Live Streaming: The 4,500-Word Ultimate Guide

Live Streaming 4500-Word Ultimate Guide

Our entire team here at Stretch is, if nothing else, ambitious. We have a tendency to go all out—just ask the group of elementary school kids we took to task on a recent company laser-tag outing. Let’s just say there were more than a few “No mercy!” rally cries from our overzealous bunch. That’s why it seemed perfectly reasonable to go all out on our blog, too, which is how we ended up with this “everything you could ever possibly want or need to know about live streaming” (aka ultimate) post.

So have a look around, skip to the parts you’re most interested in, and then, hopefully, you’ll have some new bits of knowledge you can put into action. And if you still have questions about anything you’ve read here—including questions about your own streaming setup or our live streaming platform—give us a shout. Our ultimate ambition with this post (see how we did that?) is to help all of you live streamers out there reach your goals. Good luck!

Table Of Contents
Part 1: The History Of Video Streaming
Part 2: The Equipment You Need To Live Stream
     Basic Live Streaming Equipment
     Advanced Live Streaming Equipment
Part 3: Live Streaming Technology Advancements
Part 4: How To Live Stream
     Choose A Live Streaming Platform
     Prepare Your Streaming Setup
     Starting Your Live Stream
     You’re Live Streaming! Now What?

Part 1: The History Of Video Streaming

Live web streaming exists thanks to several early innovations, starting with George Squier’s work on signal transmission in the early 1920s. Squier came up with a way to transmit audio signals over electrical lines and received several patents for his work. His original intent was to deliver music directly into homes, but when radio caught on, he made a change of course. Instead, his company, called Muzak (sounds like a modern day startup, doesn’t it?), sold and delivered prepackaged “elevator music” to stores, offices, elevators, and factories.

In the decades following, another foundational element of live streaming, the internet, slowly evolved. This worldwide network of computers would eventually make it possible to share continuous streams of data with people around the world. The first live stream actually took place on June 24, 1993, when a California band called Severe Tire Damage broadcasted a live performance to the world from outside the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. The stream utilized new technology, called the Mbone, that made audiovisual broadcasting possible; up until that point, it had mainly been used for academic purposes.

By the mid-1990s, however, the primary focus was on audio-only streaming. In 1995, a company called Progressive Networks introduced RealAudio, a compressed audio format that allowed people to listen to music as it was being downloaded. Once audio streaming paved the way, it wasn’t long before live video streaming came to fruition.

Live event streaming has come extraordinarily far in 20-plus years. Today’s technology is developing faster than ever, with new and exciting developments year after year that are progressively making live streaming more accessible to everyone—even giraffes.

Part 2: The Equipment You Need To Live Stream

For all its technological advances, live streaming is still pretty simple if you want it to be. The equipment you choose to use depends on your level of experience, your budget, and your goals. Over time, your organization will likely evolve in all three of these areas, which will affect the live streaming technology you use. The basic equipment needs are the same across the board, but because most people vary in their current situations, we’ve found that there are two different categories of live streaming equipment: basic live streaming equipment and advanced live streaming equipment.

Basic Live Streaming Equipment

If you’re still considering live video streaming or if your organization is about to experiment with it for the first time, we can guarantee you’ll find success if you keep it simple. Trying to do too much right out of the gate not only opens the door to added technical challenges (there’s enough of those to go around at every level of experience), it will also be mildly to monstrously frustrating for all those involved. Live event streaming should be fun! If you follow the guidelines below, you’ll end up with a good-quality broadcast—and your hair still intact.

Here’s what you’ll need to get going.

A Video Source (Aka A Camera)

You might be tempted to spend thousands of dollars in this area, but there’s really no need—$400-$500 will get you a fully functional camcorder that can handle the job. Any consumer camera that’s less than five years old will have what you need to start streaming.

That said, your live stream may have certain requirements that will be better met with a more expensive camera. For instance, if you know you’ll be shooting from far away and need to zoom in quite a bit to really capture the action, it’s advisable to buy a camera with high-quality zoom capabilities. So consider how you plan to use the camera before making a purchase.

Download our free guide to get popular camera and encoder options for churches.

A one-camera production is best to start, because it’s the simplest option. As you gain more experience with live streaming, you may want to add additional cameras (and check out the advanced live streaming technology list below).

It’s also possible to use an iPhone or an iPad as your camera. In that case, the only things you’ll need as far as live streaming equipment are the device itself and a mobile live streaming app. While there are several app options, we always recommend GoCoder from Wowza, which works with a variety of live streaming platforms, including ours. This handy app delivers your video and audio content to any device and it’s very easy to use. Your streaming provider may also have its own application for streaming live video from a mobile device, so be sure to check on that first. Or, if you’re using Ustream, Livestream, YouTube, or a social network to stream, there’s no need for an app—you simply stream directly from their mobile applications.

A word of caution, however, that there are some drawbacks to using an iPhone or an iPad for live streaming: The picture quality on mobile devices doesn’t stack up to what you’d get with a traditional video camera, and the lack of optical zoom means you’ll need to stay fairly close to the subject you’re focusing on. Also, you’ll likely want someone manning the device, whereas with a traditional video camera, you can set it up and walk away. Lastly—but maybe most importantly—beware of data charges if you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network!

That being said, if your mobile device is all you have to start, it’s a good temporary solution. In fact, it’s a great way to test if your live stream is a viable product in the first place, before traveling too far down the live streaming road. It’s also a good secondary live stream setup if you’re trying to stream two events simultaneously, or if you’re streaming an event without a physical location.

A Tripod

It might sound like an “extra” piece of equipment, but having a tripod eliminates the slight shake that always accompanies a hand-held camera. (We know you think you’re holding steady, but trust us, you’re not.) The professionalism it will add to your broadcast will make it money well spent.

And to all you iPhone/iPad streamers—we recommend tripods for you, too! In addition to the tripod, you’ll also need a mount to hold your iPhone or iPad in place.

A Computer

You probably already have one of these—either a Mac or a PC—and most likely whatever you currently have will get the job done, as long as it has either a Thunderbolt port (Macs) or a USB 3.0 port (PCs). To check on your computer, look for the following:

  • USB 3.0—Depending on the computer manufacturer, one of two 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”).
  • Thunderbolt—most often found on Apple computers, this port will be labeled with a lightning bolt symbol.

An Encoding Device

Video encoding is the key to streaming live—it’s the process of converting your video input into a digital format so it can be played back on a computer and then sending it to either a content delivery network (CDN) for distribution on the internet, or a live streaming provider (like Stretch). The process of encoding helps make large video files smaller so they can be moved more easily over the internet. It is absolutely essential for live web streaming.

There are two types of live stream encoder devices:

  • A hardware encoder is a separate device dedicated to video streaming.
  • A software encoder runs on your laptop or desktop computer.

Plenty of people spend time debating the merits of hardware vs. software encoders. Why? Because both options are good, but they also both have advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation.

Since hardware encoders are built solely for encoding, some people claim they’re more reliable. They also remove added strain from a computer that’s already running a number of other processes, which could help avoid problems related to speed and function. Software encoders, on the other hand, are easy to reconfigure, making them more flexible than hardware encoders. They’re also very simple to use and make for fewer things to lug around when you’re bringing live streaming equipment on the road.

Software Encoders

For people just getting started with live streaming, we usually recommend Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE) from Adobe, a free software encoder. You can download it to any computer (Mac or PC) in less than 10 minutes. It’s perfect for a basic, single-camera production (it doesn’t support multiple cameras, unless you have a video mixer that you are feeding into your computer). Wirecast software is another good bet; you can use it to add production-quality effects to your broadcast, like lower-third graphics, scoreboards for sporting events, and multiple camera shots. Wirecast runs anywhere from $495 for the studio version to $995 for the professional version.

Important note: If you plan on using a software encoder, you’ll also need an additional piece of equipment for your live stream setup: acapture device. Computers aren’t necessarily made for receiving video and audio from other sources, so you need a way to convert those signals into something the computer can recognize. A capture device does just that—converts the video output into a digital format that your computer can understand. (With most hardware encoders, you will not need a capture device unless you have a mismatch of signal output/input on the camera/encoder respectively.)

