How To Price Pay-Per-View Live Stream Events

How To Price Pay-Per-View Live Stream Events

You’ve decided that pay-per-view (PPV) live streaming is a good strategy for your organization, and that’s great—it means you have confidence in the value of your content and its ability to contribute to the bottom line. But pulling your PPV off successfully depends in large part on one thing: your price point.

How do you set event prices that maximize customer satisfaction and engagement, yet bring in enough money to make it all worthwhile? From experience I can tell you it’s not always easy, but it is absolutely possible.

4 Considerations For Accurately Pricing Your Pay-Per-View Live Stream   

To set an appropriate price for your live stream content you need to consider the following:

1. Who is your target audience?

Will those watching your PPV primarily be locals (i.e. people who would attend in person but can’t for a specific reason), or will your event have national appeal? Your anticipated audience plays into the amount you can charge.

  • If your event will attract mostly locals, your pricing should be equal to or cheaper than the actual event. You can’t reasonably charge more to watch a live stream than it costs to attend the event in person, or people simply won’t watch. Your PPV should be offered at somewhat of a discount to make it worthwhile for people to stay home vs. going. If your event is free, however, there will always be people who want to attend but can’t; in that case, a fair price—usually erring on the lower side—will attract viewers. Some college sports, regional events of all kinds, or small entertainment events featuring local performers are all examples of live stream events that have local appeal.
  • If your event has national appeal you’ll want to price it as low as possible to encourage a greater number of viewers. Having a low price point has an added benefit: it helps avoid any potentially negative backlash on social media that naturally takes place if people think something is too expensive. Too-high pricing is also more likely to dissuade people from viewing any of your organization’s future live streaming events.

Do you know your other options for generating revenue besides pay-per-view? Download this free guide to learn more ways to maximize your monetization efforts.


2. What are your viewers willing to pay?

There will always be people who object to paying for content, and some audiences may be tougher than others. For instance, parents of collegiate athletes who are already paying tuition tend to be more resistant to paying for live-streamed sporting events. You won’t be able to please everyone, so the best strategy is charge what the majority of viewers would consider to be a reasonable price at the start. Remember, for many people your live stream is the only way they can get access to an event, so they will be willing to pay.

3. What is the value of your content?

Having said the above, people will be willing to pay if they see value in your content. Think about it this way: If you compare your production to one taking place in a multi-level theatre, is yours the one with low audio, where the camera sits in the balcony seat not zoomed in all the way? Or is it the one that switches between three cameras to get up close and personal with the action? In other words, if your production is really impressive, some viewers may appreciate watching a well-done live stream more than watching the event in person. It takes time to work your way up to this kind of high-quality production, but before you start charging, be sure your product will at least leave viewers satisfied.

4. What are your PPV live streaming goals?

Some organizations charge for their live streaming content to generate revenue; others do it to cover the costs of production and equipment. Many Stretch clients reinvest the money they earn back into their programs, buying new equipment little by little to increase both the quality and quantity of their productions. Over time, those small investments will make their live stream content even more valuable in the future.

With this in mind, consider what your own organization’s goal is for pay-per-view live streaming. If the revenue from PPV is intended to cover the costs of your production, you can set lower a lower price than if you’re looking to make enough to buy new equipment. But if you’re just starting out with monetization, it’s always a good idea to start with a lower price, see how things go, and work your way up to a more sophisticated broadcast.

Want some help finding your pricing sweet spot?

Pricing a pay-per-view live stream can be a challenge, which is why we work closely with all our clients to help determine fair prices and assess how their monetization strategy is progressing. We can also help you create monetization packages, which give your viewers the flexibility to watch as much or as little as they want—and maximize your revenue potential.

Are you ready to hit the ground running with the right live streaming partner? Schedule a free demo of our platform today! We’re also happy to answer any questions you have about pay-per-view live streaming—just drop us a line.

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3 Cameras Perfect For Church Live Streaming Productions

Cameras Perfect For Church Live Streaming

Shopping around for church live streaming cameras? We sometimes get questions about the best video cameras for church use, and, while plenty of cameras could get the job done just fine, there are a few in particular we usually recommend.

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to supplement your existing collection of church video production equipment, the cameras listed below would all perform well in the lighting conditions typical of most houses of worship—that is, low or soft light. Sometimes you’ll need a video camera for the church sanctuary (a place with low light, usually) to shoot the band in another area of the church, for example, or the church minister (where there’s usually more light). That’s why the best video cameras for recording church services have a good image sensor that can handle the various lighting challenges associated with many church venues. Otherwise, it’s all about ease of use and price.

3 Video Cameras To Broadcast Church Services

1. JVC GY-HM200HW camera

In this case, the “HW” at the end of the model number stands for “house of worship,” which means it was created with church live streaming in mind. But its particular designation has less to do with the camera itself and more to do with a couple of special features.

First, it has an integrated graphics feature that can be used in conjunction with a mobile device. Simply connect the camera and your mobile device to the same wifi or hardwired network, and you can direct the camera to bring in graphics from an app that you control with your device. The associated app includes a variety of church-specific graphics templates that can easily be customized to fit your own church.

Second, you can live stream directly from the camera. Simply connect it to the internet and the stream can be delivered to any live stream provider—without the need for an encoder or a computer.  

Need help getting your church’s live stream off the ground? Check out our free guide detailing everything you need to know about live streaming your church services.

It’s a professional-level camera, which means it’s a little on the pricier side (approximately $2500), but it’s a great choice if you can afford it. Simple to use and perfect for a single-camera setup, it had to be on our short list for best video cameras for church use.

2. Canon XA35

Our second choice works great for sports and other events, as well as church services. The Canon XA35 is an entry-level professional camera that will round out the rest of your church video recording equipment. It doesn’t have the built-in streaming capability of the JVC camera mentioned above, so you’ll still need an encoder and a computer to live stream. But the newly designed image sensor in this model does well with low light, and will give you an image worthy of a professional-looking broadcast. This one will run you in the $2100 range.

3. Panasonic HC-VX981K

If you’re just starting out and looking for a more budget-friendly video camera to broadcast your church services, check out the Panasonic HC-VX981K. It’s a prosumer-level camera that has a good quality image sensor and a 20x optical zoom lens for all those close-up shots you’ll need. Simple and straightforward, this camera will run you about $700.

For church live stream cameras, all of the above fit the bill, in our experience. If your favorite camera isn’t on this list, tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know. Or, if you have more questions about live streaming equipment for churches, we’re more than happy to chat. Either contact us, or set up a free live streaming consultation to discuss your current live stream setup or get expert advice on where to start. Good luck!

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Advancing Your Live Stream Setup

Advancing Your Live Stream Setup

All of us at Stretch are huge advocates of incremental improvement. (If you’ve never heard us say “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” you clearly haven’t been reading our blog enough.) Like anything else, it takes time to improve your live stream broadcast, and acquire the skills necessary to do so. But little by little, one small change at a time, you—and, more importantly, your viewers—will notice a change in the quality of your stream.

But how do you know if you’re ready to try something new with your live stream setup? In my view it all comes down to four things:

  • Your comfort level with your current live streaming setup.
  • The availability of additional human resources.
  • Your live streaming budget.
  • The amount of time you can devote to learning something new.

If you’re super comfortable with how you set up your live stream and have been doing it the same way for a while, it’s probably time to consider new ways to improve. You can make the below ideas happen if you have an extra body to help, a bit of cash to purchase new equipment, and a few additional hours to perfect their use. (For low or no-cost ways to improve your live streaming, check out this article.)

Is your live streaming platform as top-notch as your broadcast? Have a look at the Stretch platform to see what we can do for you.

If you’re interested in how to set up a live stream at a more advanced level, here are three ideas we mention most to our clients looking to do the same.

How To Set Up A Live Stream—Advanced Edition

1. Incorporate one- or two-way communication into your production flow.

If you’re currently doing without camera operators, or have operators but no way of communicating with them, making a change to this aspect of your live stream setup will pay off in spades. Shooting from the same angles repeatedly gets stale over time; so does producing similar shots from multiple cameras. Adding one- or two-way communication into the mix allows you to tell your operators what to shoot on the fly, rather than giving them fixed directives ahead of time that can’t be changed.

For example, if you’re live streaming a band performance and you’re familiar with the set list,  you can tell your camera operator when and where to change the shot based on what comes next, maybe focusing on the vocalist or a guitar feature. You’ll still have multiple angles, but those angles will be focused, and you’ll be getting a lot more out of each camera.

From a hardware perspective, the easiest (and least expensive) way to make this change is to incorporate a one-way communication channel into your workflow—you can talk to the camera operators but they can’t talk back. But two-way communication can also be important depending on the location or venue of your broadcast.

Two-way communication—when the producer and operators can talk back and forth—isn’t as effective for some indoor productions (like a guest speaker or a play at a small venue, for example) because it could be distracting to the audience, but it’s ideal for most outdoor productions. Camera operators can see things from their vantage point that you may not be able to see inside the production area. For example, approaching bad weather may make it necessary to adjust all camera settings uniformly or wrap cameras to protect against the elements.

Implementing a communication method can be as simple as buying Motorola walkie-talkies with headsets. Clear-Com is the industry standard for wired communication. There are also wireless headsets available—great for those cases when you can’t run cabling—but be aware that battery power could become an issue. Wireless communication may not be right for every production due to cost and/or the distance you need to cover, but it’s a great option to have available when you need it.

2. Add one (or more) wireless cameras into the mix.

If your live stream setup is like that of most production crews, you rely on wired cameras to get the job done. But if you’re looking to take your live streaming up a notch, adding one wireless camera to your inventory can get you where you want to go—literally.

First, there are some places a wired camera simply can’t go. And if you’re filming at different venues regularly, you won’t always know going in when or how you might be restrained by wires.

But there’s also the added benefit of being able to get more interesting camera shots. Wireless cameras allow you to get in closer to the action and get a better variety of shots, like audience reactions, on-court activity, or action on a different part of the stage. And scenes from those areas can be captured at a moment’s notice with a wireless camera. Having the flexibility to get the right shot at the right moment is one thing that sets awesome productions apart from ordinary ones.

3. For live streaming sports events, up your graphics game.

If you could set up your live stream so that your next sports event looks like an ESPN production, would you? (The right answer here is yes.) You can; the secret is in the graphics.

Here are the two options we recommend:

  • Sportzcast video tools let you pull real-time score data directly from the scoreboard into your production workflow. For under $1,000, you can build fairly complex graphics using the new NewBlue FX Integration tool. It takes data directly from the venue scoreboard controller and delivers it automatically from the cloud to your applications, so it doesn’t intrude on your workflow.
  • AJT Systems has a more advanced ESPN-level product. Theirs is a dedicated graphics solution you can add into any production workflow, which will give you the highest level of graphics possible. It even has ESPN3 templates you can customize for your team. The AJT solution works differently than Sportzcast, because the scoreboard controller plugs directly into the LiveBook GFX system (rather than pulling data from the cloud). The level of all your graphics—the lower-third scoreboard, go-to-break graphics, sponsor plugs, player identifiers, the lower-third starting lineup, and more—will be on par with anything you see on national television.

Ready to give your live stream setup a boost?

If you have more questions about how to set up a live stream using more advanced tools, we’ll be glad to help. Set up a free 30-minute consultation with us to review your current live streaming setup and discuss your options for advancement—no commitment necessary. The more all of us live streamers talk, share, and improve, the better off we’ll be! (Kinda like building Rome all over again.)

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4 Multi-Camera Production Techniques

Multi-Camera Production Techniques

Using multiple cameras for your live broadcast has its advantages. You can cover more territory and enhance the content with varied angles and interesting shots—all of which have the potential to make your live stream more appealing to viewers. In case you missed it, the key word there is potential. Multi-camera production is usually considered a step up from the single-camera broadcast, but it can also be a step down if you rush in without thinking it through.

Let’s take a look at some multi-camera shooting techniques that can enhance your live stream. Some might take time to master, but the end result will be well worth the effort.

4 Smart Multi-Camera Production Techniques

1. Follow the 180-degree rule.

Knowing where to put your cameras is one of the biggest challenges for most production teams moving from a single-camera to a multi-camera setup. Here’s why: In a basketball game, for example, Team A is going right to left; Team B is going left to right. If you place two cameras on opposite sides of the court, the teams will be running in the opposite direction every time you switch cameras—and your viewers will be left dazed and confused.

