The world of online broadcasting took a major step forward in 2020.
Due to social distancing and quarantines, live streaming became a primary tool for people all over the world. Producing creative events, connecting with friends, dating, church, and work all moved into virtual ecosystems.
And let’s be honest: most of it was rough.
How many times have you had to say “Can you see my screen?” or “I think you’re frozen?” Low quality live streaming has led to a lot of frustration. The term Zoom fatigue was coined for this reason.
But the huge growth in live streaming consumption can’t be ignored. Even as vaccines continue to roll out and physical events start to see a return, audiences will now always expect at least a hybrid component to annual conferences, trade shows, exhibitions, and perhaps even school and work.
But what live streaming tools are most important for great online broadcasts?
Can you honestly do a live stream with just your laptop camera and a Zoom link? Sure. But for enterprise businesses or creators who want their stream to have as much flair as their content, customization and professionalism are important.
This is especially true if you’re combining your live stream with an ecommerce element. Selling workout sessions, business coaching, networking events, or professional development seminars requires that your audience knows they’re getting their money’s worth. That means you need a high quality online broadcast. Think about it: would you pay $50 per class for content that looks cheap?
By implementing these 7 live streaming tools, you can create high quality online broadcasts that your audience will love.
The 7 live streaming tools all great online broadcasters need
1) Video cameras
Video is a visual medium. That means we have to start with the look of your online broadcast. And the most foundational live streaming tool will be your camera.
Cameras such as those built in on your smartphone or laptop are fine for beginners, but they’re not going to cut it forever. You’ll eventually need to upgrade if you want to take your live streaming to the next level. If that’s all you have, go ahead and start producing content! Don’t wait! But always keep your eye open to the next level.
That next level is what’s normally called a “prosumer camera.” These cameras are of better quality than consumer cameras, but don’t have all the pro features commercial quality cameras have. Here are some of our favorite prosumer cameras:
2) Audio setups
Again, your laptop and smartphone come with built in audio, but there are much higher quality options out there you need to embrace.
Shaky, broken audio is one of the biggest pet peeves for a live stream viewer. The presenter of a live stream also relies on crystal clear audio to communicate their content to the viewer.
That’s why aside from video, your audio should be the biggest investment among your live streaming tools.
Try to focus on a mic that centralizes your audio. Smartphones and laptops can pick up a lot of background noise. Therefore, even a simple lavalier mic will step up your audio.
The next step up from a lavalier mic are condenser mics and XLR mics. These tools are commonly used by podcasters both professional and amateur. Since podcasts rely heavily on audio, you know if it’s good enough for podcasters, it’s good enough for your live stream. Try these popular microphones out for your live stream.
But XLRs can be intimidating. That’s why we love the Blue Yeti and Blue Snowball condenser mics as flexible microphones for live broadcasts. They’re inexpensive, easy to use, and high quality. We’d recommend new and intermediate broadcasters start with these before moving on to XLR microphones.
Getting the proper lighting for your live streaming is important because, again, this is a visual medium. You never know what kind of sun or shadows will negatively impact your camera’s performance, so a lighting rig ensures that you’ll always have quality, consistent shading of your subject.
Small ring lights are the best level of lighting here. These are available for around $20. They’re made small enough to fit on your smartphone, to large enough to prop on six feet tall stands.
The pros use studio lights. These are more expensive, but provide a less abrasive and more natural look, what professional videographers call “soft light.” The Dazzne D50 starts at just $117.99.
Your computer is the machine you’ll broadcast from. You’ll want to make sure it’s powerful, because streaming live puts a pretty good deal of pressure onto a computer.
Is it OK to live stream from your mobile device, like a tablet or smartphone? Again, if this is your only option, then go for it. You should never let technological limits stop you from creating your content. But as you build your audience, be prepared to invest in a stronger computer setup.
Find a computer, preferably a desktop, with plenty of USB ports. Remember you’ll be plugging your camera, microphone, lighting rig, and more into your computer. Also, make sure your computer has plenty of RAM. 8GB at least is standard for using your computer as your live streaming tool.
5) Audio mixer
An audio mixer helps you manage the sound quality of your broadcast. Volume, EQ, and compression are all managed through an audio mixer. This is a premium tool for most live streamers, but absolutely essential if you’re planning to broadcast a virtual concert or live podcast.
In addition, if your stream is leveraging multiple presenters, the audio mixer will allow you to adjust the sound of each individual speaker. This gives your broadcast a professional, consistent audio quality.
The Pyle Professional Audio mixer is a favorite of ours. It’s inexpensive, flexible, and leverages both USB and Bluetooth connections.
An encoder is a live streaming tool that converts your video and audio into multiple formats. This is 100% necessary to your live streaming needs. Streaming directly from your computer and camera can cause a huge drop in quality. Streaming through an encoder compresses the video file, making it more manageable without reducing the quality.
If you’d rather pay a one-time fee for your encoder, try the LiveU Solo. It’s a flexible entry-level encoder with plenty of great reviews. When you get more advanced, explore encoders with 4G and Wi-Fi connections so you can encode remote broadcasts. The Blackmagic Design web presenter is also an affordable option.
7) Live Streaming Platform
Your live streaming platform is sort of like the command center of your live streaming tools. It combines everything you’ve invested so far into one place where your audience can find it and interact with it.
There’s a ton of options in this space, and many of them are free. YouTube, Instagram Live, Zoom, Facebook Live, and Twitch are all popular choices.
But for enterprise streamers or more creative producers, these free platforms have their drawbacks. For one, they’re not customizable. Plus, they set limits on how you can interact with your audience (or what they consider their audience that you borrow when you use their platform). These limits include moderators banning your content, or taking a chunk of your money if your audience wants to pay you.
Finding a more customizable live streaming platform will be important for creators who want to break through the static and really provide their audience with a unique experience.
Conclusion: Are there any live streaming tools we missed?
Of course, there are tons of potential live streaming tools based on what you’re planning to do.
If you’re live streaming a conference, you’ll need graphic tools for speakers. You may need video hosting tools to house your previous live streams. You may need payment processing tools if you’re planning on receiving donations or selling tickets. And if you’re hoping to build a full online community, you’ll need user engagement tools and a custom domain.
To truly understand your needs and build the perfect live streaming kit, schedule a free consultation with us today. With our dozens of years in the online broadcasting world, we’ve seen hundreds of live streams and know all the best practices.
Hit us up today and learn what’s best for you!