Your capture device should be compatible with the type of computer you’re using, either a PC or a Mac. It plugs into the Thunderbolt port on a Mac or the USB 3.0 port on a PC. The Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder is a good choice for the Mac; for PCs, we recommend one from Magewell’s USB Capture Family. Both devices are economical and perform well.

Even if you’re just starting out, it pays to think long term when it comes to software encoders. If your goal is to build your live streaming program into a sophisticated multi-camera production over time, we strongly suggest selecting a software option that can grow with you. It will not only save you money in the long run, it’ll also save you from having to relearn another system later on down the line.

With that in mind, take a look through this list of critical features that a software encoder needs, along with a few things that are simply nice to have.

Critical features your software live stream encoder should have:

  • The ability to stream and record simultaneously (just in case!).
  • The ability to switch between video sources (for enhancing your broadcast later).
  • The ability to send to multiple destinations (for maximum reach).
  • A built-in graphics editing system (even the most basic graphics system will save time and improve your broadcast).

Ideal (but not necessary) features for your software live stream encoder:

  • A built-in audio mixer (for better sound and making volume adjustments).
  • Social media integration (so fans can interact with you and each other during the live stream).
  • The ability to replay in real time (especially handy for sports).
  • The ability to color-correct your video source (if you don’t have time for white-balancing).

Hardware Encoders

When it comes to hardware encoders, the Teradek VidiU is a good choice for a simple camera production without graphics. It’s an affordable solution that Teradek promotes as being “perfect for novices.” Plus, its compact size makes the VidiU perfect if you tend to live stream from a variety of venues.

Another hardware encoder we like to recommend is the Matrox Monarch HDX—a good fit for studio live streaming. The Monarch also works well if you already have a fully produced feed “ready to go” from another production environment, like a television truck on location. The Monarch takes that feed, encodes it, and sends it to your streaming provider.

All-In-One Production Platforms

Beyond hardware or software encoders, there’s one more option to consider: an all-in-one production unit like the Tricaster or Wirecast Gear. These production platforms are dedicated hardware solutions that both produce and encode the live stream, allowing you to change cameras, add graphics, pull in video or images, and more. This option works for both studio installations and portable setups (although you do need computer monitors, a keyboard, a mouse, etc). They’re also easy to use—just plug in your cameras and start streaming.

A High-Speed Internet Connection

Because it’s live web streaming, download and upload speeds are vital. Download speed is more important to your viewers that are trying to “pull” down your live feed, but a robust upload speed is critical for your ability to “push” a live stream out successfully.

If your upload speeds aren’t up to snuff, your viewers will almost certainly experience heavy buffering (the spinning wheel of doom!). To test it, make sure you’re connected to the network you plan to stream from and go to speedtest.net; once you run the test, you’ll get your upload speed in seconds. A high-definition (HD) live stream requires a speed of 3-4 MBPS; standard definition (SD) requires 1-2 MBPS. A slow upload speed is a non-starter for your ambitions of live streaming glory.

Whatever location you’re filming from, you’ll need internet access in one of three ways:

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

Locations vary widely when it comes to internet access, which can make this element one of the most challenging aspects of your live stream setup.

Advanced Live Streaming Equipment

If you’re an experienced live streamer you already have the basic live streaming equipment. Here, we’ll mention a few add-ons that will improve and enhance your production.

Multiple Cameras

Single-camera productions are fine, but if you want to truly boost the quality level of your production, it’s time to introduce multiple cameras. Having more than one camera allows you to shoot from a variety of angles, giving viewers the feeling of actually being there.

For more detailed information on this topic, check out this article. To sum it up quickly, you have two good options for a small-scale multi-camera production setup:

Want more information about live streaming equipment? This extensive live streaming checklist includes lists of necessary and optional equipment, as well as preparation checklists.

  • The least expensive option is to use Telestream’s Wirecast and a Mac. BlackMagic’s UltraStudio Mini Recorder (or something similar) can bring the HDMI signals from two cameras into your computer via its two Thunderbolt ports. If you have three cameras, you’ll need a USB-based capture device like the Magewell USB Capture HDMI Plus or a Magewell SDI Plus for the third one.
  • A PC setup requires one or more PCI Express cards (however many you need) to bring in the video. You’ll also need one of the following: the DeckLink Mini Recorder (similar to the UltraStudio Mini Recorder) that accommodates one HDMI or SDI input at a time, the DeckLink Quad 2, which has eight channels that can be assigned as you like, or the Pro Capture Quad SDI, which lets you bring four inputs into your desktop tower computer.

Besides the setup, one of the challenges of working with multiple cameras is covering the distance between their placement and the control room (or the main camera). Unless you’re using wireless cameras, you’ll need plenty of cables to bridge the gap. Speaking of cables…

SDI Cables

The basic live streaming setup uses relatively cheap HDMI cables. The longer they get, the weaker the signal gets, which is why we recommend keeping them under 10 feet. If your camera placement requires spanning more than 10 feet, you’ll need an HDMI-to-SDI converter.

Rather than extending your HDMI cabling, a better alternative is SDI. With SDI you can go very long distances—up to 300 feet—without amplification. You can even run SDI cabling farther if you like—up to 2,700 feet—using signal boosters every 300 feet. You’ll find this a lot easier to use when trying to add additional cameras to your live stream setup.

The Blackmagic UltraStudio Mini Recorder includes both HDMI and SDI connections. And if your camera doesn’t have SDI natively, you can pick up an HDMI-to-SDI converter for less than $100; the benefits you’ll get will be well worth the price.

Wireless Tech For Live Web Streaming

If you’re managing multiple cameras, the next step is to shed the cables. Depending on where your cameras are situated, you might end up laying hundreds of feet of cable all told, which is time-consuming and, for some locations, a downright difficult proposition.

What if, instead of running that 300-foot cable, you could have 300 feet of wireless capability? Being able to take your cameras wherever you want to go—even right up to the edge of the action—makes for an exciting broadcast that will be appreciated by your viewers. It also lets you be a bit more creative with your camera angles, because cabling can be restrictive.

If you’re thinking of giving it a go, we usually recommend Teradek’s Bolt wireless system. Not dependent on Wi-Fi or 4G internet, it creates its own wireless local area network to talk to a receiver and a transmitter. But you will need batteries to power both the camera and the transmitter.

Audio Equipment

Good-quality sound is part of a professional-quality live stream. Incorporating an audio mixer allows you to include one or more broadcasters and play prerecorded commercials or interviews. It also gives you more precise control over your audio levels. Some encoders come with a built-in audio mixer that allows you to adjust the volume on each source individually as they’re brought into the live video. Wireless transmitters and receivers can also be valuable if your audio setup is not geographically close to the production location.

Graphical Tools

If you’re looking for a fairly simple yet noticeable way to improve your broadcast, consider investing in some graphical tools. Not just for sports, graphics can enhance any kind of live event streaming—you can to attach titles to speakers, provide information about materials being discussed or used (like hymns or scripture references), or conduct live polls. For sports in particular, graphics tools allow you to share information directly from a scoreboard controller, or statistical information and headshots. There are lots of ways in which graphics can enhance a broadcast; just think about what your viewers might want to see, and you can most likely make it happen.

For those of you using Wirecast, NewBlue Titler (made by NewBlue) runs alongside it, letting you render graphics and integrate them quickly into the Wirecast workflow. It can run on the same computer as your encoding software.

Part 3: Live Streaming Technology Advancements

There won’t likely ever be one definitive list of live streaming equipment—live streaming technology continues to evolve due to the growing popularity of live video streaming and the fast pace of technological innovation. At the moment, these three trends will be shaping the immediate future of live streaming:

  • Wireless camera technology is seeing a dramatic price reduction thanks to recent advancements. Soon it may be an attainable option for many more broadcasters, a development that could have a significant impact on the production process.
  • NewTek’s Network Device Interface (NDI) continues to grow as an industry standard. NDI uses a venue’s existing network to enable communication among several video sources, eliminating the need for cables or wireless equipment. NDI is already transforming production workflows and will continue to do so, especially with the arrival of new, related products—including one that converts a camera signal directly into NDI.
  • Thunderbolt 3 video devices, including capture devices, are beginning to hit the market for the latest version of Apple’s MacBook Pro. That’s great news—it streamlines the connection between capture device and computer (no more Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapters!).

