No matter the content, graduation ceremonies are very important events. Graduation represents the culmination of years of effort, hard work, and dedication on the part of students. As such, the people involved in the lives of these students want to be part of graduation ceremonies as well. Today, knowing how to broadcast live online has become an effective way to ensure no one misses the big day.
In the past, attending graduation ceremonies often entailed long and arduous travel for family members, friends, and associates. Given the of live online broadcasts, however, now anyone with an internet connection and a connected device (e.g., smartphone, computer, tablet, smart TV) can tune in live.
The short answer to the question “should graduation ceremonies be broadcast live online?”–yes! That said, there are a number of practical considerations for live streaming a graduation or similar event. In this article, we’ll educate you on these graduation-specific considerations, as well as on the basics of internet streaming.
In this article, we discuss many potential use cases for graduations broadcast live online. Before diving in, however, we’ll first review live streaming basics for those new to the topic. Later in this article, we’ll cover equipment requirements to broadcast live online. Finally, we’ll explore set-up considerations for graduation ceremonies in particular.
Introduction to Live Streaming
Internet live streaming is complex “under the hood,” yet surprisingly simple for users. Essentially, to broadcast live online involves three elements: a broadcaster, a platform, and viewers.
The broadcaster captures the content (which is usually video, but is sometimes audio-only).
To live stream, broadcasters need a capture device connected to the internet. Possible capture devices include a camera or just a microphone. In the case of a smartphone camera or something similar, you can complete this connection directly. However, more often than not you’ll need an encoder as well. We’ll describe encoders in more detail below.
The Platform (Video Host or Server)
After connecting the camera and/or microphone to the internet, the video host (e.g., DaCast) distributes your content to servers that process the video. In turn, these servers rapidly duplicate and distribute the broadcast to multiple locations closer to where viewers are found. Choosing to broadcast live online via a dedicated OVP both streamlines the process and reduces latency and buffering.
For viewers, watching a video broadcast live online is as simple as clicking play.
It’s no different from watching any YouTube video—except that you might have you mark your calendar to be sure you show up at the right time.
Internet broadcasts can also adapt to each viewer’s individual internet speed. Viewers with fast internet speeds can access a high-definition stream. Those with lower internet speeds, on the other hand, can access lower-quality video.
Why Broadcast Live Online?
Video over the internet is becoming more and more popular. Experts predict that by the year 2019, the number of people using streaming media to meet their entertainment and news needs will more than triple to over 330 million.
When compared to traditional broadcasting, live streaming saves money, time, and effort. That’s because live broadcasters aren’t competing for a limited set of airwaves; the internet is a much larger space. Without a limited number of channels on which to stream, live online video can expand indefinitely. Now, let’s consider three reasons why many individuals and companies choose to broadcast live online.
1. TV in Decline
Increasingly, people are abandoning their television and cable subscriptions in favor of internet-based media. The proliferation of smart TVs and streaming media boxes and sticks (like the Roku) have further accelerated this process. Within the next 10 years, we’ll likely see a major decline in television and a major upswing in live broadcasting over the internet.
This trend is moving especially quickly among the highly-coveted millennial generation. This generation finds navigating the internet much easier and faster than using television (which, let’s face it, hasn’t seen many upgrades since Tivo emerged and made it easy to record shows). We can only expect this trend to accelerate in coming years. Already, newer internet-savvy generations are emerging and gaining purchasing power.
With this trend shaping the market today, streaming graduation ceremonies makes more and more sense. In the very near future, this will be the best way to reach your audience–wherever you may be.
2. Internet-Driven Innovation
Live streaming allows content creators more flexibility and power as compared to traditional broadcasting.
For example, viewers around the world can access content broadcast live online. It’s a simple characteristic, and it’s absolutely critical. Television broadcasts released in multiple countries face extremely complex licensing and rights negotiations and contracts. Live streaming sidesteps these hurdles, yet still includes the ability to, for example, use IP address blacklisting. This live streaming capability restricts your content from playing in certain countries or locations, as you see fit.
The internet also allows for two-way communication in a manner that television never could. For example, live streams can include chat, forum, and discussion features to engage the audience. Polls and questions can solicit live feedback, and these features can be integrated with a minimum of fuss. On TV, this would be nearly impossible. Online, however, it’s quite simple.