All of your shots need to make sense as a whole. The 180-degree rule ensures that all of your cameras are filming from a singular direction. Think of an imaginary line across the center of the court. You can place your cameras anywhere behind that line on one side, choosing a variety of angles to mix up the shots—but not on the other side. That way, all of your cameras are strategically placed to ensure that directionals remain consistent.

2. Nail down the logistics of your central camera location.

With a single camera setup, things are fairly simple—you have your computer or encoder right next to the camera, 10 feet of cable, and everything plugged directly in. With multi-camera production, you’ll have to do things a bit differently. First, determine where your broadcast will originate from. Will it be where the primary camera is, or will you be able to choose a dedicated space at the venue for the computer and the producer?

Live stream logistics can make or break your broadcast. Download this checklist of what to do before, during, and after live stream events for a win every time.

Once that decision is made, you’ll need to figure out how to get your camera feeds—some of which originate from cameras located 100, 200, or even 300 feet away from the central camera—to that location. Wireless technology is still somewhat challenging to use and expensive (though it’s getting cheaper!), so the most cost-effective way right now is still cabling. Get the right cabling and converters, and, if you’re using a venue often, figure out a way to embed the cabling so you don’t have to pull cable each time.

3. Make communication a priority.

Multi-camera shooting techniques are complex enough that you need to make open communication among your team a priority. Each of your camera angles should be different enough that shot changes are clearly new and purposeful to anyone viewing the live feed (two shots that are too close in perspective—both following the ball from a slightly different angle, for example—might actually unsettle viewers).

There are two ways for a producer to manage multiple camera shots:

  1. Meet with your camera operators before the event, telling each one what to shoot throughout. It’s somewhat rigid, but it could work if you’re just starting out.
  2. Use walkie-talkies and headsets—or a full broadcast communication system—to provide directions on the fly. You’d still probably want to set some parameters ahead of time, but open communication allows for a greater degree of creativity in a broadcast.

4. Have a clear vision for your multi-camera production.

Graduating to a multi-camera setup for your live stream events is a natural step in a lot of cases, but it’s only beneficial if you have a clear idea of how you’re going to use all of those cameras. What are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to bring in specific shots that you aren’t currently able to get? Once you get started, you’ll likely feel compelled to splice in multiple camera angles when the action of the scene may not really require them. As a result, you could end up with a disjointed broadcast. (A well-placed single camera is better than a poorly orchestrated multi-camera production every time!)

So before you make the leap, talk it through with your production team or your platform provider. Come up with some loose guidelines as to when and how often to switch—sometimes it’s best to stick with a certain angle for five or even ten minutes. A producer’s vision is key to pulling off most of these multi-camera shooting techniques successfully.

Talk It Through With Us

We love talking—especially about anything having to do with live streaming. If you’re looking for advice on multi-camera production techniques, why not get in touch with us for a free 30-minute consultation? We stream more than 65,000 events each year, so we’ve seen it all and would be happy to provide expert advice on your equipment, setup, and even your live streaming goals. It’s our goal to help you feel more confident about your live stream going forward.

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How To Set Up A Multi-Camera Live Streaming System

And the award for the most popular article on the Stretch Internet blog goes to…

High Definition, Three Camera Inputs, One Laptop, $3,500

There’s no actual award to give here other than our undying gratitude (props to guest blogger Imry Halevi!), but it does seem like a good way to kick off this article, which is an update to that ever-popular post by sports media guru Imry on a low-cost, multi-camera setup for live streaming events.

Due to its popularity, we decided to revisit the topic and make additional recommendations to the setup as it was originally presented—which has stood the test of time, by the way. It’s still the cheapest and easiest way to get the job done, but there are other options that work just as well, and might be even better, depending on your situation.

But any or all of these setup recommendations could be affected by a number of variables; they also have the potential to become outdated at the drop of a hat. Feel free to chat with us before you shell out the cash on any particular item—we’re more than happy to advise.

Multi-Camera Live Streaming Setup On A Limited Budget

In our view, there are three good options for a small-scale multi-camera production setup. The first is based around a MacBook Pro, the second incorporates a hardware mixer called ATEM Television Studio, and the third is for PC desktops.

Option #1—MacBook Pro

The process outlined in Imry’s original article is still an excellent way to go.

As Imry mentioned, Telestream’s Wirecast is the best option for multi-camera live streaming software. Since that article was published, though, a new MacBook Pro has entered the market—but we don’t recommend using it. Instead, stick with the MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display. If you aren’t sure what model you currently have, click on the Apple icon in the upper left part of your screen and select “About This Mac” to find out.

Why? Most of the video tech on the market today is Thunderbolt 1- or Thunderbolt 2-based (the older model we’re referring to has two Thunderbolt 2 ports). The latest MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 3, sometimes called USB-C. Currently, there’s no video technology on the market that plugs into that port directly, so you’d have to buy an expensive converter to do the job. Plus, you might find some good deals on older Apple products if you shop around.

If you’ve read our blog before, you’ve probably seen us mention BlackMagic’s UltraStudio Mini Recorder once or twice (or more…). Here again, it’s the key to filling up those two Thunderbolt ports on your MacBook Pro. It’s still the least expensive way to bring the HDMI signal into your computer, Mac or PC, keeping your setup costs low.

Bring in a third camera using a USB-based capture device. The BlackMagic Intensity Shuttle works; or, if you have a third SDI source you want to use, Magewell makes an SDI version of this capture device. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s the only way to get three SDI sources into the MacBook. One limitation we should mention: You might save money with the Intensity Shuttle, but you have to use HDMI. So unless you’re going to back-convert from SDI to HDMI, you’ll need one of the cameras to be placed within 10 feet of the broadcast setup—which works fine in some scenarios but not all.

   BlackMagic Intensity Shuttle

Multi-camera productions call for even more preplanning than usual. Use this Extensive Live Streaming Checklist to make sure your bases are covered—before it’s too late.