Like many others in the industry, we are anxious to see how the continued evolution of virtual reality (VR), and even augmented reality (AR), impact the live streaming product as a whole. As new developments and opportunities present themselves, we’ll keep looking for exciting ways to integrate with our existing platform.

Part 4: How To Live Stream

You’ve gotten your equipment—great! But what’s next? You’re almost ready to go…

Choose A Live Streaming Platform

Before you can start live streaming, you need to decide how you plan to broadcast—in other words, what platform will you use to share your live stream with the world? There are two kinds of live streaming platforms:

  • Social media networks like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Live streaming platform providers (Stretch is a platform provider; there are many other providers to choose from as well).

We feel it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily an “either/or” choice. Many organizations utilize both options, as they both have different strengths. Having a good live streaming strategy that encompasses both methods can be a good way to reach your live streaming goals. Some organizations also utilize more than one social media network, as they have different audiences and different features. (This article has a good breakdown of your choices and the features associated with each.)

To state it simply, social media networks are great for “Johnny on the spot” streaming—for filming impromptu, short clips that you want to share with the world. These types of video streaming services allow you to reach your entire subscriber base as soon as you go live.

Platform providers have their strengths, too. You can give your live stream a more professional look with a portal custom-designed for your organization, which helps to build your brand. And a good platform provider will also act as your live streaming partner, which means they’ll be there to provide technical support, offer guidance on live production techniques, and help you build out a long-term live streaming strategy.

A platform provider can dramatically improve the quality of your live stream—if you choose the right one. Find out what live streaming services you should expect from a streaming provider.

Do your research before choosing any of the above options. (And, if you’re thinking about setting up your live stream so it can be viewed on your organization’s website, read this first.) Then it’s time to dive in!

Prepare Your Streaming Setup

If you hope to pull off a live stream successfully, you can’t show up an hour before the event, set up your cameras and computer, and roll. It’s a good idea to put some thought into preparing for your broadcast, even up to a week in advance of the event. Testing your equipment and checking out the venue beforehand will go a long way toward minimizing problems—and stress!—on the actual day.

Here are a few things to take care of well in advance:

  • Check your connection to the venue’s network.
  • Check the speed of the network you plan to use.
  • Do a streaming test to check video, audio, and transmission speeds.
  • Make sure you have a way to record your stream locally.
  • Make sure your streaming software is up to date.
  • Secure backup cables and equipment if possible. (The more backups you have, the better!)

Download this extensive live streaming checklist for more detailed guidance on live stream setup and preparation.  

On the day of the event, set up your equipment as early as possible. The length of your cables will help determine placement. In general, the longer the cable, the more chance there is for something to go wrong or a signal to get lost. (Also, remember that HDMI cables more than 10 feet long may require an amplifier.) And if you’re setting up outside, keep the computer out of direct sunlight; none of the equipment should ever be hot to the touch.

Once you have everything in place, connect all the necessary cables—with camera or cameras turned off—and ensure that all the connections are tight. Then turn the camera(s) on and open your streaming program.

Tip: If you’re setting up the day before an event, shut down the computer overnight rather than putting it in sleep mode. Even in low-power mode, your computer still consumes energy and its CPU percentage will be higher as a result. Keep the computer off the night before to start fresh on the day of the event.

Starting Your Live Stream

We recommend starting your live stream 15 minutes ahead of the event’s scheduled start time. Starting a few minutes early gives you time to catch any last-minute problems and adjust basic things like audio, graphics, or camera focus. It also gives viewers something to see as they settle in before the program and a bit of time to sort things out if the stream appears not to be working.

It’s smart to check your feed by watching it the same way your viewers do. If you’re working with a live streaming platform provider, they should handle this check for you (and you can always contact them for confirmation); otherwise, you can pull up the feed on a device on your own. Sometimes everything looks like it’s working properly in the streaming program, but it isn’t coming through on the viewers’ end. That could be caused by any number of things, but testing can solve these problems before the event starts.

Once the stream is started, check on it occasionally (make sure you use a different network than the one you’re streaming from). Streaming is unpredictable at times—even a small dip in the network can knock you off the air. Ideally you’d head off any problems at the streaming computer before they made it through to your viewers, but if that isn’t realistic, simply check the feed in the viewers’ interface on another device several times throughout. You should also be able to depend on your live streaming platform provider to monitor the feed and communicate with you about problems.

You’re live streaming! Now what?

Keep it going! The more you do it, the better you’ll get—and the easier it’ll get. To develop a consistent and reliable production process right from the start, download our extensive live streaming checklist. It outlines the necessary tasks at every stage of production, starting a week before the event, so you can pull off a smooth live stream every time.

If you’re looking for some helpful advice about your live stream setup, process, equipment, or anything else, schedule a free 30-minute consultation call with Stretch. We’ll evaluate what you already have in place and make recommendations on how you can improve.

Good luck with your future live streaming!

Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet

Evaluate Your Live Streaming Platform On These 4 Features

Evaluate Your Live Streaming Platform On These 4 Features

If live streaming seems like an extra—an afterthought compared to the rest of your organization’s operations and activities—then you’re missing out.

Your live stream is more powerful than you realize. For most viewers, it may be their first point of contact with your organization, and first impressions can be hard to reverse. So if you’re not doing everything you can to make a great first impression with your live stream, even your efforts to provide something “extra” could be working against you. Besides that, your live stream could be generating revenue, making it an even bigger contributor to your organization’s overall success.

Live streams that make a good first impression are usually supported by a first-class live streaming platform provider. What makes a provider first-class? In our view, it’s one that excels in relation to these four things: the viewing experience, branding and messaging, monetization options, and support.

We don’t like to brag, but we’re also not against pointing out our strengths, which is why we’ve outlined below how we stack up on each. Does your platform provider make the grade on these four features? Let’s find out.

Live Streaming Platforms: 4 Areas To Evaluate

1. Viewing Experience

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that it should be crazy-easy for people to find and access your content in a variety of ways. But there’s more to a phenomenal experience than that. The best live content is also enhanced with relevant, immersive features viewers want.

Stretch Internet’s live streaming platform is second-to-none, and we’re constantly striving to improve. We’ll work with you to determine the features your organization needs, but our offerings include:

  • Access on any screen, from any device (including mobile and a growing list of over-the-top applications).
  • Enhanced social media integration.
  • Instant highlights.
  • A live data feed.
  • A multi-view feature for watching simultaneous events (PIP, two at a time, or even four games at once in our “mosaic” view).

2. Branding & Messaging

A first impression—and every impression thereafter—should reinforce your organization’s branding and messaging. Some platforms prioritize their own branding over yours, an approach that undermines all the hard work you regularly put into your live stream. The best live streaming platforms put you first, resulting in a more professional product.

With Stretch Internet, it’s all about you. Our goal is to help you share your stories more effectively. With us, you’ll get:

  • An attractive viewing portal custom-built for your organization.
  • The ability to upload your own graphics and other notifications.
  • Twitter integration so your users can see your organization’s social activity.
  • A news & notes section for general announcements to your audience.
  • A ticker message for event-specific messaging.

3. Monetization Options

Even if you don’t plan on charging viewers to watch your content in the immediate future, the ability to monetize it sometime down the road is a valuable option to reserve. Rather than allowing you to promote your own sponsors or supporters, some video streaming platforms place their own advertising around your content instead. Or, in the case of a content paywall, they may charge extra for processing fees.

At Stretch Internet, we want to help you get the most from your live stream, whether it’s through sponsorships and ads or pay-per-view (PPV). The funds you generate could help keep your program going, or even expand and improve it. With Stretch, you can expect the following:

For PPV

  • No credit card processing fees—we’ll take care of it!
  • The infrastructure to support PPV and all its associated activities (credit card processing, refunds, and customer support for viewers).
  • Flexible PPV purchase options for viewers (we can build customized packages to your liking).

