Live Streaming Services: A Guide for Beginners

In the SHAPE framework, streaming video is part of the Heart (emotion) element because it’s closer to real-time face-to-face conversation than any other form of internet video. Live video is best for unscripted, unpolished content. Go ahead, let your hair down! A talk show, an interview, a sales pitch, a rants and raves session—these are all examples of live video. Viewers can ask questions, make comments, or otherwise participate in the live event. If interaction is an important part of your video, live is great for showing how your product is used and taking questions from customers. Viewers can ask questions, make comments, or otherwise participate in the live event. The potential reach of live video is huge. Cisco predicts that live video will grow to 13 percent of all internet video traffic by 2021 and that immersive video experiences will go mainstream.

Successful live streaming service is more than setting up a webcam and turning it on. Just because you “go live” doesn’t mean anyone will watch. Quality matters in live video. Poorly produced content reflects badly on your brand, so don’t do it unless you can do it well. That doesn’t mean you need a big production budget, but it does mean paying attention to production values. Think of a live video as an open house or a behind-the-scenes tour. The kind of content that works well in live video is the type that is usually hard to come by. You are trying to present something unique to your viewers.

Getting Started with Live Streaming

Once you have established the technical aspects required to begin streaming, it’s time to start investing your time and effort into building a streaming community. The first thing you will need is to figure out what exactly you want your stream to be. Do you see it as being a casual thing to do with your spare time, or are you looking to make something more substantial out of it, maybe even to the point of it being a full-time job? This is an important question because it will determine how much effort you should put into your stream and the amount of time you plan to dedicate to it. If you’re looking to just stream in your free time and have no intention of making a job out of it, then you don’t want to set yourself an unrealistic streaming schedule. Whereas if you want to make something substantial of your stream, you need to be prepared to invest time around your other commitments. Your streaming goals are also something to consider. It could be anything from reaching a certain number of follows to getting a certain amount of viewers. To some people, it may even be as simple as just wanting to have fun. By knowing what you want to achieve from streaming, it will help you stay focused on your targets. With these things in mind, it is likely that you will want to stream to an audience. To do this, a sensible first step is informing your friends of when you will be streaming. With some luck, they will be able to watch and can provide feedback on the stream. A second opinion is always useful, and friends are more likely to tell you what you could do to improve than what you’re doing wrong.

Choosing the Right Live Streaming Platform

Know the cost and terms. Most streaming platforms will operate on a free-to-play basis for their standard services. Be wary of their business models and the fine print of their terms, though. Quite often, the platform will put certain features behind a paywall or take a significant chunk of your subscriber and advertising revenue. If you aim to make a career out of streaming, revenue loss may outweigh the benefit of using certain platforms. Always take into consideration the terms of service or partner agreements at these platforms as well. Many casual streamers have signed contracts without intention or realization, only to be bound by onerous terms that clash with their personal desires.

Understand the benefits of the platform. Different platforms have different features that cater to the needs of different people. Some might cater to a more social environment, good for the casual stream, while others might be more geared towards the person who is looking to build a following. If your brand is looking to share the content of their latest project, a more serious platform might suit you better. Some other features you should consider are the chat features, stream quality, and stream delay. If you aim to create an interactive environment with your viewers, it may be beneficial to see if the chat features allow for emotes, slow mode, and subscriber-only modes. Emotes help to create an established culture with your viewers, and you want to look for a platform that supports custom emotes. High stream quality is crucial if your viewers are to see what’s happening in the game, and a significant delay can hinder viewer and streamer interaction.

Setting Up Your Live Streaming Equipment

When setting up your equipment, it is always good to position your webcam above your monitor. This will prevent you from looking away from your audience. If the camera is located on your monitor, it can appear as though you are looking down while streaming. Secondly, make sure your internet connection is up to scratch. Live streaming service can be very bandwidth-intensive, so a high-speed connection is recommended. Also, try to avoid using wireless internet if possible. The strength of your connection will add to the overall experience of your stream. A good tip to see if your connection is strong enough is to test it with a service like Speed Test. An internet connection with a download speed of at least 3 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 1 Mbps is recommended. A wired Ethernet connection will generally be more reliable than a wireless network.