Alternatively, if you do use the Intensity Shuttle USB device and want to convert the HDMI signal to SDI, you can get an HDMI to SDI converter for under $100. We recommend the KanexPro HDMI-to-SDI converter, which goes for $72.95. If you have an older professional camera that has HDMI output, this is a good way to convert the signal to SDI and run it long distances.

KanexPro HDMI-to-SDI converter

Option #1: MacBook Pro

Equipment needed Camera(s), tripod, MacBook Pro, capture device, an additional USB-based capture device
Cost (*may vary based on the cameras used) $$
Pros Least expensive of portable options; simplest setup
Cons Not expandable further; limitations on additional applications being run on machine at the same time

Option #2—ATEM Television Studio

A second option utilizes BlackMagic’s ATEM Television Studio, an inexpensive video hardware mixer for live multi-camera switching.

BlackMagic ATEM Television Studio

Instead of using the computer to switch camera feeds, this entirely separate production switcher unit takes in up to four video sources, both SDI and HDMI. Because it’s a separate unit, you can get away with a base-level MacBook Pro, rather than the higher-end model you’d need for Option #1 to handle complex video processing. You’ll also still need a BlackMagic Mini Recorder as well.

The downside to this setup: It requires two computers, the additional one being used for the software that does the switching on the ATEM. There’s no need for anything pricey, though, since all you’re using it for is to actually press the button to switch—you just can’t do it on the computer that’s running Wirecast.

One other downside: This option works better with two operators. One person is in charge of switching cameras, while the second person is on the Wirecast computer, adding graphics, running commercials, etc.

A new version of the ATEM switcher is scheduled to hit the market in April. It has more buttons on the interface, so you may not need the control computer for multi-camera switching, but you will still need monitors plugged into it so you can see the camera inputs.

Option #2: ATEM Television Studio

Equipment needed Cameras, tripod, two computers (one should be a MacBook Pro, the other can be almost anything as long as it has ethernet capabilities, either on the device or via an adapter), ATEM Television Studio, capture device, 1-2 monitors for viewing cameras to switch
Cost $$$
Pros Flexibility to take in SDI or HDMI signals; expandable
Cons Requires two computers, and possibly two operators; lots of equipment to set up/tear down; need space for equipment

Option #3—PC Desktop

With a PC desktop setup, you’ll need a PCI Express card (one or more, whatever you need) to bring in the video.

There are a few different ways you could set this system up:

  • Black Magic makes a DeckLink Mini Recorder that has the same functionality as the UltraStudio Mini Recorder for the Mac. It has HDMI and SDI inputs; you can use one at a time.
  • The DeckLink Quad 2 allows four inputs. It has eight channels that you can assign as you like. The default is four in and four out, but you can rearrange them as needed (six in and two out, for example). You could actually bring in up to eight cameras—but don’t say we didn’t warn you that it will be overwhelming! The cost: about $945.
  • Magewell has a similar unit—the Pro Capture Quad SDI. It has the same functionality with four inputs and no outputs, so you can bring four SDI inputs into your desktop tower computer. The cost is slightly lower than the DeckLink at $899.

                   .                            

DeckLink Mini Recorder                            DeckLink Quad 2                          Magewell Pro Capture Quad SDI

The PC desktop option will save you a bit of money in the end, and it’s a good semi-portable setup for the right situation. For instance, if you have a press box available to you for a certain portion of the year, you can set the system up there, lock it when you’re not using it, and leave it alone until the end of the season.

A disadvantage of this setup is the loss of portability, but even the ATEM switcher from Option #2 has to be lugged around. Perhaps Oprah was waxing poetic about multi-camera live streaming when she said, “You CAN have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”

Option #3: PC Desktop

Equipment needed Cameras, tripod, capture device, PC desktop, PCI Express Card, keyboard, mouse, 1-2 monitors
Cost $
Pros Inexpensive setup, semi-portable for the right situation
Cons Loss of complete portability, footprint

Signal Amplification

With all this talk about SDI, it seems necessary to mention signal amplification.

You can do an SDI feed up to 300 feet without amplification, but sometimes you need to go farther than that (say you want to put a camera in center field at a baseball stadium, for example). It’s possible to run cabling up to 2,700 feet using signal boosters every 300 feet.

To extend the SDI signal, we recommend Data Video’s VP-633 SDI repeater. It includes power input and will get you 600 feet; it’s the first repeater you would use, so it’s the only one that needs a power input. If you want to go 300 more feet (to 900 feet), save yourself some money and get the VP-634 for your second repeater, which is $30 cheaper and unpowered.

Data Video VP-633 SDI Repeater

Need help with your multi-camera live streaming setup?

Hopefully this information has been helpful, but if you have questions about your live streaming setup for a specific event, let’s chat! Multi-camera or not, we’ll give you honest advice about what we think would work best for your situation. We stream more than 60,000 events every year here at Stretch, so we’ve seen it all! Or, if you’d like to share your experience with one of the above setups, we’d like to hear about that, too.

In the meantime, grab a camera or two (or three), and good luck with your live stream!

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Enhance Your Broadcast With Video Streaming Technology

Enhance Your Broadcast With Live Streaming Technology

You know that old saying attributed to Mark Twain—“If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute; it’ll change”? Well, it might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s the first thing that came to mind as we considered the advancement of video technology used for live streaming. Tech in general is progressing quickly, and live streamers are benefitting with a growing number of ways to turn out more professional-looking broadcasts more easily than ever before. So with a tip of the hat to Twain, here’s a modern-day mashup for you:

“If you can’t find the live streaming technology you want, wait a minute; it’ll change.”

If it’s been awhile since you’ve incorporated some new tech into your live stream, there’s no better time than the present to give it a try. Below are a few slightly more advanced tech options we think you’ll be excited about—especially if you’re looking for ways to get more bang for your live streaming buck. Check out the following, and consider how they might work for your next live broadcast.

Video Streaming Technology For Next-Level Broadcasts

SDI For Maximum Flexibility

With a basic live stream setup, you’re essentially tethered to the action by a relatively short HDMI cable. In general, HDMI is a technology that won’t withstand a lot of wear and tear, and the longer the cable gets, the more its signal strength diminishes. That’s why we typically recommend keeping HDMI cables 10 feet or less.

