3/6/2020 2 Comments
This is the first in a series of twelve articles. Each article discusses in detail a technical or non-technical tip for doing live streamed musical performances. This article discusses Tip 1 ‘Do a TEST end-to-end live stream’.
Tip 1 - Do a TEST End-to-End Live Stream
I strongly suggest that you do a test end-to-end live stream at least several days before your actual live stream performance so that you can identify any issues and have time to resolve them. Live streaming musical performances is a very new area for most of us, it’s technically quite complex, and there are a large number of potential technical ‘gotchas’. Furthermore, live streaming services such as Facebook Live and YouTube Live were designed for informal live streams from smartphones (e.g. live streaming to friends and family while on vacation), and not for the major musical performances for which they are currently being used. During my technical investigation of these services (see Background below), I encountered numerous technical issues with these services – some of them ‘show-stoppers’. I would definitely not expect to find these issues if these services had been designed for their current use.
In addition, doing a test end-to-end live stream lets you identify and resolve technical and non-technical issues before your actual live stream performance. You do not want to find about these issues from viewers’ comments during the live stream. For example, prior to the May 9th Zolas live stream by Lucas Haneman and Megan Laurence on May 9th, I watched another (non Zolas) live stream of theirs. During the live stream I noticed that the video was flipped horizontally (mirror image), turning the normally right-handed guitar player Lucas Haneman into a left-handed guitar player. The video was not flipped on their screen – only for viewers of the live stream – and so they didn’t find out about this until viewers commented on it during their live stream performance. If they’d done a test end-to-end live stream, they would have noticed this issue and resolved it (which they did subsequently before the Zolas live stream).
A cautionary tale – the ‘headless classical pianist’. I watched a live stream by a classical pianist where the first three minutes of the performance was an introduction by the headless pianist. He also appeared headless after each piece when he stood up, walked over to the video camera, and introduced the next selection. Even if he didn’t do a test end-to-end live stream, how did he not know?
Appendix A ‘Doing a TEST Facebook Live Stream’ in my reference document ‘Live Streaming Stay-at-Home Musical Performances – Technical User Guide’ provides step-by-step instructions with annotated screenshots on how to do an end-to-end test Facebook Live stream to a single ‘viewer’.
I got involved with live streaming at the end of March 2020 when Zolas Italian Restaurant in Bells Corners asked me to help them with live streaming performances by their jazz performers in order to help support their takeout and delivery business during this very difficult time for restaurants. I had been booking the performers for their ‘Live Jazz Saturday Nights’ program for the previous two years. Being an engineer (and borderline OCD – not a job requirement, but definitely an asset), I spent a couple of weeks investigating Facebook Live and YouTube Live from a technical perspective. I set up numerous end-to-end test live streams in order to understand how the two services work, understand the differences, and identify serious and less serious issues. These tests included (successfully) using as the audio source a USB microphone, a sound system (USB and non-USB mixers), and a high quality digital audio recorder.
I’m a retired Professional Engineer (degree in electrical engineering). I worked for 23 years at Bell-Northern Research/Nortel in Ottawa, Canada, designing telecommunications services. I’ve been playing drums and electric bass in gigging big bands and small jazz ensembles since 1970 (fifty years!). Playing in bands kept me sane when I was in school and working, and is now a part-time retirement business. I’m currently the drummer in the big band Standing Room Only and was the bass player in the bossa nova trio Wave until it disbanded (pun intended) in December 2019. Having a technical background and being a gigging musician is proving very valuable for my involvement with live streaming musical performances, since I can bridge the two areas.
I’m currently organizing the ‘Zolas Live Jazz Saturday Nights ONLINE!’ live stream performance series. We’ve had four successful live stream performances so far – Lucas Haneman & Megan Laurence on May 9th, Laura Anglade on May 16th, Roddy Ellias on May 23rd, and Elise Letourneau & Tim Bedner on May 30th.
Organizing the series includes having Zoom meetings with the performers in the series as required (some of them are self-admitted ‘luddites’, so our Zoom meetings are looong and painful, although by the end I get them ‘from zero to sixty’) to a) determine the best technical setup for their live stream performance, b) do a step-by-step walk-through of how to set up and initiate a live stream, and c) do a test end-to-end live stream. I’ve authored a detailed technical user guide ‘Live Streaming Stay-at-Home Musical Performances – Technical User Guide’ for the performers to use as a reference document after our Zoom meeting, and which you can access (read only) at this URL. Appendix B of the reference document provides twelve technical and non-technical tips on live streaming musical performances based on my technical investigation and on the experiences from the Zolas live streams so far:
Ten Benefits of Live Stream Musical Performances Over Live Performances
Author: Chris Thompson (retired Professional Engineer (electrical engineering) and drummer/bassist in gigging small jazz ensembles and big bands for 50 (!) years)
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Ottawa Jazz Happenings or of JazzWorks.
In the current COVID-19 crisis, many musicians have turned to live streaming musical performances* from their homes to at least partially replace their lost income from live performing and teaching, and/or because they miss performing. An example is the Canadian National Arts Centre’s ‘Canada Performs’ series. Musicians who at the beginning of March 2020 didn’t even know what a live stream was have scrambled to come up to speed so that they could put on live stream performances from their homes.
