A Better Way 👉 Live Media, Video & Podcasting in the Insurance Industry
LIVE MEDIA, VIDEO & PODCASTING IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY
If you operate in an industry that is SLOW to embrace change … or … if you are looking for a way to get more exposure with your multimedia, this article will be very useful to you. It’s a blend of strategy, tactics and technical detail that is easy to understand.
In this article, I am sharing the vision and the execution strategy for implementing live streaming (video) and podcasting (audio), or in other words, a multimedia strategy into the life insurance industry. If you will, this is a “sneak peek behind the curtain” of what it takes to envision and implement a brand media strategy and how a media professional, Leland Best at BCB Live, can help ANY entrepreneur develop and execute an effective and results-driven multimedia strategy.
“I could have done it myself, or so I thought. The reality is that in a digital DIY (do-it-yourself) world, we all feel like we are empowered to do anything and everything. One of the secrets to success is knowing your limitations, knowing when to cry uncle and understanding when to engage with a professional.” ~Michael Lucy
“I always had the feeling Mike and I would end up working together in video. The two of us met by chance in the live streaming arena and both immediately realized its potiential to be a game changer when developing a brand, building a following, and reaping a reward. Mike was the one to show me how simple this could be done.” ~Leland Best
STATE OF THE UNION IN THE LIFE INSURANCE INDUSTRY
The insurance industry is very competitive yet VERY conservative, which is a strange combination if you think about it. In general, companies and agents operate their marketing and sales in a very old school kind of way. “Old school” is their comfort zone; a good portion of the industry, companies, and agents RESIST change.
Many (most) agents in the industry will find and use every excuse in the book NOT TO CHANGE. When someone recommends something new or suggests change, that someone will likely be met with harsh criticism, such as:
- “Internet marketing does not work, the chargeback rates are too high”
- “You can’t give the consumer too much information even if they ask, you will confuse them”
- “Don’t give your last name or company name when making calls, that will just confuse people”
- “Don’t give quotes over the phone …”
- …and Many More
If you think about that for a moment, criticism is normal human behavior that is evoked by the emotion of FEAR (FEAR of the unknown, and to these people technology IS an unknown). Then the fight or flight instincts kick, so they FIGHT back with criticism.
I bring this up in conversation before we get started with strategy because if you want to be a pioneer and a leader in your industry, you just may have to tackle that challenge head-on, all by yourself. It can be VERY lonely when EVERYONE is zigging and you want to zag!
THE OLD SCHOOL WAY
- Direct Mail – Expensive, ineffective and EXTREMELY difficult to measure. That said, agents are like Pavlov’s dog when it comes to direct mail, this what they are trained to do.
- Bait n Switch – From state-regulated benefits program to “urgent final notice”, the industry is never short on ways to suck unsuspecting consumers into a sales appointment. A complete lack of transparency.
- Telemarketing, Telesales – This has evolved over the years and many companies now have very strict policies for telemarketing sales, ESPECIALLY COLD CALLING! (sadly one automation that isn’t good for anyone, is the increase of automated computer calling. Using a computer to make the first contact with your potential customer? noooooo!
THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY – THE NEW SCHOOL WAY
YES, there is a better way. It starts with the internet and social media … AND … when you think about the internet and social media, what is it? IT’S CONTENT AND IT’S MEDIA! So, the better the content, the better the media, the better consumers will respond! The better ways include:
- Internet, Web, and SEO – Save this discussion for another article!!!
- Social Media – Understanding brand presence, strategy, positioning, messaging and content publishing
- MULTIMEDIA – Video (pre-recorded), Live Streaming (LIVE video), and Podcasting (Audio)
I feel very confident my business has #1 and #2 on lock-down. Now that #1 and #2 above are covered, what do you attack next? I believe you can kind of guess? It’s #3!
FEAR, FEAR, FEAR – We mentioned above, “fear of the unknown” but it’s also worth mentioning here that “fear of failure” also comes into play when considering getting in front of a camera or speaking into a microphone. All of us have to overcome feelings of fear, DON’T let fear prevent you from taking that first step. Rather, leverage other people’s fear of the unknown and failure, if they are not willing to do it – THAT GIVES YOU THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE FIRST TO DO IT! Be a leader, be a pioneer and take risks. The upside is HUGE and you really have nothing to lose, but a little bit of time.
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS IN THE INDUSTRY WITH A STRONG MEDIA PRESENCE
As part of the strategy, Leland and I had to take a deep dive not only into the technology but also into the marketplace. We had to identify some of the key players and get a general understanding of who is doing what. There are LOTS of agents and brands using media, for our research we identified three brands that struck us as professionally developed and gave us general direction to steer our ship!
Our objective is to be DIFFERENT, yet we still need some comps and to understand what consumers are responding and reacting to. Below are a few examples of key players that we studied;
INSURANCE NICK – Full disclosure, is that I know Nick in person. I watched Nick grow his digital footprint from zero to hero. I am aware of his trials, tribulations, successes, and failure along the way. Nick’s success is anchored around his Facebook presence. He prepared for 3-4 years for his moment. That moment is 2019, his agency and business are going to another level and the digital strategy is the catalyst growth. What I take away from Nick is hard work (he has put in some serious SWEAT EQUITY), persistence and an absolute passion to learn new digital strategies and techniques and experiment in new areas outside of his comfort zone.
DAVID DUFORD – David is a successful life agent and producer with a powerful and popular presence on the web, including YouTube. While that brand is mostly known as a resource for agents (i.e. coaching and consulting), David also has a few other brands for his insurance lines. His YouTube channel is one of the best in the industry. What I take away from David is; #1) his ability to evolve over time, his video presence on Day 1 was not great (horrible might be a better word) yet obviously he did not give up and is now a very professional and highly trusted individual; #2) David’s speaking ability, he is one of the best speakers and has one of the best voices in the industry. If and when you hear David’s voice it makes you WANT to do business with him.
THE FOREMOST INSURANCE GUY – Okay, I cheated on this one! The Foremost Insurance Guy is more like David Duford in that his brand presence is for agents and is mostly known by agents. BUT, his brand is so powerful and professionally developed that he is someone very worth a few minutes of your time to investigate. What I take away from The Foremost Insurance Guy is building a powerful and professional brand powered by and built on a foundation of simplicity.
THE SHIP SET SAIL, WE HAVE A DIRECTION BUT NOT A COURSE – NOW WHAT?
We analyzed what others are doing, more importantly, we analyzed what others are NOT doing! From there Leland and I started to throw ideas on a whiteboard (with a good eraser) of how to leverage new technologies, YET keeps it simple. My customer demographic (or strawman) is a middle-class American age 45 to 85 that is unlikely to be “tech-savvy”, so simplicity was ESSENTIAL for Leland to develop a working strategy. We had to keep reminding ourselves throughout the project, “SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE”. (as the ‘old adage goes – K.I.S.S. “Keep It Simple Stupid”)
Here was the high-level media strategy we agreed upon;
- BITE SIZE NUGGETS (SOME MEDIA PROS CALLS THIS ‘SNACKABLE MEDIA’) – Our focus is; How can we condense as much information as possible into as short a media duration as possible, have it make sense, be simple to consume and keep people’s interest? Leland mentioned that the average podcast duration of 20 minutes, or roughly the drive time to work for the average person. THAT IS TOO LONG FOR WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH, at least for our startup. So, Leland and I decided upon 5-10 minute mini-podcasts and mini-videos, our focus was on “information density“.
- CRISP/CLEAR MESSAGING WITH CLEAR AND SIMPLE CALL-TO-ACTION: Given the client, demographic and assuming content will be in “bite-size nuggets”, the messaging needs to be concise. The call to action needs to be clear. The audio content needs to be clear, without distractions (i.e. background music) and with a focus on speech cadence. NOTE: Leland emphasized the cadence.
- NO FANCY INTROS/OUTROS – Leland was very accommodating to the tactics of “keeping it simple”. The long term strategy is to develop brief intros and outros for our podcasting, videos, and live streaming. For “startup”, we followed the prevalent recipe in the industry and that is very simple and very brief introductions.
- BRANDING – Leland recommended and insisted on common sense and omnipresent branding, i.e. lower third graphics, channel art, etc. This gives the viewer a reference for recall. I resisted at first, but once I came to my senses and took a deep breath, Leland was spot-on for this one (thank you, Leland, for insisting).
- TRUST, TRUST, TRUST – I should have made this the first bullet point. I put it last because you can execute the 4 bullet points above to absolute perfection but if your multimedia strategy is NOT working towards earning trust, then IT. WILL. FAIL!
WHAT ARE THE MEDIUMS AND CHANNELS WE WILL BE PUBLISHING TO?
The mediums we will be utilized to deliver our content are: Podcasting (audio), Video (pre-recorded) and Live Streaming (live social media video), executed over time, in that exact order.
It’s very easy to ignore this medium, but the podcasting arena is on the rise in popularity, and is relatively easy, is less resource-intensive (time and money) than video and has some serious SEO (Search Engine Optimization) horsepower behind it. This article is NOT about SEO but this is an important consideration (nor am I naive enough to share ALL of the details to our secret sauce!!!)
Ask any expert podcaster how long an episode should be and you will probably get an answer like “20 minutes.” REMEMBER, our goal is “snackable” multimedia, so 20-minute audio sessions are a little too long. We’re looking for bite-size, not a mouthful one could choke on.
Together we agreed upon 5-10 minute audio clips (even 10 minutes is a little long), however, some topics will require more time. A secondary benefit to a 5-10 minute podcast duration is that these audio files can then be easily repurposed (i.e. embedded into blogs, articles and shared on social media). Again, more assets shared on more web properties means MORE SEO power!
PODCAST SCHEDULE – Once per week.
Videos (Pre-recorded On-Demand Video)
Leland and I did not include many videos in our strategy. My video strategy (YouTube Channel) is already a work in progress. Our biggest concern with video was that we made sure the branding and messaging was consistent for all the multimedia channels (podcast, video, live streaming) and digital assets (web, social media, etc).
We took special note of David Duford’s introduction in his most recent videos, he says “Greetings and salutations this is David Duford at Buy Life Insurance for Burial”. This was significant for us, we both immediately took note of the speech pattern and cadence, especially the emphasis on “Greetings and Salutations.”
With those special notes above and the acknowledgment that we needed to have our own “niche introduction”, one simple and short on duration, let’s just say.. we have our work cut out for us.
ON-DEMAND VIDEO SCHEDULE – Produced as needed.
Live Streaming (LIVE social media video productions)
Let’s summarize Leland’s philosophy in one simple statement;
A picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures and a live stream is worth a thousand videos!
That means a live stream is worth ONE BILLION WORDS, 1000 x 1000 x 1o00!
When you take into consideration #1) Bite-Size Nuggets and #2) No Fancy Intros/Outros and “information density”, this provided Leland with the roadmap and strategy from which to work. It’s very akin to an artist painting a masterpiece, first, that artist has to choose a medium, then select the proper canvas and finally procure the materials before you can execute the vision.
Production is where Leland shines and adds a LOT of value to any project. Our strategy for live streaming is;
- Smooth simple and brief introductions
- CONTENT – Compelling storylines
- Value-add (minimizing “fluff”)
- A focus on audience engagement
- Professional audio and video production
Leland recommended two types of live streaming content;
- Evergreen (out of scope for now, but be on the lookout for future articles!)
- Scheduled Live Streaming Broadcasts
Smooth, Simple and Brief Introductions
Per the observations of David Duford and per the requirement to “keep it simple, keep it brief”, Leland and I agree upon a brief intro screen with a brief audio introduction. Here is a working draft (not final version) for our podcast, video and live streaming audio introduction;
CONTENT – Compelling Story Lines
A successful live streaming venture requires a solid relationship between the content creator, presenter and the production engineer. In our case, the content producer and presenter is the same (me) and Leland is the production engineer.
Live Streaming is the social media version of a reality show, EXCEPT IT’S LIVE! One of the benefits of streaming is live interaction/engagement. You can and should script certain elements.
“Even though I’m rather impromptu, you can and should script portions of your live stream, specifically the beginning (introduction) and the end (call-to-action). Create an outline of the broadcast to keep you on schedule throughout. Do NOT, however, over engineer the heart of the script. Why? The inevitable dynamic and real time interaction simply cannot be scripted. Therefore, the producer and the presenter(s) need to be in sync, or the entire train is going to run off the track.” ~Leland Best
Value-add and Minimizing the “Fluff”
This is where the content creator has to shine. The content needs to be relevant, engaging and valuable to the audience. In our project, the content comes directly from the customer in the form of understanding the most common sales objections and FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions). So while each broadcast (episode) will address an individual topic, the overall series of episodes should support the strategy as a whole.
Minimizing the “fluff” simply means that throughout the live stream, try at all cost to avoid discussions that do NOT add value to the audience, example;
Focus on audience engagement
Different channels and mediums have different mechanisms for real-time audience engagement. The producer and engineer (Leland) and the presenter need to once again work in sync to acknowledge and engage with people as quickly as possible in real-time. One of the other invaluable benefits of live streaming is that, with the right tools, you can include individual responses from the live viewers for other members of the viewing audience to see during the broadcast, address their questions/needs, and make any less engaged viewers feel as though they are part of the “LIVE Experience.”
Professional Audio and Video production
Consider all the components to a successful live stream; cameras, microphones, software, mixing, transitions, and production engineer activities, it’s OVERWHELMING! Our goals, objectives, and mission are SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE, at least for the first initial live streaming broadcasts. You can incrementally add features, bells-n-whistles and a level of technical sophistication over time but when starting, focus the on MVP (Minimum Viable Production) and do NOT let perfection get in the way of progress.
“The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.” ~George Will
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” ~Vince Lombardi
Before we talk about the benefits that Leland adds to the production, please bear in mind that I, myself, have a solid understanding of the hardware, software and other components of a live stream. I could have done this myself, HOWEVER, for each minute that my attention is pulled away from the content and the presentation is a minute of lost opportunity to make sure I am delivering valuable content to my audience. Managing a production AND being the on-screen host/talent is a recipe for disaster (I know by experience!) – AND I WANT TO AVOID DISASTER!
For the audio and video production, we simply turned over ALL the hardware, software, production and engineering functions to Leland. Production hardware, software, creative assets (lower thirds, banners, etc.), transitions and the actual production, that is LELAND, all LELAND, and more LELAND. The peace of mind not having to worry about that as an on-screen personality is priceless. You do not have to worry about pressing this button, doing that transition, mixing audio, the transition between scenes/screens or cameras – it’s just simply priceless.
SUMMARY & TAKEAWAY
In a digital world that moves at lightspeed with new technology, new strategies, and new tactics, having a well planned and professionally developed multimedia strategy is the difference between a GOOD business and a GREAT business. Here is a simple yet effective checklist for finding opportunity in your industry or niche;
- EVALUATE your industry’s current use of multimedia
- IDENTIFY key players or brands that you feel have a strong presence
- STUDY those key players, look under every rock
- IDENTIFY areas of opportunity
- PLAN your strategy
- ENGAGE with and hire a multimedia and production professional
- IMPLEMENT your strategy, plan and schedule the tactics, action, and events
- EXECUTE AND PRODUCE the media strategy
- REPURPOSE your content
About the Author(s)
My name is Michael Lucy and I am a licensed life and annuity producer (agent/broker) in Michigan, more importantly, is that I have a background, experience, knowledge, and APPRECIATION for anything and everything digital. I was a software developer for IBM for about 14 years and a marketing agency owner for 7 years. All roads in my life led to this moment of building an insurance brokerage, the value proposition that I bring to customers, potential customers and the public is truly top of the class. Delivering and communicating the value proposition requires STRONG content, media production, and delivery. The multimedia and live streaming seed was planted about 6 months ago and recent engagement with Leland (along with Curtis Brooks) lit the fire to take the plunge and just do it! Oh, and you can get an online quote anytime, just click -> Funeral Insurance Quote Online. You can also find some Michael’s Final Expense Quote video’s (pre-Leland) on YouTube.
Hey! Leland Best here. I’m the CEO of Best Conceptions LLC, (Best Conceptions Broadcasting/BCBLive!) and I’ve worn many hats over the past 35+ years. I am trained or certified in Radio-TV-CATV and Internet/Social Video Production. I’ve been working with computers and the internet since their inceptions, and during my 25-year career as a Civil Designer/Engineer, my home-based business served several Fortune 500’s. My wife Jenna and I now call the Shiawassee River our home, where I’m currently following my passion as an author (BestLiveGuide), live streamer, video producer/editor and affiliate website builder under various brands across the interwebs.
So glad to have you all aboard for this incredible journey we’re about to take together!
