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.

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How To Prepare Your League (& Its Teams) For Live Streaming

Today, we bring you Live Streaming: The Supercharged Edition. Twenty summer collegiate baseball teams, 600 players, 700 games a season—and it’s all live streamed. We’re talking about Northwoods League, the largest organized baseball league in the world.

Glen Showalter, VP of operations for Northwoods League, is intimately familiar with the prep work required to pull off a successful season of live streaming in a complex environment. In his view, both the league and its individual teams play critical roles:

“The league’s role is to identify the infrastructure and equipment needed to produce a good quality product and to put into place the processes that allow the teams to be successful at doing that. The team’s role is to execute that plan.”

Whether you have 20 teams or five teams, you’ll find something in this article you can use to make your own process go just a little bit smoother.

Preseason Preparation: Live Stream Setup

According to Showalter, when a season ends in August, he waits a couple days—then starts prepping for next season. Topping the list of preseason planning concerns are:

Equipment

Your live stream technology is the foundation of a good product, so spend a fair amount of time sourcing your equipment. Make sure you have exactly what you want, and research tools that will see you well into the future. Much of this depends on your budget, of course.

For Northwoods League personnel, a huge amount of time and energy are put into selecting and configuring equipment. Currently they have a four-camera HD operation in all 20 ballparks. (The league started with analog in 2010. Last year, half the league upgraded to HD equipment; this year, the second half is upgrading.)

Equipment is standardized across all the teams—computers, wiring, cameras, etc.—so it’s easier for league personnel to provide technical support when needed. Every team’s computer can be remotely accessed by the league so they can help if problems arise. The same goes for potential wiring issues or camera problems. Any upgrades also happen at the league level. Want a new computer? Multiply the price times 20. Upgrading is an expensive proposition, one that’s partially funded by their streaming subscriptions. A significant number of viewers (many of whom have ties with any one of the more than 600 players) are willing to pay to watch, helping to offset the equipment and operating expenses.

Staff Training

You can have the best directors in the world, Showalter says, but if you don’t have camera operators who can react to their instructions and work as a team, it doesn’t matter. That’s why training is so important when it comes to preparing a league of any size for live streaming.

Northwoods itself has a fairly complex operation when it comes to staffing. Each of its 20 ballparks has its own broadcasting crew—two directors and three camera operators at a minimum. In addition to that, the league has its own central studio, which employs a production staff during baseball season, including an executive producer and an operations team. He makes sure there’s a technical expert among them—someone who knows the industry and has a fairly wide breadth of knowledge.

Don’t have a technical expert? A good platform provider will handle the tech for you! Find out what else a platform provider should do for you in this free guide.

Showalter and his team have produced several in-depth training videos that explain their equipment in detail. (The standardization of equipment makes this kind of training possible.) He prefers to start training as early as possible—at least several months before a season starts. Once the season is in full swing, there’s simply too much going on to spend time training.

Processes

Aside from the equipment and staffing, there are processes that need to be put in place. With 20 teams spread throughout several states, communication and coordination are critical in getting things done. Standardizing certain processes and procedures helps things flow more smoothly on game days:

  • File transferring. Every day the league produces a pregame show about the previous day’s results. It is distributed daily from the studio to all the teams that have a home game that night. The transferral method must be reliable, quick, and allow easy access to the show, so teams can air it at the appropriate time before the live stream begins. Showalter says they’ve used FTP sites in the past; they currently use Dropbox.
  • Coordination of air times. At the beginning of the season, league personnel coordinate with individual teams about what time to air the pregame show and when to cut over to the live feed at the ballpark.
  • Graphics production. Northwoods League uses a variety of graphics for each show, including intro graphics and lower thirds for players’ names and stats (600+ of them!). All of these are developed before the season starts. They also teach the team webcasting staff to cut highlights, use basebugs to show the location of players, and coordinate instant replay—things that are controlled at the league level.

Ready to supercharge your live streaming?

