Making a Scene Presents A Musicians Guide to LIVE Streaming Part 2
Last week we talked about how you can use your phone to get online and start creating your own LIVE Stream shows. We discussed how you can input your mixer audio into your phone giving you the ability of balancing your vocals and your instrument as well as producing a professional sound for a full band.
Our New Reality
The new reality that we face as indie artists is the undisputed fact that the Gig Economy has collapsed. What we know as touring artists is being decimated by this shutdown. Even if everything goes as planned, the LIVE music venues will be last on the list of businesses that will be allowed to open. If and when this happens, many of the venues that touring artists depended on will not be able to open and survive in the age of social distancing. A vaccine could be 18 months out before it is available to the general public. I don’t see many of the small live music venues surviving very long, let alone be able to pay musicians enough to make it worth presenting live music. The recovery of the touring circuit for the Indie Artist is going to be measured in years instead of months.
The question is : what are the Indie Artist’s alternatives as we wait out this pandemic and the recovery of the gig economy? The answer is simple; we need to use the technology at hand to create engaging creative LIVE Content that keeps you connected to your fans and hopefully brings new fans to your music. Right now there are a lot of indie artists out there doing LIVE streaming shows on platforms like Facebook, Youtube, Twitch, Instagram, etc. The problem is there is SO much of it out there and the quality of what is being produced, both in audio and video, leaves much to be improved. If you can create a better LIVE experience for your fans, this would set you apart from all the other live streamers out there.
Let’s face it, the artists that master the art of live video production and use creativity in their shows and productions are going to be the ones that rise to the top of this crowded field. Think about it, a big part of the LIVE experience is the stage show. In this world of video production and LIVE Streaming you have the opportunity to use this technology and the tools available to you to take that up to a new level.
On the Upside, think about this for a minute. As indie artists are now diving into the online world, many for the first time, they are entering a world that is heavily populated with a potential fan base that has grown up with no real frame of reference to the experience of a LIVE indie Music Show. This is your chance to capture this new base and excite them with the possibility of someday seeing you perform in person. But, keep in mind this is a fickle group, they want something that is not only real, but they want something that excites them visually as well as musically. You are going after the Youtube Generation and they are savvy and somewhat jaded to online content.
The Goal of this second part of the series is to give you access to some of the tools you will need to unleash those creative juices.
As an indie artist, the one thing you should have a handle on is Audio Production! If you have some decent microphones, an Audio Mixer and even the simplest audio interface for your computer you can produce good audio. One of the first things I learned when I was working as a Video Producer (yes, It was one of the many jobs I have had in my life), is the key to good video is good audio. Things always look better when it sounds good. As musicians you should make sure the audio signal that you have in your streaming show is as good as you would want in a studio recording!
Using an Alternate Video Source
As good as cell phones are today in shooting video, there is a lot to be said for cameras that are designed for the task of recording video with good lens and optics. Having one or two dedicated video sources is a great way to up your game in the streaming world. You can use a DSLR camera, GoPro or other good consumer video camera as your source for streaming video.
The problem is you have to get that video into your computer. Most modern video cameras, DSLR Cameras and GoPros have a HDMI output that you can use as a video source on your laptop or desktop computer. What you need to do this is get that HDMI signal into a stream that you can connect to your computer. Here are a few options that work..
Elgato Camlink – This is a straightforward HDMI to USB converter that allows for the broadcasting of up to 4K video. It is at the higher end of the spectrum, but as with anything else you get what you pay for.
BluAVS – Again, straightforward HDMI to USB connector that gives you 1080i broadcasting capabilities and is significantly cheaper than the Camlink.
Elgato HD60 – If you have a desktop with an open PCIe slot, this may be an option for you. This will give you the ability of having an HDMI input directly into your computer without using a USB Slot and it is cheaper than the Camlink option.