* The word ‘performance’ in the remainder of this article refers to a ‘musical performance’.
I got involved with live streaming at the end of March 2020 when Carmen Vacchio, General Manager of Zolas Italian Restaurant in Bells Corners, asked me to help him with live streaming performances by Zolas jazz performers in order to help support Zolas’ takeout and delivery business during this very difficult time for restaurants. I had been booking the performers for Zolas’ ‘Live Jazz Saturday Nights’ program for the previous two years. Being an engineer (and borderline OCD – not a job requirement, but definitely an asset), I like to think about things and, if possible, generate lists and/or spreadsheets. As I’ve learned over the years, this can be very annoying to non-engineers – and especially spouses. During the past two months I’ve watched a lot of live streamed performances and thought a lot about live stream performances in general. I’ve noticed and have been keeping a running list of the benefits of live stream performances over live performances. Here’s my current list:
Don’t get me wrong. Live performances clearly have a major benefits over live stream performances. For example, live streaming doesn’t allow musicians in different physical locations to play together in real-time (this is the big one), with live performances interaction between the performer(s) and the audience isn’t just text, performance venues such as GigSpace provide much better sound and lighting than live stream performances done from performers’ homes, and live performances allow people to get out of their homes, socialize with others, and combine dining in a restaurant with the performance – wouldn’t that be nice right now (sigh).
How long will the current live stream performances last? My own feeling is that, in the case of restaurants, these will last at least until there are no social distancing restrictions, which likely won’t be until there’s a vaccine, which is currently seen by health care professionals as best case a year away. With social distancing restrictions in place, restaurants won’t be able to have the number of customers in their dining rooms that they need in order to cost-justify hiring performers. The same goes for GigSpace and other performance venues. Not what anyone wants to hear (denial is not just a river in Egypt), but I believe that’s the reality.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that, coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s going to be a very different world and a very new ‘normal’. Musicians who are being forced to use live streaming for the first time to make up for their lost teaching and (especially) performing revenues, and/or because they miss performing, are discovering the powerful benefits of live streaming over live performances. I believe that the ‘new normal’ will still have live performances, but possibly fewer, and a lot more live streaming.
Now in our 27th year, JazzWorks has grown from a two day jazz workshop at the Christie Lake Camp, to a year-round organization offering our Annual Jazz Camp, and Composers’ Symposium at the magnificent CAMMAC complex on Lac MacDonald in the Laurentians, monthly jam sessions and vocal open mic nights, jazz mentoring in Ottawa high schools, a variety of master classes and workshop sessions and our exciting new JazzWorks Presents Concert Series.
It is no exaggeration to say that JazzWorks has inspired many people to become seriously involved in music — young people learning their first jazz tunes and older people rediscovering their love of the music, performing and composing. To be more specific, hundreds of people have participated at Jazz Camp over the years and the Camp has changed their lives.
JazzWorks is having financial difficulties. Costs have risen substantially at CAMMAC, our terrific site. Tough economic times have also affected us:
We pondered serious cutbacks to the 2019 Camp program, but in the end decided to proceed full tilt, maintaining the high quality of the experience for those who had registered.
To keep the organization viable and continue our programs, JazzWorks needs your help, now!
With the goal of greater financial stability for our organization and to have the necessary resources to continue to offer our programs, we have established a fund with the Community Foundation of Ottawa.
Under the direction of our Vice-Chair Tom Bryant, this long-term initiative will be supplemented with creative fund-raising endeavours and also by continuing our cost-efficient approach to spending. Tom has made an initial donation of $1000 and we urge you to join him by making a donation (which is income tax deductible) to the fund.
Our immediate need
The immediate cash crisis is very serious. We need $15,000 to get over the financial hump. There are more than 300 on this email list, JazzWorks supporters and jazz campers past and present, many of you whose lives have been changed through participation in JazzWorks.
If each of you can give a little — and some can give more than that — we can get JazzWorks back on its feet, ready to swing into the next decade — and beyond.
If you can send us $50 (or less) or $100 (or more!) we will use that money, to ensure that there is a Camp next summer, keep the fees reasonable, maintain our high level of Canadian faculty and distinguished international visitors, and to continue to provide Camp scholarships to deserving young musicians. All donations over $20.00 will receive a tax-deductible receipt.
Donations can be made by cheque payable to JazzWorks or by credit card, by phone (Visa and Master Card accepted). All donations over $20.00 will receive a tax-deductible receipt. To donate, please:
We hope to see you at our Jam Sessions and Vocal Open Mic Nights (third Thursday and second Wednesday of the month at Festival Japan), JazzWorks Presents Concerts and at Jazz Camp next summer.
The JazzWorks Board of Directors:
Marylen Milenkovic- Chair
Tom Bryant -Vice-Chair
Ira Abrams, CA - Treasurer
Margaret Cameron- Secretary
Elizabeth Hanson- Jazz in the Schools Outreach
Judith Humenick - Executive Director/Producer