While it might still seem a bit cutting edge and exotic to some, live streaming video has definitely gone mainstream, becoming one of the most popular forms of broadcasting. Your business or organization can benefit greatly from the increased popularity of live video by creating a live streaming setup to produce your own content. This article will get you grounded in the basics.
First of all, for those still resistant to the idea of using live streaming content (either as an end itself or a means to expand your brand messaging), here’s an update on the state of streaming: As visual and entertainment media go, live TV is losing ground. Recent studies have shown that 58% of people who still have a cable subscription don’t use it to watch live TV. Meanwhile, in households with streaming devices, 19% of the TV time is spent watching streaming content. And out of that 19% streaming content, it’s estimated viewers are watching live videos as much as three times more often than pre-recorded videos.
Video live streaming also has a lower bar to entry than traditional media (like TV) and can require a far less extensive setup. But what gear and operational knowledge do beginners need to dip a toe into the multi-billion dollar video streaming industry? We’ll lay it out below.
- Live Streaming Setup: Preparation & Planning
- List of Required Equipment
- 5 Tips for the Perfect Live Streaming Setup
- Personal vs. Business Streams
- Kaltura Live Streaming Solutions
- Final Thoughts
Live Streaming Setup: Preparation & Planning
A few initial tips to get the best outcomes:
Always plan in advance!
Planning sets you up for success–in fact, many of these other tips might also fall under planning. But aside from that, determine your budget, research, and buy gear for your live streaming setup, get an idea of the scope of your project and what defines “success”, and figure out the best time to schedule your stream for a target audience to watch it.
Determine your topics or niche
In other words, what is the stream about? If you have a strong sense of what you want to cover or convey, it will make your content stronger. Also, there are already many popular topics for streaming, and you might be able to fit into one of them and engage a pre-existing audience while also carving out a unique space for your content. Speaking of which, that also gives you a leg up on better understanding your audience (see below).
Related: Understand your audience
In other words, “Who is this stream for?” We live in a media landscape filled with niche markets. Depending on what your success metric is, you probably want to reach as many people as possible, so it’s helpful to understand who they are and what they want from streaming content!
Know your goals
How will you know if you’re succeeding? Create some metrics for your project. A professionally produced streaming project may already be very goal-focused (i.e. “5000 viewers on the stream”). But even for a novice streamer without a particular brand to represent, a goal as simple as “stream at the same time every week” helps your project move forward.
Promote your content!
Tell everyone about your live stream, and especially make an effort to reach your target audience. Poor promotion can be the bane of independent creators, but even businesses and organizations might have issues with it. Make sure you promote far and wide with the best means you can muster.
List of Required Equipment
Below are the main components you need to produce and deliver a video stream. Keep in mind live streaming kit varies depending on your requirements, anywhere from an entry-level setup to professional-grade. But here are the common denominators:
- Internet Connection: Live streaming setup Step 1, you need an internet connection. Additionally, make sure that your connection is stable and reliable with high enough bandwidth to meet the challenges of streaming your content. So, high speed is best. We’ve previously covered some topics about managing bandwidth and bitrate.
- Computer Hardware: Another baseline for most streams, and likewise, we’re assuming even complete novices know that–but it’s important to lay out the basics in order.
Streaming software and software encoding need to run on something, and even most hardware encoders require a user-facing device, such as a laptop, for input and configuration. Just stating it for the record.
- Video and Audio Input Devices:
Just as obviously, there can be no video streaming without audio and video sources.
The necessary quality of your source can vary widely based on the content and audience for your stream. You could land anywhere from using a cheap lightweight webcam or built-in device camera to a professional 4K video camera. Similarly, audio could be as basic as an onboard mic or as complicated as a professional mixing board rig–HOWEVER take care, especially when using entry-level gear, that your microphone/audio source is adequate! It’s well known that viewers are more likely to leave due to bad audio.
We recently discussed live streaming equipment set-ups, and you may want to check out that article for additional insight. For our immediate purpose here are two polarities of “entry-level” vs “professional quality” live streaming setups which you might consider:
For Entry Level Streaming
- Webcam or Device (smartphone, tablet)
- Optional Tripod – If you’re not shooting video from a desktop, there are low-cost options to mount your smartphone or tablet for a steadier shot.
- Wired or Wi-Fi Internet Connection
This is a very basic setup suitable for video blogging or consumer video platforms, it will get you streaming quickly and easily, using equipment you most likely already have. The downside is: it’s lacking in any bells and whistles. This will give you lower-quality video and a plain continuous stream recording, but it’s good enough for social media content.
