Beginners Guide to Live Video Streaming

Getting started with streaming live video can be a daunting and massive task. Where to jump in can often be confusing and unclear. Many people looking to get into the field often don't make it past the planning stage.

While even your phone has a complete built in streaming system, many people chose to start on a slightly larger scale. Either way, there are options. There are also plenty of websites and CDNs that allow users to stream live quickly and easily.

It's important to note that streaming the easiest way, is not always the best way. While smartphones are surely the most convenient way to stream, they come with their own set of limitations. They are ideal for a quick and easy stream, such as an event happening un expectedly infront of you.

However, in most cases, the most watchable streams will be ones where the amount of prep work is apparent to the viewer, particularly when the prep work is extensive.

In other words, a serious stream requires a serious set up. Live streamers should use the best gear they can get their hands on considering their budget and production space. Namely, a laptop or desktop computer is essential.

Basic Structure of a Streaming Setup

Regardless of the content you are intending the stream, the rules for live streaming are fairly universal. Every production should include these elements:

  1. A source of video or audio content
  2. A device to transform your content into the appropriate format- namely, an encoder.
  3. A solid internet connection.
  4. A platform on which to stream to the public- ie: Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Live, Etc.

Audio/Video Source for your Streaming Setup

The must watchable streams have payed attention to their audio and video sources, and the quality they provide.

Some potential sources of audio and video date for your stream include:

  1. A Webcam
  2. A higher end camera such as a DSLR or GoPro
  3. Your computer screen
  4. A built in microphone to your camera or computer
  5. An external microphone

How to Choose an Encoder

An encoder will take the data from your camera or memory card you are trying to stream, and will repackage it into a format that is easier to send to a streaming platform.

There are two different types of encoders to chose from- A hardware encoder or a software encoder. When you are first starting out in the world of streaming, it is often best to chose a software encoder. The reason is simple- you can get it for free.

But what are the differences?

Hardware encoders:

  1. Hardware encoders do not rely on your computers processing power
  2. No capture card required
  3. Designed specifically for streaming
  4. Often difficult to use and upgrade
  5. The most cost effective option, and therefore ideal for someone trying out streaming for the first time.

Ensuring a Good Internet Connection

Here's a basic checklist of warning signs that your streaming and upload stream may not be up to par:

  1. Bandwidth and speed are not the same
  2. Upload speed has gone untested
  3. Cannot maintain a buffer
  4. Not connected directly to modem, and therefore unstable. recently released a great article outlining this concept in greater detail. Check it out here to learn more.

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