Understanding Live Streaming Software

With the increasing popularity of live streaming, a comprehensive understanding of the various live streaming software available is vital in selecting the right one for your needs. Depending on your computer’s operating system, processing power and budget, there are a variety of live streaming software options available to you. Some of the popular choices used by live streamers on are Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), XSplit, and FFsplit. These programs are all free to download and use, but some features may be locked behind a paywall. OBS is open source and features high performance real-time video/audio capturing and mixing, creating scene compositions, encoding, recording, and broadcasting. XSplit is a smooth streaming option with an easy-to-use interface, featuring a live TV production feature to create professional productions, but can be costly at $199 for a lifetime license. FFsplit boasts low CPU usage and features simple and easy use for beginner streamers, but can be more limited in terms of functionality compared to other paid and free options. Other affordable paid options include vMix, which is a software video mixer and switcher that utilizes the latest advances in computer hardware to provide live HD video mixing, a task previously only possible on expensive dedicated hardware mixers. It’s important to choose software that meets your requirements but is not beyond the capabilities of your computer’s hardware. Option and settings customization and flexibility vary across software, but detailed audio and video settings may require a more powerful computer to handle. When trialing a live streaming software, be sure to keep an eye on the CPU usage and dropped frames to ensure smooth high-quality output without overtaxing your computer and internet connection.

Live Streaming Best Practices

The live streaming general practices are the basic regulations that guide the beginners or streamers in doing the right hours of streaming and doing the right things that are necessary for his/her stream. The main goal of a live streaming beginner to the veterans is to stream with enjoyment and to attract other people coming to their stream. These guidelines will help determine what and what not to do, so the streamer will have a better time streaming and may help them to be a productive person. These are the suggested general guidelines.

Engaging Your Audience

Hold a contest or giveaway to engage your viewers. This can range from a simple “guess a number between ___ and ___” to a fan art contest. Make sure that whatever you offer is relevant to your audience. If you’re still a small stream, even giving away an in-game item of small value will suffice. People always love free stuff.

Ask questions to encourage chat interaction. You can ask about anything, such as what people are doing, what their plans are, their preferences, or how they would approach a certain task. When someone asks a question, be sure to reply and also answer the question yourself, even if no one asked.

Consider using more than one person to host the stream. With more than one person, the stream can be more lively and interactive, providing multiple perspectives. Keep in mind that having more people in a stream can make it difficult to manage volume levels and have extensive conversations in the chat. However, for the most part, having more than one person is beneficial for the dynamics of the stream.

Planning and Promoting Your Live Stream

When using social media or other forms of direct promotion, it helps to provide potential viewers with a sneak peek or trailer of what they can expect from the stream. Doing anything beyond a simple unscheduled stream will generally yield a small slice of organic traffic from viewers browsing live streams. A quick description and a memorable title will help reinforce the event in their minds, making them more likely to show up when the live stream actually begins. If well-executed, planning and promotion can double or triple the eventual audience of a live streaming event.

Planning and promoting a live stream has a direct impact on the size of its audience. Therefore, when possible, planning and promoting should take place in both the precasting and rebroadcasting periods of the stream. The key here is to identify your audience and build a promotion campaign that is tailored to them. An existing community of viewers or followers is the best source of initial traffic when planning to rebroadcast or promote a scheduled live stream. These viewers are already interested in your content, and keeping them informed through your website, a blog, or social media is a great way to ensure they show up.

It might seem like the best live streams are casual ones that come together naturally, but the most successful live streams involve careful planning and promotion. The more effort you put into promoting your live stream event, the better results you will see. With careful planning and promotion, viewers will be more likely to show up when the event actually happens.

Managing Technical Challenges

Some of the most common issues you’ll come across are bitrate-related. If your stream appears to be a bit pixelated or you’re seeing some artifacting, an easy way to solve this is by upgrading your bitrate. This might not be a viable solution, however, if you’re on a slower internet connection. If you’re dropping frames and losing quality in-game, it’s definitely not worth reducing performance. A more drastic quality issue is the existence of buffering and frequent loading. This might be due to excessively high bitrate for the viewers’ download speed, and you’ll have to find a good balance between high quality and watchability. Using your stream preview and/or getting a friend to watch the stream and give feedback is a good way to gauge video quality. As for audio, if your viewers are complaining about sound echoing or only one headset in a stereo pair working, it’s likely that you’ve selected the wrong audio devices in your broadcasting software. Take the time to test sound using a sample recording before starting the stream.

One of the most common technical difficulties new streamers encounter is poor quality audio and video. While there are some issues on the viewer’s end that you won’t be able to solve for them, ensuring you yourself have a high-quality stream is the first step. Video resolution and bitrate are the best places to start. For most, the recommended video resolution is 1280×720 (16:9 HD) with a bitrate of 1800-2500 kbps. Audio quality settings can vary between streaming software, but the standard quality should be 128 kbps stereo. After encoding, a good way to check quality is by using Twitch Inspector. The analyzer will give you tips based on your stream to further improve quality.

Interacting with Viewers

One other technique for interaction is through the use of viewer polling, which can present immediate feedback on any number of topics. Polls are effective because they engage the audience in a way that gets them thinking without requiring a major effort from them. Simply giving you feedback can also be an important activity, so it is useful to have viewers mail you their feedback on the broadcast via any pertinent subjects or what they would like to see in future broadcasts. This can be a helpful method of making viewers feel their opinions are valued without taking time away from the actual broadcast.

