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Live Streaming Starter Guide

I started the Durham Region WordPress meetup group a few years back. I’m not good at maintaining community, so I was thrilled when Andy McIlwain decided to move out to the burbs and take on the community, help with planning and really get this group to where I could never take it alone.

Which brings me to one of the things that Andy and I discussed. We talked about how WordCamps still rely on extremely outdated technology – the standalone, disconnected Video Camera.

Old style video camera

You know, the one with the videotape and a big ol’ red button to start recording. I’m really not sure who on earth uses these outside of a studio or professional videographer, and in a day when internet connections are getting faster, there is no reason why WordCamps shouldn’t switch to something like the model I’m about to explain.

Your mileage may vary

This is by no means the only way to accomplish multicam live streaming, but this worked well for me and anyone who has used video editing software (Final Cut, Premiere) should be comfortable with the relative ease of setup.

The equipment

  • Webcam(s)
    Recommendation: Microsoft LifeCam Studio
    Obviously you want to capture your session, and you want clarity without breaking your budget. I’ve found that the Microsoft LifeCams have the best bang for your buck. Are you going to get DSLR quality? No. But it’s leaps and bounds ahead of most laptop-bound webcams and you won’t get a better one for under $100 (in my opinion). Added bonus: these have a tripod-compatible threaded nut in the bottom of the bendable mounting bracket, so you don’t have to have some MacGyver a stand for a cheap webcam. Buy multiples to get seamless video at multiple angles.
  • Capture Card
    Example: August VGB500
    It’s an example because I personally haven’t used it yet, but it seems to be the best feature set, price and rating on Amazon (at press time). Use this is an HDMI passthrough to your TV/Projector to capture the laptop screen in all it’s HD glory.
  • Microphone(s)
    Recommendation: Blue Yeti Nano
    The Blue Yeti has been my go-to for years. Clear, professional sounding audio in a relatively inexpensive package (and believe me, I’ve seen and used expensive audio equipment). Blue now has the Yeti Nano, which doesn’t have as many features as it’s older-and-heftier brother, but it has the one that matters: a selectable capture pattern. Use the “cardioid” pattern (the upside-down heart icon) to capture directly in front of the mic, or the omni-directional pattern (circle icon) to capture all around – great for picking up questions from the room without the speaker having to repeat the question.
  • Software
    Recommendation: OBS Studio
    Setting up OBS can be a little tedious. You need to setup your scenes, then setup each video and audio input separately within each scene; but once that’s done, you’ll be able to switch between your scenes on the fly. Scenes are different groupings of video and audio inputs and are very versatile. You can put multiple video and audio on one scene, for instance, you could have a camera pointing at the presenter with the screen in the top corner and only the mic in front of the presenter, while another scene could be the audience and an omnidirectional mic. The only limits are your equipment and your imagination.
  • Laptop
    You’ll need a relatively recent and relatively powerful computer to run this on. Minimum 16GB RAM, lots of hard drive space (especially if you want to capture the video and not stream it) and little to no lagginess on your computer. And shut down as many programs and background processes as you can.

In another post, I will go into detail about what you can do with OBS Studio: setup, streaming vs capturing, tips and tricks.

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