Your live stream might not have 10 games a day and 20 viewing portals (you can probably breathe a sigh of relief for that!), but preparation always makes or breaks a live stream—no matter the size of the operation.

Need help preparing? We stream more than 65,000 events every year (Northwoods included!), so we’ve seen it all—from sporting events, to church services, to beauty pageants. Get in touch if you have questions about your live stream setup or technology or if you’d like to find out more about our customized live stream portals. Lots of organizations rely on us to give their live stream a professional, branded look that wows viewers and keeps them coming back for more.


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How To Manage Athletics Live Streaming For 10+ Collegiate Sports

How To Manage Athletics Live Streaming for 10+ Collegiate Sports

We talk a lot about how to produce a successful live stream, but if you’re in college sports, you know it isn’t about just a single stream—it’s about producing and managing five, 10, 15, or sometimes even more, depending on how many athletics you’re live streaming.

For Mike Wells, associate director of athletics at Occidental College in Los Angeles (Oxy), this is familiar territory. He’s been broadcasting live sports at Oxy for six years and now manages the production of more than 10 live streams. He sat down with us briefly to give us the lowdown on how he makes it all work (though he’d be the first to say that, sometimes, it doesn’t all work!).

Athletics Live Streaming For 10+ Sports

How many live streams do you typically have going at once?

For us, event start times are usually staggered. In the spring, we stream baseball, softball, women’s lacrosse, and women’s water polo. In the winter, there’s swimming and basketball. In the fall, there’s volleyball, football, soccer, and men’s water polo. Sometimes, two events happen simultaneously, which we can broadcast on our two channels provided by Stretch, but there are rarely three things going on at once.

How do you ensure that you have the right equipment for a variety of venues?

We have five facilities—two outdoor fields, a stadium, a pool, and a gym. For most outdoor events, our setup is pretty standard and very portable: a tripod, one camera, a MacBook Pro, a mixer, and a headset. We use one camera for most events, but we do have a couple other cameras in case one is needed for another event taking place at the same time. The quality of our cameras varies, so if we have simultaneous streams, I’ll pick and choose cameras appropriately, depending on the type of the event and the venue. The gym, on the other hand, has a remote-operated camera controlled from inside the media room, which I believe is a pretty standard setup.

We try to upgrade equipment occasionally. That’s possible thanks to the monetization of our live stream, which makes some people happy and others unhappy! But the money really helps. At the end of the year, we typically break even with our live streaming costs, which includes our live streaming platform and our student helpers. Sometimes there’s money left over to invest in another laptop or another camera, or to swap out cords, etc. Often we’re just trying to maintain the program, but we do try to upgrade when we can and get a better camera, for instance, to improve our live stream.

What’s your staff like? How many people help out?

We’re like most Division III schools, where you might have one or two sports information directors (SIDs) and maybe a graduate assistant to do the work. (I was previously a SID at Oxy before becoming associate director of athletics.) I also have a lot of excellent volunteer help, and we’ve had great success with interns. The good thing is, our students are smarter than we are. So once you teach them how to do the basics, they usually run with it. Students receive compensation similar to that of a work-study program—for instance, the same as you’d pay a scorekeeper working at a game.

How do you train your volunteers?

As a SID, you have to recruit as much or more than coaches do—at least if you’re doing your job right. I’m always looking for people on campus who have a passion for sports and some type of background in sports. Maybe they play a sport one season and are willing to work in another or played lots of sports in high school but aren’t currently on a team. I find them, start training them, and try to get a feel for how reliable and committed they’ll be as a worker. If I think it’s a good fit, I’ll invest time in them as a person so that they essentially become an extension of myself, because I can only be in one place at a time. The better your students are, the better your chances will be of juggling a number of different responsibilities. Treat them well so they want to stay involved.

What are your primary areas of focus in terms of managing multiple live streams?

Managing staff is the biggest one. In addition to training them, you have to plan in advance to ensure you have the staff to work every event and that everyone knows what they’re doing the day of.

Multiple event streaming requires even more preplanning. Make it all go smoothly with this handy live streaming checklist, including what needs to be done before, during, and after every live stream event.