Clearly taking on questions during the broadcast and answering the viewers can be the primary and most simple method of interacting along with your audience. It lets them know you care about their thoughts and need to involve them in the dialogue, and it also allows you to respond to and engage with viewer reactions in actual time. Questions can be submitted by email, Twitter, or some other chat function where you can assign somebody to track the questions and flag them for you. Once your broadcast has begun, verbally acknowledge the question before answering it to let the rest of the viewers know what you are replying to. Make sure you watch for and reply to comments associated with what is currently happening in your broadcast to maintain the conversation contextual to the portion of the stream you are discussing. Having viewer questions and comments as a topic will also be helpful filler in the event you encounter any technical difficulties during your broadcast.

Advanced Live Streaming Techniques

If you are an entertaining individual who can produce high-quality content, you may want to consider applying for a partnership. If you are able to consistently maintain a high amount of viewers, and you adhere to the terms of service and the rules of copyright, you are a good candidate. Becoming a partner allows viewers to subscribe to your channel for a cost of $4.99, of which you receive a 50/50 split with Twitch. Subscribers get access to subscriber-only chat and ad-free viewing. This is a beneficial venture for both parties, as it gives viewers a chance to support the streamer in a way that is more significant than an occasional donation, and they get something in return. High-profile streamers will benefit the most from this, as some viewers have so much disposable income that throwing $5 a month at their favorite streamer is nothing to them.

Monetizing your live stream is one of the most difficult yet potentially beneficial ventures you can try in the live streaming world. The majority of successful streamers receive money from their viewers through a donation button. Very few rely on this as their sole income, and it can take a very long time before a new streamer receives any substantial donations. Many viewers do not donate because they are not convinced it will make a difference, and for a new streamer, no donations reinforces the idea of it not being worth the time.

Monetizing Your Live Stream

The pay-per-view method involves the placement of certain content on lockdown from standard viewers. This could be premium content such as high-quality rebroadcasts or simply the stream itself. Viewers must pay a certain fee to access this premium content, and the broadcaster receives a portion of the payment.

Another method of monetization is the pay-per-view or subscription method. This method is less common with live streaming but still exists on platforms such as Twitch. Viewers can subscribe to a specific broadcaster’s stream for a set monthly fee. The broadcaster takes a percentage of this fee during the duration of the subscriber’s active status.

The most common method of monetization involves the display of advertisements. Ad revenue is a simple concept: a content creator allows an ad to be displayed on their content, and in return, they receive a percentage of the revenue that is generated from ad views. This money is typically paid out on a per click or per impression basis. YouTube’s ad program allows content creators to enable ads on their videos, and they receive 55% of the revenue.

Monetization is a system that grants content creators the ability to earn revenue through their viewers. It is commonly associated with more established content platforms, but many live streaming sites are adopting their own methods of allowing broadcasters to generate revenue. YouTube is a well-known example of a platform that has an established monetization system for its content, and they have recently implemented live streaming as a means of content delivery.

Integrating Graphics and Effects

Professional video quality is effectively the first and last thing you should be thinking about whenever starting a live stream. The closer the video quality is to professional, the more receiving new viewers will think that your content is also of high quality. High quality video starts with clear and smooth video capture. Ensure that your game or whatever you want to capture is set to the proper screen resolution and bitrate for broadcasting. If you are unsure about encoding settings, often comparison screenshots can be taken and posted and people will be able to give you an idea of how to improve your video quality.

In this chapter, we will be talking about the best practices and various techniques when trying to deliver the best quality video to engage and captivate your viewers. This also includes how to integrate the visuals of advertisements to effectively earn more revenue.

One reason people watch live streams is because they are visually compelling. You might tune in to a Valve game as a player you’re interested in learning from gets into a match. You might click on a StarCraft II stream to see an event unfold from a bird’s eye view, something that isn’t possible as you might be playing the game yourself. Or you might just want to be entertained by a streamer’s reactions to a scary game he’s playing.

Collaborating with Other Streamers

A very simple way to start collaborating with other streamers is to share hosts. Hosting is a function on Twitch where a channel can broadcast the live content of another channel while still being able to interact with their own viewers. If you’ve just finished your own broadcast but your viewers are hungry for more, you can always find another streamer and send your viewers their way. Whether it’s a one-time thing or an agreement to routinely host each other, this is a very low-effort way to introduce your viewers to another streamer’s content.

One of the best parts of live streaming is that it is an incredibly social experience. Interacting with your viewers is a blast, but there is another dimension of interaction that can also be very fulfilling: collaborating with other streamers. Whether you team up with someone who normally streams on their own or you gather a bunch of casters to co-stream an event, there are a wide variety of ways a streamer can use another’s presence to enrich their broadcast.

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