SDI is an alternative to HDMI that allows you to go very long distances without amplification—up to 300 feet. Having this extra “room to move” will expand your production options and let you get a second camera involved in your stream. And it’s not difficult to start using SDI: The Blackmagic UltraStudio Mini Recorder includes HDMI and SDI connections, and, if your camera doesn’t have SDI natively, an HDMI-to-SDI converter costs less than $100. It will pay for itself in the amount of flexibility you’ll get over the long haul.

Wireless Tech For Better, Easier Production

What if, instead of running that 300-foot cable, you could have 300 feet of wireless capability? Then you could—almost literally—take your camera wherever you wanted to go.

For our clients, we always recommend Teradek’s Bolt wireless system. The Bolt creates its own wireless local area network (not using Wi-Fi or 4G) to talk to a receiver and a transmitter. The receiver goes into the camera, and the transmitter remains back at home base with the computer or hardware encoder.

An impressive live stream is about more than just technology. Improve your production process with this free Extensive Live Streaming Checklist, and pull off a smooth, well-organized broadcast every time.

The flexibility wireless provides leads to more creative broadcasting. You can spontaneously take the camera on the basketball court during a timeout, follow the action at a wedding, or easily navigate an audience to access multiple speakers—all without the need for a second person to spool cable. The one downside is batteries; you’ll need them to power the camera and the transmitter. Also keep in mind that the Bolt family of wireless systems goes up in price depending on how far you need to transmit video.

Network Device Interface (NDI) For Cost Savings & Production Versatility

One of the most interesting video streaming technology developments of the past year is NewTek’s Network Device Interface (NDI). NDI eliminates the need for costly cables or wireless equipment and instead utilizes the existing network in a production environment to allow cameras and other video sources to communicate. Essentially, you’re taking the network, the cabling, and everything that exists in a venue already and utilizing it for your broadcast.

Say, for instance, you’re filming inside a building on a college campus. You want to incorporate video from a camera at another campus location, but that camera is too far away to realistically run cables back to your main streaming center. However, there is a nearby jack that accesses a network shared with your main computer. NDI allows you to utilize that shared network to draw in the video source and use it for your live stream, even though it isn’t hardwired to your production environment.

NDI is award-winning video streaming technology that’s changing the way people stream. Eliminating the wiring in a network-connected environment allows for an extraordinary amount of flexibility, making it easy to use additional computers to run commercials, generate graphics, and accommodate telestration (drawing on the screen as the stream is happening). There are even NDI applications for mobile devices. NDI combined with a little creative genius (let us help you brainstorm!) can have a big impact on your live stream.

Graphical Tools For Added Sophistication

Good graphics bring a level of professionalism to any broadcast, and the graphical tools available for live streamers continue to improve. Now, high-end graphical software and even hardware allow you to create TV-production-quality graphics on the fly.

Rather than producing graphics ahead of time, you can have full-motion graphics available in 10 seconds or less. NewBlue Titler (made by NewBlue) runs alongside Wirecast, a software encoder, and lets you render new graphics quickly and integrate them into the Wirecast workflow. The NewBlue software can run on the same computer as your encoding software.

Advanced graphical tools can enhance any kind of broadcast, sporting events in particular. Imagine being able to provide information directly from a scoreboard controller or statistical information and headshots for players. Consider what information your viewers might like to see along with the action, and you can probably make it happen with the tech available today.

Wait a minute—here’s a heads-up…

In tech time, Twain’s “minute” could mean approximately eight weeks—that’s when the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention happens in Las Vegas. Plenty of new video tech has been unveiled at recent NAB conventions, including NDI, which won a Best of Show award for TV technology in 2016. So stay tuned, because you never know if the next new thing might be just what you’ve been looking for!

Need help implementing this new live streaming technology?

Technology is awesome, but it can also be complex. Don’t let that stop you from seeing your big ideas come to fruition! If you can think of a great way to use one of the above tools (or something else!) in your live stream but are hesitant about implementing it, drop us a line. We can talk you through the logistics on the phone or provide advice on the best tech for your needs.

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Live Streaming Setup For The Computer Illiterate

Live Streaming Setup For The Computer Illiterate

Live videos are everywhere. It’s hard to resist getting in on the action, especially when so many organizations are seeing great results from sharing their events with a larger audience. But if you’re reading this article, there’s probably one thing that’s been holding you back: You don’t know anything at all about technology and assume that live streaming is beyond your reach.

Getting the hardware and software you need for your live stream setup may seem a bit daunting—especially if you aren’t technologically savvy. (If you don’t know what a Twitter handle is or have ever referenced “The Google,” you may fit into this category!) In reality, you don’t need any special qualifications to get started. Live streaming is technology-dependent, but if you can follow directions and have a resource to turn to for help (that’s us!), you can start streaming anytime you’re ready.

The Nontechnical Guide To Live Stream Setup

It’s important to keep your first live streaming setup as basic as possible. It doesn’t need to look like it could be on cable television, with four camera angles, graphics, and highlight clips. You do, however, want it to be well-executed and enjoyable to watch. Below, we’ve outlined the basic live stream setup you’ll need to begin sharing your event online—this setup will also produce a good-quality broadcast for your viewers. (If you’d like more detailed information about live streaming equipment specifically, check out this blog post.)

Camera

To get your event online, you’ll need a camera. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you use, because any consumer camera that has been created in the last five years should give you what you need to live stream. You can even use a GoPro or an iPhone or iPad if you want!

Even the most basic live stream setup can impress viewers as being both well-planned and well-executed. Download this free Extensive Live Streaming Checklist to prepare for your first event, and you won’t miss a beat!

Remember, you’ll get the same type of feed and signal out of both a $200 camera and a $5,000 camera. Of course, the $5,000 camera will have more options, including a nicer lens and better image resolution. So before you purchase your camera, assess your specific needs. For instance, if you’ll be shooting from far away and need to zoom in quite a bit, look for a camera with high-quality zoom capabilities. If you’ll be able to get pretty close to your subject, you may be fine using a less expensive option.

Tripod

If you’re nervous for your first streaming event, shaky hands come with the territory. Even a slightly shaky picture dramatically lessens the quality of your broadcast and is unpleasant to watch.