For Sponsorships & Ads

  • Control over both dynamic ads (commercials) and static ads (the ones that appear alongside your content).
  • 100% of the revenue generated from ads.
  • The ability to add your own preroll.
  • The flexibility to adjust inventory options on the fly.

4. Support

Live streaming has its challenges, which makes it all the more important to have an awesome support system—not only for you, but for your viewers, too. True top-of-the-line support is proactive, not reactive, meaning your live streaming platform provider should find and address problems before you even realize they exist!

At Stretch Internet, we pride ourselves on being one of the best live streaming platforms available when it comes to support—it’s one of the most commonly cited reasons for our clients’ high satisfaction levels! Many live streamers are dealing with small teams (or nonexistent teams, in some cases), so we know how critical it is to have a reliable support system.

To support your live stream, we:

  • Work to identify issues early and help you address them.
  • Handle customer support questions and problems.
  • Work nights and weekends, when many live streamed events take place.

To support your live stream process, we:

  • Design a custom production workflow that makes sense for your organization.
  • Provide advice on technology and production.
  • Work with you to help your organization reach its live streaming goals.

Looking for a live streaming partner?

If you’re looking for a live streaming partner—not just a provider—then take a closer look at Stretch. Get to know us better by scheduling a free demo of our platform. You’ll see what the experience looks like from your viewers’ perspective and get to try out our easy-to-use content management system. And you can ask us anything you like—help and advice is our thing. Simply fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch!

Stretch-Internet-Free-Demo

How To Build An On-Campus Broadcast Network

Broadcasting-live-sports

There are some things that even master multitaskers can’t accomplish easily; among them is being solely responsible for preparing, producing, and distributing a successful live streaming program for multiple college sports. If you’re trying to do it all, cut yourself a break! Instead, take a page from Ron Smith’s book. The sports information director (SID) at Westmont College, Ron started broadcasting live sports there nine years ago. Since then, he’s learned more than a thing or two about how to turn a small, narrowly focused live stream for college athletics into a broadcast network that reaches an entire community.

Broadcasting Live Sports: Networking To Succeed

The live streaming program at Westmont College currently covers eight sports and live streams between 80 to 90 games a year. Ron maximizes the potential for his live streams in three ways: using student workers, connecting with local cable channels, and expanding the content of his live streams.

Student Workers

As the person in charge of the program, Ron’s live streaming responsibilities focus on providing training, purchasing and managing equipment, keeping the equipment in working order, and scheduling broadcasts. But when it comes to game day, “It becomes—at that point—a student broadcast. The program wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”

Having a good platform provider also helps ensure the success of your live streaming program. Start building your network with a good foundation—find out how the right platform can help.

There are often 15 to 20 students involved in producing Westmont’s live streams. They’re divided into two sets of crews: on-air broadcasters and production techs. Any given broadcast has two broadcasters and three production technicians on-site.

  • On-air broadcasters open the broadcasts, provide play-by-play as well as color commentary, and handle pre- and post-game interviews with coaches and players. They also research every game they’re involved in before it starts.

Student broadcasters come from a number of majors and have different interests. Some are interested in sports broadcasting as a career and others have different goals entirely. What ties them together is at least some knowledge of sports. Everyone in this group is required to take a sports broadcasting practicum class, a one-unit course that can be taken up to four times.

  • Production techs handle the audio equipment (broadcaster headsets, wireless mics, hooking into the PA system for announcements), video equipment (setting up cameras), graphics (bringing in live data from the scoreboard), and production (pulling all the components together—including pre-recorded video ads and interviews—and providing direction to the broadcast). Production techs also receive training, but they don’t get academic credit for it.

Local Cable Channel Distribution

Offering interested viewers a chance to see games live is great, but it’s even better if you can maximize your production team’s time and effort by expanding viewership.

According to Ron, the school’s live stream attracts around 250 viewers per broadcast, with another 50 viewers watching archived versions of each event. To broaden the program’s reach, he works with the local cable channel, TVSB (TV Santa Barbara). His team records the broadcast, edits it, and then delivers a final copy to TVSB. This provides content for public access television in the Santa Barbara area. TVSB replays each of the sports broadcasts four times, making it accessible to every Cox Cable subscriber in the community—about 48,000 households!

Broaden The Content Scope

Part of Ron’s rationale for starting the live streaming program was to use it as a platform to spotlight all of Westmont College—not just the athletic program. To that end, he likes to incorporate short, pre-recorded videos into the live stream that promote the school and let people know more about what’s happening on campus. For instance, the promotion may feature non-athletic activities, professor interviews about current research, student accomplishments both inside and outside the athletics program, or activities happening around campus. This allows the sports live stream to benefit the entire college—and it makes a difference to the students involved. “For [the student workers], it’s an exciting thing to be part of—they know they’re making a significant contribution not only to the athletic program but also to Westmont as a whole.”

Start Building Your Network

It might take time to build an effective network for your live stream program, but be patient—Rome wasn’t built in a day! If you’re not sure how to get started or need some expert advice, set up a 30-minute consultation call with us here at Stretch. We’ve helped a number of colleges and universities (including Westmont) get their live streaming efforts off the ground, and we’ve tackled all the challenges that broadcasting live sports has to offer. Let us be a resource for you, too!

How-To-Choose-A-Live-Streaming-Platform

Live Streaming For Production Companies

Live Streaming For Production Companies

Interested in adding live streaming to the menu of services your production company already provides? It wouldn’t be such a leap, since you already have the necessary expertise and most—if not all—of the equipment you need to get started. There are one or two things that might make your life easier, though, should you decide to take advantage of the opportunity.

Live Streaming Production Considerations

A Live Production Switcher

If you’re currently using a video switcher or a production unit that doesn’t have a native live streaming option, consider adding one to your workflow. An all-in-one video switcher (we always recommend TriCaster) does the same efficient work of helping mix and manage your production sources while also giving you the ability to live stream your output in real time.

If you have a good workflow you want to preserve that doesn’t include a vehicle for live streaming (a polite way of telling us to “shove off”), you can simply attach an output from your existing production unit to a computer running encoding software (like Flash Media Live or Wirecast). We’ve seen this plenty of times with school sporting events, where a production team that is televising the game sends the feed to us via their computer/encoder combo so it can be  simulcast in real time.

Video signal transmission

In a traditional video production scenario, you might have footage from three or four cameras you’d pull together after the event to create a nice, neat package. For live streaming production, you have to find a way to transmit the video to your encoder so it can be streamed in real time.

To pull off live streaming flawlessly, preparation is essential. Don’t miss a single step with this extensive live streaming checklist.

There are two options:

  • The most common method is to transmit the video signal via cable. An SDI output works as you can run it up to 300 feet and still receive a good-quality signal. Learn more about different transmission options and recommended equipment in our recent blog post discussing various multi-camera setups.
  • An alternative is wireless transmission, using a transmitter for your camera and a receiver on the production side. Transmitters can be fairly expensive, but you’ll have freedom to move and no plugging and unplugging. Contact us for the latest recommendations if you’re considering a wireless setup.

A Live Streaming Mindset

Live streaming also requires a shift in the way you think about video production. In traditional video production mode, you might film a range of shots to get one that’s perfectly framed—that Hollywood moment, so to speak. In live streaming, you’re only concerned with creating an authentic viewing experience for the audience. Viewers should feel as if they’re present in real time, not as if they’re watching a collection of “best of” shots. You don’t want to be noticed, and, in many ways, grittiness and spontaneity are part of the package. (Not to mention that the occasional mishap sometimes turns into the high point of a broadcast!)

And, live streaming can live comfortably alongside your traditional offerings. If you would normally have several cameras filming at an event, you can still do that—you just may not be able to use all the footage for your live stream. (Multicamera live streaming is totally possible; it just has some additional challenges to overcome.)