Use Cases for Streaming Live
In schools and universities, live streaming is already being used for seminars, presentations, and classes. More and more, education is moving onto the internet. Graduation ceremonies and other events are a natural extension of this trend.
Another example of innovative ways that live streaming can enrich media experiences is through customization features. For example, Major League Baseball’s official app allows fans to view live games. With live streaming, viewers have access to two games of their choice side by side. Likewise, the MLB can set custom scoreboard notifications. This sort of customization builds powerful user engagement, and will be adopted by more and more educational institutions as the market develops.
With DaCast, too, anyone can package their HLS feed into an app suitable for mobile devices. This is an easy and affordable way to capture valuable users and build a more immersive experience. Increasingly, universities and other institutions of higher learning are capitalizing on the value of dedicated apps for event entry, ticket purchase, emergency notifications, on-campus navigation, and more.
Live video can play a big role in making these apps useful—and graduation ceremonies can drive bring more users.
3. Saving Time and Money
Broadcast live streaming can save time and money compared to other forms of recording and broadcast. By late-2018, the price of live broadcasting is drastically lower than it has ever been. This trend is due, in large part, to the ever-rising speeds of internet connections, as well as the falling cost of high-quality audio-video equipment.
The declining complexity of live broadcasting equipment contributes to this trend as well. In past years, live broadcasts required a satellite truck, production-grade $30,000 cameras, multiple assistants, and an entire TV station to broadcast your footage. Nowadays, anyone with a smartphone can broadcast live in about 15 seconds via an app like Periscope or Meerkat.
That said, higher-quality broadcasting has become simpler, too. Even middle-of-the-road laptop computers can function as encoders. This makes it feasible to release an HD-quality broadcast with a budget of only a few thousand dollars. The good news in terms of this article’s focus? Affordable and easier-to-use technology makes it feasible to broadcast all kinds of graduation ceremonies live.
Equipment to Broadcast Live Online
While live streaming does require some equipment, it’s simpler and cheaper than ever before. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you’re interested in a high-quality live stream, rather than a smartphone-based broadcast to Facebook Live. That sort of stream is pretty easy, but it doesn’t produce a high-quality stream. Moreover, it’s definitely not suitable for graduation streaming.
To achieve a better quality and more reliable live stream, you’ll want to consider the following equipment.
1. Camera / Audio Recorders
The most important element of any broadcast is the recording equipment. Cameras are widely available and cheaper than ever before. The simplest cameras connect directly to your computer via USB. However, we recommend for higher quality a camera that connects to your computer via HDMI. This upgrade allows for much higher data-rates (and thus better quality).
Most common DSLR cameras, for example, can export via via HDMI and accept a wide range of lenses, allowing you to frame exactly the right shot. Pro-sumer and professional-grade camcorders are the most convenient and powerful tools for video shoots. We recommend you consult a professional about which camera model best suits your needs and budget.
Any recording also needs audio, and that means microphones. Unfortunately, built-in camera microphones won’t be adequate for recording at a large event like a graduation ceremony. Instead, we highly recommend external audio sources. Ideally, one of these should the microphone on-stage; you can split and feed this audio stream directly in your soundboard.An on-stage mic will capture the best-quality audio of the graduation proceedings.
Additionally, you may need another microphone to capture audience noises. You can fade this mic in and out in real-time to add more flavor and depth to your broadcast.
The next element of a live internet broadcast is the encoder. Essentially, the encoder first receives a video file from your camera—which is optimized for recording to a storage medium like a memory card. Then, it transcodes (or converts) that file into a video format suitable for live streaming over the internet.
Encoders are essential to live video streaming; they cannot be overlooked! Video formats for recording simply aren’t compatible with live streaming.
There are two main types of encoders used in live streaming. The first is a software encoder. Essentially, this is a software package installed on the computer you’ll use on-site at your event location. Your audio and video feeds will link to this computer (which may require special input ports; test your setup early). The encoding software will convert your video to a distributable format. There are several free software encoders available. These range from free, open-source options (e.g., OBS Studio) to for-pay encoding software (e.g., Wirecast, VidBlasterX).
For a detailed look at encoding options over DaCast, you can check out this article as well.
