Live streaming has a surprisingly long and interesting history. We have long preferred live content over things that are pre-recorded, from the early days of radio and TV, so it is no surprise that live streaming has had such growth in the last few years. By the end of 2019, 1.1 billion hours of live video were watched, and according to Grand View Research, the global live streaming market is expected to reach $180 billion by 2027.
If you want to get in on the trend and stream your live casino game, your favourite first person shooter, or even perform a gig for your global audience live, then you need to make sure you have all the technology in place before you get started.
Let’s start with a brief history of live streaming and some of the big players in the game.
Where Did Live Streaming Start?
1993 – Scientists at Xerox PARC live streamed a gig played by their colleagues in the band Severe Tire Damage using a new technology known as Mbone (multicast backbone).
In 1995, RealNetworks developed RealPlayer, streaming a broadcast of a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners.
1997 – RealNetworks wanted to commercialise live streaming and created RealVideo to make the most of financial opportunities from streaming live events.
1999 – When Bill Clinton went live with his webcast Third Way Politics in the Information Age, the potential of live streaming was made evident – he was able to have an online discussion of the questions submitted by the 50,000 plus users that logged on.
Not much went on for a while, until in 2008 when YouTube launched their YouTube Live event, simultaneously streaming from San Francisco and Tokyo with performances from MythBusters and Katy Perry among others.
2011 – Twitch.tv launched as a platform that was designed specifically for video games, and by 2013 there were more than 45 million viewers tuning in to streams every month.
The social networking sites soon followed, and by 2016 users could livestream on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
The Essential Kit List for Successful Live Streaming
There is more to successful streaming than just content – it is up to you what you’ll be sharing with your audience – but you need to make sure that you have the right technology available.
Your camera needs to be capable of capturing at least 720p at 24fps, but in most cases you’ll want to aim higher than that. For beginner streamers, just using a camera phone or a webcam is a great start – and if you have a newer smartphone, you’ll be able to reach higher resolutions than this.
The Canon XA15 or the Sony A7 III are both good options for the intermediate streamer who has a bit of money to spend, but for the professionals with a huge budget, the Panasonic AG-CX350 4K is a great choice.
Whatever you choose, remember that the higher the resolution (and the frame rate), the better the video quality will be.
It is better not to use the inbuilt microphone on your camera – investing in a separate mic will help improve your audio quality. There are a few microphones that are designed specifically for use in streaming, like the Rode VideoMic or the Yeti Nano USB Mic which are excellent entry-level options.
Lavaliere (clip on) microphones offer clearer recording of a speaking voice, and the Shure SM58 is a popular option for live streamers and podcasters alike. Remember, if you go for an XLR-connected camera, you will have to use an audio mixer, but these have the best connections for both quality and durability.
A well-lit live stream is more professional and engaging. You can rely on natural light but need to be careful that it is enough to avoid shadows or glare, or use a ring light for a simple, effective, and cheap solution.
Lighting rigs can get expensive and quite ridiculous, but for most streamers using a simple three-point light set up (main or key light, a fill light, and a backlight) should be sufficient – if they are placed accurately.
Depending on the way you are getting your audio and video to the streaming platform, you may need some other bits and pieces. These are not always essential depending on your hardware and software set up, but it is worth being aware of them.
For cameras and microphones that do not connect directly to the laptop or PC that you are streaming from, a capture card basically transfers that data from the source.
You’ll probably need a capture card if you are using a software encoder (more on this below), but hardware encoders usually have them built in
The encoder will convert the video and audio into streamable files, compressing them without ruining the quality. Some hardware encoders are expensive and lack personalisation options, but they are generally better and faster than the software options.
For live streamers, software encoders can come with other tools to help with mixing and production, so they become like a mini studio. Great options here include vMix and Wirecast.
Depending on what you are streaming, you might want to think about adding some other hardware to your streaming set-up, such as:
A green screen (chroma key) to change your background
Microphone arm (if you are not using a lapel mic)
Tripod for the camera
Switcher (if using multiple cameras during the stream)
Livestreaming while you play a game, perform a gig, or almost any other activity is so simple when you have the right tools, and now is a great time to get involved to get in front of a global audience.