Many production companies have designed value-add packages for clients that incorporate live streaming with editing services. For instance, why not offer a post production video package  along with a live stream? You can bundle them together to add value for your clients and increase your revenue from the project. Many potential customers would be just as interested in the opportunity to stream an event live as they would be to get a nicely edited recording of the event, given the chance. And from a production aspect, the philosophy of “divide and conquer” works: Bring out a few people focused on the live stream, with the remainder of your crew gathering additional footage that may not be part of the live stream, but can be used for the final, edited product.

A Good Live Streaming Partner Goes A Long Way

It goes without saying that live streaming won’t be as “neat” of a production as what you can do after the fact. While you’ll have to let go of your obsessive streak, that doesn’t mean your broadcast is destined to be subpar. With the right preparation and a reliable live streaming partner, you can absolutely take your business to new heights. Contact us with any questions about live streaming production or to find out more about our live streaming services and how they might work for your business.

Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet

3 Challenges Organizations May Face With Facebook Live

3 Challenges Organizations May Face With Facebook Live

Thinking of live streaming your next PowerPoint presentation to all of your company’s satellite offices? Or maybe you want to broadcast a fundraising event to extend your organization’s reach. Or… well, you may have one of about a thousand other ideas for how to integrate live streaming into your communications and marketing strategies.

If so, congrats—because you’re right where you need to be. The most forward-thinking organizations these days are coming up with creative ways to work in live streaming wherever possible, including:

  • Conducting live interviews with employees.
  • Presenting training seminars and workshops.
  • Sharing award ceremonies and keynote speeches.
  • Announcing product launches.
  • Broadcasting public outreach events.

And the list goes on! Many organizations turn to Facebook Live to get the job done. It’s simple and works great for those times when you want to just pick up your smartphone and record a spontaneous Nerf Rival blaster shootout in the office.

But Facebook Live may not be best suited for all your needs. If you’re serious about your live stream and what you hope it will do for your organization, consider the following Facebook Live issues that could impact how your message comes across.

Facebook Live Issues That May Impact Your Organization’s Live Stream

1. It limits your ability to pull together a professional presentation.

Often, supplemental materials like slideshows, posters, images, or graphics are an integral part of a successful presentation. However, without a separate computer and encoding/production software (or a standalone video switcher), it will be difficult to incorporate these materials into a basic Facebook Live stream. While you can accomplish this with Facebook Live, the platform is really optimized for quick, off-the-cuff streams from your mobile device. If your goal includes producing and sharing top-notch, well-thought-out presentations, you may want to consider a more robust live streaming platform to accommodate it.

Wondering what else a live streaming platform provider can do for your organization’s live stream? Download this free guide to choosing a platform provider that will help you reach your goals.

2. You lose control over your brand’s image.

If you’re hoping that your live stream will build a stronger connection between your audience and your brand, then Facebook Live isn’t the ideal solution. Viewers watching your stream will see a lot of Facebook Live’s branding on the screen but very little evidence of your own company’s brand (not exactly the most memorable viewing experience). A live stream platform provider can give you an attractive, dedicated viewing portal for your organization’s live streams, customized to reflect the experience you want viewers to have.

3. A lack of tech support could leave you, and your viewers, hanging.

Live streaming on any platform has its challenges, so it’s inevitable that you will run into problems with Facebook Live at some point. But, there’s no one to call for technical assistance, so if something goes wrong, you’ll have to resort to Plan B—which is essentially searching the internet to see if anyone else has ever had a similar problem (Facebook Live audio out of sync… help… anyone?). Streaming best practices dictate that you should always test your stream in advance of an event, but without someone to contact, this can prove difficult (if not impossible). A good live streaming platform provider is always available to offer help, and will even monitor your feed for you and inform you when something’s gone wrong. Your viewers should also have access to technical support if things don’t work on their end.

An Alternative To Facebook Live For Organizations

Don’t let Facebook Live issues stop you from taking advantage of all that live streaming has to offer. Instead, rely on a live streaming platform provider for professional broadcasts that can help build your brand and connect with more potential viewers.

Here at Stretch, we pride ourselves on offering a live streaming experience that meets—and even exceeds—your goals. If you’re looking to share live streaming content that’s meaningful, engaging, and professional in appearance, we’d love to share our expertise. We consider ourselves a live streaming partner (not just a provider), which means we’ll always be searching for ways to make your live stream better. Check out our website to learn about the Stretch Experience, or drop us a line if you’d like to know more.

How-To-Choose-A-Live-Streaming-Platform

4 Live Streaming Opportunities For Production Companies

4 Live Streaming Opportunities For Production Companies

If you’re the owner of a video production company, you’re probably always on the lookout for opportunities to grow your business. If that’s the case, then here’s an idea for you: Expand your market with live streaming.

We’re not just saying that because we’re a live streaming platform provider—really! The explosive growth of live streaming is reflected in the huge investments being made by Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, and other social platforms. And viewers love it, too. Evidence shows that people watching a live stream are more engaged than they are with traditional video, making this an especially attractive way for brands to connect with their users.

As a video production expert, you’re perfectly positioned to help local businesses take advantage of this trend. Below, we’ve outlined a few live stream ideas as they relate to a variety of businesses and industries; consider how they might fit in with companies in your area.

Remember—live streaming is ideal for anything people would rather watch in real time than after the fact. Tweak the suggestions below, or come up with some new ideas of your own. The businesses you talk to will be looking for growth opportunities as well, so present your pitch accordingly!

Grow Your Production Company With These 4 Live Stream Ideas

1. Live stream sports tournaments for schools or community sports programs.

Topping the list of the most valuable video streaming services you can provide is sports. Most people would always rather watch a sporting event play out in real time than after the fact. (Plus, it’s hard to avoid the inevitable spoilers for that game you desperately wanted to watch but couldn’t.) Tournaments, in particular, present a terrific streaming opportunity. Find out what schools or organizations in your area host multiple games tournament-style, and offer to bring in a crew to live stream the event. For an added bonus, say you’ll throw in an edited collection of highlight clips when the tournament’s over.

2. Partner with an event venue to live stream events.

Whether they host sports games, concerts, pageants, plays, or a combination of the above, event venues have numerous opportunities for live streaming. Contrary to what they might expect, live streaming isn’t likely to limit ticket sales. Instead, it has the potential to expand their market, giving people from outside the local area a chance to see the show and local audiences more options for viewing. Content can easily be protected behind a paywall. Partnering with a venue is nice from a production standpoint as well. Once you figure out the best setup for your workflow, you won’t have to change it when there’s a new event.

3. Offer to live stream community fundraisers.

Fundraising events these days rarely happen without some form of entertainment to draw donors in. It’s always better to be there in real time, which makes fundraisers ideal for live streaming. Some live streaming platforms can link the viewing portal to a donation site online, which means an expanded donor base for the organizers. You can also make it interactive, involving viewers in the live stream and thereby increasing engagement. Fundraisers can become a lot more powerful when combined with social media.

Any live stream becomes more powerful paired with the right platform. Download this free guide to find out what features make or break the viewer experience and what you should expect when partnering with a live streaming platform provider.

4. Drum up interest among churches for live streaming services.

While many churches fear that live streaming will negatively impact attendance, the opposite has proven to be true in most cases. Live streaming church services tends to increase engagement; it also nourishes a sense of community and helps spread the message to a broader audience. Sometimes, enthusiastic congregants step up to take on the challenge of live streaming, but professional assistance will more than likely be welcomed.

Get Your Business On Board With Live Streaming

Video streaming services like these require a different mindset when it comes to production (for instance, your knack for editing will come in handy during shooting, not after shooting), but your production expertise paired with some original live stream ideas will be seen as an asset for local businesses.

We’d love to help get your production company on board with the live streaming trend. If you have questions about live streaming, the equipment you need to get going, or how our live streaming platform can help with your growth efforts, contact us. Our goal is to help you reach your goals!