You’re also constantly involved with troubleshooting during any live sports broadcast. You’ll bump into technical issues occasionally, and 90% of them are related to the strength (or lack thereof) of your internet signal. Where you can, I’d advise plugging into ethernet, like we can in our stadium and the gym. But always be prepared for a variety of technical difficulties, and remember—things are bound to go wrong. Don’t let that stop you. Most people are appreciative that you’re making the effort. Live streaming has become the expectation whenever possible. If you can, you should be doing it.

Is your athletics program ready for live streaming?

If you’re ready to either start broadcasting live sports or need help implementing and managing multiple event streaming, we can help. We stream more than 65,000 events every year here at Stretch, many of which are collegiate sports (including all of Oxy’s games!). We’re always happy to talk you through your setup or give honest advice about equipment, processes, or anything else related to your athletics live streaming efforts. We’ve got your back!


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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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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!

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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.

Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet

How To Augment Your University’s Primary Live Streaming Platform With Facebook Live

In a recent post, we talked about the idea that social media networks and platform providers bring different things to the table when it comes to live streaming. Social media streaming is ideal for spontaneous broadcasts and short clips. On the flip side, platform providers are a smarter solution for preplanned events, where you’d like to maintain control over messaging, have access to technical support, and provide a more immersive experience for your viewers.

If you’re serious about your live stream, it’s a great strategy to use both social media networks and a platform provider in tandem.

Here at Stretch Internet, we stream all kinds of college sports, and much of what happens in a collegiate sports environment fits all the check boxes associated with using a live streaming platform provider: College games are revenue-generators, so it’s important for universities to control the live streaming environment and be sure the stream always goes off without a hitch. Also, games are scheduled well in advance, making it easy to plan ahead for the best possible broadcast.

Wondering what a good platform provider can do for your school? Take a look at this free guide, How To Choose A Live Streaming Platform, for everything you need to know before you start shopping around.

But there’s still room for Facebook Live for universities. Below are just a few of the ways you could use it to promote your college sports programs in addition to the games your platform provider streams live. Try one, try ‘em all. We bet the excitement they generate won’t be just among fans but everyone involved in the athletic programs as well.

Creative Ways To Use Facebook Live For Universities—Sports Edition

1. Broadcast postgame reactions.

After a game, everyone loves to hash out the best plays and memorable moments. Why not scoot down to the court and get quick, three-minute interviews with the coach and student athletes? While it would be difficult to plan this kind of broadcast ahead of time, it’s easy to pull out your phone and share this kind of spontaneous content immediately with your follower base.

2. Capitalize on signing day.

Every year on signing day, high school seniors commit to playing college sports with schools all over the country. As commitments roll in throughout the day, go live on Facebook each time to announce the latest. Share each player’s basic details with your school community, including their names, where they’re from, and any information about their achievements in the sport.

3. Share game day updates from coaches or players.

Here’s the flip side of postgame reactions: If, for example, tonight’s 7 p.m. basketball game is against a major conference rival, do a five-minute interview with the coach (or an athlete scheduled to play) at 1 p.m. the same day and broadcast it on Facebook Live. Giving people a short preview of what to expect is a great way for communications professionals or sports information directors to generate excitement and build an audience for the evening’s main event.

4. Do a weekly Q&A with your athletic director.

Fifteen minutes, once a week—that’s all you need to make this strategy worthwhile. And because you’re using Facebook Live, fans can easily post questions or comments within Facebook so the athletic director can respond in real time. Keep it short and focused, and this is likely to become a weekly installment that fans will look forward to.

5. Tease formal announcements.

Short teasers are a great way for universities to use Facebook Live. Say, for instance, a new logo reveal is planned for the athletic department, or maybe you’ve hired a new head coach for a particular sports program. In either case, you’ll likely give a scheduled press conference where the relevant parties will appear in person (and that’s a good fit for your live streaming platform provider!). But in the meantime, give everyone a quick heads-up on Facebook Live. Build excitement in advance of the news conference by letting people know there’s something big coming down the line.