Broadcasting Video to Facebook Live – Pages vs. Groups vs. Events
After remaining silent for so long, I felt it necessary to address a matter I feel if of great importance when it comes to businesses creating content on Facebook. First off, if you want to create any type of significant brand awareness for your company, you should start with a branded website. Once that is established, you can begin to put your energy into some kind of social media strategy, and there is honestly no better place to start one than with Facebook.
Facebook gives an individual business owner the same ability as any other business to tap what is by far the largest online community of users in the world, not to mention the plethora of built-in business building tools over any other social network. So when it comes to marketing your business on Facebook, where should you begin?
In this article, we’ll take a look at all the different features Facebook has to offer for marketing your broadcasts. We’ll discuss each asset’s strengths and weaknesses – starting off with your Facebook Page.
Your Facebook Page
Facebook has always attempted to offer its end users a self-contained experience, which includes anything from their daily news to their shopping adventures, to communications between family, friends and businesses – sort of like a mini-mall of everything you need online in one handy portal.
With that in mind, the best way to think of your Facebook Page is to think of it as your personal or branded website on Facebook. It is the place where you provide information about your brand and where your fans should turn to first to hear what you have to say.
Your Facebook page is your brand’s voice on Facebook. As such, it is primarily intended for broadcasting your brand’s message rather than creating discussions around it (that’s what Facebook Groups are for). You can use your Page to post updates about your brand, share images, video and other content and receive messages from Facebook Users. Very importantly, you can use your Facebook Page to advertise on Facebook’s Advertising Platform, as well as host Facebook Events and link your page to any connected groups you’ve created.
Your Facebook Page should be considered the core of your Facebook marketing strategy and should rank in importance when it comes to your digital identity second only to your website, only because your website allows you greater control and ownership over your visitors. Therefore, wherever you provide social links for your brand, such as in your email signature or website header/footer, you should be pointing to your Facebook PAGE.
If you decide to embark on a social media presence, start with a cleverly constructed Facebook Page. An eye-catching banner image and “About” section is only the beginning; be responsive, post worthwhile content and don’t cut corners. Your investment of time and input will pay off in the end.
Facebook Events are often confusing to event organizers, whose primary brand/product may already be an event of sorts.
That is understandable. For example, when you run a clothes store, and want to promote the launch of your new collection, the distinction between store (promoted through a Facebook Page) and the launch event is clear. When you organize a broadcast, however, knowing how to use your Page and Events and what content to post on each is a bit more of an undertaking.
Let’s say you organize “The ABC Show” with a couple of variants – maybe several different hosts – all taking place on the same day. What should go under the page and what should go under an event?
Hierarchically, you should think of your broadcast format (“The ABC Show”) as an ‘umbrella’ over your various broadcast content containers (live video, marketing, motivation, systems, coaching, etc). Your “ABC Show” should be your Facebook PAGE and your individual broadcasts should each be a Facebook EVENT under that Facebook PAGE.
In your PAGE you should post content relevant to “The ABC Show” brand, e.g. sponsorship deals, community initiatives around your event, news from hosts/mentors, etc. More broadcast-specific content, e.g. details on who said what during the broadcast, questions asked during the show, conversations with your guests, etc., should be posted in the respective Facebook EVENT, under the “About” and “Discussions” tabs. Significant broadcast-specific content, such as the time, location and any foreseen registration or “preshow” requirements, should appear on both your Facebook Page AND within the Facebook Event (“About” tab) by way of announcing the broadcast.
You need to remember, Facebook events have an event venue and an event date, and after that event date expires the Facebook event expires as well. So you don’t want to invest too much effort in building up your Facebook Event. Thankfully, Facebook gives you limited options in doing that.
One of Facebook Event’s biggest downfalls is the fact that any live broadcast sent to an event do NOT show up within the Page or Group Newsfeed, but rather within the “Discussion” tab of the Event itself. This is because Events are their own beast separate from either Pages or Groups, but can be created within either. This leaves many a potential viewer wondering where they are supposed to go when a live video event starts. Facebook should have used a little more forethought in this regard. Let’s hope this changes in the nearest future.
As a work-around, many a broadcaster still create an event, then rather than broadcast to the event (an option available in FB Live), they broadcast to the Newsfeed of the Page or Group when the time slot arrives. Better yet, one should schedule a “Live Video” post within the Newsfeed of the Page (alongside of the Event) that existing followers can use to select a button that gives them a reminder notification of the broadcast 3 minutes before it begins!
You should always add Facebook Events for your broadcasts under the respective Facebook PAGE you manage. What you want to do is grow an audience under your Facebook PAGE which you can engage with at any time. When set-up properly, posting on Facebook Events is open to the public, in this way they provide excellent Q&A forums for prospective participants and help create a gentle “peer-to-peer joining nudge” among other Facebook users, which encourages a greater response to your call to action (ie. joining a specific Facebook Group).
In the basic sense, Facebook Groups are online communities of Facebook Users interested in a common topic. Groups are set up and managed by administrators who control posting permissions and other group settings.
Groups can be public (anyone can join), closed (users can request to join) or secret (private like a closed group with the added feature than these private groups do not appear on searches). Groups can also be linked to a Facebook Page in a way that allows the page to post in the group alongside regular Facebook users. This is the natural route of progression you want to achieve. Facebook User -> Facebook Page ->CTA ->Product/Service->CTA-> Facebook Group
Facebook Groups used to be a Facebook Page’s poor cousin, but this is changing with the dramatic shift by Facebook recently towards linked Facebook Groups and community-building. As a result, Facebook is undergoing a groups revolution that has made groups linked to pages a very attractive proposition for many broadcasts.
There are many things you can do with a Facebook group and some important things you can’t (notable among the latter being paid advertising). You can use groups to stimulate engagement with your participants and volunteers, as discussed above. Facebook pages and personal posts rely completely on the Newsfeed algorithm for organic exposure. However, Facebook Groups send users a notification whenever someone posts to the Group, thus driving traffic to each post.
But, be wary how often you post in your groups. You don’t want to spam your members with notifications all day long or they just might turn them off completely.
You still can’t advertise a group or share/boost any posts within a closed/secret group. Also, many of the things that make the revamped groups more attractive – like the ability to post in the group as your page – still make having a Facebook Page necessary.
So, thumbs up on Facebook Groups overall, but only if you have time to invest in the communities (NOTE: with an “S”) that you plan to build with them, and only after you’ve set up a Facebook Page, which should always serve as your main branding platform on Facebook – and inside any groups you create. Facebook Pages are also best suited for archived video content (e.g. replay playlists), maintaining viewer analytics, and have the greatest leverage when used in conjunction with the boost/ad campaign features found within the Facebook Advertising platform.
This this leaves us with….
Your Personal Page
Don’t be surprised to hear that your personal page also has a role to play in your overall Facebook strategy.
Starting with the obvious, you need a personal profile to be able to do anything on Facebook, like creating and administrating the things we just talked about; Pages, Groups and Events! You will also need a personal profile to post in other groups which might be useful for promoting your broadcasts. So you will need to be mindful of what you post, as any personal activity will inevitably reflect back to your broadcasts, and ultimately your brand’s image on Facebook.
Your Personal Profile (it’s not a page, it’s a profile), is more than a just a potential liability– quite the contrary. There are many great things you could do to enhance your brand’s broadcasts, and they are only possible through your personal page. Things like:
Sharing content from your page with your friends.
One word of advice: keep it selective. Share general audience broadcasts, major landmarks, announcements and press activity, but do not be tempted to share every single page post. There are laws of “diminishing returns” for doing so.
Reaching out to individual participants.
There are many reasons why you might want to connect personally with participants in your broadcast. As a page, it used to be that you didn’t have that ability (though now there is, but it’s still very limited), so still the best way to do it is through your Personal Profile. Use your Personal Profile to approach disgruntled participants, prospective brand ambassadors, or to thank broadcast evangelists (those viewers/participants who feel strongly positive about your content) or catch them singing your brand’s praises!
So, there you have it. While there is a place for your profile to be used professionally, intend on using it correctly and wisely. And never – ever ever – set up your business broadcasts on a personal profile, this is why Facebook gave us Pages, Groups and Events in the first place, your Personal Profile was meant to be just that… personal.
With this info in hand, may all of your broadcasts be packed with viewers and filled with fun and excitement!