How-To-Choose-A-Live-Streaming-Platform

17 Proven Church Fundraising Ideas: Online, Events, & Traditional With A Twist

Proven Church Fundraising Ideas: Online Edition

For many people, the idea of fundraising is about as appealing as chewing on thumbtacks. Unfortunately for most churches, however, fundraising is a necessity as much as it is a moving target. The same fundraiser done year after year might be a roaring success for a while—until the year it isn’t. Then it’s back to the drawing board once again.

If you’re still searching for the perfect fundraising idea for your church, or if you’d like to try something new, take a look at the ideas below. We’re betting there’s something you haven’t yet thought of or something you haven’t already tried. Good luck—and let us know how it works out!

1. Cast a wider net with crowdfunding.

If you have a specific plan for the funds, give crowdfunding a try. But beware—it’s more difficult than you’d expect. You might have heard stories about people raising incredible amounts of money on sites like Kickstarter, but in reality, only about 36% of all Kickstarter campaigns are actually successful (it also doesn’t accept most projects designed to raise money for a charity or a cause). That doesn’t mean the concept won’t work—it simply means you need to know what you’re doing. FaithLauncher is one example of a good crowdfunding site for churches; other good options are WeRaise.us and GoFundMe.

2. Tell your church’s story with YouTube.

Another church fundraising idea that will broaden your reach involves distributing content via YouTube’s Nonprofit Program. If you’re willing to put in the work required to make a video content strategy and a few videos (think youth volunteers here!), YouTube is a great way to get your message to a larger audience. Create a dynamic video that tells the story of your church and your mission, and ask for help. The program allows you to add interactive donation cards to any videos your church produces; you can also partner with other creators to have them add donation cards for you as well. Donations are distributed via Network For Good.

3. Create an online giving portal.

Physical attendance at weekly masses shouldn’t dictate your congregants’ ability to give, nor should fundraising be limited to people in your immediate area. (Plus, who carries cash anymore?) Encourage donations anytime, from anywhere, with online church fundraising tools that utilize text, email, and web pages. A PayPal donation page is easy to set up and accepts debit cards, credit cards and PayPal; other options, like easyTithe, allow donors to set up recurring payments and track their donations throughout the year.

4. Host a marathon special event and live stream it.

Host a weekend-long event related to the program you’re raising money for—for example:

  • A series of DIY presentations for a church renovation fundraiser.
  • Youth talent performances for a youth group trip.
  • A concert to raise money for the music group.

You could invite audiences to watch in person in addition to live streaming the entire event and request a small fee from viewers to tune in. If you can’t make a direct connection between the marathon event and the program in need, simply provide an interesting mix of speakers and performers who would be appreciated by a good portion of your congregation.

Interested in live streaming but have no idea how it’s done? Download this free guide on how to get started, even without a tech-savvy staff.

5. Harness the power of your congregation’s online activities.

Believe it or not, a great fundraising idea for churches comes from daily activities like internet searching and online shopping—all you have to do is sign up and then spread the word. On Welzoo, for instance, ask your congregants to designate your church as their favorite charity, and you’ll receive up to six cents daily each time they go online using Welzoo as their start page. Another website, Goodshop, optimizes online shopping. Again, congregants simply designate your church as their chosen cause on Goodshop, and your church will receive a donation whenever they make a purchase using the coupons offered on-site.

Events

1. Host a “Battle of the Bands.”

Most people enjoy a night out that involves music, which makes this church fundraising event an easy sell. There are multiple twists you can take with a “Battle of the Bands” theme, including a variety of local bands, worship bands, or even a joint event featuring bands from multiple religious organizations in the area. Capitalize on the event by selling merchandise (CDs, T-shirts, etc.) and food, the latter of which could be donated by community organizations in exchange for some free publicity. To extend your audience, live stream the event and ask viewers for a small fee to cast a vote for the winner.

2. Organize a carnival.

Everyone loves a carnival. Turn your church property into a fairground for a week and either charge an admission fee or ask for donations. Food, games, rides, live music, pony rides, photo booths—you name it, you can add it. For a more hometown flavor, ask congregants to create original games and provide entertainment. You could also join forces with other nonprofit organizations within the community and allow them to contribute (and profit) as well. It will increase turnout and bring the community together at the same time.

3. Stage a cook-off or tasting event.

A chili cook-off, a soup-off, a barbeque-off, a wing-off (hmmm, did we make those last two up?)—it doesn’t matter what you cook or what you call it, tasting events like these are evergreen. Open it to the entire community, publicize it in advance, and organize a panel of judges. Charge an admission fee for attendees to participate in the taste test, and, in addition to the official judges’ results, have tasters vote on their favorites as well.

4. Offer “how to” classes with experts.

Is someone in your congregation a professional chef? A carpenter? A computer programmer? No matter what talents your members have collectively, you can build a church fundraising activity around them. There’s no doubt you’ll have experts in areas that others would be interested in learning more about, especially if it means helping the church at the same time. DIY projects, cooking classes, computer instruction, party planning, video production—the possibilities are endless. Poll your congregation to find out about viable areas of expertise and learner levels of interest, then go from there.

5. Present an open-mic night.

Your members who are musicians, comedians, storytellers, and poets will appreciate the chance to share their talents with an audience during open-mic night. Even artists can get in on the fun by decorating the space with their artwork. Another option is to combine open-mic entries with a performance by a featured, established artist, which could potentially draw a bigger crowd. Ask for donations for entry, or charge for refreshments and snacks. An event like this is family-friendly—one that welcomes the entire community.

6. Organize a dodgeball tournament.

This is a great church fundraising event, especially for youth groups. Both high-energy and high-interest, a dodgeball tournament (or any kind of sports tournament) invites friendly competition. Build excitement before the event with promotional teasers on social media, encouraging community members to mobilize their “dream team” and get involved. Reach out to local businesses for a donation or a discount on a product or service as a prize for top-scoring teams.

7. Host a gala.

Staged on your church campus, a gala extravaganza can be a huge moneymaker. Find out if a local restaurant will give you a discount for catering, invite a few members of the school youth orchestra to provide music for a small fee, gather items from local businesses and congregants for a silent and/or live auction, and ask young adult members of your congregation (along with an overseeing adult!) to handle valet parking. Give attendees the option to buy single tickets or, to encourage a full house, offer discounts for purchasing an entire table.

Traditional With A Twist

1. Make lunch on you.

The idea of picking up lunch after a Sunday service appeals to a lot of people, which is probably why a sub sandwich fundraiser was one of the most successful fundraising ideas for her church that Carrie Seibert can remember. At her church, volunteers gave members an order form for a customized sub a few weeks prior to the designated pick-up date, and collected the forms along with payment a week before the lunch. On the designated Sunday, youth group volunteers made the subs and packaged them in bags with napkins. After the service, those who placed orders had a ready-made, customized lunch to go.

2. Think outside the (collection) box.

Laura Buchanan of United Methodist Communications credits the pastor of a local church for an untraditional idea that could double the amount of funds you normally collect during a fundraiser. He gave each of his congregants $1 along with a challenge to multiply that dollar in any way they wished to support the cause at hand. This fundraising method works because it unites the congregation in a common goal, and relies on everything from creativity to individual talents to available resources. When the congregation from the aforementioned church came together with their dollars—raised through everything from garden vegetable sales to home repair services—they raised $6,621.60, twice the usual amount raised from their more traditional events.

3. Hold an annual bazaar, with extra toppings.

Another church fundraising idea that works well is an annual bazaar, and for good reason: it’s fun for both seller and buyer. The need for handmade items brings out the craftiness in many people, and the possibility of discovering something special appeals to everyone else. Heidi Hecht’s previous church had the usual bazaar—but with the unusual addition of a baked potato bar. Twenty-five topping choices and lots of baked potatoes turned into several hundred dollars, on top of what was earned from the bazaar. And the best thing she remembers about the event? Everyone had fun.

4. Try a new kind of collection envelope.

Annie Tiberg, Director of Christian Education at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church, spearheaded an easy church fundraising idea: She taped plain business envelopes to a rolling whiteboard and numbered them from one to 150, then placed the board in a strategic spot for people to see between Sunday services. Congregants were encouraged to take whatever numbered envelope they wanted and return it to the church with that amount of money inside. Tiberg found that after leaving the board in place for four weeks, many envelopes were returned with more than the allotted amount inside.

