Broadcasting live video involves a lot of different tools, settings, and equipment. Luckily, new tools and streaming solutions are making live streaming easier than ever before. Today, anyone can learn to host live streams quickly and easily. This post will look at five best practices for streaming live video.
Streaming is booming as an industry. More events are streamed than ever before. For example, more than 4.6 million people watch music festivals via live streams each year. And live streaming makes sense for events of all sizes, not just huge events.
In other industries, online video is also finding a warm reception. Video use in education can be “highly effective.” The majority of higher education institutions now incorporate video into their offers. In the corporate world, the global enterprise video market is expected to reach $40.84 billion by 2022. That’s an annual growth rate of more than 20 percent. And that’s not to mention the boom we’ve seen in OTT media and entertainment.
5 best practices for broadcasting live video
Everyone recognizes the central importance of video streaming in the modern world. That’s why more and more businesses, entrepreneurs, institutions, and other groups are starting to live stream.
Getting started with broadcasting live video involves working in a few different ways. This list of best practices will lead you through a basic overview of the components in live streaming.
We’re going to look at five parts of the system in detail. First, we’ll discuss choosing a video streaming platform for uploading and hosting a video. Next, we’ll look at equipment for live streaming. After that, we’ll discuss important live streaming encoder settings. Then, we’ll finish up with a look at the importance of testing your setup before use, and the importance of support if and when you do encounter problems.
1. Use the right streaming solution with a powerful CDN
Video is big data. A full 79 percent of all global consumer web traffic comes from video today. As anyone who has tried to watch a live stream via a bad cell connection knows, streaming video with buffering problems can be a frustrating experience.
The solution for broadcasting live video is to use a live streaming CDN or Content Delivery Network. A CDN is made up of a network of servers distributed around the world. Users will be automatically connected to servers near their location. In addition, traffic is automatically routed to servers that are experiencing lesser load.
The combination of these two factors provides users with a better, faster, smoother viewing experience and eliminates the chances of crashing or overwhelming a sever.
Distributing content via a CDN often requires expensive, complex contracts, confusing bills, and technical setup processes. However, there is an easy way to access CDN distribution—and it just happens to be the best way. We recommend you work with an Online Video Platform (OVP) that partners with a CDN.
Here at Dacast, for example, we partner with the Akamai CDN (one of the largest in the world) to deliver all our live streams and video-on-demand. This is combined with transparent, predictable pricing and a wide variety of other video-related tools—analytics, monetization, video API access, customizable branding, video player, and more.
2. Select the right equipment
Next, let’s look at the equipment. Broadcasting live video requires different equipment depending on how complex you want to get.
At one end, simple live streaming is possible with a smartphone running the right app and a decent 4G LTE or WiFi connection. On the other end, professional broadcasters regularly use multiple cameras connected to a production booth featuring audio mixing boards, hardware encoders, graphics generators, complex sets and green screens, and multiple staff.
Most streamers operate somewhere in the middle.
Whatever your choice, you will need, at a minimum:
- VIDEO: A camera, or multiple cameras
- AUDIO: External microphone(s) if needed
- ENCODER: A device for encoding the stream (either a hardware encoder, or a live encoding software running on a computer, tablet, or smartphone)
- CONNECTION: A way to connect these elements (such as a capture card) and cables (most often HDMI or SDI for video, or 1/4″ or XLR for audio)
- INTERNET: Connection to a reliable internet connection with decent upload speeds (we recommend at least 10-15 Mbps sustained upload speed for HD broadcasting; more if streaming in multiple bitrates)
Software encoders are more popular than hardware but we recommend that you look at both kinds and evaluate them according to your streaming needs.
3. Optimize encoder settings and video quality
In 2017, 63 percent of live stream viewers cited buffering issues as a serious issue—an increase from 2016. Viewers are having quality problems. We’ve already covered one way to address this—by using an OVP that partners with a Content Delivery Network.
The second main way to address quality issues is to optimize your encoder settings. Straight out of a camera, video isn’t ready for live streaming. That’s why we use encoders: software or hardware tools that encode a video into formats suitable for live streaming.
- Codec: H.264 or x264
- Video bitrate: varies depending on your chosen video resolution, and if you’re running multiple bitrates
- Video resolution: match to bitrate (see this article)
- Audio bitrate: varies from 64 kbps, mono for low quality streams up to 256 kbps, stereo for high-quality streams
- Audio sample rate: 44100 Khz
- Frame rate: 30 fps is the most common
- Keyframe interval: 2 seconds
4. Test, test, test
The next step in successfully broadcasting live video is to test your setup thoroughly. Don’t wait until your live video stream is about to take place to test your configuration. Make time for testing beforehand.
When they watch a poor quality stream, viewers get upset before they even know they’re upset. Their happiness falls and they’re much more likely to leave—and to view your brand negatively.
To avoid this, try to test every element of the system in as realistic a manner as possible. Make sure your encoder settings are correct. If you’re broadcasting in multiple bitrates, test each and test them using different internet connections. Sure, the stream may work well on your fast office internet. But will it work using a cell network with poor reception?
Make sure that all your equipment is functioning properly. Look for any glitches or hardware failure (luckily, usually easy to spot). Keep an eye out for possible trouble spots like loose cables.
Also be sure to test video players embedded on your website, mobile apps, and any other end-user viewing location. This is the most important element in the whole system.
5. Access to 24/7 customer support
Hopefully, extensive testing will reveal any problems that may exist in your configuration for broadcasting live video. However, you may not know how to fix them. Alternatively, problems can arise during a live stream. In these cases, you will need to access tech support to help you diagnose and fix a specific issue.
In this case, it’s important to look for a live streaming solution that offers good tech support. We recommend a platform with in-house support (not a call center) and a platform that makes support available around the clock. That’s especially important if you’re engaged in 24/7 continuous live streaming.
We hope that these five best practices help to explain what it takes to broadcast live video successfully. If you implement these best practices, you’re much more likely to have a successful live stream.
New to Dacast and interested to try out our CDN-integrated white-label streaming platform for yourself? Why not sign up for a 30-day free trial (no credit card required)? That way, you can test out all the features before making a commitment. We’d love to help you create your account today!
Do you have further questions or comments about broadcasting with Dacast and implementing these best practices? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.
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