Much more can be said about Best Marketing Practices using Facebook LIVE so be sure to contact us, subscribe to my every-so-often newsletter, or request a FREE 15 minute consultation by clicking the box to the right!
Until next time! Keep Calm and Stream On!
Conversations Behind The Mic – 1st Edition
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Click the Book Cover to Get it on Amazon!
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Interview with Pakistani Entrepreneur and World Citizen - Rehan Allahwala
Excerpt available inside "Conversations Behind the Mic"
What is Bandwidth and How Much Do I Need for Streaming LIVE Video?
WHAT IS BANDWIDTH?
The term bandwidth, in general, refers to the volume of data per unit of time that a transmission system (www) can handle.
An internet connection with higher bandwidth can move a specific amount of information (like an audio or video file) tremendously faster than an internet connection with a lesser bandwidth.
Bandwidth is typically expressed in bits per second, like 100 Mbps or 100 Mb/s to define a data transfer rate of 100 million bits (megabits) every second.
HOW MUCH BANDWIDTH IS TOO MUCH?
To address the question above, there is such a thing, but we won’t be getting into the nitty-gritty of that, the only internet that is “too fast” is one that you don’t have access to!
You internet speed can be determined with relatively accurate proximity using any of the currently available internet speed testing sites. You’ll find more information on each of the representative test sites for many of the popular internet service providers (ISP) out there today:
- Armstrong Internet Speed Test (Zoom)
- AT&T High Speed Internet Speed Test
- Cablevision (Optimum)
- CCI (SureWest)
- CenturyLink Broadband Speed Test (Quest)
- Charter Speed Test (Spectrum)
- Comcast Speed Test (XFINITY)
- Cox Internet Speed Test
- Fios Speed Test (Verizon)
- FrontierNet Network Speed Test
- GCI Speed Test
- Midcontinent Speed Test
- Optimum (Cablevision)
- Quest Broadband Speed Test (CenturyLink)
- RCN Speed Test
- SKYBEAM Speed Test (Rise Broadband)
- Spectrum Speed Test (Charter)
- SureWest Internet Speed Test (CCI)
- TDS Telecommunications Speed Test
- Time Warner Cable Speed Test (Charter)
- USI Wireless Speed Test
- Verizon FiOS Speedtest (Fios)
- Wave Broadband
- WOW! Speed Test
- XFINITY Speed Test (Comcast)
- Zoom Internet Speed Test (Armstrong)
(Special Thanks to Lifewire.com for this list)
The amount of bandwidth you’re going to actually need depends on what you plan on doing with your internet connection. For the most part, more is better, only limited by the constraints of your internet service budget.
If you plan on only using social media sites like Facebook, email and the occasional video watching on YouTube, a low-end high-speed plan should suit you fine. However, if you have a few TVs that will be streaming Netflix, and another device or two that may be live streaming audio or video, I’d get the best plan you can afford. You won’t be sorry.
Speeds are increasing almost daily. In fact, our ISP (Charter Spectrum) just recently upped our internet service speeds from 60Mbps down/6Mbps up to 100Mbps down/12 Mbps up! And with no increase in our monthly plan! The next step is 200Mb then Gigabit Internet!
DATA IS TO BANDWIDTH, AS WATER IS TO A PIPE.
Plumbing provides a great analogy for bandwidth!
Just to be clear what I mean by this, think of the amount of bandwidth as the size of the pipe. As bandwidth increases, so does the amount of data that can flow through the “pipe”. So, let’s say you’re streaming a movie, someone else is playing an online multiplayer video game, and a couple of others on your same network are downloading files or using their phones to watch online videos. Everyone will likely feel that things are running a bit sluggish, if not constantly starting and stopping. This has everything to do with bandwidth.
Let’s put this another way: bandwidth is a fixed amount of service based on a monthly fee, so, while one person may be able to stream a high-def video without any lag (latency) whatsoever, the moment you begin to make additional access requests to the network, each user will have a portion of the full capacity taken away and applied to other tasks.
For example, if an internet speed test shows a download speed of 8 Mbps, it means that given no interruptions or other bandwidth-intensive apps, the user should be able to download an eight (8) megabit (or one (1) megabyte) file in one second.
So while I could theoretically download a 3.5 GB video file in an hour, if someone else on my network is using additional bandwidth, it could take MUCH longer for me to download the same movie file. If someone else were wanting to download a movie let’s say, technically, the network would now see 3.5 GB + 3.5 GB, for 7 GB of overall data that needs to be downloaded. The bandwidth capacity doesn’t change, the 8Mbps network is going to now take almost two hours to download the 7 GB file just like it would take just one hour to download half that amount.
THE DIFFERENCE IS IN THE DETAILS
One must understand that bandwidth can be expressed in any unit (bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, gigabits, etc.). Your ISP might use one term, a testing service another, and a video streaming service might use a third. You’ll need to know how these terms are all related and how to convert between them if you want full control over your bandwidth costs.
For example, 10 MBs is not the same as 10 Mbs (note the lowercase b). The first represents 10 MegaBYTES while the second is much smaller at 10 MegabITS. These two values differ by a factor of 8 since there are 8 bits to a byte.
Tip: This same concept applies to any data unit you might encounter. You can use any online conversion calculator like this one if you’d rather not do the math manually.
A FEW FINAL CRUMBS ON NETWORK PERFORMANCE
Some software lets you limit the amount of bandwidth that the program is allowed to use, which is really helpful if you still want the program to function but it doesn’t necessarily need to be running at a certain speed. This intentional bandwidth limitation is often called bandwidth control; which should not be confused with bandwidth throttling, which are the steps an ISP has the ability to take in order to regulate the flow of data during increased request times, power outages, and other situations that may affect the performance of the network.
Various download managers, online backup services, and some storage providers use code or programs that tend to use up massive amounts of bandwidth, so having options that limit their access to your available bandwidth makes perfectly good sense.
Overall Network Performance is determined by more than how much bandwidth is available to you. There are other factors involved like latency (lag), jitter, and packet loss that could be contributing to less-than-desirable video performance. If you’re stuck and can’t quite figure out where the “bottleneck” (place where the flow is backed up – remember the plumbing analogy), it’s always best to call in a pro.
Nowadays it’s ALWAYS good to look for UNLIMITED service plans, though in some distant rural areas that have no service, cost and availability are still a factor and you may be stuck with what you have. If that’s the case, when is the last time you moved? 🙂
SUGGESTED ENCODER SETTINGS FOR 3RD PARTY APPLICATIONS
Not all bandwidth issues can be contributed to your ISP’s speed and reliability. Network cable connections to the house or place of business, along with interior cable connections, internet hardware (modem, router, switches, incompatible devices, etc.), the computer your streaming from, even the software or accessories you use to create your videos may also play a part.
Here are a few suggested settings for your 3rd party streaming apps (ie. vMix, Wirecast, OBS, etc.) that may help you with laggy delivery, dropped connections, and even the overall video quality of your broadcast. Play around until you find what works best for you!
Internet Connections under 3Mbps upload speed
Video Codec: h.264
h.264 Profile: Main
Audio Codec: AAC
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Video Bitrate: 500-1200 kbps
Audio Bitrate: 64 kbps
Resolution: 960 x 540p
Internet Connections between 3-8Mbps upload speed
Video Codec: h.264
h.264 Profile: Main
Audio Codec: AAC
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Video Bitrate: 1200-4000 kbps
Audio Bitrate: 96-128 kbps
Resolution: 1280 x 720p
Internet Connections over 8 Mbps upload speed
Video Codec: h.264
h.264 Profile: Main
Audio Codec: AAC
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Video Bitrate: 4000 kbps
Audio Bitrate: 192 kbps
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Remember to monitor your CPU usage. If you find your stream is playing poorly despite the suggested settings, consider using the next settings down. As a general rule, a low video quality stream with strong frames per second will provide a much better experience than a high quality stream with low frames per second. As a result, we recommend the following:
PC/Mac: x264 CPU Preset in BIOS: Slow PC: VeryFast; Fast PC: SuperFast
To test your connection right now, click on GO!
Top 7 Live Streaming Software Encoder Applications of 2017
Why use a 3rd Party Software Application?
For all intents and purposes, you could just go jump into Facebook or Youtube or [insert site here], and use what is considered the native user interface, and stream away to your hearts content. The only problem with that IS just that. It can start to get boring. With no branding, lower 3rds, graphics or screen sharing capabilities, the “Plain Jane” look and feel is going to show up to the party just like everyone else. Is that how you want your brand to be remembered?
