15
Jan

Facebook: Live Video Feeds Even More Important for Business

 

Facebook Live is more relevant now that the FB news feed priority is shifting away from Brands & Business

 

facebbok page snippet with small fb logoCEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that the Facebook News Feed algorithm has been altered to favor personal posts at the expense of business, brand and media content. Zuckerberg explained that this is a long term strategy to enhance the well being of members. Although this will have an immediate negative impact on non-advertising posts, the work-around according to Zuckerberg is to promote community engagement via live video feeds or discussion groups. This is consistent with his push to stream live video since the introduction of Facebook Live in April of 2016. Going forward this recent modification will likely incentivise brands to create more campaigns centered on Facebook Live in order to maintain exposure on Facebook’s News Feed.

According to Social Media Today:

Facebook says that one-fifth of the videos posted to their platform now come via Facebook Live, and that users spend 3x longer watching video when it’s live, compared to pre-recorded or saved video.

This trend is a strong indicator that the Facebook Live platform  is ubiquitous among Facebook’s 2 billion users; a compelling incentive to start live streaming on Facebook.  Of course there is a significant amount of planning and preparation needed to put together a successful Facebook Live campaign.  It is important to engage with your audience especially with the interactive tools available on your Facebook page. You should also consider using a professional live streaming service to provide broadcast quality and reliability. However, please do your homework before you dive in. A poorly devised live stream strategy can do more harm than good for your brand. On the other hand, an intentful, authentic, user-focused live event has great leverage potential on the world’s largest social media platform.

11
Jan

Live Streaming Reliability – You Need to Know This

Live Streaming Reliability

When producing a live streaming event most of the emphasis is on the content, and rightfully so. It is critical to have a well thought out program that captivates your online audience.  Many good articles have been written with tips on how to get the most from your live event. However, the technical aspect of live streaming is equally important. If something goes wrong with the live stream your online audience will be rudely distracted from your program. It is safe to say that the live streaming process should be transparent.  No one should think about it if it’s working properly. So as the event producer it is your job to make sure that your live streaming team is not only well versed in good production skills but is also prepared to handle all contingencies. Live streaming reliability is essential to prevent the embarrassment and reputational damage that  occurs when the live stream looks bad or simply stops working.

Educate Yourself About The Live Streaming Process

I’m not suggesting that you need to become a techno-geek about this but having an appreciation for the underlying technology and network architecture will help you vet the webcasting team that you entrust with your project. Below is a diagram that we just put together that shows how a typical live stream webcast works:

live streaming / webcast diagram

 

The three main phases of a live stream are Acquisition, Transmission, and Distribution.  The Acquisition phase involves the audio & video team who produce the broadcast at the venue and send the signal to the Transmission engineer.  This person is responsible for converting the broadcast video into an internet data stream using a device called an encoder. From there they have to get the signal to the internet using a router with a solid high speed internet connection. At this point the signal has gone up into the cloud for distribution using a streaming server, web server, Content Distribution Network, then finally passing the signal to the end user’s local Internet Service Provider.

Hopefully the diagram provides an intuitive understanding of the many processes necessary to get the job done. Obviously we are glossing over the details which are important as well. The goal here is to identify all of the working components in order to understand what happens if something malfunctions. How do we reduce the risk? How do we quickly recover? We have a more indepth article about this entitled, “The Live Streaming Process – What Can Go Wrong?.” You should check it out if you want to dive a little deeper into the subject of live streaming reliability.

Identifying the Risks

Let’s take a look at some of the typical failure points:

  1. Audio hum or hiss when connecting to the house PA system
  2. Microphone failure and wireless mic dead zones
  3. Camera failure
  4. Poor connections due to bad cables
  5. Power disruption
  6. Poor lighting
  7. Video switcher fault
  8. Encoder mis-programmed or crash
  9. Venue internet uplink congested
  10. Streaming server down
  11. CDN down
  12. Web host server with landing page down
  13. End user’s ISP down or slow

Mitigating the Risks

It’s beyond the scope of this article to specify solutions for each risk individually but suffice it to say that it is possible to be prepared in advance to handle all of these contingencies.  At Webcast & Beyond we have developed a four point failsafe strategy to address all of these issues. They are:

1. Internet back-up

2. Network redundancy

3. Hardware redundancy

4. Onsite engineering support.

Each area incorporates additional equipment and specific procedures to mitigate the problems as they arise. The takeaway here is to have the right mindset. If you have an internal webcast team make sure they develop a failsafe plan of their own, otherwise the day will come when your live stream goes down at a critical moment and you won’t have the means to recover.

