Basic Introduction to Livestreaming Video

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In times of transition, such as adding an extension to your business, creating a personal brand, or, especially now, mandatory social distancing during a pandemic, it becomes necessary to connect with friends, clients, or an audience in different ways. Livestreaming video seems fairly easy at its most basic if you're talking to your Mom or a friend on your smartphone, but when, for example, a yoga teacher needs to suddenly transition their classes online or a house of worship needs to reach their congregation, a higher-quality approach may be required. What do you need to stream quality video? The breadth of equipment and streaming platforms out there can be daunting, and some basic guidelines can be helpful.

What Do I Need First?

First, making sure you have a solid high-speed Internet connection is a prerequisite. Any video stream will require as much bandwidth as you can get. DSL or dial-up will likely not be your best options, so basic cable service or faster is recommended. Second, you’ll want a quality camera that shows you and your production in the best possible light. Third, a good microphone so everyone can hear you on the other end is essential.

What's Your Platform?

Though it may seem natural to first determine what camera you want to use, it may be wiser to start by choosing what platform you are going to use to livestream, then adapting to that with your equipment. Certain services may have resolution limitations and connectivity requirements that will limit your hardware options. Some popular services include the following.

Facebook Live allows you to schedule and stream live from your Facebook account for free, as well as receive live feedback from your videos. It can also save the videos for viewing later right in place. Facebook Live is friendliest to smartphone or tablet setups, but it also allows you to connect cameras through your desktop using Facebook-compatible third-party software.

YouTube Live is a similar free option that also has live commentary options and scheduling, along with a slightly wider range of camera compatibility options. It is also a point-to-point stream that is good for classes, lectures, or performances.

Zoom is a more social platform, which is great for collaborators or teachers who need more interaction with their students, because it displays all your connections in small boxes on the screen. There are multiple screen tools, and bringing your own camera into the stream is fairly simple.

Simplest First

When using a computer, the easiest approach is to use a webcam such as the Logitech C920s HD Pro Webcam, which offers basic high-definition video with a clear picture, fast connection, and easy setup using a USB port. For video calls where you don’t need much, any smartphone or tablet with a camera and the appropriate app can also work without much hassle. Since the webcam, smartphone, or computer may not have the most robust microphone, a standard lavalier mic or USB mic, such as the wired Saramonic Compact Mini Clip-On Lav Mic, is great for streaming clearer and cleaner audio. You can browse even more webcams here.

Logitech C920s HD Pro Webcam
Logitech C920s HD Pro Webcam

However, if you are, say, teaching yoga, a wired microphone isn't the best choice. Upgrading to the Zoom Q2n-4K Handy Video Recorder may be an even better solution with its wide lens, up to 4K video resolution over a micro-HDMI connection, and professional-grade microphone to pick up high-quality audio.

Zoom Q2n-4K Handy Video Recorder
Zoom Q2n-4K Handy Video Recorder

Mid-Level Upgrade

If the most basic options aren't enough for your needs and you'd prefer to use a higher quality camera such as an HD camcorder, DSLR, or mirrorless camera that you may already own, you have many options. You may also look at your desired camera and think, how do I connect this to my computer? Not to worry, there's a solution.

As a starter camcorder, the Panasonic HC-VX981K 4K Ultra HD camera is a great option to step up your production. It provides high-resolution video up to 4K, a 20x Leica zoom lens so you can capture the smallest details, and a micro-HDMI output to make sure high-resolution video reaches your desktop. You can connect the camera to your desktop for streaming easily with the Magewell USB Capture HDMI Gen 2, which converts the HDMI signal to your computer's USB connection, so you can use the camera just like any webcam. You can also set up your DSLR or mirrorless camera with the right computer input converter and cable, and you're up and running.

Panasonic HC-VX981K 4K Ultra HD Camcorder
Panasonic HC-VX981K 4K Ultra HD Camcorder

Advanced Livestreaming Production

A single webcam and a laptop may not be enough for your company presentation, online class, or house of worship service, so a little more investment will be required for multiple cameras. If you have multiple cameras such as a broadcast-quality camera with HDMI outputs, the Roland VR-1HD AV Streaming Mixer can be added to your setup to allow you to switch from camera to camera and control levels of professional XLR audio inputs.

Roland VR-1HD AV Streaming Mixer
Roland VR-1HD AV Streaming Mixer

You can also add a dual camera setup using your computer, providing it has a customizable PCIe slot, with the Osprey 821e HDMI Video Capture Card that provides two HDMI inputs for your computer and a software switcher that allows you to send each stream to a different destination so you can simulcast on YouTube Live and Facebook Live, for example. If you don't have a PCIe slot, capture devices like the Magewell unit for cameras with HDMI outputs or the Blackmagic Design Micro Converter SDI to HDMI for professional cameras with SDI outputs will do the job.

Osprey 821e HDMI Video Capture Card with SimulStream
Osprey 821e HDMI Video Capture Card with SimulStream

When using multiple cameras and sources, adding a directional shotgun microphone to each camera is essential. Shotgun mics such as the Senal MC24-ES Short Condenser Shotgun Microphone Kit or the RØDE VideoMic GO Camera-Mount Shotgun Microphone offer high-quality audio in a compact form, or you may want to add wireless lavalier mics such as the RØDE Wireless GO Compact Digital Wireless Microphone System or the Senal AWS-2000 Wireless Lavalier System to extend your subject's range and mobility from the camera.

Senal AWS-2000 Camera-Mount Wireless Omni Lavalier Microphone System Kit
Senal AWS-2000 Camera-Mount Wireless Omni Lavalier Microphone System Kit

For productions that need a wider placement of cameras such as music, sports, education, or house of worship applications, remotely controlled PTZ cameras are a great choice for their low-profile design, high resolution, long zoom, and the ability to be controlled remotely. Kits such as the Panasonic HD Video Mac Streaming Kit provide everything you need for livestreaming with cameras, video and network switches, and Telestream's Wirecast Studio video broadcast software lets you add graphics and effects.

Telestream Wirecast Studio for Windows
Telestream Wirecast Studio for Windows

Lighting

One of the most overlooked aspects of streaming video productions is lighting, especially when you've worked hard to get a high-speed connection, HD camera, and professional microphones set up, so take some extra care to light your subject well. Don't forget the basics—put the light in front or on the side of your subject, not behind. Setting up your subject in front of the window is off limits unless you want your subject to look completely dark, but using a window on the side as a key light works fine.

To add extra light, LED lights are compact and lightweight and can mount just about anywhere. A ring light like the Angler Bi-Color LED Ringlight can create interesting effects in your subject's eyes, an on-camera light like the Aputure MC RGBWW LED light can provide a bright light in a compact form with hundreds of color options, and the Litepanels Astra 6X Bi-Color LED Panel can light larger areas in a more extensive production.

Litepanels Astra 6X Bi-Color LED Panel
Litepanels Astra 6X Bi-Color LED Panel

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with livestreaming below and be sure to check out all the available video cameras, mics, switches, and accessories on the B&H website. If you need a recommendation or two, visit Live Chat on the B&H homepage and ask our friendly folks for help.

2 Comments

How does one create a video of several musicians playing the same song from different locations with their own cameras and mics? Something like Zoom?

Yes!  All the talent would need to be logged into the same Zoom session.

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