There is, however, a variety of 3rd party applications available for live streaming to both social media or any other CDN (Content Delivery Network). The purpose behind each app remains the same; deliver an audio/video feed to servers of any platform that are designated to receive a stream. These 3rd party apps give you unlimited control over sending your content to the channel of your choice, without ever having to be on the site to pull it off!
Software encoders apps contain all of the tools necessary to facilitate a professional looking broadcast and usually capable of creating their own High Definition recordings. Most of these software apps have professional features and abilities that are rarely, if ever duplicated on any kind of website that promotes itself as being able to stream live video. But that’s changing quickly.
With cloud-based server processing what it is today, the gap between apps and websites is closing quickly. It won’t be long before websites will be able to compete (as some already are) with the higher priced software in the market.
I’ll admit, it does take a certain bit of technical know-how and type of person to produce a show while it’s playing out LIVE on the air. It’s not for everyone. In fact, many people prefer to be just a talent. Producers work the scene as back-end program directors, able to pull all the strings, ring all the bells and blow all the whistles needed to run the show. This is easily achieved with the right software or SaaS website.
Let’s go check out the Best Live Streaming 3rd Party Apps of 2017!
Beyond the normal Facebook or YouTube/HOA interfaces, I have either beta tested, currently have installed and have tested every application that is listed here. There are a few other applications similar to these, but I wanted to keep it to the top seven so that if you’re new to this, you wouldn’t get caught up in some kind of shiny object syndrome and waste a lot of time trying to find the good ones. I only focus on apps that can at least stream to Facebook. Below, (in order of my preference), is a short list of those software apps. These are what I consider to be the BEST live streaming apps available to the everyday live streamer.
There are other enterprise platforms available, but they are designed and operated by very large content delivery networks such as Ustream, LiveStream and other professional network-level corporations. Our opinions based on wants and needs may vary:
2. OBS – Orig. (End of Life)/Studio – PC/Mac/Linux (http://obsproject.com)
4. XSplit – Broadcaster/Gamecaster – PC/Mac/Linux (http://xsplit.com)
5. VidBlasterX – Home/Studio/Broadcast – PC/Mac (http://vidblasterx.com)
7. Wirecast v. 7.5 – Studio/Pro – PC/Mac (https://www.telestream.net/wirecast)
Follow the above links to the sites themselves, and look for the brief overviews of each app highlighting on the features available.
Winner of Streaming Media’s 2017 “Best of NAB” Award! vMix is where you’ll usually find me! I use this software for 90% of my in-house production work, and it’s surprising how long this powerhouse software remained under my radar.
Once I got my hands on their FREE 60 Day Trial version, I was hooked! No more wondering where I would find this feature or that feature. This software has literally EVERYTHING you would ever need, and then some, too much so!
The software may seem extremely daunting at first, and with a users manual reminiscent of a high school biology coursebook, I can understand why. When you first look inside at the intuitive interface, it’s just a blank palette.
Allowing multiple 4K inputs, overlays, lower 3rds, VLC streaming, chroma key, instant replays, playlists, title editor, separate recordings of video/audio, instant replay, and yes, desktop capture (screen share). In April of 2017, vMix Call brought it to life! vMix users could now invite remote guests through a Chrome Browser via WebRTC! In as little as a month, I was a vMix software reseller.
Keep in mind, this isn’t kid’s stuff. This is a high-end professional live streaming encoder software, Pro Edition that’s FREE for 2 months! After that, the software reverts to a Free Basic Edition for life.
The free download is still capable of high quality 768 x 576p which is far better than SDTV (480p), 4 inputs, 2 cameras, and 1 overlay channel for placing graphics into the stream for things like lower 3rds, screen sharing, branding images, video playback, etc.
The basic setup is simple, add a camera, start the output for the virtual camera, and go! Or if you’d rather, start with one of the preset destinations for creating an RTMP stream (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram).
Once you work your way up the learning curve, there’s probably no other software that is as reliable, less taxing on system resources or more enjoyable to stream with. I have never encountered a system crash attributed to the vMix software.
This ton of video trainings available on the website show just how quick and easy a live broadcast is to setup.
It’s only when you begin getting creative with various input sources, overlays, and virtual sets with multiple guests that things can get a bit tricky for a first-timer.
With an incredible array of input options (right), anyone would be hard-pressed not to feel a little lost inside the interface first starting off. I’ll be first to admit, I sure did!
Remember this, most pay-to-play software will charge extra to access all of the software’s features (# of cams, call-ins, overlay channels, etc.). No one rides for free when you’re talking about professional-grade live production products. Expect to pull out your wallet to get vMix Call, 1080p-4K video, and more than the default number of cameras, inputs and overlays that I mentioned earlier in this overview.
But straight out of the box, for a one time fee, and an entire year’s worth of FREE upgrades, you really can’t go wrong with vMix Live Production and Streaming Software! So if you’re serious, don’t leave this one on the table, there’s no reason not to at least grab your free copy today! If you’d like to purchase a license for vMix, be sure to get in touch. I’d be happy to help!
Both #1 and #2 on my list are what I call a 2-for-1 deal. A pair of FREE, open source software encoders that look and act about the same, both using less of your precious computer’s resources. Therefore, they will work well on older 2 core CPU desktops and nearly all laptops built in the last 5 years.
Quad-core processors are still recommended to stream 720p HD live feeds to social media.
What started as a simple one window application on Sept. 1, 2012, OBS has evolved into what is now known as OBS Studio. Having a robust UI has caused the development team to set aside it’s one track minded predecessor. OBS not only streams to the web via RTMP, but also works for in-house recordings to .flv, .mov, or .mp4 formats. Perfect for making quick, HQ videos using pre-built scenes, multiple local and remote devices, graphic overlays, lower 3rds, and screen sharing to name a few.
This software looks simple, but it has nearly every feature you’d need except for one thing, a virtual camera device. OBS doesn’t currently work with WebRTC protocols in use on most of the new streaming platforms like Smiletime, BeLive, Firetalk and others listed here. Yes, you can stream to Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and all the rest, but you must do it the old-fashioned way.
Instead, OBS sends signals via RTMP that connect to a remote location (URL). A user-generated Stream Key is created to “unlock” this resource. The key is a string of numbers and letters that act as a password to connect your stream to the servers. Never let anyone see your streaming key, (ie. Facebook/YouTube), or s could stream to your channel whenever they want. There could always be someone watching that may try to hijack your channel. Protect keys!
3. FFSplit – by Vincent Luong – FREE
Here is the other FREE, open source software program, but I noticed there hasn’t been any action on the website since early 2015.
The interface looks and plays much the same as the original OBS product, so most OBS users should feel right at home here.
It’s not that hard to explain why I really like these little one-off software apps, they serve a simple purpose, provide the tools to get the job done right with little concern over much other than production.
Put the scenes together and go, no overhead, not huge time suck, no real learning curve holding you back. Sure, there is some technical know-how attached to this whole process, but since you’ve come this far all you have left is to take the time to study some terminology (as in our glossary from Chapter 1), and learn the basic steps to open a stream, which are similar in every case.
Like OBS, I mention this small, outdated, but useful app, for three (3) reasons:
1. It’s Free (you know I like free)
2. There are Quick to Action functions that makes adding text overlays, other inputs and objects in real-time very simple -and-
3. The software includes a switcher (that connects sources with actions)
These are not the only reasons I keep it in my toolbox. FFSplit is pretty lean and mean (more so than OBS) when it comes to normal operations plus it’s full HD.
FFSplit also records the video output to a file on your PC for quick and clean professional looking video productions. If you like OBS, you’ll probably like FFSplit, too! Grab them both!
4. VidBlasterX – by CombiTech – $9-$99-$999/year
VidBlasterX is Mike Versteeg’s latest edition and is no longer the free product it used to be. VidBlaster is now a subscription based local software installation that provides live streaming and recording up to 4K/UHD. Send streams to Facebook, YouTube and other CDNs using RTMP or the virtual camera driver.
VidBlaster is a studio quality modular component software system with a built-in audio mixer and switcher. The user can combine any number of floating input or output modules (based on purchase) that can literally be placed anywhere within the user interface, or the modules can be docked to other modules to selectively create the studio layout of your choice, giving it a big plus for having the most customization of all the 3rd party encoder apps available on the market today.
The software comes in three (3) flavors: Home, Studio & Broadcast. The main difference between these editions is in the number of modules allowed in a single profile: Home edition supports up to 7 modules, the Studio edition up to 25, and the Broadcast edition up to 50.