What we have discussed so far is that portion of the live streaming process where we have some measure of control. We select the equipment, the crew, the internet uplink, and the streaming service. We also set up the landing page and program the encoder. But what we can’t really control is what happens when we hand off the stream to the end user. This begins when our stream hits the end user’s ISP and continues on through their local network finally arriving at their viewing device. For this we have a self-help troubleshooting guide which you can view here: How to Fix Video Streaming Problems.

17
May

How to Watch Live Streaming Video – A Primer for Beginners

Close-up Of Young Man Lying On Sofa Watching Video On Laptop At HomeStreaming video is pervasive in everyday life. We use the technology to watch Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, video-on-demand from the cable company, Skype, Face Time, webinars and various live special events. Depending on the application, the technology varies with respect to the devices and types of connections used. In this tutorial we will focus on live streaming (also known as “webcasting”).

According to Wikipedia …

“A webcast is a media presentation distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous listeners/viewers. A webcast may either be distributed live or on demand. Essentially, webcasting is “broadcasting” over the Internet.”

This is what Webcast & Beyond does. We go to an event with our production team and equipment and broadcast the experience live to a global audience. We also provide a platform where the audience can “tune-in” to watch. Typically the platform takes the single feed from the event and distributes it to a web page with a video player embedded. This way the web page address acts like a TV channel to “tune-in” to a particular webcast.

Example of a webpage for watching streaming video

Example of a webpage for watching streaming video

Access to the viewing web page can be public or private, and may be free, require registration, involve a fee, or a combination of these. To watch a public webcast all you need to know is the web address (usually in the form of a link that was sent to you in an email or posted on a website) and the broadcast time. Be careful to note the time zone in which the broadcast is originating from. Unlike television stations, internet broadcasters usually don’t time shift the broadcast to the viewers local time, so you will need to determine the correct time adjustment for your geographical location. Private webcasts require a password and sometimes a username as well in order to access the viewing web page. Passwords are issued by the hosting organization or automated through a registration system. If a fee is required the password is issued after online payment is completed.

Live Streaming Features

In addition to the video player, which is the window there the video is played, there are other features and controls that are sometimes included on the viewing page:

  • Playback Controls

    Playback Controls - Usually located at the bottom of the video player, by placing the mouse cursor near the bottom they pop up.

    Playback Controls – Usually located at the bottom of the video player, by placing the mouse cursor near the bottom they pop up.

    • Play/Pause – (the triangle icon on the lower left) to start and stop the live stream.
    • Volume – (the speaker icon) for audio.
    • Full Screen / Pop-out – (the dotted square icon on the lower right) expands the viewing screen size.
    • Quality – Some webcasts have different quality streams to choose from with numbers such as 270p, 432p, or 720p HD. The higher the number the better the quality in terms of picture clarity and audio fidelity. The reason for offering these choices is to accommodate the different viewing conditions each person is limited to. The most common limitation one has is the speed of the internet connection. Fast connections support the high quality streams whereas slow connections can only handle the lower quality streams. There are other factors involved such as the type of device you are using as to whether it is powerful enough to process the higher quality stream. General Rule-of-Thumb is to select the highest quality possible until the stream begins to buffer (stall as it waits for more data).
  • Live DVR

    Some live players have this feature and it is truly fantastic! You can literally go back in time by dragging the slider bar at the bottom to the left. This is common in recorded video but less so when the event is live.

  • Chat Box

    chat boxThe online audience can participate in a group chat environment using a chat box which is often displayed on the side or below the video player. People use this to communicate with the onsite participants, usually to pose questions during a Q & A session as well as to interact amongst themselves.

  • Social Media

    Public webcasts often include widgets (tools) to share the experience with your friends. You will find icons for Face Book, Twitter, email and others that will post notices or send the web link to your friends and followers.

Devices

There are many devices capable of presenting a live stream broadcast. These include:

  • Desktop computers (Mac and Windows)
  • Tablets (Android & iOS)
  • Smart Phones (Android & iOS)
  • Smart Televisions (units with internet browsing capability)

Generally a desktop computer is best as it can support a hard-wired internet connection, has a bigger screen, and often has sufficient processing power to playback the highest quality stream. Older computers with older operating systems are not the best choice.  If your PC can smoothly run Windows 7 or later you should be good to go. If you are on a MAC it is recommended that you have an intel processor (not the older Motorola models) with OSX software.  You will need a browser which supports  live streaming. On the PC we recommend the latest version of Chrome.  On a MAC we recommend the latest version of Safari.

