What is live streaming?
Live streaming is a form of broadcasting that allows for videos to be shared by one-to-many connections and watched by multiple users in real-time over the Internet.
How is live streaming different from streaming?
Live streaming is similar to streaming in the sense that media can be viewed without being downloaded; but where the streaming requires videos to be first created and stored in a remote location and then transmitted to the audience, live streaming sends the content to viewers the same time it is created.
What can live streaming be used for?
It can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including but not limited to:
- Advertising products or services through corporate events
- Sharing personal events like weddings or solemnisations with family and friends
- Engaging specific communities in religious events or online classes
Where can live streaming in Singapore be carried out?
There is an extensive range of platforms for live streaming events, from paid services offered by companies such as IBM and Brightcove, to free ones available in social media applications like Facebook and Instagram. More detailed comparison between the two types of platforms and the steps to live stream on social media can be found below.
Benefits of live-streaming in Singapore
- Greater audience potential
- More genuine content
As a corporation, live streaming can provide more raw and authentic content that caters to audiences that are increasingly interested to learn about behind-the-scenes processes and the people involved. People feel more inclined to trust and be loyal to a brand when the company demonstrates transparency.
Expand reach and higher audience engagement
Live streaming presents itself as a way to continue to extend reach and maintain engagement even with the physical restrictions imposed to control the spread of COVID-19. The host can have as many people as they want to “attend” the event (although limited by the server capacity of the chosen live streaming platform), which is made even more accessible if the live stream can be viewed on smartphones, allowing for expansion to a global audience.
The event practically exists forever
Even if the audience cannot attend the live stream, the broadcast can still be recorded and uploaded onto the live streaming platform, so that people can watch it at a later date.
Improving audience impression
Adapting to these restrictions by moving events online shows that the brand is innovative and forward-thinking in being able to implement modern solutions, further improving the reputation of the company.
Interact directly with audience
Direct engagement is enhanced and maximised, regardless of the type of event, since most live streaming platforms offer a way for the host to participate in conversations with their audience through real time chat rooms. This feature also presents the opportunity to administer live support or conduct Q&A sessions, as well as establish or grow personal connections by sharing stories or jokes. A company can more effectively communicate their brand through these audience interactions.
People feel as though they are being seen and heard through these “in the moment” interactions, not only by the host, but also by the other viewers they share common interests with. When an event is live streamed, the audience is “brought into” the location itself, and everyone gets a front row seat. By constructing a more inclusive environment, stronger connections are created with the brand or community.
Ease and convenience
In its simplest form, live streaming can be carried out with just a smartphone or a laptop with a built-in webcam and a social media account, which also makes it extremely affordable. Moreover, live events often incur costs from travelling, booking a venue, decorations, security — the list goes on. Choosing to live stream not only saves money for the host, but also its audience, which makes an online event even more appealing.
As mentioned earlier, a wide range of social media platforms now offer free live streaming services — like Facebook Live and Instagram Live Stories — making event broadcasting more accessible to those without technical equipment. Live streaming, in essence, can be completely free, while potentially engaging hundreds of people.
Since the basis of live streaming is to provide raw, genuine footage, it also saves time that would have been spent editing a video.
Instead of having to deal with the heckling and potential clamour of physical Q&A sessions, a co-host or moderator can assist in filtering through the questions in a live stream to ensure a more productive and seamless session.
Most live streaming services are equipped to track viewership, in terms of the number of viewers and their behaviours (how active the live chat was, reactions, etc). Useful market data can be generated from live streams that can’t be as easily measured in a physical event. For instance, how bored an audience is can be more realistically gauged from a live chat or viewership numbers rather than trying to judge what you think a bored face looks like.
Both companies and community leaders can evaluate their live stream to determine which specific portions might not have been as engaging, and subsequently make adjustments for future events.
Risks of live streaming
While all these advantages make live streaming sound extremely appealing, deciding to hold your next event on a live stream should not be without recognising the associated risks.
- Disturbance in stream quality
The stream quality can deteriorate during the online event, or be poor to begin with due to weak Internet, leading to buffering and dropped frames. The latter refers to the programme dropping some video frames to compensate for unstable connection to the server, or not having the bandwidth to keep up with the set bitrate (the rate of transferring data, in megabits per second [Mbps] for streaming videos).
Audiences today don’t have the longest attention span, and they are likely to exit the live stream and not return if stream quality is not to their satisfaction. Having poor stream quality would also not reflect well on the company’s professionality.
- Equipment failure
Every piece of equipment, from the microphone, to the switcher, the computer is at risk of failing during the live streaming.
- Streaming platform issues
This problem is more specifically for free live streaming platforms such as those offered by Facebook and Instagram. Since their live streaming is managed by a third party, their platform interface and system requirements can change without informing their users. More elaboration about the disadvantages of free live streaming platforms is provided below.
How to live stream?
Though the above risks may make live streaming deem daunting and almost dangerous, having a solid set of equipment can help to mitigate these risks to ensure a high-quality live stream.