Even a basic live stream setup needs a tripod. (There are even tripods for GoPros, iPhones, and iPads, so there’s no excuse!) We recommend getting a nice tripod that will grow with you and be able to handle bigger and better things down the line. Look for a fluid head tripod that smoothly pans (left and right) and tilts (up and down), which is particularly important for  sporting events and theatrical productions that require a fair amount of camera movement.

Don’t get caught up in overspending here—you can get a good prosumer tripod in the $150 range. The fancier ones have options you may not need to start; your main concern now is getting a clean, smooth image from the camera.

Computer

To successfully live stream, there are a few things you need to be sure your computer can handle:

1. Your computer needs to have either a Thunderbolt port or a USB 3.0 port. This is where you’ll plug in your capture device (which we’ll discuss below). If you’re already panicking, don’t—there are some easy ways to tell if your computer has one of these two ports:

  • USB 3.0: Depending on the manufacturer of the computer, one of two different symbols will designate the USB port—either the inside of the port itself will be blue, or the port will be labeled “SS” (which stands for “Super Speed”).

SS Super Speed USB 3.0 port

  • Thunderbolt: Thunderbolt technology is most often found on Apple computers—if you have this port, it will be labeled with a lightning bolt symbol, as shown below:

thunderbolt port

Photo courtesy of solverbase.com

Note: You may see that your computer has an HDMI port—so why can’t you plug the camera directly into that? Because the HDMI port on your computer or laptop is an output, and you need an input. Since there are dedicated inputs and outputs for HDMI, a single HDMI port cannot do both.

2. You need a software encoder on your computer to be able to send the live stream anywhere. Encoders range in price from free to about $1,000. The more you pay, the more features you’ll have. But if you’re just getting started, we suggest using Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE) from Adobe. It’s free, it’s simple to get up and running, and it will give you what you need—which is to simply convert the content on your camera into digital form ready for playback. (If you’re really interested, read this article for more on encoders!)

Capture Device

A capture device is a piece of hardware that converts video into a signal that the computer can understand. You’ll need to buy a capture device that corresponds with either your Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 port.

A good, commonly used Thunderbolt capture device is the Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder. For USB 3.0 ports we recommend one from Magewell’s USB Capture Family. As with everything else, the more you pay, the more features you’ll have, but keep your costs down to start. Both of these capture devices are economical and perform well.

capture devices

High-Speed Internet

You’ll need access to high-speed internet from whatever location you’re filming from. You can get high-speed internet a few different ways:

  • Wi-Fi.
  • Ethernet (hardwired internet).
  • Mi-Fi (provided through cellular carriers like Verizon and AT&T).

One element that will almost certainly affect your live streaming setup is your internet upload speed. It’s simple to test this—go to speedtest.net, click start, and see what your upload speed is. A high definition (HD) live stream requires a speed of 3-4 MBPS; standard definition (SD) requires 1-2 MBPS.

Intel Processor

The processor is essentially the energy center of your computer—it determines how much you can do and how quickly you can do it.

There are two major processor manufacturers—AMD and Intel. Intel has about 90% of the market, and it’s what you’ll need for video processing. AMD products don’t generally work with video encoding software (and they can be a pain to deal with in that regard). If you aren’t sure if your computer has an Intel processor, simply look up your computer model and Google it to find out. If it’s an older model, or if you can’t find the answer online, a local computer store should be able to tell you quickly and easily.

All Set To Stream

If you’ve gathered all the equipment listed above, you’re ready to start live streaming! The streaming setup outlined here is very basic, but it’s exactly what you need as a first-timer. As you get more comfortable with your live streaming setup, you can add on. Remember: It’s better to have an extremely simple live stream than not to have one at all. Give it a try, see how it works and how your live stream is received, then go forward from there.

If you would love to live stream your event but want a partner to guide and assist you through the process, let’s talk! At Stretch Internet, we stream more than 65,000 live events of all sizes every year, with an emphasis on providing outstanding support and memorable experiences. We’re here to help!


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How To Live Stream Using Your iPhone Or iPad Camera

How To Live Stream Using Your iPhone Or iPad Camera

It’s your first triathlon, but your best friend couldn’t make it. Or maybe a local nonprofit is holding a public event that you’d like to share. It could even be that your local dog shelter wants to set up a temporary puppy cam to promote adoptions.

Times like these are ripe for live streaming, but not everyone is fully outfitted with a video camera and an encoder. Don’t let that stop you! That nifty iPhone or iPad sitting right next to you will do the trick in a pinch, and you can live stream anything you want, anytime.

Broadcasting a live stream from your iPhone camera is pretty much as simple as everything else you can do with your iPhone, which means it’s pretty darn easy—no camera add-ons or extra microphones required. Read on to find out what you need to have and what you need to know to get started.

What do I need to have to live stream from my iPhone or iPad camera?

A Mobile Live Streaming App

There are a number of apps that enable live streaming for mobile devices. Some live streaming platforms have their own apps (for example, Ustream has a mobile app and so does Facebook), which can only be used to stream to that particular platform. There are also a few that are compatible with several different live streaming platforms.

Want to take your mobile live stream to the next level? This free checklist covers everything you need to do—and when to do it—to pull off a more professional live stream.

Whenever we’re asked about how to live stream from mobile devices, we recommend GoCoder from Wowza. If your streaming provider uses Wowza, this handy app delivers your live video and audio content to any device. It’s simple to use—just configure the live stream settings once after installing the app and save them for future use, and you’re ready to start live streaming.  Your streaming provider may also have their own application for streaming live video from a mobile device. Ustream, Livestream, and YouTube, to name a few, allow you to stream directly from their mobile applications.

A Tripod

Treat your iPhone like a traditional video camera and get a tripod. (Yes, we hear you saying, “But it’s an iPhone!”) There are tripods for iPhones and iPads, and trust us—you’ll need one. Despite its wild success in theatres, most viewers do not want a Blair-Witch-Project-esque viewing experience on a live stream.

A tripod also allows you to put your phone in places you couldn’t normally otherwise, introducing different perspectives that will potentially increase the quality of your live stream.

In addition to a tripod, you’ll need a mount to hold your iPhone or iPad in place. But before you set it all up, here’s a quick tip: To avoid the dreaded black bars on either side of your video, place the phone horizontally, not vertically.