Tablets and Smartphones are a popular choice due to their mobility but require either a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection for streaming video. Wi-Fi is preferred in most cases because cellular data is expensive and often not fast enough. If you are using cellular then make sure your connection is 4G(LTE) for the best experience. When it comes to best performance on a mobile device, the Apple iOS iPhones and iPads are preferred over Androids (generally) because streaming platforms are set up to be compatible with  Apple products. The minimum requirement  is to be running iOS version 3.0 or later.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has helped you get oriented with the process of live streaming video.  If any of this seems too technical don’t worry. You can run a simple test to get an idea whether your set-up is up the task. We have embedded a video from our portfolio to try out. Try playing this on the same device, with the same internet connection you plan to use for watching live streaming. If it works well then your equipment and internet connection are in good shape. Keep in mind that this test is using a recorded video which is a little different than a live video stream. Nonetheless, if this video is working chances are you will be able to watch live streams as well.

26
Apr

Professional Live Streaming on YouTube!

youtube logoYour Event on Your YouTube Channel

Our expertise and high-end broadcast equipment can now be utilized to captivate a whole new audience on the YouTube Live platform. Imagine the leverage and extended reach your event will have on the world’s largest video platform. We can help you set up your own live feed channel, or use one of ours. YouTube live streaming can also be embedded on your own web page. Call us at 818-456-1052 or Send Message to find out more about this exciting new opportunity.

26
Apr

Live Stream to your Facebook Page

Facebook logoProfessional Live Streaming Now Supported on Facebook!

Webcast & Beyond has the latest software app allowing us to broadcast your event with our professional audio/video equipment to your Facebook page! This is good news for those who want to leverage their message using live video. Get started now.  Live stream to your Facebook page!

18
Dec

How to Set-up a Multi-camera Live Webcast with a One-man Crew

Authored by Gregg Hall, owner/operator Webcast & Beyond

One of the big advantages of live streaming today is the ability to affordably broadcast all kinds of events to specific target audiences.  The availability of low-cost broadcast equipment and online streaming services has opened the door to practically any organization wishing to produce live content.  In the quest to minimize production budgets whilst maintaining production quality I will discuss one approach to webcasting an event wherein one person wears the hats of many; namely 2 (or more) cameramen, the technical director, the sound engineer, and the encoding engineer.  Mind you, this approach does not work for every situation but there are many events where this is totally feasible and opens the door to more business opportunities by keeping production costs to a minimum.

Let’s start by specifying the design requirements for this one-man webcasting system.  First, it must be high definition.  These days it is easy to acquire affordable cameras that shoot at 1080i and output either an HDMI or HD-SDI signal.  I can’t overstate the importance of shooting in Hi-Def even when you are streaming at standard definition bit rates.  The fact is HD sources look far superior to SD sources when encoded at lower bit rates.  Secondly, it must be portable.  By that I mean one person can transport the whole system by themselves when travelling by plane.  Thirdly, the layout must be ergonomically efficient to allow one person access to all of the controls.

Here then is a list of the basic components needed:

  • Cameras – We need two or more HD cameras with HDMI or HD-SDI outputs.  Many options in the $2k – $5k range are readily available.  Check out the Canon XA25 HD camcorder priced at $2.5k.  This camera has a 20x zoom lens, XLR audio, HD-SDI & HDMI outputs and is compact enough for travel.  Make sure to select fluid head tripods that fold up compact enough to fit in a suitcase.
  • Switcher – Seamless switching between the various cameras along with the ability to add transitions, effects and graphics is a must.  Options include software based products such as Telestream’s Wirecast, hardware switchers including the Black-magic Design ATEM Television Studio, or all-in-one streaming boxes such as the Livestream HD500.
  • Audio – For some events you may end up bringing a few wireless mics and that will be sufficient.  More often than not there will be a live sound system to connect with.  I recommend bringing your own small audio mixer to control the level being feed to you and also to add your own ambient mic, which captures the audience and venue sounds not picked up by the PA system.  Another consideration is maintaining sync between the audio and video.  Typically the video switcher introduces a delay of 2-3 frames which means your audio needs to be delayed by the same amount.  Sometimes the solution is to route the audio output of your mixer through one of your cameras.  That way the audio becomes embedded with the video inside the camera and is brought into the switcher through one of the video inputs.  The switcher then maintains the audio/video sync.  But if you bring the audio directly into the encoder, you will need an audio delay unit to compensate.
  • Encoder – We will need a hardware or software encoder with an HD input to create your video stream.  I prefer software encoders such as Flash Media Live Encoder or Wirecast running on a laptop.  A video capture device with HD-SDI or HDMI inputs will be necessary to bring the video into the computer.  Black-Magic Design and Matrox offer many low-cost solutions for this.
One-man Webcast Set-up