Base components of live streaming
Before you choose which specific type of ingredients to get, it is important to know what makes the dish up in the first place.
- Video and audio source
Video sources refer to the sources that provided the footage, such as cameras and computers. Audio sources are the microphones and audio mixers.
- Video encoder
Traditionally, cameras are connected to the computer via a capture card, which translates the camera’s video signal into a digital video format that can be understood by the computer. An encoder acts like a shortcut in this translation process — it is connected to the camera and sends its video signal directly to the streaming platform.
- Streaming destination
This refers to the live streaming platform, whether paid or free. Comparison between the two is provided below.
- Internet connection
Stability in internet connection is important to ensure a smooth live stream.
Live streaming, in essence, entails connecting these four components together — connecting the video and audio sources to the encoder, and connecting the encoder to the streaming platform.
Equipment needed for live streaming
There are many different ways to conduct a live stream, depending on the size of the event and the intended quality of the live stream. For the basic event, here are the equipment we think are the basic necessities for live-streaming:
Most new laptops today will suffice — ensure the one being used has an Intel i7 CPU, at least 8 GB of RAM (memory) and a solid-state drive (SSD). Bring adapters so that you can connect more USB cables if necessary.
The number of video cameras for live streaming exists in the thousands, each with their own pros and cons. Minimally, a decent live streaming camera should:
- Have clean HDMI output (this means that the resolution recorded internally by the camera and the output resolution via HDMI is the same)
- Not overheat
- Not automatically shut down after a period of time
Entry-level video cameras ($300 – 700)
This type of camera is more affordable and portable. Their image quality can be decent, with good autofocus and digital zoom. USB webcams are the simplest to use — you only need to connect the webcam to your computer via USB to live stream.
They are usually designed for small-scale indoor events where people are talking and mostly stationary, like online classes.
However, they lack manual controls and usually only have basic USB connection, which loses some definition in video quality. While webcams are designed for indoor shoots, this also means that they cannot produce quality video footage for outdoor events and fast-moving action.
Smartphones are also an increasingly viable option, with the continuous development of their cameras. A simple live stream can be carried out by ensuring the phone has a stable internet connection, and improving audio by connecting the phone to an external microphone.
Prosumer video cameras ($800 – 3000)
These are the mid-range choice, which include DSLRs and prosumer camcorders. Video quality is much better. Connectivity is also upgraded, given that this tier of cameras typically use HDMI, which doesn’t compromise definition by allowing for high-definition devices to be connected without compressing data being transferred.
There is a decent level of manual control, but still falls short of the full customisation of a professional camera.
Professional video cameras ($1500 – 25,000)
With high-resolution sensors, this type of cameras can provide exemplary video quality even in the most terrible lighting conditions. They are also more durable, with greater built-quality and extensive manual controls. Connection is made even safer and more reliable because these cameras tend to use SDI output, which has a longer range. The need for amplifiers to boost HDMI signals to another cable is thus eliminated.
High-end professional cameras even offer remote control over settings like aperture and zoom, allowing for smoother and more precise motions and an overall more professional-looking live stream.
Audio quality is often neglected in live streaming, although it is just as important as video. There is a variety of ways to capture quality audio, depending on the budget and streaming setup.
Low to medium audio quality
For a low budget, the built-in microphones of entry-level and prosumer cameras would suffice.
Medium to high quality
Professional video cameras offer much better audio quality from their built-in microphones. Various types of 3.5mm microphones, including condenser and lapel microphones, can provide good sound quality as well.
Condenser microphones are suitable for live streams that take place in a stationary setting. These are commonly used in studios to pick up sounds with detail and accuracy, with little background interference.
For a live stream that is more dynamic, lapel microphones would be a better option. These devices can be clipped onto clothing or props to capture audio accurately even when people are moving around. Available in both wired and wireless forms, they are also much more easily concealed than condenser microphones. One downfall, however, is that a lot more background noise will be recorded.
XLR microphones and three-pin style cables provide the most pristine audio quality. Without going too much into the technicality of it, XLR sends a balanced signal that isolates noise, so that sound reaches the speakers unaffected.
Mixer (also known as switcher)
There are two types of mixers: video and audio ones, which allow for switching between multiple video or audio sources respectively.
Video mixers are ideal for changing camera angles at larger events, and switching happens with just the press of a button.
Audio mixers are also useful for more complex live streams with multiple audio sources. Each microphone’s level and other qualities can be adjusted to suit your needs.
Here are some considerations you can keep in mind when deciding which mixer to purchase:
- Number of inputs: this is the most fundamental criterion to consider, and is dependent on the number of camera angles or number of people who will be speaking on microphones simultaneously
- Connectivity: audio mixers with USB output would be the easiest to get audio to your computer
- User interface
Having a quality Internet connection, ideally one that is wired from a router (and not from WiFi), helps with ensuring there is enough bandwidth for a stable live stream.
