I did my first ever streaming concert yesterday – all in all I felt it was a rousing success – thanks so much to everyone who tuned in!
This was all rather spur of the moment. I wanted to do something special to celebrate Harp Tuesday‘s 4th birthday. I’d had some vague thoughts of doing a live-stream in the past and I realized this would be a perfect opportunity. I’m very happy that I managed to pull everything together, and in the midst of a super busy weekend to boot!
I definitely plan to do more of these, so I wanted to take a moment to look at what worked and what I could do better next time. I also had people asking about how to do their own stream, so I’ll talk a little bit about my setup.
I think YouTube makes it fairly easy just to stream the video and audio from your webcam (if you can do a Skype video call you should be able to stream).
But in my case, I used something called “Open Broadcast Software” (OBS) which is an open source (free) program that I’ve used before. In the last year or so, when I do the Harp Tuesday episodes that have the sheet music showing up on the video (such as this one), I’ve OBS is the program I’ve used to record what is showing up on my screen and “stream” it to a file on my hard drive (which later gets uploaded to YouTube).
OBS gives you more options and control, including being able to easily put text on the screen – I took advantage of that to display the title and composer of what I was currently playing:
For my composition Autumn Labyrinth I had planned to briefly show some pictures of the woods that inspired it, but didn’t quite manage to get it organized in time. I feel I can definitely do more to take advantage of the medium that way.
For my video feed, I used my Logitech C910 webcam. When I record Harp Tuesday I use a Canon DSLR (t4i), which is definitely higher quality. But there’s not an easy way to send the signal from camera in real time to my computer in a way that would let me stream it.
Of course, as far as video quality goes, there are a couple other limiting factors. First, the “bitrate” or amount of information that one’s computer is able to handle/encode, and more importantly the bitrate/speed that one’s internet service provider (ISP) will allow one to upload. Upload speed is generally the biggest limitation, and of course even if you’re able to upload at a super high bitrate, most people won’t be able to stream/view it at that high a rate – depending on the download speeds of their ISPs.
In my case, I generally get decent but not great upload speeds from my ISP. And in fact, I think the bitrate I choose (via OBS) may have been slightly too high – I got some warning messages from YouTube that I may have been lagging at times – hopefully it wasn’t too bad.
So, Video Quality: I was reasonably happy. My webcam ended up at a slightly higher angle than I’d thought – so that when I was playing close to the soundboard or, in Baroque Flamenco, knocking on the soundboard, you couldn’t see my hands – which was too bad. I could also look into getting a spot light or lights which would increase the picture quality. And I certainly should do more experimenting to try and figure out exactly what bitrate is the best compromise between quality vs. the speed that I’m able to upload (or take donations to bump up the speed on my internet plan :)
For the audio, I used my Royer SF12 microphone, running it through a pre-amp into an RME “babyface” USB audio interface. This is a high quality setup and I was happy about it. However (and this is true for recording Harp Tuesday as well), there’s always the problem of a large differences in levels – my voice is much quieter than, for example, an all-out gliss (of which Baroque Flamenco has several… :)
If I’m recording at too high a level, than the loud bits will go over “0” and distort – so I can only turn up the recording levels so high. But this means that my voice is relatively quiet.
I know some people had a problem hearing me when I was speaking. (At the start of the stream someone typed in chat that they couldn’t hear anything and I said to try headphones – but of course if they couldn’t hear anything they weren’t going to hear that suggestion! :) So:
Audio Quality: Pretty happy with it – harp sounded good (given that it was just in my studio space, which doesn’t have the most amazing acoustics). To help alleviate problems to do with the wide range of dynamic levels, for next time I will mention the issue ahead of time AND onscreen and suggest that people may want to consider using headphones and/or a system hooked up to a sound system or tv, etc., which will be able to output a higher level than the typical laptop speakers, for example.
I’ll also try to remember to speak up at all times – after the concert as I was checking the chat and answer questions I caught myself mumbling a few times. And again, I didn’t get tons of testing in and it’s likely I could have safely boosted the signal by a few dbs at least.
Length: 20 minutes for the concert felt great. As someone commented later, no one had to travel to get to the concert, so no need to have a long concert to make people feel it was worth attending. I like the idea of short concerts – we all live such busy lives, and spending 20 minutes listening to a concert feels much more manageable than 2 hours. Less is actually more – in the past I don’t think this was the case, but these days I definitely feel like it is true.
Chatting/interacting: This was great – ended up spending about 15 minutes after the concert answering questions and talking with people.
There was about a 30 second delay on the stream, which took getting used to – when I would say something, I would know that people watching weren’t going to hear it until 30 seconds later – so if I asked a question I would need to keep talking for another 30 seconds until I started seeing responses in the chat… A little strange :)
I think for next time I can do more interaction prior to the “official” start time and a little bit more in between pieces – I talked before each piece but it was mainly a monologue.
Once again, thanks to everyone who tuned in – see you next time!