The Broadcast edition also comes with several advanced features: UDP streaming, multiple recorder & streamer modules in a single profile.
Another difference is the level of support: the Home & Studio editions come with community support, the Broadcast edition comes with both community and priority support. The VidBlasterX Trial Edition is equal to the Studio Edition, with a watermark added to all output channels. The cost of Home is incredibly $9/yr!
The website says: “VidBlasterX is a versatile and powerful ultra-low latency cascading vision mixer and video router with built-in scalers, time base correctors, frame synchronisers, IP video encoders and decoders, video players, recorders, keyers, effects and much more.” Basically, anything that has a WebRTC or RTMP heartbeat can receive a signal pumped in by VidBlasterX.
5. XSplit | Broadcaster – by SplitmediaLabs – $15 for 3 mos.
XSplit has two offerings on their website. One is Broadcaster and the other is Gamecaster. With over 8 million registered players, and 200k joining every month, you’ll find XSplit is geared specifically toward the video gaming industry. If you’re just planning to deliver a message with video, download Broadcaster.
This was my go-to software during the Blab Days, until I won a copy of Wirecast Pro 6 in a live video contest! Looking like another OBS clone, XSplit is capable of desktop sharing, video playback, graphic overlays, multiple inputs and streaming via RTMP(Flash), RTSP(IP), and NDI (beta). This app will also record locally, but it trumps OBS and FFSplit thanks to it’s virtual camera driver.
And that’s just the FREE version…
It can be used for Skype, Hangouts or Facebook, and any other site that grants access via WebRTC in the browser, but a virtual camera is not the only selling point..
The array of other unique paid features available inside of XSplit include: .mov stingers, widgets for whiteboards, image slideshows, 8 addt’l scenes, local streaming. There’s even a built-in video editor! (WHAT?!) Setting up streams to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch and Mixer via RTMP are pretty straight-forward, but the controls are scattered about. The account and basic version are free, and you must be logged in first in order to use the software, which I suspect helps them with their user analytics. Full access requires a very inexpensive upgrade to the paid version for three months of use. They do have a Lifetime Plan for $199… software good until you die!
Previous versions included a software chromakey plugin, that seems to have been discontinued and is now handled natively. A substantial number of new features have been added to their latest 3.0 version. One clever concept that I haven’t seen in any other app besides this one is the ability to bring in remote guests using Skype.
Two years back, one of my biggest hangups with XSplit was it’s sluggishness. But then again, game aficionados tend to have the biggest, baddest machines on the planet. They care very little about processing overhead, because their machines are built to the nines. Hard-core gaming machines typically don’t have a problem with lag like your average business machine do. At the time, I was running an older 4 core AMD unit with 8 GB of DDR2 that could barely keep up.
Their website does admit that the system requirements are a little higher than your average box will bear.
Oddly, it states XSplit MIN spec is Windows 8.1 (?), a 2nd Gen. I5 CPU or higher, and 8 GB of RAM. Unheard of…
The only downfalls to the free version of XSplit is the constant reminding you to upgrade to Premium and the fact you’re restricted from using it for commercial use. So if this software suits your fancy, be sure to upgrade first.
About ½ of the highly sought after broadcast features including, get this… a fully incorporated video editor, cause an annoying pop-up to engage that asks you for your money. The image above shows which of those features will trigger such an event. Pay the man already, and lose that annoying delayed “Continue” button they installed on the front end upon entering if you don’t.
If your machine isn’t built for speed or at least able to match the required specs, then XSplit might not be something you should even consider, but if your newly built equipment is up-to-snuff, then this would be a fantastic alternative to some of the other higher priced software out there, at a way more reasonable price!
XSplit does have some known issues and some other limitations, but overall I have no problem at all giving it a “thumbs up” recommendation to not only my gaming friends, but to anyone new to broadcasting as a first step to going pro.
If you’re reading this in hard copy, you may want to browse to the site to check on the known issues in relation to your hardware to make sure your system would be compatible with the software as it runs currently. Most bugs are sure to be worked out over time.
6. ManyCam – by Visicom Media, Inc. – Free-$49/mo
No matter who you ask, they’ve seen the bugs. As of late, Visicom has made a lot of improvements, and added many long awaited features directed more toward live streamers rather than just Skype callers, but this doesn’t change my love-hate relationship with this software. It has been around many years, has garnished many followers and I expect it to be around for many years to come. Did you see what I did there?
ManyCam is software I would classify as wonderfully fun and socially engaging. It’s really of no less professional quality than the rest of the bunch, but there always seems to be a few bugs under the hood. The new beta interface was recently deployed, so we’ll have to do some more testing to see if this one can hold it’s position like it has for the many years it’s has already. Puns you say? Why yes, yes they are…
ManyCam’s latest software offering broadcasts to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Ustream, Livestream, and a host of others. Multiple video sources, green screen, IP cameras, multiple channel broadcasting, PnP, fun effects and a mobile app, so you won’t be lacking in any department if you make this your software of choice. The free version output is watermarked and lacks .
The company recently changed its pricing structure from a one-time fee over to a subscription plan. Many are OK with it, and Many others are NOT. It’s my honest opinion that software of this nature should be licensed for use indefinitely, and not over-capitalized upon as a pay-as-you-go-kinda-service-thing.
If it’s highly scale-able, has certain aspects that no other vendor can offer, or is updated with new features so incredibly often that you would suffer from a terrible and agonizing sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if you didn’t, that’s different. But, rarely do you ever find such a software (except maybe Autocad)!
If you’re a ManyCam user at heart, please stop by this book’s Facebook page (yes, this book has its own page!), and let me know what you love best about it!
7. WireCast v.7 Studio/Pro by Telestream $499-$999
I was using Wirecast v. 6 Pro, before I came across vMix, and there were several reasons why I made the switch. I was excited when I first sampled the power behind the Wirecast interface, but that excitement quickly faded by the time v.7 came out, if only for the fact that within a few months, they were asking me to contribute another $299 to the developer’s kitty to upgrade the software.
I wasn’t thrilled, and I didn’t upgrade. Kinda lost me as a customer right there...
The high priced upgrade, along with discovering how clunky it was to use, kept me from being able to recommend it to my fellow live streamers.
Don’t get me wrong, there are several nice features found inside Wirecast, and there are many hard-core fans behind it, I’m just not one of them. The word on the street from users is that v. 7 has made some respectable improvements over previous versions of the interface and did reduce the CPU usage and overhead that bogged it down.
Wirecast fully supports NDI (Network Device Interface) protocols developed by NewTek, but from what I’ve gathered, they removed the virtual camera drivers entirely, making it useless with WebRTC, which put it at the bottom of my 2017 Best of List. This leaves support for only RTMP, MMS HTTP streaming, but I think I understand why they did it.
As for me, I haven’t seen enough added value to justify a $299 upgrade from v.6 to v.7.5 at this time to find out. They’d do well to mirror vMix’s 12-month upgrade policy.
Wirecast also has a free iOS app, to use any iPhone or iPad as an input device. Many software apps should consider these mobile options as incidental also.
Plan on digging deep inside the $$$ bucket to play in the Wirecast sandbox.
(Wirecast comparison: https://www.telestream.net/wirecast/compare.htm)
How to Zoom, Draw and Annotate on a Screen Share During a LIVE Stream Video. (PC Only)
I’m about to let you in on a simple little trick to get the most out of your video hosting experience, especially if you intend on using a particular feature: SCREEN SHARING!
As it stands today, there is MUCH lacking in way of many of the Google extensions required for screen sharing in many of the live video sites that offer them, but that hole can be filled (for Windows users anyway) with a little bit of software that has been around for quite some time now. What is that software?
Zoom It 4.5
(follow the link to get yours now.)
ZoomIt.exe is a perfectly safe and simple to use “portable” software program. Portable simply means it doesn’t need to be installed into your operating system in order to run. It is a self-contained program that consists of one file “zoomit.exe” that could even be run without ever downloading it from the website above. However, I highly recommend users download the .zip and extract it onto their desktops immediately!
To start the program just double-click the .exe file, or drop it onto your task bar for one-click access anytime you need to use it. Once you start it, you can also set it up to auto-start whenever you fire up Windows.