One-man Webcast Set-up

Shown here is one of our portable systems deployed at a trade show. I was the one-man crew controlling the 2 cameras, switcher, audio mixer, and encoder. In this configuration 2 cameras are connected to a Black-Magic Design ATEM Television Studio Switcher. The switcher is very compact and affordable with a list price of only $1000. To use it, a laptop is employed as an external control surface, and a field HD television is used as a multi-view monitor. The ATEM has 6 inputs, a real-time H.264 output for recording an archive of the program stream and HDMI / HD-SDI outputs. The HDMI program out is routed to a Matrox O2 Mini external video capture device connected to a second laptop which acts as the encoder. A Mackie 1202 mixer receives a feed from the house PA system. The output then goes to a Behringer DEQ2496 processor which delays the audio 2 frames then converts it to a digital AES/EDU signal for input to the ATEM switcher. Also part of this system is a Matrox DVI convert which transcodes the screen of the host’s computer into an HD video signal that we can switch to as a video source. A pair of studio headphones monitors the audio from the Mackie mixer and also the encoder laptop. The encoder laptop also serves to monitor the webcast.

16
Dec

5 Reasons Why you Should Consider Live Streaming

chris-knowlton-160x200

Chris Knowlton, VP of Wowza

Here is an excerpt from a recently published article on Techzone360.com entitled, “It’s Time Your Business Jumped on the Live Streaming Bandwagon: Here are Five Reasons Why.” by Chris Knowlton, VP of Wowza Media Systems. Wowza is a leading software developer specializing in streaming media server technology. According to Knowlton, there is a case to be made for embracing live video streaming as it has unique advantages over pre-recorded on-demand video streaming. The 5 key reasons are:

1. Streaming extends reach – Streaming a live event provides an opportunity to connect in new ways, whether we are talking about sports matches, church services, concerts, company all-hands meetings, or university lectures. You can reach people who could not otherwise attend in person, which, depending on your goals and business model, typically translates either to positive membership impacts or new customers.

 

2. Streaming boosts engagement – Live events are compelling for users. There is an immediacy to them that can’t be matched with on-demand viewing, especially for live games. According to Ooyala, the average live-streamed video is viewed as much as 10 times longer than on-demand. Social media only bolsters the engagement, making us part of a larger real-time conversation around the event.

 

3. The live experience has drastically improved – Live streaming now provides a better user experience than ever. Over the last 15 years, we’ve gone from low-resolution, stuttering, postage-stamp sized viewing experiences on desktop computer monitors to HD (and even Ultra HD) streaming on computer screens, mobile devices, and connected TVs. Thanks to increasing bandwidth, more-scalable Internet infrastructures, improved streaming technologies, and a plethora of devices that support HD playback, our streaming experiences now can rival or surpass those of traditional television delivery.

 

4. Cost is no longer an excuse – The prices for computer hardware, storage, and bandwidth continue to drop. Cloud-based infrastructures and services make streaming even more affordable for many people, providing the flexible low-cost computing and scalability you need, and for discrete events, only when you need it. As an example, you can stream an hour of high-quality video to 100 users for about the price of a latte.

 

5. Higher quality is now possible with less complexity – In just minutes, you can be online and streaming live events globally. The more advanced your requirements, the longer the first-time setup may take, but streaming products and services continue to abstract away more of the complexities and reduce the learning curves.

 

Live streaming has come a long way, and it will only continue to advance; however businesses that continue to wait for the next best thing will likely find themselves playing catch up to those embracing it today. We’ll likely see these types of battles ensue across industries in the years to come.

I would add to this that a live-streamed event that is archived and available for immediate viewing is the best of both worlds. The fact that a video was streamed live gives it a sense of authenticity that a pre-recorded video can’t compete with. We have seen viewership of a live event increase by a factor of 10 within the first week after its initial broadcast!