Once the network connection has been established, make sure to test the speed before you go live. Optimal upload speed would be between 3 to 5 Mbps, but live streaming can also take place at lower bandwidths if encountering network problems, although quality would then be compromised.
Once video and audio have been captured, and Internet connection is stable, the stream needs to be sent to an online destination to be viewed by the audience. Many options are available, with free platforms by social media applications and paid live streaming services. Here, we’ll present the pros and cons of the main channels, although depending on your goals, disadvantages can be advantages, and vice versa.
Social media live streaming (all free)
- YouTube Live
- Can be found more easily through Google searches, since YouTube is owned by Google
- Videos can be found easily on YouTube, with quality search functionality
- Videos basically available forever
- YouTube Live API also makes it convenient to stream on YouTube and other platforms at the same time
- The only platforms where live streams can be monetised
- Control over content is lost, because your video can become material for YouTube’s own advertising since the live stream cannot be carried out on your own website
- Sometimes blocked in businesses or schools
- Facebook Live
- Utilises the built-in audience, especially useful if you already have a substantial social media following
- Seems to have the simplest user interface
- Very difficult to find through search engines, since Facebook posts can’t really be Googled
- Live streams can be permanently archived on Facebook, but can be difficult for viewers to find after a while as the algorithm is biased towards displaying “in-the-moment” content
- Maximum video length of 90 minutes
- Periscope (Twitter Live)
- Also has a user-friendly interface
- Live stream is only available for 24 hours
- Smaller audience compared to Facebook and YouTube Live
- Doesn’t really allow for video or audio switching, meant more for one hand-held camera type of setting
- Instagram Live Stories
- Having live streams on Stories does not disrupt the account’s main feed (the posts)
- Stories disappear after 24 hours, so the video has to be downloaded and re-uploaded to IG TV, which also has a 10 minute restriction for non-verified accounts
- No search bar function, making it difficult to discover new content
Paid live streaming services (amount can differ according to type of plan)
- IBM Cloud Video (starts at USD99 per month)
- Strong customer support
- Wide range of features for live streaming
- Very reliable
- Well-scaled for larger businesses
- Additional fees required for streaming above 720p resolution
- Poor closed captioning support
- Dacast (starts at USD39 per month)
- 24/7 tech support through email or phone
- Real-time video streaming analytics
- Offers white-label service, meaning you can rebrand the live stream as your own (instead of belonging to the platform)
- Less beginner-friendly
- Customisation of video players
- Supported advertisements
- Good analytics data
- Also not very user-friendly
- 24/7 support only available for higher plans
- Pricier, with starting plans at USD199
Comparing paid and free live streaming platforms
Between the two general types of streaming platforms, free channels are obviously a lot more affordable and easier to access through social media. As a result, they only offer basic services, with little customisations for the live stream. The video is also under the control of the platform, and viewers might end up watching unwanted advertisements, which may reflect poorly on the brand.
Though pricier, paid platforms also come with high-price advantage — a bigger range of settings to achieve your ideal live stream, as well as white-label services, so that the video can be embedded on your own website rather than on a third-party platform. Technical support is also stronger on these platforms.
Ultimately, the type of platform you would want to use depends on your budget and intention of live streaming.
- Encoders (how to get the stream to the intended destination)
As mentioned earlier, encoders translate the audio and video live streams into a language that the streaming channel understands, and thereafter displays as a live video. Hardware encoders are dedicated processors that are exceptionally useful in compressing videos without compromising on quality, which helps to reduce buffering.
Another method of encoding would be by using software encoders, which run on computers. These are more budget-friendly and offer customisation too, but need to be used with a capture card to connect the camera to the computer (see the above “Components of Live streaming” section for comparison between encoders and capture cards). Software encoders also have greater latency, meaning there is a greater delay in the amount of time taken for the data to get to the live streaming destination across the network.
As with the type of streaming platform you choose, deciding between hardware and software encoders will depend on your budget and intention of live streaming.
- Extra batteries: you can never be too sure
- Extra cables: in case of faulty ones
- Lights: more so for indoor events
- Network switchers: if you need to distribute one signal out cable among multiple devices
- Tripod: a tripod may be worth investing in if you’re not sure that there will always be a stable surface (like a table) that you can place your camera on.
Setting up the live stream
- Compared to conventional streaming
- Main platforms (social media vs others)
- Types of livestreams (who can livestream?)
- Church-service live streams
- Corporate event live streams
- Weddings live streams
- Deciding whether your event should be livestreamed
- Benefits of live streaming (especially in covid times)
- Don’t need to edit
- Higher audience engagement (chat rooms, emoji reactions)
- Risks of live streaming
- Benefits of live streaming (especially in covid times)
Equipment needed to livestream
Software for live streaming
Steps to livestream
- Technical steps
Comparing livestreaming on social media vs paid platforms (pros and cons)
Livestreaming on social media
- Process of live streaming on social media (including pros and cons, cost, ease)
Other platforms for live streaming (non-social media)
- With pros and cons/reviews of each platform
Tips for live streaming/other considerations