When you first start ZoomIt, you may not see any windows pop-up. If not, it can be found in your taskbar’s icon menu. That’s where all of those startup programs are found. Look and you’ll find an icon of a window with a magnifying glass. By right-clicking on the icon, you gain access the “Options” dialogue box and three command lines within an item list. See the image below for a full screen view.
So as you can see, it’s relatively painless. But this tiny little program contains 3 major tools you’ll want to have in order to make the BEST of your Screensharing!
1. ZOOM (Just as it’s name implies) with quick access via the keyboard shortcut, or by right-clicking on the taskbar icon to access the program in dialogue, you now have a fully functioning magnifying glass, better than the built-in “magnify” application that comes pre-installed on Windows (which by the way, doesn’t work with Blab), or any ctrl+ or ctrl- tricks you may have tried in the past. I use Ctrl+1 as my short (by default). I recommend you set the initial level of magnification to 1.25 (to avoid “zoom shock” to your audience, and yourself!)
At the same time you may or may not want to check BOTH boxes in the bottom-left hand corner of the dialogue window so that ZoomIt will start each time you start Windows and will always end up in your taskbar tray as an icon. Keep in mind, if you ever “Exit” the software, you will have to start again by double-clicking on the .exe file.
2. LIVE ZOOM is a feature of ZoomIt that does NOT work with the Screenshare extension for Chrome that Blab utilizes in its software build. You can use it any other time you’d like, but since it’s not something we can utilize on Blab, I’m not going to cover its use here. You can try it out and see if it’s even anything useful for yourself. The default is Ctrl+2
There may be a work-around for this I haven’t discovered as of yet, but for now, when it comes to Blab anyway, I would recommend setting the shortcut to something like Ctrl+8 or 9 to avoid accidentally starting this part of the app.
3. DRAWING TOOL – One of my favorites. I shortcut this one with Ctrl+2 (Two = “Text Twool” in MY brain). This feature has several ways of working, but is pretty simple to figure out. First of all, once you start this one, you’ll see a colored “dot” on the screen that represents the default size and color settings of the drawing tool. You can immediately change the color setting by typing one of 6 letters right away (no enter key req’d) “r”= red, “b”=blue, “g”=green, “y”=yellow, “o”=orange and “p”=pink. Sadly, white and black are NOT options here. The default is Ctrl+3.
Once your color is established, now you can hold down the Left-Ctrl key and use your mouse wheel (or arrow keys) to increase and decrease the size of the brush. Try out a few strokes to see what works for you. Here, your BEST performance would come from a pen stylus and pad, because drawing and hand-writing text with a mouse is pretty difficult, but I do know of some who have mastered the technique.
There is a 2nd side to the Drawing Tool that can be preset on the next tab labeled “Type”. Here you can set the font, the font style, and the font size. This will allow you to personalize your annotation and labeling while sharing your screen!
In order to access the “Type” feature of the Draw Tool, hold and press Ctrl+2 to enter drawing mode, then type the letter “T”. That’s it. Your cursor will now become a vertical bar “|” and you can begin typing whatever you’d like.
To delete annotations you must use the “ESC” key, unlike deleting drawing elements which can use Ctrl+Z (step erase) or the letter “E” (full erase of all drawn entities).
- BREAK TIME – Last but not at all least is the “Break” feature. It may not sound like much, but I think this one could find itself used in some pretty clever ways on Blab! Break is a timer that can be set to any time from 0-99 minutes that begins to count down once it’s started. It’s default is Ctrl+4. The timer will continue to run as an “elapsed” clock if you check the little box.
Underneath of the “Advanced” button lies even more feature settings for the Break timer.
As you can see below, it’s not just a numbers game. You can locate the timer in any of 9 positions on the screen, include background images with or without opacity (the default is a white screen with timer centered) and you can even include an alarm or other sound (Windows sound file) that will play at the end of the time set. Hitting the “ESC” key will stop the timer and clear back to the previous screen.
To add a sound bite, check the box next to “Play Sound…” then select a sound file from the Windows folder or choose your own.
Timer Opacity = A timer that is solid in color or one you can see through to the screen.
Timer Position – 9 positions to choose from (UL, TC, UR, LC, CC, RC, BL, BC, BR)
Show backgroup bitmap – Gives you the choice of fading your existing desktop background or adding a completely different graphic for the timer when it’s activated.
Scale to screen – I’ll let you try that one out for yourself. (if you still don’t get it, get in touch with me!)
That’s about it! If you have any further questions on the use of this awesome little tool for bringing life to your LIVE Streaming Party! Just give me a shout by visiting my contact page.
Did BeLive.tv Just Say “Talk Show” Free-for-All?!
Wow! A month full of Talk Shows and Talking Heads!
Did you see what’s happened in Live Streaming over the past few weeks? Wasn’t it incredible to see the pace at which the broadcast offerings available have expanded and are now almost looking limitless? Kind of like the universe just clicked on fast forward, wouldn’t you say?
Today BeLive.tv made a few announcements from across the pond in Israel with their latest feature updates. Now that their BETA testing phase has come to a close, they are welcoming in a few new esthetic tweaks and are giving EVERYONE a 14 day FREE Trial of their infamous “Talk Show” format!
The newly released broadcast pricing schedule has just come out and was announced as shown in the chart below…
They are giving a reduced fee (2 free months), if you pay up front for a year! This reduced the monthly rate by a few dollars (Rates go from $15 and $25/mo to $12 and $20/mo. when paid annually). For a platform that gives you all the features is does, it’s a well-rounded and reasonable price to broadcast.
Be sure you’ve considered whether or not you’ll do more than 16 x 20-min broadcasts a month, and how many of the features you’d like before you go and click that Buy Now button! The way it’s setup now somewhat forces everyone I’m associated with to end up automatically in the Standard $25/mo. bracket.
BeLive is giving us a fair first-time offering. It somewhat compares to how Huzza hit the scene last year, starting in at around $15/mo. with 4 seats, recordings and scheduled FBLive access, which then quickly departed when the platform was bought out by KickStarter. More stuff to play with here than Huzza for sure, but we’ll just have to see what happens next over at BeLive.tv!
For those that prefer the “pay-to-play” model this is by far the best choice to date, but then you’re instantly caught up in a perpetual fee to broadcast LIVE to Facebook, which by the way, only gives up it’s archive at 640x360p video resolution, hardly viable for any HD video repurposing.
Let’s hope they soon add a feature to go to YouTube LIVE soon as well. (hint,hint)
Tzafrir Rehan, CEO of Belive.tv DID confirm within the Belivers FB Group that the basic features (not “Talk Show”) would remain free even after the 14 day trial of the full suite demo is over for the user.
Of course, many that subscribe to my channel already know that I prefer the “free-to-play” or “pay once” to get your own live video production software application, that way you can stream on indefinitely to anywhere you’d like, free of charge, in-house audio+video recordings in Hi-Def included, not to mention a LOT of other cool bells & whistles!
I’ll be sure to follow this up with a complete review once the dust settles. I’ve been waiting for the platform to finalize it’s beta before producing a full-on review of everything BeLive.tv has to offer! See you soon!
Meanwhile, Keep Calm and Stream On!
vMix – A Biased Review and Brief Tutorial of the Best Live Production Software!
What is vMix and Why Do I Need a Live Production Software Package?
If these are questions you’re asking yourself, then maybe you’re not quite ready for what vMix is, but let’s just test the waters you’re wading in a little bit before we go making rash decisions or just leave you there with that gawd-awful look on your face.
A Little About Me
Hey there! My name is Leland Best, and as a live stream broadcaster myself, it came as somewhat of a shock that I hadn’t crossed paths with vMix software sooner than I did. I’ve been involved with Radio, TV and DJ’g over the last 30 years in some form or another, but never so much as I have been lately. I started out young in a Radio/TV shop-class in high school that took up two years of my time as a teenager. I enjoyed it immensely, being able to broadcast radio shows to my fellow alumni and create fun little TV productions as either a talent or a production manager, sound guy or camera operator, it really didn’t matter to me. After leaving HS, I went and obtained training and a license for Public Access Studio Production and Editing from my local cable company (which at the time was known as United Cable Television).
Beyond that I got involved with All-Star Entertainment and spent a few years DJ’g local bars, bowling alleys, weddings and graduation parties in the Saginaw, MI area. Then came live streaming! First it was YouTube and Hangouts on Air, then just about any type of webinar platform you could think of. I took a couple years off while moving across the state to do other stuff, but look where I am…back at it. Only now it’s sooo much more fun!
What Does Live Streaming Have to Do With You?
