We are three episodes into our weekly Facebook Live gatherings, appropriately named the Friday Melee. While we have been #blessed with an abundance of web design, technology, and digital marketing questions, one in particular comes our way in some form each week: “how are you going live, with three people in three locations?” Since more of you seem to want to try it these days, here’s a primer in how to go live. Even if social media live streaming isn’t your thing but you’d still like some options to shoot semi-professional videos, forge on for some beginner-friendly advice about your audio and filming options.
· Computer: You need a laptop or desktop with enough RAM to run a couple programs at once. Matt and Evan use MacBook Pros, and I’m able to make it work on a MacBook Air, though I have to be diligent about shutting down ALL programs but the ones I need, otherwise I run the risk of crashing mid-stream.
· Camera (Optional): Your laptop’s onboard camera is likely more than sufficient; in fact, it’s what I currently use. Matt and Evan are a little fancier; Matt uses a Canon M50 and Evan, a Logitech C920 Pro webcam. Upgrading your camera is not a deal-breaker, but when combined with the right lighting it sure does make your video more beautiful! Soon, I’ll be broadcasting with an M50 as well, but I have a few more steps to complete, as there’s some additional finagling to make a DSLR function as a webcam. (Hey, look, I think I just came up with the topic of our next blog!)
· Microphone (Optional): Again, you can use what’s already onboard your computer here. But for a little money and a lot more control, consider investing in a USB microphone. I have a Blue Yeti Nano, which set me back around $100. It was the first tech investment I made to up my game to something close to Bivins Level, and I regret nothing!
· Lighting (Optional): Avoid a fuzzy or dark feed by thinking through your lighting options ahead of the broadcast. Small ring lights are a great solution, and start around $20, while larger standalone options average $60-$100. Or for a completely free option, try to position your broadcast spot in front of an open window, and experiment with the camera’s angles and best times of day for a natural, diffused light. If natural light isn’t available, here’s a hack I’ve used for my own videos: position a lamp directly in front of you, and only a few feet away. Cover it with a white sheet to diffuse the light, of course being careful that your rigging doesn’t get too hot. It’s not ideal, but it works in an ill-lit pinch!
· Native vs. Third-Party App: First things first, most platforms make it simple enough to go live directly from your device. Don’t overlook this option, or make things unnecessarily complicated for yourself if your only objective is to broadcast live from one location, and without any additional frills. However, with Facebook killing its “Live With” feature that allowed people and pages to guest star on other live feeds, a third-party app becomes immediately necessary to invite others into your stream. These options are also incredibly useful if you need to add graphic overlays, slides, videos, or integrate audio/visual upgrades.
We use a platform called ECamm Live which, sorry PC-users, is a Mac only option and starts at $12/month. A quick search will uncover a multitude of other operating-system agnostic options; my suggestion is Be.Live. It has a decent enough free plan, and some pretty significant upgrades starting with its $24.99/month price tag. One pretty large difference between ECamm Live and Be.Live is that ECamm Live relies on Skype to bring your guests online, while Be.Live can provide this option natively within its own app. The industry-standard and completely open-source (i.e. free) option is OBS, which is incredibly powerful but has a much higher learning curve. Matt and I are playing with it now, and hope to report back to you about it, soon!
· Accessibility Options: Don’t forget to make your feed as accessible as possible! Matthew Bivins, our Cheerleader for Online Accessibility, has continued to search for the ideal solutions to make sure our friends who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing can just as easily tune in, live. His latest discovery is webcaptioner.com for real-time captioning services. When combined with uploaded captions on recorded videos, and auto-transcription services like Otter.ai, we keep inching closer to total world domination. Or, at least a more inclusive digital environment?
· Engagement: Live videos can create an overwhelmingly positive lift in page engagement. To make the most out of this party trick, be sure you’re tuning into questions and comments, so your audience feels like a crucial aspect of the broadcast. Otherwise, you might be better suited filming a shorter video ahead of time and sharing it instead.
· Scheduling: Make sure your audience knows when you plan to go live, and promote it well in advance. There is no silver bullet to address the ideal time, but try to avoid middle of the day, when most people are working or middle of the night, when many people are sleeping. If you’re using a third-party app, you can usually schedule the broadcast so that it counts down and allows viewers to choose to be notified. Neat!
That, friends, is a LOT and we have but barely scratched the surfaces on the Dos and Don’ts of Live Streaming and Digital Film Gear 101. What questions do you have, so far? What rabbit holes can we somewhat expertly lead you down? Drop a comment below, or shoot those queries on over to firstname.lastname@example.org. We love hearing from you!