The Live Streaming Process – What Can Go Wrong?

Mitigating broadcast problems while live streamingWe live in an era where free apps allow us to instantly stream from our smartphones to destinations such as TikTok, Twitch, YouTube, or Instagram. So what’s the big deal?  Isn’t live streaming as simple as point and shoot?  The fact is, live streaming is a highly complex process subject to a myriad of potential failure points. It’s one thing to use an app on social media for personal reasons.  It’s quite another when broadcasting your company’s event to the world at large.  Professional production standards must be met and the reliability of the live stream must be secured.

Live Streaming Process Diagram

Identifying Points of Failure

In the diagram above, we see the three main phases of a live stream broadcast. Following the signal path from left to right, we have Acquisition, Transmission, and Distribution.  A malfunction at any step in this data chain can lead to catastrophic failure. Here are some of the most likely failure points that we must guard against:

    • Interruption of the acquisition power supply
    • Camera malfunction
    • Audio problem – bad mic, mixer failure
    • Laptop crash
    • Defective video switcher
    • Bad cables
    • Encoder failure or bad ethernet cable
    • Router problems – firewall issues, mis-programming
    • Transmission uplink failure –  internet congestion
    • Streaming Server problem – server crash, data center outage
    • CDN (The streaming platform) problem – congestion or outage
    • ISP offline – No local internet available to the end user
    • Web server issue – Landing page crashes, web host goes offline
    • Problems with the end user’s equipment

Preventative Measures

We need to anticipate what could go wrong and be prepared in advance with a workaround. Generally speaking we need redundancy in the form of spare equipment, alternate service providers, and established troubleshooting techniques to quickly respond when something unexpected happens.

From years of real world experience and quantitative analysis, we have developed a four-point failsafe preventative strategy to address these issues:

In spite of all of these possible calamities, there is no reason to lack confidence in the live streaming process. Hiring professionals who know what they are doing with well maintained equipment and a contingency plan, reduces the probability of failure. At Webcast & Beyond, we want our clients to have the peace of mind knowing that we have done our due diligence to prepare for a successful event.