When the events industry went virtual earlier this year, many creators rushed to turn in-person gatherings — fitness classes, craft workshops, trivia nights, comedy shows, and more — into livestreamed online events. But moving your entire event enterprise online can be intimidating. There’s all sorts of new tools and costs to consider: webcams, microphones, backdrops, bandwidth.
Truth is, taking an event and venue online via video stream is easier than it seems. “Really, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started” livestreaming an event, says Gilad Gershoni, the founder of full-service streaming agency Elevated Stream and the longtime soundman for Grammy award-winning hip-hop trio De La Soul. “You just need a phone or computer and an internet connection.”
If you’re thinking of livestreaming an event, the basics remain, well, pretty basic. Gershoni, who’s worked on Twitter’s Thursday Night NFL streams and at festivals including Coachella and Bonnaroo, actually got his start livestreaming on a budget. We asked him for the tips, tricks, and entry-level gear you’ll need when starting out with streaming events. His advice: get your foot in the door with the gear you have around your home, test things out, and build from there. Here’s how to start:
Use what you already have
It doesn’t take a huge budget to create a solid livestream. Gershoni got his first live streaming gear by digging around in old drawers to find used video and audio equipment. “You really don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started,” he says. A modern laptop with a camera and built-in mic is a great place to start. So is a smartphone. If you have a webcam, GoPro, or microphone, pull it out and hook it up. “Get going with that, and build from there,” Gershoni says.
Test, then test again (and again)
“So many people have a hard time just pressing start,” Gershoni says. But that’s just what you should do: a test run. Many, in fact, since there are a few things to figure out.
First, consider your basic setup: how will your camera and microphone be best set up to capture your livestream? Keep it simple. Set up your camera or phone to record both audio and video. (A good phone tripod or stand that fits your device and floor space, is sturdy, and rated the right weight ought to help.) Livestreaming platforms like Vimeo, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube Live, allow users to preview a stream. “That’s great, so you can confidently know you’re the only one watching” during a test, Gershoni says.
Eventbrite has partnered with Vimeo to make it easier for creators to host live (and on-demand) video events. Creators who use Vimeo can gate access to streams through passwords, customize the video player, simulcast through a website or social media, and add interactive elements like Q&As, polls, and chats. (Eventbrite creators also receive preferred pricing on Premium Vimeo accounts. Click here to unlock this exclusive discount.)
Look for a couple simple errors during your test run. Is the camera angle roughly straight on, rather than shooting down from above or, worst of all, up your nose? Struggling with shadows? Avoid backlighting, which puts your face into shadow and fights the camera, and maybe try a quality ring light or an LED spotlight, which are available at a wide range of price points, with temp control, dimming, remote, and tripod options — all of which you should consider.
Make sure you have the proper bandwidth
Another vital test: your internet speed. Specifically, you should worry about your upload speed, which represents your horsepower for sharing a stream on the web. Finding out your upload speed is simple. There are a number of free, accurate tests just a Google search away, such as speedtest.net, which Gershoni uses. You’ll want to test your upload speed at different times throughout the day, since it will vary depending on your network, internet traffic near you, the placement of your router if using Wi-Fi, and other factors.
Different kinds of streams require different amounts of bandwidth. “For instance, a conversation would require much less upload speeds than, say, a concert with a massive lighting show or someone streaming a video game on Twitch,” Gershoni says. Those seeking higher-quality streams should consider hardwired ethernet rather than WiFi. (More on that later.) For now, ballpark your bandwidth using an online speed test.
Next, consider what you’ll set your video encoder’s bit rate at — you’ll want double that amount of bandwidth provided by your internet company. “That gives you room so you don’t hit your ceiling and run out of bandwidth,” he says, causing stuttering or lag. Adjust your frame rate according to your tests. This will help you make decisions about resolution (4K, 1080p or 720p?). Remember to consider your audience as well. How good do you think their internet connections will be? How important are high-quality visuals for their experience?
Look for areas to upgrade
Once you’ve nailed the basics — and maybe even hosted a stream or two — you’ll quickly recognize areas that need improvement. If you get frustrated, don’t forget: “The best way to do this is to get out there and try it,” Gershoni says. “It takes lots of practice and testing to get comfortable.”
A few minor upgrades can make a big difference. A 1080p webcam and a microphone to give more control over your audio can be had for around $100 each (and some webcams come equipped with good microphones). For conversations or MCing that might happen over Zoom, which is fully integrated with Eventbrite, using a simple clip-on mic with a USB connection can make a huge difference. “Today there’s tons of mics that can give you a range of capabilities,” Gershoni says. A dynamic or condenser microphone, for example, will help capture a range of instruments. Focus on where the microphone will be placed, if you need a stand, and what kind of sound you’re trying to record.
Unless it’s already blazing fast, you’ll eventually want to invest in your internet connection. Gershoni recommends a hardwired internet connection, rather than WiFi, which adds more connectivity risks. “Bandwidth is really the last mile to cross,” he says. “If it’s limiting you, consider upgrading your service or your technology.”
Let the pros do the work for you
Go ahead and take streaming into your own hands — but don’t shy away from seeking a little help from the pros, either. At Elevated Stream, Gershoni and his team help brands, event creators, educators and entertainers find the right equipment and work smarter within their streaming environment. Elevated Stream also offers virtual remote control rooms where streamers can bring in remote guests to add a whole new element to their broadcast. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the agency’s Live Stream Kits, a mobile, self-serve solution that provides you with the tools you need to stream like a pro — without complicated setups and poor quality.
“Part of our consulting is really understanding what the goals and objectives are for the creator,” Gershoni says.
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on livestreaming, let’s review the basics so you’re fully equipped to stage your first live virtual event:
- Take stock of the gear you already have.
- Test your camera, microphone, lighting, and backdrop.
- Check your internet speed.
- Do a full test run on the platform(s) of your choosing.
- Go live and have fun!
If you’d like to discuss your goals for a livestream, reach out to Elevated Stream at email@example.com.
Ready to host your first livestream? Start here.