You may still be asking yourself… “So what? I don’t live stream, what do I care?” Well, to be honest, you should care!
There is a wave washing around the world as I write this that not everyone is privy to. I’m going to take a little time to enlighten you here briefly. Now, most people know that YouTube creators have been producing some pretty cool content over the years, and that for at least the last 10 years or so, people have been using somewhat outdated methods to create “live streams” on the internet. That simply means that when someone broadcasts to the internet in a “live stream”, the audience is able to see the show in real time. Just like a LIVE broadcast on TV! Again you say, so what?
Well let’s say you own a store or you’re in business for yourself, or maybe you just have a crafty hobby that you want to take to the public to produce a little income with? How would you take to me saying that nowadays you have the ability to produce your very own LIVE (or recorded) video content with the same level of quality that you could find on just about any HD channel you turn to on your television set, right now? Well, you can!
Huge Benefits for Anyone with a Business
Having the ability to produce your own broadcasts have been the dream of many a business person for years. Many business owners pay THOUSANDS of dollars to run ads on Radio and TV, not to mention the cost of producing the commercial content in the first place. But what if, better even than any commercial, you could reach your audience DIRECTLY with your own equipment and software for probably less than the cost of a single professionally produced commercial? Does that sound a little more interesting? NOW you’re startin’ to catch my drift…
But I Don’t Own a TV Station, How Can I Broadcast to TV?
That’s the beauty of it all, you don’t! You broadcast to the Internet! And rather than pay some TV mogul or network conglomerate, you might pay a few dollars a month for a quality streaming platform. But it gets even better than that.
Thanks to the advent of WebRTC (Web-based Real Time Communications) and the recent announcements (like yesterday) by several major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Google) there are now a multitude of new FREE channels for you to send your message out to the masses! With Facebook LIVE, YouTube LIVE, Twitter’s Periscope, Firetalk, or the plethora of other streaming services popping up every day, you don’t have to pay anyone a single red cent in broadcasting fees! How crazy is that? This is happening RIGHT NOW!
This is where vMix comes in…
Now obviously, some of these new broadcasting platforms aren’t quite what you’d expect when it comes to “TV Quality” networks, but the fact remains that nearly every one of them allow you to broadcast a stream of audio and video content in High Definition to the audience of your choice. vMix has the software and hardware tools and solutions that help you to compete with your local and national television networks in REAL TIME from your office or living room!
So what does vMix bring to the table? Let’s make one point perfectly clear, vMix BRINGS the table!
All your inputs, when and where you need them.
- Video Cameras – 4K, HD and SD capable. Support for capture cards, direct link cameras, webcams, etc.
- Video Files – Support for all popular formats including AVI, MP4, H.264, MPEG-2, WMV and QuickTime*
- DVDs – With menu navigation
- Audio Files – MP3 and WAV
- Audio Devices – Mix multiple audio sources such as SoundCards and DeckLink Audio
- Video and Audio PlayLists – Combine multiple video and/or audio files into a single Input
- RTSP, PowerPoint, Photos, Flash, RTMP, Solid Color and more.
*Apple has recently discontinued support and is phasing out this player in Windows due to security issues in 2016
Simultaneous Streaming, Recording, and Output
Live stream to places like YouTube, Ustream, Daily Motion, Facebook LIVE, Firetalk… you get to choose where your feed goes!
Record in FULL High Definition (HD) to AVI, MP4, MPEG-2 or WMV
Output your data to nearly any source capturing device you prefer!
You’ll also have Virtual Camera support to send your stream to any WebRTC capable platform that exists!
Professional Transition Effects (Boom!)
Cut, Fade, Zoom, Wipe, Slide, Fly, CrossZoom, FlyRotate, Cube, CubeZoom, Vertical Wipe, Vertical Slide and Merge transitions available via on screen macro-like buttons!
Professional HD production on nearly any PC
vMix is the perhaps the most effective at producing HD content through multiple sources without burning out your CPU or putting a whole in your wallet. Thanks to it’s limited use of computer resources and full 3D acceleration, you’ll be able to create professional results on even a somewhat modest computer setup.
Don’t have the room for a Studio Set? Ever heard of Chroma Key?
With vMix’s built in Chroma Key features, and 4 built-in Virtual Sets you can turn any small bedroom into a mega studio in minutes! vMix also gives you the option to create your own personalized virtual studio using the studio builder!
PC and Mac Desktop Sources
With vMix’s Desktop Capture, you can use data from remote desktops on your business intranet, or create a private virtual network (VPN) and connect to outside audio and video streams via the latest NDI (Network Device Interface) technology over the world wide webs from around the world, just by having the devices IP address! (gigabit internet speeds recommended)
This is a great way to present a guest’s PowerPoint presentations! With vMix, Audio Capture support for Skype and other video-conferencing software is available under Windows 7, 8 and 10.
Find out more about running vMix on a Mac.
Looking for Lower 3rd Title Templates? They’re INCLUDED!
With a few clicks of the mouse, you can add or edit a host title bar (lower 3rd) or perhaps a scoreboard or a news ticker. With the correct template and a social media account you can even broadcast a Twitter feed or Facebook comments in REAL TIME during your broadcasts, with full control over each post inside a comment “cue” which allows you to pick and choose how posts, tweets or comments show up in your feed!
Use built-ins or add your own designs that you may have already created inside your favorite graphics or vector editing software. Adjust Text, Font Size and Color and do it in Real-Time with instant updates.
I Missed that….where’s the Instant Replay? Maybe you want Slow Motion?
Create a Video Delay input and assign it to any available camera or output device. Save multiple clips of awesome events for playback at any time. With vMix you have configurable slow motion playback – from 5 to 400%
Throw that old analog mixer in the trash!
vMix’s built-in (I say that a LOT don’t I?) audio mixer allows you to easily keep track of all of your connected audio sources (mics, webcams, audio files) and includes the ability to Mute, Follow (Auto Mixing) and Delay any source.
The Master Output includes it’s own separate VU meter and can be modified via the included equalizer. The VU meter also includes the ability to provide peak outputs and allows for signal gating to ensure each inputs level is ready to broadcast at the best quality possible, without background interference or over pick-up.
Perhaps you’re the type who likes to play with Live Video Effects?
Color Correct, Deinterlace, Sharpen, Zoom, Rotate, Pan and Crop any input on the fly.
All effects are processed in 4:4:4 32-bit color for optimal video quality.
Multi View – 2 Down, 4 to Go!
With Multi-view you can combine a number of input devices into one output to create awesome screen effects for interviews (2 panes), demonstrations, party calls (more than 2 people) or set-up a seat for your co-host and invite a guest to your show!
Overlay Channels (PIP: “Picture-in-Picture”)
The basic versions of vMix only include 1 overlay channel, but even as early as the SD version, vMix adds in 3 more, giving you a total of 4 Overlay Channels in addition to the Multi View feature. Each overlay channel can have its own transition effect, position and border. This is where you should be saying to me, “Are you serious right now?”
Check out this short video I created to give you an idea of what’s possible using overlays:
Control your LIVE video production with your Touch Screen tablet or laptop!
With the vMix Web Controller on your Surface, iPad, Android or other touch screen device you can control your entire production without touching the keyboard (unless you need to edit a title of course). This is a built-in web interface accessible through a simple url port on your network. Customized shortcut buttons similar to macros can also be created to activate common production functions.
Compare the Features:
What Comes Next? Secure the Quality of your Stream with UL Listed Hardware!
Let’s say that computer box you built back in the 90’s isn’t quite up to snuff for broadcasting video. Well, you have a few options at your disposal, so let’s take a moment to consider them all:
- You could certainly try your hand at another build, do what you can to catch up to all the new hardware specs, memory modules, video cards, sound cards, monitors, webcams, and networking devices available in today’s marketplace…or
- You could go browse Amazon or Ebay and try to find a used gaming machine some 19 y.o. kid trashed just so he could get another new one as a graduation present from his dear ol’ rich daddy…or
- You could “trust” your local Best Buy or Office Max store to direct you and your best interest toward a flimsy cookie-cutter machine loaded with all kinds of software you’ll never use…or
- If you’re really serious about broadcasting and creating some totally awesome LIVE (and recorded) video content to help build up your budding business into an empire by reaching more customers than you never thought possible…then we need to talk. Allow me to show you how the enterprise solutions available will make certain you will never have a “bad streaming experience” like the one in this Verizon commercial!