For Professional Grade Streaming
- Multiple Video Cameras or Camcorders (HD)
- At Least One Tripod – per camera, plus other optional lighting and rigging equipment
- Video Encoder
- Audio Mixer
- Graphics Software – Adding some subtle graphic elements like brand logos or lower thirds is completely feasible for a high-end live streaming setup and can give your content a slicker and more professional look.
- Portable WiFi
At this level, you want something polished-looking. HD cameras are a must, although depending on the content, shooting from one angle might suffice, and breaking the bank for the highest-end camcorders could be excessive. Make sure you know how to make the most of multi-thousand dollar cams’ features and can plan to use them frequently before committing.
Additional gear you might want to have at a professional level:
–Lighting will make your images clearer and more professional
–A Background serves a similar purpose. Invest in a photo background or green screen, or take special care with how you arrange and show the environment
–A Microphone Arm or clip-on-mic/mics for audio
- Video Encoder: Another key item, the video encoder compresses your video and audio files through algorithms, adjusts file size and format (typically reducing the size to stream while providing the highest quality video/maximum compatibility), and pipes the video to your streaming destination.
- Hardware Encoding vs. Software Encoding: We’ve touched on this elsewhere so it’s only bulleted here. Hardware encoders are dedicated devices for processing video, software encoders are programs that run on desktop or mobile computing devices and usually need to pair with a capture card (or other equipment) connecting a camera to a computer.
- Mixers and Switches: Entirely optional hardware for capturing multiple video and/or audio inputs. Switches allow you to alternate camera angles, whereas mixers take in multiple audio source inputs. This type of gear depends on the scope of your production–if you intend to create a more polished content stream closely resembling TV or professional concerts, these are invaluable to your live streaming setup.
- Streaming Destination: Finally, you need a means to deliver your content to an audience, such as a professional video streaming platform. There are multiple options for streaming destinations and the best choice will depend on your goals and budget.
5 Tips for the Perfect Live Streaming Setup
The perfect live streaming setup is, of course, the one that best conveys the content and experience you want to showcase. Hopefully, this piece has clued you in on important considerations for a streaming project, but here’s a recap of our recommendations:
- Plan and prepare in advance.
- Understand the scope of your budget and your gear needs.
- Know what kind of stream you want to produce (see “Personal vs. Business” below), and what goals you want to set for it.
- Avoid common mistakes: test your gear in advance and learn to monitor the quality of your live stream-viewers notoriously bail due to disruptions and bad viewing/audio experiences. Remember to promote!
- Monitor your performance and follow up: Did you hit your goals? If not, what can you do better next time? If you’re generating audience data, follow up on the insights. (We love engagement data around here).
Personal vs. Business Streams
This connects back to what we mentioned above about appropriate live streaming setups and identifying with your audience: different types of streams and content will have different types of requirements.
Personal Streams are more likely to be able to roll with a closer to entry-level setup, looser format and conversational language, and a less regimented production. In this situation what you’re most likely shooting for is relatability, not how closely you can emulate a CNN broadcast. On the other hand, if you’re a professional or aspiring professional content creator and have the means, you might want to make high production value a feature of your content.
Business Streams on the other hand are more likely to serve the function of being a brand ambassador to the public. If budget and time permits, a live streaming setup for a business can match a studio TV production in scope and quality.
Of course, you might also opt to go the other direction and go with a low-fi style of stream to appear more intimate and authentic. Just make sure your image and audio are coming through clear and strong–that’s the only “wrong” or “right” way to do things.
Kaltura Live Streaming Solutions
Of course, Kaltura can also cover you as far as content solutions for your live streaming and webcasting. We’d love to be a key part of your live streaming setup. With Kaltura Town Halls and Live Events, you and your teams are empowered to easily create and manage engaging broadcasts. Whatever live content or community experiences your business or organization wants to provide, our platform and services are best in class.
Kaltura’s flexible and reliable end-to-end live streaming solution makes it possible to easily broadcast any event, any size. We offer high-quality streaming with fast-loading players based on ABR technology, 1080p video, and outstanding design and user experience. Kaltura Town Halls and Live Events are modular, fully customizable, and complement a high-end content management platform with a range of technology to individualize content. We help anyone become a broadcaster, from live streams created and launched directly from Microsoft Outlook to studio streaming and live events with multiple presenters and locations.
Additionally, we can offer white glove production service at enterprise level, executing on both live content creation and streaming management. Whether you’re looking for a self-service tool to facilitate content engagement on a small scale or for a full production live broadcast, our mission is to power your video experience. We have a lot to offer and encourage you to request a demo to evaluate our solutions for yourself.
There’s quite a bit more to be said about video live streaming, but we hope that this has been a solid introduction to live streaming setups as well as how to best position yourself for success. Keep an eye on the Kaltura blog for further deep dives into making the most of live streaming!
Ready to set up your own live stream? Kaltura can help!