A Good Platform Provider Brings It All Together

When it comes time to plan for those full-length, scheduled events, we still recommend having a good live streaming platform provider by your side. A professional-looking broadcast, a top-notch viewing experience, and continued technical assistance for both you and your viewers—these are the things that reinforce your school’s athletic commitment and excellent reputation.

At Stretch, we stream more than 60,000 live events a year, many of which are collegiate sporting events. If you have questions about how live streaming might work at your school or want some honest expert advice about how to get started, drop us a line. We’re happy to help!

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Picking A Live Streaming Platform: Social Networks Vs. Platform Providers

Picking A Live Streaming Platform: Social Networks Vs. Platform Providers

One size doesn’t fit all—not even when it comes to live streaming platforms.

These days, there are several good platforms to choose from if you’re interested in live streaming. Social media networks like Facebook Live and Twitter are knee-deep in the game; there are also numerous live streaming service providers like us. While some would have you believe that the two sides are in competition, vying for the top spot, we don’t think that’s necessarily the case. (Sorry to disappoint you here. If you’re looking for some friendly competition, though, we could point you in the direction of any one of our clients’ games currently streaming live!)

When it comes to picking a live streaming provider, we think it’s more about which option is right for your needs at the time. And although you might think you have to choose just one or the other (either a social network or a robust live streaming platform), that’s not actually the case. They can coexist—and even complement one another. Below is a live streaming service comparison that highlights the particular strengths of each of these options. After that, well, we’ll leave it up to you.

When Live Streaming With Social Media Is Better

1. For short, minutes-long clips. A quick analysis of the action, reactions from fans, and short sound bites work well with social media streaming. The simplicity and immediacy of this type of streaming—especially when you can do it quickly using your phone—makes it handy when you just need to share a short clip with the world.

2. For Johnny-on-the-spot streaming. While most school or church events are on set schedules, giving them time to prepare and plan for live streaming, your organization may not have that luxury. (Or, you may not have it all the time.) Again, the ease of social media streaming allows you to share impromptu events or breaking news immediately, and your social media subscribers will be quickly made aware.

3. When audience size is paramount—assuming you have a large number of followers, of course. Your social media stream will immediately reach your entire subscriber base as soon as you go live. You may be sacrificing branding and quality control, but in some cases that’s an acceptable trade-off for a larger audience.

4. If monetizing content is not a priority. If you don’t have a need for a pay-per-view option or the capability to incorporate advertising or sponsorships, then a social media platform is probably sufficient for your live streaming needs.

Monetizing your live stream is just one of the important considerations for choosing a platform. Find out about the other critical components in this free guide.  

When Using A Live Streaming Platform Provider Is Better

1. If you want technical support. You can’t call Facebook Live for help. If you want someone to provide ongoing support by helping with troubleshooting and proactively monitoring your broadcasts, a platform provider is the way to go.

2. For control over branding and messaging. Many platform providers allow you to design a streaming portal exclusively dedicated to your organization, providing a way to help build your brand. Social media channels focus on their own branding, not yours—your content may get lost in the shuffle.

3. When providing an immersive experience for users is paramount. Social media platforms lack the capability to incorporate sophisticated features into a broadcast, so although your content will reach its audience, it may not be as impactful as it could be. The right platform provider can integrate a wide variety of elements to wow your viewers—for instance, live statistics during a sports broadcast.

4. If you’re looking for a knowledgeable partner to help build your live streaming strategy. If you want to improve your live streams over time and create more effective messaging, you’ll want an expert who understands your organization’s goals.

Download Now: How To Choose A Live Streaming Platform

When you do need a live streaming platform provider, there’s plenty more to consider before committing to any particular one. This free guide outlines the necessary elements for a phenomenal viewing experience and how the right provider platform can contribute to your organization’s overall success. Don’t make a decision without it!

