How to broadcast live events: Easy Reader News
I was asked to help ER livestream Monday’s 90-minute debate and said yes, both as a learning experience and because I love Easy Reader and editor Kevin Cody.
But let me tell you, clicking Zoom to join a call is much easier than presenting an event and staging it with cameras. There are so many variables, necessary accessories and costs involved. Thinking of putting on a livestream one day? I thought you would all like to read some of the things I learned this week.
The debate, at The Shade in Manhattan Beach, will feature City Councilman Steve Napolitano as moderator, as well as opponents and supporters of Measure A, which aims to raise money for schools. Obviously, I can’t stick my laptop’s webcam in the middle of a table and capture all the attendees. Visually, it would be a hum.
One option: I’m using an older iPhone as a Zoom webcam anyway, so this would work. I could put it on a tripod and cycle back and forth between the speakers. (I prefer the iPhone to the traditional webcam because the resolution is much higher.)
The app Reincubate Camouflage connects the iPhone to Zoom, via the Lightning port, to the laptop and to the Web Camo web application (available for Mac and Windows.) From there, Zoom finds the iPhone as an alternate camera in the video preferences . The app is free, but is Camo branded. I pay $5 a month to have it removed.
But would is an iPhone enough to get good footage of everyone, or does it look like footage from security cameras?
I have three iPhones at home. How about using them for debate and software to switch between and make it look like a professional production? Use one as a wide shot and the other two for close-ups of the debaters?
There is an application for that. Switch is a $50 monthly program that would allow me to do just that, with the iPad collecting the multiple video frames from the iPhone’s camera and acting as a switching device, allowing me to use my fingers to switch between shot to shot, like a television director.
Obstacles: Sounds good in theory, but the folks at Switcher told me that the hotel wifi we’ll be using wouldn’t be strong enough, and that I’d have to bring an audio mixer for sound, get a hotspot from a wireless carrier (add $50) and buy a router to distribute the signal (add $150.) In my tests, without the router, Switcher worked just fine, but I started to worry that some of these elements were spoiled during a debate and presented themselves with so much equipment. I decided to go back to one camera, pan across the room, with Zoom. Just not an iPhone. A camera with a larger lens.
I have 3 Sony cameras at home. But to integrate one into the Zoom app requires a few accessories.
Elgato’s cam link is a small $99 Flash player that connects the camera to Zoom instantly, without software, and lets you stream in the highest resolutions.
Camera manufacturers have also free software connect the camera, but they may be inconsistent. This is not the case with the Cam link.
To get the Cam link into the computer, you use an HDMI cable, like the ones we connect to TVs, but of a different band: full-size HDMI on one side to micro HDMI.
I ran to my local Best Buy to buy the cable, but they didn’t have any. The one I ordered on Amazon does not suit me. My amazing local camera store, Paul’s in Torrance, CA saved the day, with the right cable.
Lateral bar: it turned out that I could do without the HDMI cable and Cam Link. My friend Jan told me that she connected a basic USB-C cable from Sony A7 cameras to the laptop, using Sony software. I tried it, it worked right away. Only downside for some: your stream will be in lower resolution than with Cam Link.
What if you wanted to plug all the Sony cameras into the laptop and switch back and forth, like with Switcher? There are also tools and applications for this, starting with video mixers, like the Elgato Stream Deck and apps like vmix.
But I’m sticking to the basic model of a camera for simplicity. It has a big zoom that will allow me to pan from speaker to speaker. Awesome, right?
There is another wrinkle.
The simplest and most common program for live streaming is Zoom. And you can even stream it live to YouTube and Facebook at the same time. Awesome! But: the free account will only allow you to live stream for 40 minutes. Go longer, and you have to buy a PRO account and pay for it for the whole year. Click: $150. That’s rather extravagant for a one-time event.
This prompted me to look for other cheaper alternatives. I logged into Facebook Live instantly (no time limit) with no issues. When I checked out YouTube’s live streaming options, it was rather complicated, requiring software downloads and streaming keys, via accessory software like OBS. Following!
Streamyard is a software solution that lets you stream directly to Facebook and YouTube (plus Twitch, Twitter, and LinkedIn) at the same time. (Without having to enter stream keys!)
Unfortunately, no zoom is available with StreamYard, but there is also no time limit, which is an important factor to consider for a 90-minute debate.
Cost: $25 per month. Were in.
The hotel sets up the sound for the event, using microphones and a PA system. My plan is to connect a lav microphone to my Sony and place it near the speaker, to pick it up that way, or connect my camera directly to the hotel sound system, via XLR cable and accessory adapter .
Wish me luck everyone. I need it.
The debate will be presented on ER’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/EasyReaderNews
This article was originally seen in the Newsletter PhotowalksTV. Subscribe!