this style package or by purchasing Level 5 and slowly upgrading over time.

 

Some notes:

– Your main two camera’s are going to be around $2-2500 each for intermediate level (Suggest Canon XA40 or similar), or upto $5,000 each if you are after something nicer.

– You could use Go Pro’s or our recommendation is Marshall CV502 cameras as your Static Cameras. Look at mic stand adapters for these, it will generally work out a lot cheaper than tripods and they take up less space on stage, especially if you already have spare mic stands.

 

 

HARDWARE SWITCHING PROGRESSION (Follows on from Smart Device Progression)

#

TYPE

EQUIPMENT REQUIRED

PROS

CONS

APPROX COST

LEVEL 4

INTERMEDIATE – Existing Camera

– Good Quality Camera

– Hardware Encoder

– Audio cabling to connect to camera or encoder from Sound Desk

– Easy system to setup with very high quality output

– Good quality audio

– Single Shot Only

– Assuming you have a good Quality Video Camera (Canon XA40 or similar which are approx $2500)

– Hardware Encoder (Suggest Teredek Vidiu GO or similar) – $1,900.00

TOTAL: $1,900.00 (Add $2500 if no camera)

LEVEL 5

INTERMEDIATE – Single Camera, Video Switcher and Input Software

– Good Quality Camera

– Hardware Encoder

– Audio cabling to connect to camera or encoder from Sound Desk

– Video Mixer

– PC or Mac with Presentation Software (ProPresenter or Powerpoint/Keynote)

– Can look very professional with cross fades to the presentation software.

– Allows for expansion with more cameras later.

– Single camera shot only

– Assuming you have a good Quality Video Camera (Canon XA40 or similar which are approx $2500)

– Hardware Encoder (Suggest Teredek Vidiu GO or similar) – $1,900.00

– Assuming you have Powerpoint or ProPresenter

– Video Switcher Hardware – $500 to $1500 (Depending on HDMI or SDI. Suggest Blackmagic ATEM Mini at under $500 for HDMI only, if SDI is required Roland V-1SDI at $2000).

TOTAL: $2,400.00 (Add $2500 if no camera)

LEVEL 6

PROFESSIONAL – Multicam, Video Switcher and Input Software

– At least 2 x Good Quality Cameras

– At least 2 x Go Pro or Marshall CV502 Static Cameras

– Hardware Encoder

– Audio cabling to connect to camera or encoder from Sound Desk

– Video Swticher (Suggest Blackmagic Television Studio HD or 4K)

– PC or Mac with Presentation Software (ProPresenter or Powerpoint/Keynote)

– Multicam

– High Quality TV Style Stream

– Less frequent equipment upgrades necessary than the in the box options

– Allows for more expansion later

– More expensive than In The Box Options

This package is really a custom tailored solution depending on quality and your unique setup. I would start by budgetting somewhere around $5,000-10,000 for this style package or by purchasing Level 5 and slowly upgrading over time.

 

Some notes:

– Your main two camera’s are going to be around $2-2500 each for intermediate level (Suggest Canon XA40 or similar), or upto $5,000 each if you are after something nicer.

– You could use Go Pro’s or our recommendation is Marshall CV502 cameras as your Static Cameras. Look at mic stand adapters for these, it will generally work out a lot cheaper than tripods and they take up less space on stage, especially if you already have spare mic stands.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.

WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU USE WEEKLY?

Check out our kit here: https://kit.co/bradface/my-live-streaming-rig

 

INTERNET SPEED.

Possibly the most important factor when streaming is to know what your UPLOAD connection is capable of, not your download.

You will need a stable connection that can handle the quality you would like to stream.

Resolution

Recommended Upload Speed*

Minimum Upload Speed

480p30

3 Mbps

600 Kbps

720p30

6 Mbps

1.25 Mbps

1080p30

13 Mbps

2.75 Mbps

These values are estimates based on stable network environments, calculating exact bandwidth requirements is dependent on the type of content, encoder and a number of other factors.

Mbps: Megabits per second

Source: boxcast.com

In the above table, the first number is the pixel quality, and the second number is the frame rate.

WHAT ABOUT REAL WORLD SPEEDS?

In a real world scenario, I have found that for us our weekly 1080p30 stream is not stable on anything less than 5Mbps, it might be different for your location however, as we are based regionally and prone to more fluctuations.