What do I need to know before I start live streaming with my iPhone/iPad?

Although the picture quality of a live stream from your iPhone/iPad camera will be relatively good, it won’t be on par with that of a traditional video camera. It has a fixed lens, for one thing, and you just can’t get the same subtleties or nuances that you would get with a traditional video camera that allows you to change lenses, adjust settings, and control depth of field. You’re also reliant on autofocus, which can be a challenge if the phone thinks you should focus on something other than your intended target.

Because of its limitations, mobile live streaming isn’t the best choice in the long term. It is a good temporary solution, either as a way to test if your live stream is a viable product or as a secondary setup if you’re trying to stream two events simultaneously.

Also, beware of data charges, which can get astronomical if you’re streaming for more than a few minutes, multiple times a week. If you are connected to a Wi-Fi network, however, you won’t need to worry about this.

Get In On The Live Streaming Action

The best thing about mobile live streaming is that anyone can do it, anytime! Even if you’ve never thought about live streaming before, it’s now easier than ever to spontaneously capture and share those worthy moments—anything from vacation greetings to soccer games to family reunions.

Here at Stretch, we’d love to help you share those moments. If you have any questions about Wowza’s GoCoder app and how it works with our live streaming platform, give us a call. Our dedication to providing outstanding support means you’ll never be left wondering what to do or how to do it—we’ve got your back.


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Essential Equipment: The Checklist for Church Live Streaming

Essential Equipment: The Checklist for Church Live Streaming

Our conversations with church leaders usually reveal the following thoughts:   

“I don’t have the staff to live stream.”

“I don’t know enough about tech to set up a live broadcast.”

“Isn’t live streaming expensive?”

These are all valid concerns. But they don’t have to stand in the way of your goal to connect with more people. Whether you’re an established church in a fixed location or a young church on the move each week, live streaming is a realistic and attainable strategy for growth. We won’t deny that it will require some initial effort, dedication, and investment (it’s worth it, trust us), but a growing number of churches are finding that what was once considered an endeavor suited only for the technology-inclined  is now well within reach.

To get the ball rolling, we’ve put together a checklist of live streaming equipment for your church. Actually, it’s two lists—so choose the one that better fits your church’s current setup and needs. Whichever one you choose, you’ll have the makings of a video system that gets the job done.

Portable Churches—A Live Streaming Equipment Checklist

Portable churches, or “pop-up” churches, move around from week to week and need a mobile live-streaming strategy. School cafeterias, local theaters, and even coffee shops may all serve as meeting places depending on the day. With the right video production equipment, live streaming can be an effective, low-cost outreach tool that can help broaden your impact and support your community.

Download this free guide for detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to start live streaming your church services today!

If you’re interested in live streaming your services, the technology is readily available and simple to use. Below is a list of the equipment you’ll need to get started building a video system for your church. This collection can be easily packed up and moved around, so it’s perfect for churches on the move.

1. A single camera.

A consumer-level video camera like this one is fine for church services. You don’t need to spend $3,000 here; instead, spend $400 or $500 to get a fully functional camcorder that gets the job done and is easy to use. You may be attracted to a model with lots of bells and whistles (if so, go for it!), but all you really need is the camera’s basic functionality to get the broadcast out on the web.

2. A tripod.

It might seem like a pair of fairly steady hands would be sufficient, but that telltale, oh-so-slight shake is what distinguishes an amateur broadcast from a serious one. Buy a tripod and don’t think about it again. This one is lightweight and comes with a carrying case.

3. An encoding device.

To convert your video input into a digital format for playback on various devices, you’ll need an encoding device. For this you have two options: either a hardware encoder or a computer with a software encoder. Opinions vary greatly as to which option is better—and it depends on your needs, as well—but either one will do the trick. With the software option, you’ll also need a capture device—an adapter that goes between the camera and the computer so they can talk to each other.

4. High-speed internet.

Internet access can sometimes be a challenge for mobile churches, but it’s a necessity for live streaming. Options include an ethernet connection, Wi-Fi, a 4G network, or a MiFi device, depending on the venue.

For mobile churches—or even for permanent churches without the time, manpower, or finances to be super technical—this list covers the basic video production equipment needed for a simple, straightforward broadcast.

Brick-&-Mortar Churches—A Live Streaming Equipment Checklist

If your church has a permanent meeting location, you may be in a different situation. Many “brick-and-mortar” churches already have extensive audio equipment and possibly even some in-house video recording equipment as well. If this sounds like your situation, use the following equipment checklist to build a church video system that lends itself to permanent installation and delivers a top-quality live stream.

1. A single professional-level camera or multiple professional-level cameras.

Consider investing in a professional-level camera (or cameras) for a more polished-looking stream. And although a single camera would be sufficient, why not up your game with multiple cameras? Mounted IP cameras (internet protocol cameras) could serve double duty as not only live streaming devices but also security cameras set to record 24/7. Also, one person can control multiple IP cameras simultaneously, making it easy to zoom in and out and pan any camera from a central location. Our recommendations include this traditional professional-level video camera and this one that allows for local or remote operation.

2. Hardware-based video switching and encoding units.

We recommend a hardware encoder for brick-and-mortars. A TriCaster is the most common hardware option for churches that use multiple cameras. Another choice is Sony’s Anycast, which is a simple touch-screen unit that’s easy for a novice to learn fairly quickly but requires a lot of infrastructure to run properly. Both the TriCaster and the Anycast can be installed permanently in a control room.

3. A way to integrate in-house audio.

Good-quality sound is critical for a professional-quality live stream. If you already have a mixer or speaker system, you’ll need a way to bring that into the feed. A mixer like this gives you control over volume and tone.

4. A way to integrate in-house graphics into your broadcast.

You’ll also need software to incorporate passages, hymns, or anything else typically shown on a projector. There are various ways to do that depending on your platform, whether it’s hardware or software. For clients using Wirecast, we usually recommend using Desktop Presenter.

5. An internet connection.

Before You Get Started…

That’s all the live streaming equipment you’ll need to get your church up and running. If you’re still feeling less-than-confident about the buying process, we encourage you to work with someone who can guide you through it. Whether it’s with us here at Stretch or someone else, a knowledgeable, objective third party may be all you need to start off on the right foot.

