If you've never live-streamed before, and even if you have, TEST STREAM! Set up a private Facebook group, make a private Instagram account, or stream to an unlisted YouTube link. This is especially important if you're using some kind of live-streaming platform, like OBS (which I used to run this 6-hour stream) or Stage 10 (which Stareable used for our February webinar). Each platform has different quirks and requirements, and knowing how to navigate them while people are literally watching you live will be invaluable.
Things to test:
Audio. Whether you're counting on your laptop's internal mic, headphones with a microphone on them, or a USB microphone, make sure you check how it sounds. If you're planning on multiple people being on camera, test how it sounds to be further away from the mic, or off to each side. Test where in frame you should put the mic so it doesn't look awkward, and how loud you should tell everyone to be.
Camera. How clear is the picture while streaming on your WiFi? Is there stuttering, or a delay in sound and picture? Can you read text that's placed on the screen? If you hold up props, is it clear what they are? How's the lighting? You don't want to be figuring these things out on the day.
The Platform. Like I mentioned earlier, if you're using a live-stream management platform rather than just turning on Facebook live, getting used to switching what's on screen and how to throw up a "we'll be right back!" without sound is vital. Plus, each program has different tactics for getting the stream to your audience, so make sure you know what needs setting up on your various accounts beforehand.
Graphics. Similarly to above, make sure you test your graphics before you go live if you're using a platform that supports them. Your lower third display might be too tall, obscuring parts of the screen you need for other things, or you might notice a typo.
The links. you're probably going to want to promote your live stream, but depending on the platform, how to get the link to the stream differs. Make sure you know the easiest way to capture the URL and get the word out- you might need a second teammate for this.
Moderating. If you expect or are counting on people commenting and chiming in, get used to how that will appear. If you think quite a few people will chime in, I would definitely recommend having a second person monitoring comments and feeding them to you instead of you trailing off to read and then jumping back to the stream to answer.
3- The Look
Once you've tested everything, spend some time getting your frame in order. The same way you want your shots in your series to look nice, you should also put some work into your backdrop!
Production Design. If you're going to bother to live stream, you want the [likely static] room you're in to be interesting to look at. Best case scenario, you work with your actual web series production designer to bridge the visual gap between show and stream, incorporating elements from fan-favorite locations to make things feel familiar. You could also hide show-specific easter eggs in the backdrop, and offer a prize to any fan who can identify them all before the end of the stream!
Lighting. As always, lighting is often more important to the look of a frame than the camera itself. See this article for more details on why that is. If you have access to lighting equipment, use it! And of course, be sure to test it. You may also need to just co-opt every lamp in your apartment, testing out which cast the most flattering shadows. Otherwise, try to stick to daytime streams where you can position yourself near a window, letting nature do the heavy lifting.
Camera angle. Finally, pay attention to the angle of your webcam or camera. Try to give yourself and other live stream participants "safe" off-camera areas of the room to decompress, moderate the comment section, and pick wedgies. You'll also want to make sure you can physically fit everyone who needs to be in frame into your frame.
4- The Sound
We've already talked about this briefly, but please make sure you have a sound solution! While the computer or phone microphone might be ok if your stream only includes one person, the more people there are in the room, the more important an actual microphone becomes. Some suggestions:
Omnidirectional USB mic. Omnidirectional means "every direction," which is good for a stream where you need to capture audio from multiple sources. Most microphones are directional, meaning you have to be right in front of it or have it pointed at you to get your audio picked up. In a group setting, that obviously isn't a good system. Here's an article that walks you through some of the recommended options.
Headphone splitter. I recently purchased a headphone splitter so I could listen to podcasts with my partner on the subway without sacrificing one ear's worth of audio. If I was doing a live stream where I could fit all hosts within a foot of the laptop, I'd absolutely use a headphone splitter to allow each person to have their own mic. This is the one I have, and it works great!
5- Bonus: The graphics!
If you took a look at the two live streams I linked above as examples, you probably noticed that they were a bit more complex than just "webcam + people = live stream." They also both incorporated screen sharing, a lower third image, and other interstitial graphics. None of these things were necessary, but you have to admit they add a level of professionalism you can't get any other way. For the crowdfunding live stream, graphics allowed us to always have the URL to our campaign available for viewers, no matter when they tuned in. For Stareable's live webinar, it allowed us to brand the event and also screen-share the presentation directly rather than pointing a laptop webcam at a projector screen.
The low-tech workaround would be to set up a large physical sign in the background, or across the bottom of your fame, but that'll never look as polished as graphics, so if you can dedicate the time (and in some cases, the budget) to learning them, a program like OBS or the more professional Stage 10 is well worth it.
Any other tips for a successful live stream? Share them in the comments!