5. Appeal to friends and family.

When Tiberg planned her youth group’s mission trip to New Orleans, she asked each teen to write a sponsorship letter and send it to friends and family. For this to be effective, the writers must be able to articulate how and why the event will be impactful to them. They should also have a strong connection with the recipients. Fundraisers like this one extend your pool of donors beyond the church body, and have the added benefit of cultivating relationships between the teens and others in their social circle.

If you’ve tried any of these—or have other fundraising ideas for churches—tweet us! We’d love to hear from you.


Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet

6 Surefire Marketing Strategies For Video Production Companies

6 Surefire Marketing Strategies For Video Production Companies

The success of every business—big or small, old or new, in every industry all around the world—relies on promoting and selling its products or services, making marketing one of the most important concepts to grasp as a businessperson. As the owner of a production company, chances are your expertise lies elsewhere and you’d always rather be holding a camera and working with clients than thinking about marketing strategies for your video production business.

The good news is, you don’t have to become an expert on how to market your video production business—you just need to find a few specific ideas that apply to your industry and use them. We’ll cover the idea part here. You bring the git ‘er done attitude and, well… get it done.

(We make a great team, don’t you think?)

6 Marketing Strategies For Your Video Production Business

1. Focus on your potential customers’ needs—not on you.  

It’s your natural inclination to talk about your business, but your marketing efforts will go further if you stop talking about you and talk to potential customers about what they need instead.

Find out more about the people who may be interested in a service like yours and send them newsletters, or add information to your website that directly addresses their common questions, interests, and concerns. (This is where a blog helps.) Much of the content you’re producing won’t be specifically about your business, but this long-term strategy helps you become a trusted source of information and makes people more likely to buy from you when they need video services.

2. Ease your marketing burden with the help of a partner.

Like dinner and a movie, some things just go together. (Coincidentally, one of the neatest marketing ideas I’ve seen lately was a joint promotion between a local restaurant and an independent movie theater.) Who might be a good partner for you in your community?

For instance, think of other local businesspeople who would benefit from having an instructional video and team up with them. They write a script and do the acting while you produce the video. Or, get your foot in the door with local wedding photographers and wedding venues to produce a video about their services. Then, if they don’t already have a video production partner, take it a step further and pitch your own services as a value-add to their business. Offer them a discount if they’re willing to include your services as part of their regular package. Partnerships like these spread out the marketing responsibilities and give you a chance to build your portfolio as well. Speaking of which…

3. Do whatever it takes to build an awesome portfolio.

No matter what other marketing tactics you try, having a great portfolio is an absolute necessity to get clients for your video production business. If you don’t have previous content you can use, volunteer your services at local events or for people you know. If you have to, stage an event yourself just to get the job done. A portfolio is your best sales tool, so give it the time and attention it deserves.

4. Add live streaming to your offerings.

There’s increasing demand for professionally made live streaming content, particularly among businesses looking to promote their products and services. In fact, 88% of advertisers have said they “might” or “definitely will” invest in live stream video advertising in the near future. Make yourself more marketable by honing your skills in this area and adding it to your menu of offerings. The ability to pull off a high-quality, successful live stream production will set you apart from the competition.

Want to pull off live streaming production like a pro? This free checklist has you covered—including essential steps to take before, during, and after every event.   

5. Focus on one client at a time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day—your business won’t be either. Get your first client and focus on doing an excellent job. In return, you’ll get a great review (be sure to ask for one!), and the word-of-mouth will be enough to get you a second client. Then focus on that one. Over time, you’ll build up a good reputation and a small stable of clients—the foundation of any good business. But beware of undervaluing your services! Do your market research and charge a fair price. Trying to undercut the competition usually results in a destructive race to the bottom.

6. Get plugged into a niche.

Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Another effective marketing strategy for video production businesses is to fill a niche. Consider what your interests are, and study the marketplace to find gaps. If there are already several established wedding videographers in your area, your chances at succeeding there are slim. But are there corporate video services? Entertainment video production companies? Real estate marketing? One of our clients found a niche in pageants and has made a name for his business in that industry. By smartly combining your interests and the needs of the marketplace, you’ll find it easier to sell your services and build your expertise in that particular field.

Got other ideas on how to market a video production business? Tweet us @stretchinternet!


Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet

The Impact Of Live Streaming Services On New Hope Chapel—An Interview

The Impact Of Live Streaming Services On New Hope Chapel—An Interview

We’re pumped that so many churches around the country are starting to live stream. We’ve already written about the benefits of live streaming your church services, but it’s always more powerful (and interesting!) to hear it from a personal perspective. Phil Grenier of New Hope Chapel in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was a driving force behind his church’s adoption of live streaming and continues to be amazed by its success. He let us pick his brain recently about how New Hope started streaming and how it’s impacted the church’s mission.

New Hope Chapel On Streaming Church Services

Phil, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us a little bit about New Hope and your role there?

Sure. New Hope Chapel has about 700-800 members; it’s a fairly large church for the New England area. I joined in 2011 and got involved with the audio/video (A/V) ministry in 2012. That includes everything related to the sound system, lighting, and the in-house projectors for all of our facilities, covering church services and special events.

How did New Hope get started live streaming its church services?

When I first started attending the church, there were accommodations for two services—a small one in the main building and a larger one in a rented auditorium next to the church for Sunday services. At that time, there were two A/V guys. One ran the sound, the other ran the video projector and the PowerPoint presentation. There was nothing happening yet with video. I felt I had a calling to bring that to the table, so I started videotaping and recording the services, which eventually led to live streaming.

What made you the right person for the job?

I have my own production company, so I do have a technical background. So I guess you could say I had more experience with video than anyone else there. But I didn’t know anything at all about live streaming!

Don’t know anything about live streaming either? Download this free guide to see what it’s all about—and how your church can get started.

Were there any hesitations from church members or leaders about live streaming?

When we first approached the idea, the normal concerns came up: cost, finding enough people to help out, and technical questions. But no one actually objected to doing it. The only caveat was that our pastor, Neil Eaton, wanted to make sure that if we were going to do live streaming, it should be done with excellence. It needed to look right and be appropriate.

How did live streaming play into the church’s overall goals?

Pastor Eaton is an amazing guy. He speaks to people. I felt in my heart that, if he was able to reach me, he could do the same for so many other people—just by the church expanding its reach through streaming. We hoped that live streaming would help us get the word of God out there and give us more opportunities to reach people. The more churches that are doing it, the better. Also, we wanted to create an archive so people could watch sermons at their leisure.

Can you tell if streaming your church services has been working?

There’s no doubt it’s impacting our church. Within the first couple years of live streaming, I started getting messages from people saying, “Hey, we discovered your stream, and it has had an amazing impact on our lives.” Sometimes the messages were from random people. One couple was in town on vacation from California, and they happened to walk by our church and took down the information about our live stream. When they got back to California they hooked into it and have been watching it ever since! They still send us messages occasionally about how it has changed their life. Also, Pastor Eaton forwards me emails from other people all the time saying, “Hey, check this out! They just stumbled across our live stream!” It’s amazing.

It’s also great for our members, who can still participate in services despite having injuries or illnesses, being bedridden, or away on vacation. One of our young members experienced a tough pregnancy and was bedridden for months. She was so grateful that she could stay connected to the church through the whole thing. There are too many of these kinds of stories to count—hundreds of them.

Did you notice a drop in attendance or membership as a result of live streaming?   

Not at all. In fact, since we started live streaming, we grew! Particularly among young adults. This age group loves the fact that we have such a high-tech background, and they want to be involved. When I started, it was only three guys; now, we have an entire crew of people on the tech side—probably 10-15 people serving every Sunday.

That led to an interest in creating videos—video announcements and other projects. We now have a whole ministry devoted to video creation, mostly made up of young people under 21. It’s incredible how it’s taken off—it’s blowing up! And it all started happening shortly after we started live streaming. Once we saw the ways that live streaming was impacting our church, we quickly wanted to develop it and run with it. I had bought all the original equipment myself; we later decided as a church to invest in better equipment. Now we’ve renovated the entire system and handed it off to the younger guys.