If you’d like to get some honest advice about the video production equipment your specific church needs for live streaming, we’d love to talk. We’ll consider your budget and your goals and figure out a way to make your plan a reality.

It’s our feeling that investing in your equipment is synonymous with investing in your church. You’ll be glad you did.


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Live Streaming Software: The 8 Features You Should Consider

Live Streaming Software: The 8 Features You Should Consider

Live streaming video generally requires either a dedicated hardware encoder or a computer that runs a software encoding program. But my guess is that you’re considering live streaming software for one primary reason: You need mobility!

Consider, for example, that you’re live streaming a tournament. In this case, you’d be inhibited by a hardware solution. Such a setup might require multiple monitors, a lot of wiring, and a big hardware encoding unit to lug around. But if you’re streaming via encoding software—which generally assumes that you’ll be using a laptop—your setup and tear-down are going to be as simple as opening and shutting your MacBook Pro (and packing and unpacking a minimal amount of cabling and a camera). 

Now, before you run out and select the first live streaming software option you find, keep in mind where you hope to get to in the next 6-12 months with your live streaming capability. If your goal is to get to a multi-source, sophisticated live stream once you get the hang of things, we strongly suggest selecting a live streaming software option that isn’t limited. You may be wary of buying the Mercedes right when you turn 16 (so to speak), but there are some big advantages to planning ahead! Not the least of which are having the option to grow in your live streaming capabilities as you are comfortable with them and not having to purchase and learn a new system at that time. Case in point, we highly suggest you make an investment where your software encoder is concerned.

“OK, I understand! But… how do I pick the right one?”

Good question! We’re glad you asked. While many live streaming software solutions have hundreds of features, there are a few features that you’re definitely going to want—and a few more features that would be ideal to have but aren’t completely necessary (depending on your situation). We’ve listed these eight features out below.

Check out these lists of must-have equipment for live streaming and steps you need to take before, during, and after your event.

8 Live Streaming Software Features You Should Consider

The Critical Features

1. The ability to stream and record simultaneously.

You’ll want to be sure to have a system that allows you to make a local copy of the recording while you’re live streaming. Your service provider may also be recording, but as you’ve probably learned, things can go wrong. (Not all the time, of course—but enough that you should always be prepared!) We recommend playing it safe and ensuring your live video streaming software has this feature.

2. The ability to switch between video sources.

A built-in switcher allows you to shift between, say, a live-recorded program and a pre-recorded commercial or between multiple camera feeds. This is an important feature to have if you want to eventually add more bells and whistles to your broadcast.

3. The ability to send to multiple destinations.

If you want to send your live stream to multiple platforms at one time, this is a critical feature. For example, some of our clients use us as a live streaming platform and simultaneously send their stream to SnappyTV. This platform is used for social sharing and allows their highlights to be playable on a Twitter timeline.

4. A built-in graphics editing system.

Many competitive live streaming software options offer the ability to add lower-third graphics or scrolling messages at the bottom of the live stream. Even if the graphic options are as basic as can be, this is still a nice feature and a time-saver if you don’t have the time (or ability) to create the graphics in Photoshop.

The Ideal-But-Not-Necessary Features

  5. A built-in audio mixer.

A built-in audio mixer allows you to adjust the volume on each source individually as they’re brought into your live stream. This is great if the feed that should be at 25% volume is at 80% and vice versa with its counterpart.

6. Social media integration.

Imagine you’re live streaming a baseball game and you have an athletics account on Twitter you’d like to tap into. If your encoder offers social media integration, you could display certain tweets on the air with the click of a button—or instruct fans to submit questions to the halftime show using a particular hashtag. You can see how this feature could make the live stream a lot of fun for viewers! vMix (a software encoding option we’ll discuss below) also offers the ability to integrate with Instagram—so if you wanted to display 15 fan pictures in real time, you could.

7. The ability to replay in real time.

Of course, not everyone needs the ability to do instant replay. For example, you probably don’t need to replay a portion of your live-streamed church service. (If you do, please send us a link. That sounds like fun!) But in the sports realm, this is a handy feature.

Keep in mind that any replay function in live streaming software is going to be very simplistic and not incredibly “instant.” This is not a dedicated replay system. But it’s nice to have regardless, in case something major happens and you want to quickly relive the moment in real time.

8. The ability to color correct your video sources.

If you don’t have time to white balance your video sources together perfectly before you go live, a color correction functionality would allow you to adjust the feeds so they look similar in the color space.

A Quick Word Of Advice

While searching for good video streaming software, you may come across some new cutting-edge features—like the ability to stream in 4K. But keep in mind that right now, only about 5% of your audience is going to be able to see (and thus appreciate) a 4,096-by-2,160-pixel display. So just remember that until certain features become standardized, you probably shouldn’t plan on purchasing them.

Video Streaming Software Options You Might Consider

  • Wirecast: This software allows you to add production-quality effects to your broadcast, like lower-third graphics, multiple camera shots, and more. The price for Wirecast starts at $495 for the studio version and goes up to $995 for the professional version (which we recommend). Depending on the version you select, you’ll gain all of the necessary features or all of the features we’ve discussed in total.
  • vMix: This is an alternative to Wirecast with similar features. vMix offers a free version of its encoder and five paid options ranging from $60 to $1,200. The higher the tier, the more features you can expect.
  • Production Truck: Created by Blue Frame Technology, Production Truck is a sports-specific live streaming software option. The standard version is $239 per year and the pro version is $479 per year. Again, if you want the features we’ve discussed above, you’ll want the pro version.

FMLE (Flash Media Live Encoder) (a free encoder from Adobe) and Wowza Gocoder (a free encoder created specifically for tablet or smartphone video sources) don’t deliver the features we’ve discussed here,  even lacking some of the critical features. These are both for very simple live streams that use one source. If you’re doing something simple, they’re great options—but just be aware that you won’t be able to do much with them in the future.

Research, research, research.

As with any new piece of equipment or software, research is going to be key. Most video streaming software options have free demos available, and we highly recommend using those demos to see if a software encoder really fits the bill for you.

If you have any questions about which software option is best for you, drop us a line! We’d love to see how we can help.

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