What makes live streaming so much fun is creating an appealing video production under the challenges and pressures of a live environment. A company’s professional reputation is quickly built upon their ability to excellently execute a production with consistency. Poor performers don’t last very long in this industry. At times, live streaming gets a bad rap as being unreliable; a reputation largely generated from production companies that dabble in live streaming or take on only the occasional job. By working with a dedicated live streaming professional, you know they will come prepared and be able to quickly respond when the inevitable technical hiccup arises, while those less familiar with live streaming may not adequately prepare or know how to tackle problems on the fly. This can quickly spiral into disaster!
Whether you’re the event planner or the production outfit, here are the top technical issues we’ve seen and answers on how to respond effectively. Adding these tips to your know-how arsenal will assure your next live stream is a success.
5. VIEWER: “HELP ITS NOT WORKING!”
SETTING YOUR VIEWERS UP FOR SUCCESS
Going into an event, it’s important to be informed what your viewership will look like. Are they likely to use primarily mobile viewing or desktop? Are their internet speeds slow or average? What is the possible size of viewership and when do you anticipate peak viewing times? Getting a good picture of your viewership can help you choose bitrates and assure proper stream qualities are being produced for various platforms. This may include delegating streams to multiple servers for international reach or heavily viewed events. If you aren’t sure how to track this information, you may be able to collect stats using your streaming platform or pair an account to google analytics(our solution for robust tracking).
Thoughtful consideration of the user experience is also helpful. At times we’ll provide simple tech specs or offer testing streams so users can tease out simple issues such as hitting refresh for a stream to start, finding the play or full screen button, turning off browser plugins that may block a stream or simply connecting to quality internet.
In addition to testing and sending information prior to the stream, it’s important to make a game plan for tech support during the stream. Will you provide text / chat / phone / email support? Building a plan and delegating a point person who is responsible for fielding viewer-side issues will give your customers the best experience and keep the rest of the team focused. Make sure your client knows who this point person is so they aren’t interrupting an otherwise smooth production.
4. PRODUCTION TEAM: “HOW IS THIS CONFIGURED?”
STREAMLINE YOUR EQUIPMENT SETUP
Do what you can to make setup as easy as possible. For us, many events are at unique locations, so having the equipment ready to go helps to save time and reduces room for error. We can simply pop open the cases and connect the cameras, leaving room to focus on other aspects of the stream.
When we first started, we stored gear in compact cases. This made for easy travel, but setup became a headache. Having to re-route cables at every shoot introduces more opportunity for errors. We found it was too easy to misroute cables or forget to pack small critical components. It also made setup less approachable, and only a couple of staff members knew how to connect it all.
Our gear is now in one rack case with most connections being hard wired. Of course, there is always tweaking and cable routing needed to accommodate the specifics of the event, but the critical components (switcher, soundboard, video encoder, program recorder, control panel, monitors, intercom and replay deck) are all locked and loaded and never leave the case. Patch cables are all left connected and inside the box. We use smaller, lighter flight packs as condensed versions for travel or scaled down productions.
It has also been invaluable to create accessible documentation so that any member of the team is able to configure each device.
3. VIEWER: “STREAM LOOKS GREAT, BUT I CAN’T HEAR A THING.” TAKE SOUND SERIOUSLY
Visuals are often championed in video and it’s easy to forget that audio is 50% of the equation. Do the following to make your sound as successful as the video:
- Monitor your audio as it’s being streamed or recorded using both a visual indicator and by wearing headphones or using speaker monitors. The visual marker will help to assure you are hitting proper levels without peaking. Listening in will help you better mix your sound, catch bad cables, sound interference, and noisy mics.
- Ensure your primary source or feed is clean, and levels are set accordingly with the room to adjust during broadcast. Test each input well in advance of start time.
- If the job requires a complex sound mix, hire a dedicated sound engineer to monitor that you’re hitting even levels. Remember, room sound will distort what you think the broadcast sounds like, so monitor audio in isolation when possible.
- Build in backups. This can include running extra cable to your source, bringing you own wireless lavs or having an ambient mic setup in the room to fall back on should an issue arise.
- Add room mics when appropriate to help build a more dynamic sound mix.
- Introduce audio delay devices as necessary to keep your audio and video in sync. We use the AD22 Audio Delay
- Consider using ‘walk on music’ to start and end a broadcast. You can use this to play during breaks if you don’t have pre-roll or ads to play. Viewers can also use it to set speaker volume to. Just make sure you are using music you have license to.
- Make sure the event is conscious of the live stream. For example, have speakers repeat questions asked into the microphone. Also, make sure there are extra mics even if people within the room can easily hear; it may not translate over the stream.
2. VIEWER: “HELP! IT’S NOT WORKING!”
MONITOR THAT STREAM
It’s easy to get caught up in the event and forget to monitor your live stream as a whole. You’re in the middle of the action, it’s being fed both into the cameras and the stream – it’s a lot to juggle! Just like monitoring audio, it’s vital to monitor your live stream so you’re not caught off guard.
At our live streaming events, we monitor the stream both the upstream (feed being sent to our server for distribution) and downstream (as viewers see it) on-location. This role is often dedicated to a particular person and can be your last line of defense in catching errors. Of course, be sure you have the internet bandwidth to do this. Ensure they have the ability to make changes to anything surrounding the stream whether it be the streaming platform, the site it is embedded to, the social media account stream, etc. Also, provide them the ability to give production team members (e.g. technical director) feedback or relay any issues. Cover everything and anything that may come up. For high profile events, consider having another person offsite monitoring with remote access to your encoder to make adjustments on the fly.
AND THE NUMBER ONE PROBLEM…. YOU GUESSED IT!
1. PRODUCTION TEAM: “WE HAVE A BAD INTERNET CONNECTION!”
We’ve all been there. You start seeing your internet speed inch down to a crawl. It’s horrible, its painful. Here’s what you can do to avoid finding yourself in that situation:
- Get connected with the network admin or ISP at a venue prior to broadcast and make your tech specs extremely clear, maybe even put them in your contract if you are relying on another vendor to provide the internet.
- Make sure your bandwidth won’t be impacted by venue use, such as open WiFi, etc.
- Test access well before the event. We do 2-4 weeks prior allowing time to make adjustments, then we test again the day prior at setup.
- If you have the capability to run a private test stream continuously from setup right until start time, it will help you catch any last minute issues (this has been really helpful for us and will help you sleep well the night before the big event!).
- If venue internet is not an option, test other cellular, bonded backup solutions or point to point hotspots well before the event and don’t ever blindly ‘trust the internet’.
- Understand encoding bitrates and leave a buffer in your own allotted bandwidth.
Never trust the wifi unless it’s your absolute last resort!
Feel free to reach out to us with questions or other tips you might add!