With recent events, like Hurricane Sandy and the election, making live streaming a prominent online component, I’ve gotten a few questions about the specifics surrounding consumer-level live video streaming.
Video chatting has become a fairly common practice, with services like Skype and FaceTime allowing families and friends to easily converse via webcam, but the connection is often limited to the two people chatting or a small party.
Specialized video streaming services and platforms open the potential audience up, letting anyone with a browser or connected device view the video stream. Some services also allow users to monetize their stream, great for personalities that might draw a consistently large following.
Here’s some services and aspects to consider for live streaming video online:
Most streaming services offer a similar experience, providing an online admin page where users can launch a stream and set the stream specifics, like event/show title and the stream quality (resolution, sound quality, etc). The services also provide a customizable landing page where the user can specify a channel name and description
A few popular web streaming services are Justin.tv (www.justin.tv), Livestream (www.livestream.com), and UStream.tv (www.ustream.tv). All are free to try, so it’s a good idea to give each one a test run through to see which has your preferred interface and features.
It’s also possible to live stream from a mobile device or smartphone. The services listed previously all offer apps that can broadcast video from your mobile device’s camera. Some services, like Qik (www.qik.com), specialize in mobile streaming, so you might find that they work a little better for mobile device streaming than their desktop-centric counterparts.
Devices and technology
After choosing a service, you’ll need to make sure you have a camera or video/audio source, as well as an active internet connection.
On the desktop, almost any camera that your operating system recognizes can be used with the main live streaming services. This includes USB webcams, built-in monitor webcams, digital cameras and camcorders, among others. Mobile streamers can use the device’s built in camera(s), though the rear-facing camera is usually of better quality.
Audio can go through the same source as video, if the device has a microphone, otherwise you’ll need a way to get audio into the system. Standard microphones connected to the computer’s audio-in or USB port will work.
Live streaming generally works best over a wired internet connection, but will work if the streaming devices is over Wi-Fi. Any signal issues, however, may affect the quality of the stream. It is possible to transmit a watchable stream over cellular networks, like 3G, but you’ll want to minimize movement and keep the camera stationary as much as possible.
The always-connected internet is giving large audiences to small-resource broadcasters with great content. To see examples of how people are using live streaming, visit any of the big services, like Justin.tv (www.justin.tv), Livestream (www.livestream.com), or UStream.tv (www.ustream.tv). .