Best Practices for Planning Your Live Streaming Event – Liveblog Notes from Streaming Media West

I’ve been in LA for Streaming Media West the last couple of days, checking out what’s new in the world of live streaming. This morning’s panel session Best Practices for Planning Your Live Streaming Event was a good overview on what to think about when planning to live stream your event. Here’s my notes.

C201: ROUND TABLE: Best Practices for Planning Your Live Streaming Event

Moderator: Jon Orlin, Executive Producer, TechCrunch
Speaker: Alden Fertig, Product Manager, Broadcasting, Ustream
Speaker: Howard Kitto, Group CTO, PERFORM
Speaker: Adam Drescher, Partner, Suite Spot
Speaker: Jeff Varnell, EVP, Business Development, Livestream

Q: What did Ustream and Livestream do during Hurricane Sally?

Jeff V: We set up an event on Livestream. We combined user feeds. 2 million streams to all Sally content

Alden: Ustream combined national news feeds w/user feeds. Lots of viewers. Giants World Series post-win mayhem was interesting to watch.

Q: What are things you need to ask of clients before doing a planned event?

Adam: Find out what clients expectations are. Do they just care about numbers of tweets vs viewers? Location, location, location makes a big difference on what can be done.

Howard: What is the expected the production value? PERFORM does lots of downstream broadcasts of satellite feeds. Logistics as well.

Alden: Is this content that should be live vs on-demand? Is this the right event for live? Lots of aspects to live. Workflow, promotional structures need to be put in place.

Jon: Tuning into a 3-minute event probably isn’t best to do live. Just getting people to show up in time is hard.

Howard: Sports and news are best for live.

Jeff: What is the goal of the live stream? Pre-production is everything. Once live is there it has be to perfect. Only one shot to do it. Timing is important, need 2 to 4 weeks to plan things out right. Livestream has gone to event pages now, rather than channel pages. Allows us to extend campaign, mix in photos and updates.

Adam: Fashion industry also. Gucci saved money not having to fly in execs from Milan to NYC.

Q: How do you deal with producing a live event from a place with crappy Internet?

Alden: Ustream broadcasters age from home internet to fiber, satellite to dedicated bandwidth. Bundled cellular stuff is popular. It’s really good, we like it a like. We use LiveU. News and sports attract a lot of people so challenge can be that cellular networks are overloaded in those areas due to number of people present.

Jon: We’ve used bonded cellular solutions. Testing a week beforehand before people show up isn’t a good test. CES is an example.

Alden: We drove here from SF with a LiveU, didn’t lose our stream down the I-5 at all.

Adam: Test from the viewer locations is important. You don’t want customers congesting their own network while trying to watch the stream. You don’t want a surprise doing a live stream.

Howard: Old-school satellite is rock-solid, tried and true tech, works everywhere. Expensive.

Jeff: We all expect TV. Challenge is in the transmission business. 99% of importance is the encoding/uploading on the ground. Always recommend a dedicated connection on the ground.

Point-to-point internet, we can get that working in many places in the US. If budget allows, satellite. We use All Mobile Video. We are fiber-linked from the switch to our New York HQ as well.

Alden: Buy more time than you need for satellite. Recent example, Apple product announcement event went over time and got cut off right in middle of announcement. Was watching the feed and it switched immediately to bars and tones with satellite provisioning information slate.

Q: What bandwidth do you need typically?

Alden: Rule of thumb 2x what you want to stream. Really hard to say sometimes. Is it shared connection? ISPs throttle people. Might be 20Mbs all day then 400k for a few minutes.

Jeff: 2x is about right. We can do up to 4 bitrates in our player. Make sure you stream in lower-quality too.

Howard: 2-5Mbs is what we normally do.

Q: How do you make a webcast look like TV?

Adam: Work with professionals, people who have done this before. Work with broadcast directors, work with people who have broadcast industry experience. We’re working on a new climate reality project we are doing with Ustream. We have the director from the Red Bull Stratos event with us on that.

Cameras have gotten cheaper. Technology is out there that helps to make it look like a million bucks. Graphics is important, other content that can be cut in. Proper lighting, audio. Good graphics go along way.

Jeff: Most interesting is that people creating content exclusively for the web. Our Livestream Sessions in NYC – bands come in and do a live show with fans interacting with them. Kids today want to interact in real time.

Alden: It’s not TV. You have the luxury of extra time. You do want to turn on early so people can tune in and get ready. Don’t just put up a slate. Use video clips. Use a dynamic shot, maybe a wide shot of venue, slightly blurred.

Adam: Two-way conversations is key. People want to participate.

Jon: At our event, we have a GoPro to let people see behind the scenes.

Q: Sometimes the before is more important than the during?

Jeff: Live blogging element of Livestream platform lets fans socialize before event goes live. Can happen weeks before event. Add pix, videos, comments. Cool way to add content prior to event to build hype,fan interaction. Create highlights live to add VOD clips. After event, it’s all about analytics. All clients want that.

Howard: Our ultimate case study. Our live content goes our on betting sites prior to going live. People are betting prior which builds interest. Filipino Basketball is one of our biggest events. Tons of betting. Tennis as well.

Adam: Post-production is important. We did a 3-minute sizzle reel for Macy’s, over a million views.

Alden: Get VOD up as quick as possible. Right after is when it’s still hot, people still showing up.

Howard: Our stuff has to be up straight away. Adds logistical challenges.

JON: Let’s take some questions from the audience.

Audience Q: Do you use portable satellites?

Howard: We use almost exclusively. One camera + satellite.

Audience Q: What can we do before end around the player, with the player?

Alden: Social stream is big for us. Talent can request tweets.

Audience Q: What is your take on a simulated live event?

Howard: We do some of those. We will do a full match replay at a certain time broadcast as live.

Jeff: Our preference is always live content. Good social experience around a live event.

Audience Q: How do you deal with an event that went horribly wrong?

Jeff: Most common is Internet connection problems at the encoder. We had a concert where Internet was fine for 3 hours leading up. When it came to event time, it died.

Alden: We did an event with American Idol. Building lost power. Took a long time to get powered back up. Internet was down, but We had a LiveU cellular pack on-hand.

Howard: Lots of logistical thingsā€¦ audio track switching. Power failure, weather.

Jon: One user complaining might not be accurate. Validate that it isn’t just a single user problem.

Adam: Make sure a backup plan is in place. Backup plan with audio, video and Internet.

Audience Q: What about insurance for problems?

Adam: Buy production insurance. Find out what are they trying to insure against. Is it for the production or media side?

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