For anyone who has been on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, Snapchat or Instagram, you’ll know that live video is becoming a bigger and bigger deal. In fact, Facebook alone dropped $50 million last year to get the ball rolling and it saw a 300-percent boost in live videos within six months. Twitter struck deals to live stream games from the NBA, NFL and matches at Wimbledon. And, in 2014, video game live stream platform Twitch was purchased by Amazon for nearly a billion dollars.
At this point, you’ve most likely “tuned in” to a broadcast. Maybe you were one of the record-setting million people simultaneously watching an esports team play Counter Strike, or you’ve tuned in to watch us each Friday at 12:30 PST talking gear. Many people in the 35-and-older category, however, see live streaming as something that doesn’t apply to them; it’s for gamers, narcissistic “influencers” or celebrities. But it’s 2017 and that’s just wrong. Live streaming is on the precipice of becoming mainstream. Here’s the gear you need to take your live game to the next level.
The Beginner Setup
The easiest way to launch (and view) a live stream is your smartphone. With some small additions such as a Moment wide angle lens ($100), Rode mic ($59), Manfrotto lights ($50) and an Olloclip phone grip ($50) you can really stand out from the crowd.
Pro tip: Connection is key so make sure you have a strong WiFi signal or full bars of LTE and a good data plan.
The Intermediate Setup
Streaming from your phone is simple but the quality can be poor. If you want to upgrade to using actual cameras, you’ll need some hardware such as the Blackmagic Web Presenter ($495). Born to fill the gap between crappy webcams and million dollar production studios, the Web Presenter is a well-priced and robust plug-and-play device. Simply connect your camera(s), plug it into your computer and you’ll be broadcasting in no time. Add the Teranex Mini smart panel ($85) to the front and you have instant switching between two cameras (SDI and HDMI) plus monitoring of audio and video on the display. And thanks to the hardworking brains inside the Web Presenter compressing and encoding your videos, your computer thinks it’s only processing a 720p stream over USB.
Nothing is more annoying than buying a piece of technology then realizing it becomes obsolete when you need to upgrade. When it’s time to upgrade your growing production house, the Web Presenter easily works with other Blackmagic devices as a modular piece of a larger ecosystem. (It’s worth noting that it doesn’t ship with the necessary AC or USB cord, so you’ll need to grab one of those separately.)
Pro tip: Don’t rely on the audio from the cameras. Plug an external audio device into the XLR port on the back to avoid the overwhelming amount of frustration that comes with audio and video being out of sync.
As for software, I use Open Broadcast Software (OBS). It’s a free software for streaming that allows switching between as many “scenes” as you want. The user interface is clunky but, hey, it’s free, and there are lots of videos online about how to use it.
The Pro Setup
The same company that contributed to the cable-cutting trend by offering affordable TV through your ISP now offers a multi-cast hub for the layperson. From smartphones and tablets to DSLRs and other cameras and even DJI drones, SlingStudio ($999) can handle up to 10 devices, runs on battery power, accepts and converts 4K footage and completely fits into a backpack. What’s more, all of this wonderful magic is controlled through an app on your tablet. Setup is simple and your broadcast doesn’t even need a computer; technically, you could go live from anywhere with a wifi signal and have a very small footprint. The fact you can have multiple devices wirelessly streaming to the same source means you could have friends with phones help cover a concert, a car unveil, a wedding, anything and you don’t need to rent extra cameras.
The base price of the unit is roughly a grand, and then add a battery pack ($149) as well as a few camera links ($350 a piece) and you are north of $2k pretty quickly. Of course, you’ll need a tablet and cameras that offer a clean HDMI output (to avoid that annoying focus box from your 5D being on screen the whole time) and the brand recommends mounting the main unit on a tripod (we chose the portable MeFoto RoadTrip Air).
Pro Tip: To really up your production game, pick up the MixPre-3 from Sound Devices ($649). It features easy-to-use knobs, three input channels and new Kashmir preamps.