Wednesday, May 21, 2008
12 tips on live streaming video
Today I received an email newsletter from UstreamTV, regarding best practices for live streaming video shows.
“What are the keys to a good stream?”
The basics are pretty simple:
* Make sure you have good lighting - This is super important.
* Make sure you have a good internet connection - this prevents frame loss and choppy video.
* Make sure you close programs on your computer that you aren't using - computers bogged down by other programs can cause your stream to be lower quality.
Lastly...have good content!
To expand a bit on that message, here's my list of some additional best practices. These tips will help your live streaming video show be more interesting, enjoyable, and successful.
What's the goal of your show? To ramble on about anything that pops into your head may work for some, especially pretty females, but generally, it's a formula for failure.
Share your expertise, passion, skill, or hobby, in a way that will benefit or entertain others. Make them smarter or make them laugh. If you can do both simultaneously, you're a genius.
Have a unique comedy show. Play music. Present tutorials. Do something that people will want to view live or in the archives, something of value, something that lends itself to visual display, like art or poetry readings or technical how-to instructions.
I recall how on Justin.TV, there was a woman who, with a swimsuit on, read her poetry while sitting in a bathtub. That was weird, funny, and unique!
(2) Audio Quality
Bad sound, or volume levels that are too high or low, can ruin a show and make people decide to never return. Music bands often encounter this problem, but few have the expertise to solve it.
(3) Appropriate Environment/Decor
Barren rooms are bleak and not interesting.
Why not have a sign in the background that identifies you, by name, or by the title of your show? All music bands should have the name of their band displayed on the drums, on tee shirts, or on a big sign, during live shows in both real world venues and live streaming video.
Have a nice, or bizarre, or ritzy setting for your show, whatever style is appropriate.
Vary the decor or even the location, as much as you can. Go to thrift stores to find inexpensive, but eye-catching props, which could be toys, paintings, backdrops, or mannequins.
Have the URL for your blog or website on a sign behind you. Display your email address if you want people to contact you. Don't just hold up a sign for a few seconds. Keep the sign visible all through your show, for latecomers.
(4) Appropriate Length
If your shows are too short, it will look like nothing could possibly be going on. If your shows are too long, people will get bored part-way through, and probably never return.
Remember, your show is actually two separate events: the live performance and the archived performance.
Viewers may tolerate a long show while it's happening live, but people who check out your archives may be turned off by anything that's longer than 30 or 60 minutes, depending on who you are and what your show is about.
(5) Planned Content
While some web-casters can get away with being spontaneous, as a general rule, improvised shows are vulnerable. You may suddenly not know how to continue, things could fall apart, and you'll look too amateurish, too disorganized. Viewers will get impatient watching you fumble around and grope for some way to fill the time.
At least have a basic outline of what you want to cover. Don't count on viewers providing great questions or comments via the chat panel. When a web-caster relies on audience participation to provide direction for your show, you will probably flounder around and look ridiculous.
If you do react to live chat input, do more than just answer a question with a few sentences. Use the question or comment as a springboard to move to a discussion, but don't ramble on too long.
Have a back up plan if a scheduled guest doesn't show up, or some other aspect fails to come off right. Try to have more options than you think you'll need, just in case.
(6) Varied Content
Treat your fans to unexpected experiences. Have a guest speaker, a live debate or panel discussion, or let some other band perform. Play some public domain or non-copyrighted material in the background or incorporate it in your show.
Dress in unusual outfits or wear a uniform that you wear at your job. Put on a wig or a pair of really far-out sunglasses.
Avoid doing the same things over and over again.
If you're in a band, don't play the same songs every time. And never assume that "band practice" is of any interest to anybody. Live streaming video shows should not be "practice" or "rehearsal", but should be polished performances, unless your band is so famous, people will watch anything.
(7) Delete and Re-do
After a show is presented, saved, and archived, view it immediately. If there are major mistakes, like horrible sound or visuals, delete it and re-do it, even if all your live viewers have left.
A music band that I help did a crap show last Saturday. They left the soundboard audio levels up high from a recording session, and forgot to turn them down for the live show. So the entire 60 minute episode was rotten, unlistenable, unbearably bad.
I suggested they do a quick re-do. They took a break, then jumped back in and did a 17 minute show that was much better.
Think in terms of archives. You don't want people to check out the archived shows and see a terrible show. A short good show is always better than a regular-length crap show.
(8) Audience Interaction
Be sure to interact, as much as possible, with viewers, via the chat panel. This will make your show more interesting, and you'll be considered more friendly and approachable. It's all about connecting with people and sharing your life with them.
(9) Kick and Ban
If your video stream site enables you to kick trolls and filth-talkers off your channel, and ban them from ever visiting again, do it. Don't be shy. Why let some jerk ruin it for everybody?
Female web-casters especially need to exercise this kick and ban functionality.
Some men will stalk these live streaming video channels to find women to prey upoon. They'll "innocently" say things like "I don't see a man around. Are you single? I saw your daughter. It must be tough to be single mom. Living alone can be a drag, huh?" and so on to get the woman to let her guard down and reveal things she should not reveal.
(10) Missed Episode Notification
If for some reason, you must skip a regularly scheduled episode of your show, at least put up a sign in your photo slide show that explains it. Or do a brief show prior to the regular one, in which you personally tell your fans why there's no show coming on the date and time they normally expect it.
(11) Regular Schedule
Commit to a definite time and day for your shows. For example, every Saturday at 5 PM CST. Do not deviate from this, and try not to miss any episodes.
(12) Good Equipment
Don't use the cheapest webcam you can find. I recommend the Logitech UltraVision for HD sound and image.
Try some effects for a bit of fun. Have a friend who knows something about film-making or using a webcam do your video. Vary the angles. Use a bird's eye view by hoisting the webcam up high above the scenes. Put the webcam on the floor and point it up. Try a black and white episode.
As a final note, be sure to watch other live streaming video shows, and try to figure out why some shows are far more popular than others. Interact with other webcasters and contribute nice comments to their shows. This can drive traffic to your show, and you may make some good friends of other webcasters, too.