It may not sound intuitive, but believe it or not, it’s actually possible to set up a pre-recorded video to play as a live stream. And there are a few good reasons to do it, too. While you don’t need to deliberately misdirect your viewers, there are also better and worse ways to go about live streaming recorded video without calling excessive attention to the pre-recorded nature of your content. In this article we’ll walk you through using pre-recorded video in a live stream as well as break down the pros and cons; check out the sections below for more details.
- What Do We Mean by “Pre-Recorded Video as a Live Stream”?
- Pros & Cons of Live Stream vs. Pre-Recorded Video
- How to Create the Perfect Live Stream Using a Pre-Recorded Video
First things first, let’s get specific about using a pre-recorded video in your stream!
What Do We Mean by “Pre-Recorded Video as a Live Stream”?
Streaming pre-recorded video as a live session with live-stream features such as chat and reactions is called “simulive” which, if it’s not obvious, is a combination of “simulated” and “live.” A simulive broadcast is shooting for the best of both worlds, creating content that can be polished by post-production techniques but also have the immediacy and engagement of live video.
Network television news has actually been doing this kind of thing for ages, particularly in their online media outreach: recording and releasing timely segments (like news briefs) which are not technically “live” but close enough to be relevant to time-sensitive breaking events, giving viewers the feeling of being right on the scene. Another example of the usefulness of simulive is shown by consumer video platforms (YouTube, etc.) that have created the opportunity for content creators to have live scheduled “premieres” of pre-recorded video content. Audiences in a live chat can engage and share their excitement, similar to the first airing of a popular TV show’s new episode or an opening night movie release.
Since web and social and streaming media are by nature geared toward faster delivery, frequent updates, and a sense of immediacy, the simulive approach is definitely something streaming broadcasters should take advantage of. And of course, web, social, and streaming also are able to create superior opportunities for engagement.
Another useful perspective is taking an approach that everything that doesn’t NEED to be live in your content streams should be pre-recorded. This is particularly effective in hybrid and virtual events. We’ll cover that in more detail below, in the “pros and cons” section.
Simulive in general allows the opportunity to polish your content and “sand off some rough edges.” High quality stream content is important for that all-important factor: holding attention. While in-person and events require (physical) commitment and offer an immediate stimulus, a boring, technically unstable, or unprofessionally produced virtual event is far more likely to influence unimpressed spectators to disengage. Disengaged viewers at best check out, at worst, leave your stream completely never to return. And in a virtual situation, that’s much easier for them to do. Having as little as possible left to chance allows you to deliver a stable, high-quality event or stream session. That means it’s able to hold attention and drive engagement, deliver value to your viewers, and is more likely to return on your investment of time, labor, and budget.
Additionally, there are a few content and algorithm hacks that can make it more advantageous to publish a live stream (even if it relies on pre-recorded video) than publishing as on-demand video. An outstanding virtual event platform can offer you simulive capabilities natively.
Pros & Cons of Live Stream vs. Pre-Recorded Video
Let’s look at some of the advantages of using pre-recorded video / simulive in your streams.
- First, using simulive can be a promotional hack for video on social platforms, as their algorithms may promote live content streams over pre-recorded video. You can of course provide on-demand versions of your videos as well. But why not package up and premiere your content as a live stream?
- Additionally, using pre-recorded video provides the ability to polish your content and pre-emptively eliminate technical problems. An awkward public speaker can come off like a star in your content given a script and time in advance to revise, rerecord, and edit.
Pre-recorded content gives more leeway to include graphics and other branding. Depending on the type of content, you may want to use a light touch here so the stream isn’t shouting out “Hey, this is pre-recorded video!” Applying things like a brand logo, bug, or lower third is appropriate, but probably hold off on animated transitions or splashy secondary graphics.
Likewise, there are no technical emergencies. As long as your stream is stable and dependable, when packaging pre-recorded video as live there are no “What if the camera cuts out during the presentation?” concerns. While accidents can still happen, you’ll cut down on the number of things that can possibly go wrong.
- Strong engagement is definitely still possible, and in some cases will increase with the anticipation and excitement of a video premiere. A great way to further hook your audience is to include a moderated chat and/or Q&A before, during, or after the event.
Or, you can take the approach of bookending your recorded content with live segments. This works particularly well in the context of virtual or hybrid events; it’s common at an in-person event to have someone introduce a pre-recorded presentation or video, let the audience watch, and then return for comments or Q&A.
- Broadcasters can automate if they need to: while your video stream will scan as “live”, it can be preconfigured and scheduled to broadcast automatically. Since it’s not necessary to be present to manage the stream, a business or organization’s staff and resources are freed up to multitask and focus on other areas or necessary activities. “Set it and forget it” so you can take care of more pressing concerns.
On the other hand, there are a few disadvantages in using pre-recorded video, or, let’s say, unique advantages of live event streaming:
- Live streams can offer real-time or close to real-time playback, where simulive may lack immediacy or spontaneity.
If the content you want to stream is vulnerable to being “spoiled” for viewers who aren’t watching in real-time (such as a sports event) then definitely consider streaming in real-time. This also goes if the content is in some other way extremely timely, and the viewers’ engagement could be impacted.
Similarly, while you can always repurpose evergreen content for on-demand video, a live stream adds a sense of urgency to your content. This is why even for simulive, we recommend including live elements if and when possible. Or alternately, your “live but not live” content could start out as a one-time only event. Hold off for a little while before making the content available on demand.
- Pre-recorded content is usually not interactive, which may cut down engagement during the broadcast.
Relating to the above, a pre-recorded video is essentially a closed loop. Other than being able to fast forward/rewind, skip head or review sections a second time, the viewer is unable to take an active role in directing where the content goes. This in some cases may cause them to lean back and passively absorb.
If a stream is completely live and provides strong interactive features to the audience, those in the audience may be able to take a greater part in shaping what they’re watching. For instance, speakers or instructors might be able to take questions or adjust their presentation on the fly based on the group’s interests, performers can take audience requests, etc. While these types of interactions can be watched after the fact (just like TV or “live recordings” of music), they’ll lack the sense of “being there.” As noted, this is also addressable to some extent by adding interactive features and audience chat in real-time!
How to Create the Perfect Live Stream Using a Pre-Recorded Video
To set up a quality simulive stream, we recommend the following:
- A great enterprise level video solution to publish your streams. (May we suggest Kaltura?)
- Pre-recorded videos, whether created through your video portal or shot elsewhere and uploaded.
- The Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) and VLC Player, both are free and open-source software that can help you source, configure and playback your videos. We won’t get into the technical “weeds” here about using them, but trust us, they’re incredibly useful.
- A computer that will be available for the duration of time that your stream will play.
If you want to walk through the more technical aspects of creating a simulive stream, we can also help you there.
As you’re aware, live streaming is a powerful channel for delivering content. There are pros and cons of both live streaming or streaming pre-recorded video as simulive–the way you decide to go is going to depend on your business or organization’s own needs, goals, and capabilities. And obviously there are different techniques and complications to keep in mind for both use cases. But we hope this article has opened your eyes to new options in your toolkit and demonstrated how a “live stream” doesn’t always have to be live!