If you can’t achieve this type of connection don’t fret – there are other options available however they are less straight forward. Before our location became NBN connected, we used an iPhone’s 4G connection as our dedicated streaming network.

We had to significantly downscale the quality of it to 480p15, and we certainly had a fair share of dropouts throughout this period also. If the 4G network happened to be congested on a stream day, then our stream would be terrible.

A better option is to use an encoder with the ability to combine multiple connections such as the Teradek Vidiu GO. This encoder has a subscription based service called ShareLink, which allows you to connect to multiple networks and utilise the bandwidth from them all.

For example, you could plug in a USB 4G modem to the encoder, a hardwired LAN connection to your modem/router while also connecting to multiple smart device’s hotspot and combine all of the connections to output your stream. If NBN or high speed internet is not possible in your location, then this is definitely a great option.

 

STREAM QUALITY? 4K? 8K?

A common misconception is that you need to stream everything in the highest possible quality. This is good to do, however keep in mind that Facebook still limits your stream quality to 720p. So no matter what format you put into it, Facebook is only giving your users 720p – and it’s compressed.

Youtube is a little less brutal on the compression and will generally output whatever format you put into it. Currently, we stream at Full HD – 1080p to Youtube and Facebook, then we let Facebook decrease its own quality down to 720p. Given that most of our viewers are viewing on Smart Phones or Tablets, 1080p is already crystal clear and currently I believe it’s not worth using more bandwidth to have it downscaled on the viewer’s end.

HOW DO I STREAM TO MORE THAN ONE PLACE AT A TIME?

This is probably one of the most common questions on forums. If you’ve taken the In The Box Route, then it’s usually possible to confirm your encoding software to stream to multiple places at once. If it’s not, and I’d suggest this regardless of whether your software or hardware can or not, you can use a third party piece of software in the cloud to virtually split the feed in the cloud for you like Restream.io or Castr.io.

I like Restream.io, because it’s really user friendly and offers additional chat host features as well as live preview so you can troubleshoot easily if required. You would point your encoder to Restream.io, and then Restream.io points to your services (Facebook Live, Youtube etc). The biggest advantage in doing this is that you only have one set of outgoing bandwidth from your network, as the splitting is happening in the cloud.

LICENSING.

This may or may not apply to you depending on what you are streaming.

For the church world, you’ll need a CCLI streaming license. This will set you back under $200 and covers you for 12 months. More info on this here: https://au.ccli.com/streaming-licence-manual/

For the live performance world you’ll need a One Music license. More info on this here: https://onemusic.com.au/faqs/#1715

Please note there may be other licenses required in addition to this, please call the relevant licensing departments for you industry to obtain further information.

 

BACKUP. BACKUP. BACKUP.

Live streaming is great, until something goes wrong. No matter how robust your processes and systems are, something as simple as a connection glitch can kick you off from broadcasting your stream.

This is where it’s incredibly important to have a backup in place. As we run a hardware encoder we have configured it to record a USB backup of the whole stream post stream compression.

We also have added a Blackmagic Hyperdeck SD Card Recorder to our system which records the full stream at uncompressed high definition quality and in most cases this is the version we edit and then post online later after the stream.

Most encoding software can also support local recording. If you are going with one of the Smart Device options (L1, L2 or L3) then you won’t be able to do this, but if you have any of the other levels then I can’t stress this enough – Make the effort to set it up and record your stream, it is VERY much worth it.

 

JOB ROLES.

Our typical volunteer broadcast team comprises of four crew every stream.

Broadcast Director: This is the person operating our switcher, communicating the shots to the camera team and really managing the overall broadcast experience.

Camera Crew: We have two camera crew who are stationed on our two Front of House Cameras. On person captures a constant tight shot of the main person speaking or singing and the second person captures a range of different shots including wide shots, audience pans, special close ups etc.

Our two stage cameras are not manned and are static only shots, one is usually used as a guitar neck shot and the second as a drum close up cam. We hope to soon add another camera & operator which will be wireless and mobile.

Online Crew: This person is responsible for monitoring social feeds, scheduling streams and chatting with the viewers on online the chat, to help make the experience more engaging and informative for them. I would suggest that in the time of the Covid-19, particularly for churches to increase this role significantly – 3 or 4 people would be ideal.

 

HOW MANY CAMERA SHOTS DO I REALLY NEED?

This really depends on the level of production that you want to offer. For us we have discovered that we need at least three cameras to make it look professional – two manned shots from behind the audience and one or two static stage cameras.