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40 Live Streaming Tips To Make Your Broadcast Better

40 Live Streaming Tips To Make Your Broadcast Better

No doubt about it: Broadcasting anything live has its challenges. There’s no stopping and no do-overs, which makes multitasking mandatory and quick thinking critical. You also never know exactly where your content might take you.

But the more you do it, the better you’ll get, as thousands of experienced live streamers out there can attest to. We picked the brains of some of those people to create this article chock-full of live streaming tips, which we hope will be of use to anyone—new to live streaming or not—who wants to make their process smoother and their product better.

Keep in mind, though, that there’s always an element of the unexpected with live streaming—that’s part of what makes it so interesting! As Jeffrey Harper of Adrenaline Garage Productions puts it: Once everything is in motion, sometimes you just have to hang on for the ride.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

40 Live Streaming Tips

Equipment & Setup

1. If you have two, you have one; if you have one, you have none. Always have a backup of everything—a computer, cords, cameras, etc. Audio cables and connectors, in particular, are cheap but usually not easy to get locally when you need a replacement. Anytime you’re buying a cable or connector, buy at least one extra.

2. Keep your devices charged and ready at all times. Always have a backup battery.  (Livestreaming is a heavy drain on batteries.)

3. Keep your cables and connectors organized in such a way that you can easily tell someone else where to find something. Separate and label your storage: audio, video, USB cables, microphones, tools, etc.

4. A $75 webcam, a $75 USB microphone, and a $200 investment in lighting is all you need to produce a high-quality look and sound.

5. Check the specifications on your equipment—newer isn’t always better. Even the latest technical equipment might not be optimal for live streaming.

6. Use Wi-Fi network connectivity if possible. If you’re relying on cellular service, it’s nice to have a hot spot from a different cellular provider as a backup in case one service is better in that area than another.

7. Check your internet upload speed at a site like speedtest.net before broadcasting. Disable or pause any Dropbox/Google Drive apps you might be running in the background. Know your quality options if your speed drops lower than expected.

8. If you’re working outside on a hot day, keep your computer cool to prevent overheating. Put an umbrella over it or use a cooling fan.

9. Run a test before you go live to make sure everything’s working well and that you understand the controls and mechanics of the live stream app you’re using. Ask for feedback from a friend or colleague on that live test run to know what will require your attention for the real thing.

10. If something worked yesterday but doesn’t work today,swap out as many things as you can – only change one thing at a time, though, so you can isolate variables. Start with the cables, and work your way through the setup, using all of your backup components.

11. Set things up early. Test everything, and don’t be afraid to call your streaming provider to confirm that the broadcast is coming through properly, including audio.

12. Before going live, check the location lighting ahead of time to be sure it’s ideal, and avoid backlighting your subject.

13. If you’re filming outside, be mindful of the sun. Sun glare can prevent your video from being seen at all, and if you’re filming from inside a press box, the sun’s reflection on the glass has the same negative effect.

14. If you plan on talking, minimize the background noise. A lapel mic or even the typical headphone-mic combo can achieve this. If it’s windy, find some sort of cover to block the wind. A foam wind cover on the lapel mic helps.

15. If you’re standing near a microphone that’s capturing the natural sounds of an event, remember—it will pick up your voice as well! Don’t have a private conversation near an active microphone.

16. For those who plan to be on camera, wear a single color shirt—no stripes or squares!

17. For live streaming with your phone: Match your framing, lighting, sound, and surroundings to your intended effect. For raw, “spur of the moment” broadcasts, hold your phone with your hand, use the built-in mic (or wear your headphones with a mic), and find an out-of-the-way spot where you can still capture the context. For a prepared presentation, use a tripod for your phone and a lapel mic if the environment is not quiet and ensure that the lighting highlights you or what you are trying to show.

18. Spend some time with your camera operator(s) and let them know exactly what you want to see out of the camera (from zooming to being mindful of the score graphic).

19. Give your camera operator a monitor if possible. They’ll do better camera work if they understand what it looks like on a monitor (with a score bug or lower third graphic).