A hardware encoder is a dedicated device used for live streaming—especially in demanding situations such as ongoing mission-critical streams. Hardware encoders do the exact same thing as software encoders; they just do it better. Typically, a hardware encoder features built-in ports for common media cables, a powerful processor that can deal with multiple HD feeds and even 4K resolution video, and more.
To broadcast live online and record your broadcast, you may need particular accessories for your situation and specific needs. For example, tripods for all of your cameras are mandatory, unless you’re working with a mobile team of camera people using Steadicam or something similar.
Additionally, consider if you’ll have multiple cameras and audio sources. In that case, you may need a technician working at a live switcher to choose between available inputs on-the-fly, to output a cohesive recording.
Other important accessories may include: extra batteries, hard drives or memory cards for local storage of recorded files, and more. For the sake of this article, we’ll leave accessories up to you. They’ll be dependent on your exact needs.
4. Fast Internet Connection
Whichever type of encoder you use, you need to connect it to a fast internet connection to upload your stream. We recommend an upload speed of between 2 and 5 Mbps (that’s megabits, not megabytes) for HD video streaming. Any slower and you’ll negatively affect the quality of your transmission.
For a more detailed calculation, we recommend that your connection upload speed be no less than double the bit-rate at which you plan to stream your video. This will ensure a good quality stream on your end.
As a side note, it’s important that you’re able to guarantee a stable, fast connection. At the same time, this can be impossible if you’re using a public network that the thousands of attendees at a large graduation ceremony are also using. Be sure that you not only have the bandwidth now, but that when the event time arrives, you’ll still have all the bandwidth you need.
To broadcast live online, we recommend a wired Ethernet connection as the fastest, most stable method of getting online. Compared to Wi-Fi, Ethernet LAN has lower latency, higher average speeds, and less chance of signal interference. For a graduation ceremony, Ethernet will certainly be the fastest and most appropriate method.
5. Live Video Hosting Provider
The last element you’ll need for a broadcast is a live video stream host. This is the online platform that will ingest your video upload feed from the encoder and deliver it (via a network of servers) to viewers located all over the world.
As you can imagine, streaming HD video to hundreds, thousands, or even millions of viewers simultaneously around the world is a demanding task. It requires a network of powerful, high-bandwidth servers.
DaCast provides live and on-demand video hosting service to a variety of institutions, including schools and corporations. Our network uses the Akamai CDN (Content Delivery Network). Composed of over 200,000 servers worldwide, Akamai is one of the fastest and most reliable CDNs on the planet. Our streaming service is also competitively priced, and we offer a 30-day free trial.
With DaCast, all broadcasters also have access to 24/7 support while they broadcast live online. This can be a crucial feature for important live events; if you encounter a technical issue while streaming live, you don’t want to wait until business hours to troubleshoot.
Filming a Graduation Ceremony: Setup and Other Practical Considerations
Filming a large event like a graduation ceremony presents a number of technical concerns. For example, a reliable internet connection–as previously discussed, you’ll need a fast, dedicated line for effective live streaming.
Another consideration before you broadcast live online are camera angles and locations. You’ll need to have your cameras located at strategic positions to capture the stage as well as other shots of the audience and the students waiting to receive their diplomas. You need to reserve these positions in advance–before you broadcast live online. Likewise, you’ll need to ensure safe cable management so that no one trips during the ceremony.
Practically speaking, these camera angles (and zoom lenses) will provide a better vantage than many of seats in the stadium, which may drive more viewers to your stream.
You’ll also need a secure location for your encoder and live switcher (if applicable). This may be backstage, in the sound booth, or adjacent to the camera. You’ll need a sizable table with plenty of power for plugging in a laptop or encoder as well as other equipment like hard drives, switching boards, and battery chargers. You may also want to arrange a system for labeling and storing files or memory cards in a logical, organized manner. This will help to avoid losing or misplacing anything important. In summary, we recommend thoroughly planning your layout in advance.
And there you have it. We’ve covered the basics on how to broadcast live online for a graduation event.
Of course, explaining how to broadcast live online is a technical topic, and this is just an introduction. DaCast’s Saas (Streaming as a Service) platform simplifies the process to make it as accessible–and affordable!–as possible. Yet we know many people will still have technical questions. If you do have any questions or concerns, let us know in the comment section below. We’ll get back to you. If you’re already streaming with DaCast, you can contact our support team directly from your account.
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And as always, thanks for reading.
By Max Wilbert