We tend to use One manned camera as a tight shot, zoomed in on the main person, one Manned camera as a wider shot camera while also doubling as extreme close ups, room shots, pans etc and two smaller static cameras positioned on stage for close up shots of guitar bodies or drum cams.

 

I HAVE A GO PRO AND/OR A HANDYCAM, CAN I JUST USE THESE INSTEAD OF BUYING CAMERAS?

The short answer is yes, but you won’t be as impressed with the quality. Go Pro’s are great as static POV cameras, however for your main shot you really need a dedicated broadcast camera.

One of the main reasons for this is quality, and another is getting a clean output. A clean output is when the camera does not display any menu’s or settings on the output screen which a lot of Handycam’s tend to do.

 

HOW DOES MY BROADCAST DIRECTION COMMUNICATE WITH MY CAMERA TEAM?

There are various talkback packages on the market that are standalone, however to conserve budget we went for a Mac based system called Unity Intercom.

Unity Intercom turns any smart device into a talkback system that camera operators and broadcast directors can use to communicate during your stream.

To get audio into our devices we purchased some iRig Mic Pre’s, Audio Technica BPHS1 Headsets and a 3.5mm to 6.35mm headphone adapter.

It also has the added bonus of allowing you to send Tally (red & green lights so operators know when their shot is live) to the operators delivered via the screen of their smart devices. The other plus side to this option, is that our operators use their existing devices as their belt packs.

 

WHERE SHOULD MY BROADCAST CONTROL HUB BE?

This can be a place of debate, and while it’s not always possible I firmly believe that it is always better if the broadcast control system can be in an isolated room, seperate to the main auditorium or where the camera work is happening.

The first reason is because as the broadcast director I believe you should be viewing the broadcast with the same eyes as the online viewer. It’s much too easy to watch the stage if you are in the auditorium and you will take things for granted that are in the room. 

A prime example is being able to see powerpoint presentations on a screen of lyrics or notes. If you are in the room you can see these, where as if you are online you cannot. If you are viewing it in the same way the online viewers are seeing this, you will notice and correct for it as required.

The second reason is troubleshooting. We have had multiple instances where the audio feed isn’t correct, or the time alignment with the audio & video is out of sync.

Being that we operate from an isolated room, we were able to notice straight away and correct for the problem. If we were stationed in the auditorium, due to the ambient noise we may not have realised this.

 

WHERE SHOULD I STREAM TO?

It depends on your purpose, but in most cases the goal is to go where your audience is. If your purpose is to deliver free content (Churches, Not For Profits etc) then your end goal is likely both Facebook & Youtube – as this is where your audience already is.

The best way to do this is to use a service like Restream.io, which takes one feed and multiplies it within the cloud to send to multiple services. The main benefit to this is that you only have one outgoing stream worth of outgoing bandwidth on your service.

If you are planing on streaming a pay-per-view service (Theatre Performances, seminars etc) then you’ll need to stream into a platform that allows you to take payments before allowing users into the stream.

While I have not used it, after a quick google search a service such as www.streamingvideoprovider.com may suit your needs.

They appear to offer a suitable platform for $99 per month. Another option is Australian company www.streamgate.co – again I have not used it, so suggest that you do your research on either of these options if you are looking at charging to view your stream.

We’re not going to get into the detail here on how to setup your stream keys between encoders, Facebook and YouTube. There are plenty of free resources on the internet about how to do this, however if you get stuck then we’re always here to help you through it.

LIGHTING:

This is almost always overlooked – lighting for stage capture needs to be even, warm enough and consistent. More importantly, you need flicker free lighting fixtures. This is sometimes overlooked, but there is nothing worse than having a non flicker free fixture on a stream. Why? Because due to the power cycles it will look like a strobe light.

 

EXTRA TIP FOR CHURCHES:

Check out the Church Online Platform by Life Church. Church Online is an amazing free resource that lets you embed a Youtube stream into a customised web portal with your branding, that integrates with the YouVersion Bible App.

It also has Chatting functions, where your online team can chat virtually with with people tuning in, plus there is a private host chat for your chat hosts. Check out one we created here: http://c3ph.online.church

 

GOOD LUCK!

If you have any specific streaming questions or are struggling with anything at all then please feel free to get in touch with us. We are also available to assist in setting up temporary one off streaming of your event. Happy Streaming!