20. Incorporating more than one camera makes a big difference from a viewer’s perspective. If that’s not possible, be sure your single camera has a camera operator who can follow the action and zoom in for tight shots.

21. If you’ll be stationing a camera and leaving it somewhere for the duration of an event, be sure it’s placed well away from heavy foot traffic.

Preparation & Process

22. Use checklists—setup checklists, rehearsal checklists, and show rundowns. Too much is happening too quickly in a live environment; you can think more clearly about what needs to be done days in advance.

Download our Extensive Live Streaming Checklist to find out what steps you should take before every live broadcast to make sure it goes smoothly!

23. To alleviate some of the stress of going live, preparation is key. Know what your potential audience is interested in and do your best to provide it. Grab a Post-it note and jot down three points you want to cover in your livestream. When you feel nervous, refer back to your notes.

24. Meet with your crew and broadcasters before every event. Review the timeline of the broadcast, emphasizing the most important elements to the crew so everyone can prioritize their assignments. Go over specific terminology the director will be using so there is less confusion when directions are given in the heat of the moment. If you have a new crew, show clips of previous events to help them learn their position.

25. Consider your platform. If you’re just trying to reach as broad of an audience as possible, YouTube or Facebook works. When you need more control over your live stream, choose a platform that looks professional and has options like permissions and password protection.

26. Market your live stream ahead of time. Advertise it starting two weeks before it begins, then again the week before, then one day before, and finally one hour before you go live. Record your live show so anyone who misses it can catch up later.

27. To build a following and engagement when live streaming, regular broadcasts are key.

28. For live streaming on social media, announce that you are going live at time “X,” and give prospective viewers a hint about the content. Write a compelling description to accompany the stream.

29. If possible, rehearse the entire show. You’d be surprised how often you discover an incorrect setting on your gear or a misunderstood direction with your crew or talent.

30. Keeping it simple can actually make your broadcast look more professional. People don’t notice what you leave out (i.e., graphics/videos created ahead of time, replays you wanted to fit into a break, a camera you wanted to cut to but was out of focus, etc.).

31. Use graphics, bugs, or lower thirds to add context to your broadcast—for example, a clock on sporting event to indicate time remaining, or the occasional lower-third graphic to identify a speaker.

32. Plan to have one crew member who isn’t specifically assigned to a task. When the unexpected happens (and it will!) the available crew member can handle the problem while the broadcast continues.

33. For sporting events, using student commentators or recording the natural sounds of the game are much preferable to dead silence.

34. Prepare offline screen graphics for your live stream, like a picture with the event schedule, the event name, a logo, or text saying you will be live in 30 minutes. Show them during breaks or before the stream begins.

35. Don’t be scared off by the idea of incorporating graphics or scoreboards. They’re so easy and they make such a big difference (imagine watching a game on ESPN without knowing the score!).

36. Interacting with your audience—whether through chat, on-stream, or before and after the broadcast itself—is a great way to build relationships with your viewers.

37. Your live audience is more interested in information and discussion than your personality. Give guests ample room to share their perspectives, promote other people or brands, and if appropriate, bring the audience into the broadcast by reading and answering comments.

38. Don’t strive to be perfect. Perfection will kill any broadcast (not to mention morale). Provide constant feedback to your crew without demanding perfection to reinforce positive habits and give crew members ownership over their position.

39. Be creative and don’t be scared to go big. Your broadcast can look good without much more effort than plugging in and going. Pay attention to what others are doing and copy the heck out of the good ones!

40. Have fun! This is real-time video, so mistakes and mishaps are bound to happen. This is an opportunity for you to share something you’re excited about with the world.

A huge thanks to everyone who helped us out with these live streaming tips, including:
Josh Lifton, Northeastern University
David Toelle, Kansas Wesleyan University
Christopher Sabato, Willamette University
Stephen Wilson, Park University
NG Media
The Social Media Hat
Dave Ruch
John MacDonald
BlogGeek.me
Savvy Solutions Consulting
Tiffany Everett
Adrenaline Garage
Chew.tv
Roker Labs



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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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