BlackMagic ATEM – If you are going for the gold, the Blackmagic ATEM Mini will give you 4 HDMI inputs and a USB C output that you can use to feed your computer or laptop. This would be a full production switcher that gives you multiple video sources as an input with transitions, chroma key, audio switching and so much more.
A word on DSLR’s that you should be aware of, not all of them are created equal. You need to make sure your DSLR has a “Clean” HDMI output. In other words you need to make sure the HDMI Output of the camera does not have all the setting displays of the camera sent out along with the video. If your camera cannot send out “Clean” Video with none of the setting displays then it won’t work for you as a video source.
Streaming Online Studios
There are so many online streaming options for the musician it can get overwhelming quickly. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, an even LinkedIn allow for live streaming. By using an online streaming studio, you can streamline the process of getting live on one or more of these streaming platforms. As a free service these will at the very least allow you to setup your streaming platforms and at a click of a button allow you to get online fast. With the paid account you have access to other features that give unlimited hours and the ability of streaming to multiple platforms at the same time.
StreamYard is a live streaming studio in your browser. With their interface you can interview guests, share your screen, and much more. It allows you to Stream directly to Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other platforms. The free version allows you to stream up to 20 hours a month and all streams are branded with their logo. As you move to a pay version ($20-$39 a month) you get unlimited streaming and the ability to stream on multiple platforms at the same time.
Restream – Much like StreamYard, Restream is an online streaming studio that you run from your browser. You can setup your online platforms within the software and stream to them at a click of a button, making going live on several platforms easy. As with Streamyard, they also have a paid plan that gives you more options and features. But, for basic streaming either of these free versions will be more than adequate for your needs.
Software Streaming Studios
Open Broadcast Software (OBS) – This is as the name implies, an open source video broadcast and recording studio! When you talk about open source what you are talking is FREE! This is a powerful software program for Windows, Mac and LInux that allows you to stream to online platforms and record video productions from your video and audio sources. OBS allows for high performance real time video/audio capturing and mixing. You can create scenes that consist of multiple audio, video, and graphic sources including window captures, images, text, browser windows, webcams, capture cards and more. These scenes can be switched on the fly with transitions giving your online stream a slick production quality. It is a virtual TV Broadcast production studio that you can download and use for FREE!
OBS Studio is equipped with a powerful API, enabling plugins and scripts to provide further customization and functionality specific to your needs. Utilize native plugins for high performance integrations or scripts written with Lua or Python that interface with existing sources. Work with developers in the streaming community to get the features you need with endless possibilities.
StreamLabs – Streamlabs OBS is a free reliable streaming app with the fastest set up process on the market. We have developed an all-in-one application making streaming easy for everyone. Whether you’re a novice or experienced streamer, Streamlabs OBS will provide you the best streaming experience, with tools built to engage, grow, and monetize your channel. They also have mobile apps that you can use on your phone or tablet, as well as widgets that can expand the options you can have within your interface.
The Green Screen
Not everyone has a great setting to shoot their videos, but think of the weatherman on your local TV News Channel. He is not standing in front of a big weather map, He is standing in front of a “Green Screen” or a wall that is intentionally painted a bright green color. The Software or switcher that is taking in the video information is designed to “Key Out” anything that has that color and replace it with a computer generated graphic. This technique has been used in TV and movie production for years and it has now been incorporated in the software we discussed above. In today’s world, pretty much any video production software or hardware has this featured built in. This is a great way for you to create your own environment for your live streaming show. Do you have a room in your basement that you can give a good coat of Green Paint? This would make a great stage location for your show. Just remember lighting is the key to making great green screen backgrounds.
The real test in the coming months is going to be which artists will thrive and who will fade away. These are going to be trying times, and it’s going to be clear which artists can take the tools that are available to them and create something new and exciting. This is a time for artists to adapt to this new reality in the industry and create content that is both creative and innovative. That takes the tools and technology and stretches beyond the obvious into the extraordinary! The tools are out there, all that you need is your creativity and some sweat equity.