3/6/2020 1 Comment
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: