Brands are going through the same “live” clamour that television broadcasters did 15 years ago, when everything, absolutely everything had to be live.
Look at the social media stats, live brings engagement, it brings viewers and gets people talking. It puts the brand at centre of what’s happening now.
So, should you go live?
Of course you should.
Unless, of course, you shouldn’t.
Live streaming is great, but it does have a few downsides:
What if the quality is really poor?
What if the signal drops and buffers?
What if something goes wrong?
What if someone swears, or says something they shouldn’t?
A bit like with television news, you have to ask yourself:
What benefits does going live actually bring?
Do these benefits outweigh the potential downsides?
Would you be better recording it, to stream as-for-live (delayed) a few minutes later?
We’re not trying to put you off live streaming, just to think carefully about why you’re doing it. It’s incredibly frustrating watching an interview and the stream just stops, or buffers.
Even on news shows, what you think you’re watching live may have been recorded “as live”.
Sometimes, when the subject matter is incredibly detailed or complicated, the best option is to record everything and do a quick-turnaround edited package. While everyone else is concentrating on being the first, you can be the ultimate authority – which on many occasions is a far strong place to be in.
Always think “quality”
Producers are lovely, but bear in mind that they were born pessimists. They try and envisage everything that can go wrong – and then try and ensure it doesn’t happen, or at least there’s a very good Plan B.
With a live, there will be lots of potential issues, but the longer the preparation time, the less likely there’ll be any problems.
Don’t be afraid to rehearse, or to set a really early call time, because ultimately this is your show and you want the brand to come out of it looking good. For a four camera shoot, we’ve set up 6 hours in advance. Okay, we have also done 2 camera lives with a few minutes notice, so it’s doable, but not advisable!
You can stream to multiple locations at the same time – for example Facebook, Periscope and YouTube. Bear in mind there’s a bit of technical fiddling that needs to be done to ensure that Periscope works as it’s portrait, rather than landscape. We can even stream it back to our production team, so they can edit shorter versions instantly (say for Instagram or Twitter).
You can stream from multiple cameras. We use Blackmagic Design’s ATEM Live Production Switcher. This means we can use up to 8 inputs (so for example 7 cameras and a video source) and then stream a fully vision mixed show to both the internet and big screens. We could even add in a couple of roaming smart-phones of Wifi-enabled cameras to push the production options even further.
At 39 Pictures we’ve been trialling a number of streaming options, the most bullet-proof way, is using a cable and dedicated 100MBs+ broadband. But in real life, that’s a a luxury you rarely get. On the jobs it’s there, it means you can sit back, relax and concentrate on the production itself.
Next best is Wifi, but there are strings attached. For one major press conference, the media had a dedicated Wifi network, it was super fast and we had no problems whatsoever. Yet, on many occasions we’re sharing a public network, which before the event starts works perfectly, then when 100 spectators start streaming via their mobiles, the network slowly dies a death and you’re left with major drop out or a poor quality stream.
4G. We’ve managed a few via 4G and it can work fairly well, providing it’s a strong signal, but again, the more people that use that signal, the worse it gets.
Teradek / LiveU. We’ve trialled the Teradek Bond and have been impressed. Effectively it combines the signals of wireless, wired and cellular networks to ensure you get the most reliable signal possible, to reduce the chance of drop out. Is it 100% reliable? Nope, but it’s getting there.
Of course, no solution is perfect, even the major broadcasters can struggle to get a signal sometimes with satellite trucks.
There’s always a solution, but it’s how much money you want to spend.
To sum up
I’ve stood outside empty buildings doing lives into news channels, just because there was a satellite truck available and airtime to fill – and arguably would have been filled better with an edited item.
Social media is not too dissimilar. The feeling is that we need to react now and if we’re there, we need to broadcast it. As a brand, you need to work out what impact this will have and also whether it’s technically possible.
Just because you’ve got the ability to go live, doesn’t mean you should.
With so much media being shot on wobbly cameras nowadays, quality stands out.