Do you have any advice for churches that are considering live streaming?

Sure, here goes:

  1. Pray about it. We did that at first—we prayed for months to make sure it was the right thing to do. God will tell you if it’s not. But if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.
  2. Find young people who are hungry for this kind of ministry. It can be very time-consuming, and you will need help.
  3. Just do it! Try it. You can always stop doing it if people have a problem with it. The more your message gets out there… I see that as just such a good thing.

Ready to see how live streaming your services might impact your church? We’d like to help. At Stretch, we stream more than 65,000 events every year, including church services. Give us a call with any questions you have about live streaming for churches, and we’ll give you honest advice based on the needs of your particular church. 

Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet

Starting An Event Video Production Company? Here Are Some Founders’ Tips

Starting An Event Video Production Company? Here Are Some Founders’ Tips

I wish I’d known that….

This sentiment is familiar to just about everyone who has, at one point or another, tried something new. We always hope we know everything going in, but that rarely turns out to be the case.

Starting a business—the grandaddy of new things—is no exception, but the prospect of being underprepared doesn’t seem to have lessened our resolve! In 2015, 330 out of every 100,000 adults in the U.S. started a business in any given month—an upward trend since 2013. Clearly there’s something about busting out on our own that agrees with us.

Starting your own event video production company doesn’t have to be a journey filled with surprises. Plenty of people have done it before you, so why not use their “I wish I’d known” moments to your advantage? You won’t be able to avoid mistakes completely (where’s the fun in that, anyway?), but you can at least head into it with a little more confidence. Below are some of the best tips we’ve seen from people who’ve been there, done that.

Tips From The Pros On Starting An Event Video Production Company

Tips On Equipment

Consider renting equipment at the start.

Although renting equipment won’t make financial sense for long, it may be worth doing briefly in the very early stages of your business. You may want to test-run a variety of gear to see what you like the best and what performs well. It’s also a good way to handle equipment that you’ll only use occasionally (see the next tip). If you’ve already tried it out, you’ll know you’re making the right decision when it comes time to buy.  

Don’t buy what you don’t need.

Investing in good quality gear is important, but so is buying the right gear in terms of what you actually need. Video equipment is expensive, and there’s always something else to buy—but avoid the temptation! Take stock of the gear you’ll actually need to create the kind of videos you intend to produce. For example, you don’t need complex lighting equipment if most of your shooting will be outdoors. Ask yourself: What are my video production needs? What can I afford to spend? Then go from there.

When you buy, invest in good quality gear.

If you’re going to make an investment anywhere, do it here. To ensure you’re buying the best quality gear, combine a healthy amount of independent research with a sprinkling of advice from a pro (or pros). Travis Johansen at Provid Films suggests contacting a company that is producing videos you admire and asking for some insight. Ideally, your contact should be from a different geographic area than you so they don’t feel threatened sharing information. He says it will save you “literally thousands of dollars,” because buying cheap equipment first and upgrading later will actually cost more. Enjoying and mastering the right gear from the start will pay off in the long run.

Consider buying equipment that supports live streaming.

These days, live streaming should be on every videographer’s radar due to its growing popularity. Even if you don’t do live streaming right out of the gate, make sure that the equipment you buy supports live streaming for eventual use down the road. For instance, every production company needs a video switcher, but some switchers natively support live streaming while others would require a separate encoding solution.. Give yourself options for future growth by buying high-quality equipment that does more.   

Interested in adding live streaming to your company’s product offerings? Become a live streaming expert with this extensive checklist.

Tips On Marketing The Business

Spend time building a top-notch portfolio.

A beautiful portfolio is your best salesman, according to Maksym Podsolonko, founder of Magic Day Luxury Experiences. To build an expert portfolio, make sure you can deliver great footage before you start any marketing, then reach out to local event planners and offer to shoot a wedding or any other celebration for free, showing them your first videos as part of your pitch. At the same time, launch a website and start creating content to gain organic traffic from search engines. With three great videos in your portfolio, launch a Facebook campaign targeting newly engaged couples in your area. You can also offer a 10% referral fee to photographers, event planners, and venues in your target area.

Be smart about advertising.

Advertising can be an invaluable source of new clientele if you handle it right. Robert Barrows at R. M. Barrows Advertising & Public Relations suggests establishing an advertising budget and marketing goals that make sense for your company, and then discussing them with 3-5 ad agencies. Choose the one you think will do the best job for you, but don’t sign a long-term contract—make sure any agreement you sign can be canceled by either party with 30 days’ notice.   

Competitive research is boring—but do it anyway.

In the ancient military treatise The Art of War, Chinese General Sun Zi (and Michael Corleone of the Godfather—whichever you prefer) advised to keep your enemies close. Substitute the word “competitors” for “enemies,” and you have one of the first rules of conducting business. Once you get past the tediousness of performing market research (it’s below zero on a scale of 1-10), there’s serious value in knowing more about your competitors. Johnathan Paul of 2920 Studios says that knowing his competition helped him define his own company’s strengths and weaknesses, which led to a stronger marketing strategy that clearly set his business apart. He also advises not to undercut the competition. It’s a strategy that never seems to pay off and may even backfire.

Market your niche.

It’s helpful when you’re just starting out to focus on one type of video business, and market yourself as such. Corporate videos, special interest videos, and consumer video services (like weddings and other similar events) are all possible paths; choose one that plays to your strengths (and your competitors’ weaknesses, if possible) and start there. You can always expand gradually as your business starts to take off. But starting small gives you a chance to fine-tune your brand and stand out in a particular area.

Tips On Running The Business

Always do your absolute best.

Regardless of your level of experience, Johansen advises to strive to be the best videographer you can be and consciously try to improve your work to match the quality level of other great video production companies in your area. Too often, videographers starting a new production company produce lesser quality work because they aren’t getting paid much, but that’s a mistake. Instead, always go the extra mile. You will be rewarded with referrals, repeat business, and great reviews that will bring in new clients who had no connection to your old work other than seeing it online.

Join local professional event organizations to make connections.

Industry relationships are vital to cultivating a successful business. Jeff Kear of Planning Pod says that meeting other local events professionals helped his event management software business get the traction it needed in its early days. Through organizations like Meeting Professionals International, International Live Events Association, Professional Convention Management Association, and National Association for Catering and Events, you can develop relationships with event planners, venues, caterers, and other local event professionals who can be valuable referral sources as well as resources for learning more about the industry. He also recommends contacting the local chapter president of each of the above associations and asking them how being a member can benefit your new production company.

Keep your overhead as light as possible.

Do you really need an office? Do you really need additional staff? While it might be nice to have these things, they will be a huge drain on your business at a time when you simply don’t have the resources to cover them. Determine what you actually need to get the job done—what’s the minimum you’ll need to survive? It’s entirely possible to run a successful business from your home, says NextShoot’s Dominic Sutherland.

Hone your business instincts.

Let’s face it, not everyone is naturally suited for running a business. A passion for video production isn’t enough to guarantee the success of a media production company; you also need to be smart about managing and completing tasks, understanding finances, and tracking down business opportunities. On top of that, there’s a good deal of stress involved. Long hours and financial insecurities top the list of small business owner stressors. Use this checklist to find out if you have what it takes to run a business and identify areas you may need to work on. Once you’ve started your company, keep the juices flowing in the right direction by hooking up with other small business owners. Join a local Chamber of Commerce chapter, or consider getting a business mentor through SCORE, a community of entrepreneurs who volunteer to help and advise other business owners.  

Build a solid business model now.

It’s essential to define the ways in which your company will deliver products and services, and how you’ll generate revenue. Also, consider whether live streaming could become an additional revenue source for your business, and how it might work. Will you charge for your live stream content? If not, who will pay for it? Local sponsorships of tournaments or events give valuable coverage to small organizations and a boost to your production company at the same time.

Do you have any of your own tips for starting a media production company? If so, tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know!

Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet