[GUIDE] “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” While Charles Darwin was of course speaking about the origin, evolution, and survival of species, the maxim certainly applies to creative professionals and filmmakers especially. Adapt or die.
In the digital era, the technology around video production has been evolving exponentially. As new trends emerge (hello, HDR!) and fads fall away (so long, 3D!), there has been one quiet constant: live streaming.
While live streaming has been around for almost as long as the Internet, only in the last few years has it made a massive leap into consumer adoption, driven largely by its integration into the major social media platforms. Working in the video production industry, it is important to understand what live streaming is and how it can be leveraged to its fullest effect. If your clients have not requested a live stream yet, I assure you - they will!
Live streaming continues to grow in popularity because it connects content makers directly to their audience, creating a nearly-instant feedback loop while strengthening a community. Audiences tend to watch live streams longer and interact more by commenting, sharing, and emoting. In an era when over 500 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, creating content that cuts through is critical. Live streaming breaks through the noise.
What Is Live Streaming?
Broken down to its most basic elements, live streaming is simply the real-time playback of audiovisual content over the Internet. This takes many forms - from PowerPoint-driven webinars to Premier League football matches, and everything in between. Often, it is leveraged by gamers on platforms such as Twitch.TV, vloggers on YouTube or Facebook, and social media influencers on Instagram.
A good filmmaker understands the basic concepts of Cinematography: composition, lighting, depth of field, framerates, rule of thirds, and so on. These rules all apply to live streaming as well. Because many frequent stream producers don’t necessarily have a production background, these rules are often broken. Producing high-quality content that follows the centuries-old principles of cinematography can quickly elevate your content.
There are two key differences between traditional video production and live streaming. The first is mindset: live events only happen once. You don’t get multiple takes, and you don’t get to fix it in post. That means planning out your content up front is critical for a live stream to succeed.
The second difference is in technology integration. A live stream producer is equal parts Cinematographer, Audio Engineer, and IT technician. Having a high-fidelity Internet connection and crystal-clear audio is as important as your shot composition.
Why Go Live?
Before embarking on a live stream production, the most important question to ask is, “why are we doing this live?” The fact is, live streaming is more complex and often more expensive than a traditional video shoot. Furthermore, you have much more control over post-produced content. If you have concerns about messaging, then traditional video production might make more sense.
Three compelling reasons to live stream something
Consistency: you are building a community, and need to regularly produce content that engages the audience.
Live streaming offers a great solution to develop recurring long-form content. Because you make editorial decisions while your content is live, you remove the need for post-production after the fact. Getting your content in front of an audience also allows for its rapid iteration: you receive feedback in real-time, taking content production out of the void and into the real world. Building a community is as relevant for a brand as it is for an influencer. By interacting with their audience on a regular basis, brands convert casual customers into fanatics.
Exclusivity: your content is ephemeral, or exists at a specific moment in time, and the audience interested in that content would not otherwise have access to it.
If you’ve ever wanted to walk the Red Carpet or see what happens backstage at an awards show, live streaming provides a window into normally inaccessible worlds. For large businesses, live streaming offers employees opportunities to connect to executives and leadership through fireside chats and town halls.
Interactivity: your content relies on back-and-forth communication between talent and audience.
Live streaming is often paired with chats, Q&As, polls, or giveaways. In so doing, the audience is given a voice: they influence the outcome of the content, creating a hyper-engaged experience.
Where Should I Stream?
Most social platforms offer live streaming now - and yes, it is possible to stream to multiple platforms simultaneously. Here’s a quick rundown of the available platforms:
Facebook’s most recent algorithm change favors content with higher engagement. According to Facebook, live streams on their platform see an engagement rate that is 6 times higher than recorded video. Additionally, users comment on live streams 10x more often than other posts.
Most brands have already put resources into building an audience on Facebook, so it often makes sense to start here. This is especially recommended if content will be produced at a regular cadence (weekly or monthly is a good start).
As the world’s number one video platform and number two search engine, YouTube is very friendly towards live stream production. You do need to enable live streaming on your YouTube channel - a process which includes setting up an AdSense account and tying it to your YouTube account, which can take several days - but after that streaming is very straightforward. As opposed to Facebook’s “live comments” system, YouTube employs a more direct “live chat”, encouraging conversation amongst your watchers. Additionally, YouTube offers a very straightforward embed code, so you can create a live stream on YouTube and embed it on your website the same way you would embed any YouTube video.
As a mobile-first platform, Instagram’s live streaming capabilities are limited exclusively to smartphones. It is best used to provide behind-the-scenes looks at events or one-to-many interactions between influencers and an audience.
Periscope and Twitter are community-based platforms. If you’re already a part of a community with an active presence on Twitter, then it makes sense to leverage Periscope. Like Facebook, Periscope broadcasts can be produced directly from a phone in vertical format or come from a multi-camera broadcast setup.
Twitch.TV remains the realm of gamers, though content offerings have expanded to include more broad categories. Twitch far and away has the highest level of engagement: expect a constant back-and-forth with your audience. (Many streamers end up using chatbots or other interactive tools to help manage and moderate their chat.)
Live streaming is a great way to build an audience, share a once-in-a-lifetime event, or connect with passionate people around the globe. With all major platforms now offering some form of live streaming, the barrier to entry is lower than ever. Filmmakers should become familiar with the tools and methodologies for producing a successful live stream.
As viewer demands shift to focus on real-time content and greater opportunities for engagement, live streaming is positioned to be responsive to those changes. That fitness ensures its survival.