To pull off a professional-looking live stream, you might think you need a whole teams effort or a production studio worth of equipment and the truth is that’s simply not the case. Streaming is becoming fairly commonplace, and as new as it is, there are several best practices that can help you put your best foot forward.
The best place to start is probably finding what kind of equipment you need and what you already have. These are just some recommendations that should help you find your footing in all the glut of information out there.
Camera; Firstly – getting your video right is a top priority. What are you hoping to achieve with your live stream? Good camera quality is probably paramount to making people receive all your hard work, well. That said, most smartphone cameras are more than sufficient for a quality stream. If you have a DSLR, GoPro, an old camcorder or any type of designated video camera, then of course those can only improve upon an already strong standard.
Use what you have - If you would like to upscale it, there’s no shortage of cameras to pick from.
Identify your angle/s. If you plan on creating camera movement, you will probably need one for each camera you plan on connecting, or a gimbal for image stabilization if you would rather fewer cameras and a person to help you hit your angles. Shaky video is jarring and one of the first signs that something has gone awry in a stream. They will also help you get shots you previously wouldn’t have been able to, so explore with new vantage points – this will open up a world of creativity in itself.
Identify how your scene will be lit up. Don’t sleep on lighting, good lighting can make a mid-tier camera set up shine, but bad lighting with incredible camera quality still can’t be salvaged. If you’re interested in investing, good lighting will immediately serve you better than a new camera considering just how high quality the average smartphone camera is. There’s plenty of tutorials on YouTube that’ll get you a solid beginner lighting set up for $100 and will take the quality of your production up tenfold. If however, that’s not an option for you, identifying the lighting you currently have at your disposal will very much dictate your set location and will limit your capabilities. For further help organizing your set for a livestream, we have an article here that gives you some things to consider.
Secure how you will stream to your link! Are you planning on showing your DAW? If you are planning on using effects for live performance like a distortion, do you have something on your computer that can run that effect if you don’t have the physical equipment? Do you have the software needed to organize your stream? For further help setting up OBS to stream on Happin, we have an article here that will walk you through the process.
Naturally, audio is going to play a critical role in your stream. There is a huge variety of microphones created for different purposes and it’s easy to get lost so we have some recommendations.
Shure SM58: Perhaps one of the most robust microphones you’ll find on the market. It's sturdy and will work for most things and is one of the more inexpensive microphones on the market. Some microphones flourish in a studio and others in live settings, but the SM58 will carry you for both, so it is a strong-choice microphone to get comfortable for the beginner musician. A fairly neutral tone, the SM58 was created for vocal performance as exemplified by the metal head with padding inside (to reduce plosives). If you’d rather a similar mic with a brighter tone that works better for instruments, the SM57 will work well!
Audio Technica ATR2500: This is the only microphone on this list that is a USB mic. While USB microphones aren’t ideal for a few reasons, they also have their conveniences. For someone looking to get higher audio quality without investing in both a microphone and an audio interface, USB microphones are a simple alternative. It also makes sense for the kind of artist who doesn’t play any live instruments and would be relying on a digital backing track. That said, you’re limited to selecting a single input – if you think of your audio interface like a multi-tap for a video game console, you can understand why it’s more ideal to have an interface. Additionally, USB cords tend to be shorter than XLR cables used when connecting a microphone and an interface, so movement might become difficult as well. All this considered, the ATR2500 is a fine USB microphone, simple to use and bright in its sound – in terms of quality, it would be no less than the SM58 listed above.
Shure SM7B: Perhaps one of the most famous podcasting mics you can find. It’s not cheap by any means, but it does give you some serious bang for your buck. Known for its amazing noise floor, your vocals will come out crisp and void of much background ambience, and when you consider how expensive acoustic treatment for a studio or room can be, it does pay its weight. Also, if it’s good enough for Michael Jackson to record Thriller with, it will probably serve you well.
Assuming you’re mic-ing more than one thing, this will be necessary so you can get a direct signal from your multiple microphones/outputs. This too is a vast world and we have some recommendations to make this easier for you.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 - It is widely considered one of the best interfaces to get at a low cost so for beginners it’s a go-to. If you’re hoping to mic more things, you might find you need more inputs and Scarlett interfaces have quite a variety. Know what you’re planning on mic-ing, and then work backwards so you’re not left with trying to capture 4 different audio sources through 2 inputs. They’re also fairly low latency with direct monitoring however if you’re hoping to hear in real-time the effects you’re adding on, latency will naturally increase.
Solid State Logic SSL2 – When you think of a recording studio, you’re probably thinking of those crazy desks with nobs and sliders; those are SSL consoles and to say they’re iconic would still feel like an understatement. Known for sound and years of innovation, the SSL audio interface is a culmination of those efforts, even with a feature that allows you to add SSL 4000 series colouration and analogue enhancement to your sound. Created to be the centrepiece of a starter studio, this interface is comparable to the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. It also comes with a nifty software bundle.
UAD’s Apollo Twin – at a substantially higher price point, we have the Apollo Twin. You might be wondering what justifies such a difference in price for the same inputs, but don’t be fooled – there is a reason why Apollo is an industry-leading brand. They make some incredible hardware emulation plug-ins of iconic vintage gear that is inaccessible to the vast majority of the planet – all of which is only usable through their hardware. Additionally, because the plug-ins are running on the interface itself, you can record using extremely high-quality manipulation with no compromise to latency which is virtually impossible with other interfaces. While this isn’t beginner-friendly, most in the music industry will end up having some experience with UAD products at one point or another.
Identify what you need to connect to your computer. For an iPhone, your charging cable will suffice, but if you have multiple of them set up, do you have sufficient USB ports? If you’re streaming from an HD camera, you might need to install new drivers to stream directly from it, or even get a video card. These will all depend on the set up you plan on running, and each set up will have its advantages, as well as its problems to troubleshoot.
Only once you’ve identified what you have and what you need, you can start to recognize where your set up falls short, and where it flourishes. Make sure to figure this stuff out ahead of time so you have ample time to get comfortable with it - you'll be happiest with a stream that you are at ease with, so you can focus on your show. Make sure to do a practice show; if you’re using OBS, record a show and make that a part of your show preparation, so any problems you may encounter get dealt with beforehand. The day of your show should not be the day you try something for the first time. On the day of the show, new problems may arise – if you’re comfortable with your gear, you’ll be able to solve them without panic. Granted, these are just some suggestions on where to start and some things to consider – most importantly, have fun with it.
From us at Happin, happy streaming.