Live Streaming 101
6 Steps to Great Sounding and Looking Live Streams and Podcasts
Identify a room in your house that sounds and looks good, this will be your “set”. If you are using a single mic to capture both your instrument and vocals, test the mic in different rooms to see how it performs, and let this influence your decision on room choice as well. A large, reverberant room can make you sound distant to the listener and affect intelligibility. Peripherals (treatments) such as acoustic foam, mudguards, pop filters, bass traps, and other studio gear is always nice when available, to shape the acoustics of the room for optimal sound, but isn’t always necessary.
Consider the aesthetic of your background. Choose a colorful wall, interesting artwork, or some other backdrop that doesn’t distract your viewers with clutter. Think of this space as a “set”, and treat it as such, not only creating a welcoming feeling for your listener, but also a feeling of professionalism.
Hardwired Network/Internet Connection:
Although convenient, a wireless WiFi connection is not the best choice for this application. When broadcasting live audio and video over the internet, a wired connection is always desired. Hardwire your computer using an RJ-45 (Ethernet) cable. Connect the RJ-45 cable from your computer to your network (router), for increased bandwidth and reliability. Utilizing this cable will provide a more consistent quality of audio and video for your audience to enjoy.
Live streaming uses a variable bit rate (VBR), what that means is: as bandwidth changes the audio quality will change as well. Therefore having a “hard-wired” connection is paramount to ensuring that your quality stays optimal throughout your stream or cast.
It is always a good idea to turn your video recording device on prior to live broadcasting, not only to ensure that you have a quality video stream, but also to ensure that you have decent lighting for your “set”. Lighting is paramount, but is often forgotten. For home streams and casts, additional lighting may be needed to provide a professional edge to your sets look. If pro lighting isn’t something you’re ready to invest in, consider desk lamps, windows with sunlight or other sources of light to give your audience a nice view of your beautiful face. A few cost effective options can also be found, like this IlluminEssence light bulb set from Monster, made to fit a standard light socket. A set comes with two bulbs and a remote remote that has been paired to the bulbs, to control their color. These can be added to any existing lamp in your home or office, to add a bit of a color wash to your streaming/casting “set”.
It is critical to take the necessary step of picking out a microphone or microphones, that will suit your needs/application. A common misstep that many make while getting started, is using a “built in” microphone on their laptop or cellular phone. These microphones pick up a large swath of the ambient noise in the room and oftentimes, using these microphones make you sound reverberant or distant. Instead, we want to make sure that your sound is professional! If you’re podcasting, consider your favorite radio personality’s voice, and how nice it always sounds. If you’re live streaming a concert, consider the way a normal live show is mic’d, and apply the same logic. Every instrument has a proximal mic or direct source mic to allow for a very clean final product. These same principles apply to the virtual world too! You wouldn’t simply toss a microphone in the middle of a room, and expect everything to sound optimal, would you? Doing it this way makes sounds unintelligible and distant, and thus unprofessional to your audience. Therefore proper usage of microphones is an essential part of internet broadcasting. For example: If you are using a vocal microphone and a guitar microphone, mic both audio sources respectively with a microphone that sends each mics signal to a mixer. Running the mics into a mixer and blending them together with effects (when possible), will produce a much better final product for your end listener to enjoy, while also ensuring that you have professional sounding audio. If you are using a digital mixing console, most are equipped with a USB out port that can be used as an audio interface for streaming. This will vastly speed up and make the process less complicated, for those of you fortunate enough to have one of these consoles.
Run a Test:
This step is paramount! Always start a stream, perform a bit of content, stop the stream and listen back. Analyze your audio, video, lighting, and finally your bandwidth (streaming) quality!
It’s always a good idea to get another set of eyes and ears on things. When you perform at a venue, the engineers reference the show from the crowd and stage positions, making adjustments until everything is just right for the audience. You will basically apply this same principle to your live stream. This human reference prior to broadcast, will make your livestream sound and look much more professional. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend to give you notes when they tune in, so you can make adjustments to the content they’re seeing on your next broadcast. It never hurts to ask for help!
Try to remember to have fun and enjoy yourself. This entire process will tune itself and become better with every broadcast. Have confidence in yourself and the fact that you’ve prepared by utilizing the aforementioned steps.