If you are reading this article, you are most likely completely fascinated with live video and it’s surging popularity.
Which means you are likely looking at the endless possibilities that live video provides for you and your business, and trying to figure out what will work for you and how you are going to get started.
I started putting together my plans for broadcasting on live video about 7 or 8 months ago, just around the beginning of 2016. For the first few months of this year, I didn’t buy anything – instead, I just consumed content on the various platforms while trying to conclude where to get started.
During that time I considered Snapchat, Blab, Facebook Live (which wasn’t available to me until April or May 2016), Periscope, Vine, and a handful of others.
Ultimately, I concluded to get started on Snapchat for a variety of good reasons. First, I already had a phone, which is all I really needed.
Or so I thought.
Within no time I had several tripods, a Bluetooth remote so I could record hands-free, a professional-grade stylus, as well as a few other gadgets to help me create good Snapchat content.
But I have had a strong desire to go live on other platforms, and my focus was going to be on Periscope, Facebook Live (which had been made available just when I was ready to go live on it), and Meerkat. Yes, Meerkat.
I’ll just briefly state that I chose to go live on Meerkat mainly because the much anticipated YouTube Connect hasn’t been made available yet, even though there has been much buzz that it could be released at any moment, and that buzz has been going on since last April.
To give you a little background, in a very small period of time (6 months), I’ve had three live video studios. Basically, it’s how my studio has morphed and grown from where I started, to where I am now. Just so you know, where I am now, my studio is awesome, and if I could have skipped the first two studio configurations and landed where I am now, I would have. This is all the result of starting from scratch, having no experience in doing this, and getting to where I am now.
Neither of the three studios is a bad way to go. However, as you’ll see, the third live video studio is kick ass. Despite that, I highly encourage you to read everything, as only some things have changed between the three different studios, and to build your studio, you should know what I went through, and why, so you can build your studio to your liking and within your budget.
But before we dive into the equipment, I’d like to cover the goals that I had with my live video studio.
Live Video Studio Goals
Before you start spending money on equipment, I think it is a wise move to figure out what goals you have for your live video studio.
For instance, are you wanting to stay within a certain budget?
Are you wanting to have a permanent studio set up, or is it okay if you have to put it together and dismantle it with each and every use?
Are you interested in excellent audio, or is ‘just okay’ okay?
Are you wanting to broadcast to multiple platforms at one time, or are you fine just broadcasting to one platform?
Are you wanting to have the ability to add enhancements to your video, such as the ability to broadcast screenshots of other devices or windows for educational purposes?
These were all questions that I had. And the way I looked at it was that I was ‘all in’ on creating a live video studio that I had no regrets over. I didn’t want to be reminded each and every time I broadcasted that I somehow cut a corner or settled for something less than I desired.
So for me, in regard to the considerations above, I concluded that my budget was pretty much unlimited, but I knew I’d keep it within reason.
I also wanted a permanent studio set up. I had no interest in using my phone as part of the setup, as then I’d have to connect it, mount it on a tripod and set it up just right, sound test it every time, and deal with part of my studio being something I carry around every day with me, and might even lose.
One thing I’ve learned from all of this is the more permanent the studio is, the less room for error when you go live. When you have to connect and set things up each and every time there is a broadcast, there is a strong possibility for hooking it up wrong or forgetting something. And I’ve done 30 minute broadcasts where I didn’t realize the sound wasn’t working right – that sucks!
I wanted my audio to be excellent. There aren’t many things worse than watching a broadcast where the sound is terrible.
I wanted to be able to broadcast live to multiple platforms, as I discuss below. Because one mobile device or computer is unable to stream live to multiple sources (at least without the right software, and the choices right now aren’t that great) I’d need multiple devices and/or a computer. Sure, it elevates the budget, and there is always the possibility that it gets easier to use one device to broadcast to multiple venues, but right now that isn’t the case. Worst case scenario I have some equipment I don’t necessarily need, but I’m okay with that.
And I also know, from my HD camcorder experience (see below), that sometimes when you have more equipment than you need, a year or two can pass and suddenly that piece of equipment becomes a key component in your setup.
Finally, I wanted to be able to broadcast a more professional video, where I could do screenshots of my phone, other iPads, windows on my computer, and the like. I wanted to be able to add picture-in-picture, lower thirds, my brand logo to the lower corner, and things like that.
What are you looking to do with your studio? These are very important, basic considerations and probably worth mulling over for awhile before throwing down cash for equipment.
My First Live Video Studio
My first live video studio was inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk and a broadcast he did to promote his new book Ask Gary. His broadcast was called ‘Super 8’, and he broadcasted on multiple platforms at one time for eight hours to promote his book.
As it happened, I was home sick with the flu and I watched a good portion of the 8 hour broadcast. But I found quite thrilling that he was able to reach out to multiple audiences with one broadcast.
Which is what I wanted to do, at least after seeing that broadcast.
So my intent was to get on at least three platforms at one time, with one broadcast. I wasn’t sure if it would work well on a regular basis or not as far as communicating with viewers, as your attention cannot be evenly divided between multiple broadcasts, which might annoy some viewers, but I was going to try it anyway.
So my first live video studio consisted of a Mackie mixer (I bought the Mackie 1402VLZ4, 14-channel Compact Mixer with High Quality Onyx Preamps), which is a fantastic mixer. (You can read further to see why I ultimately bought another mixer for live video use.)
In addition to the Mackie mixer, I also purchased a Heil microphone (I chose the Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone) which is a microphone used and highly recommended by people like John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire (www.EntrepreneuronFire.com) and Cliff Ravenscraft of Podcast Answer Man (www.PodcastAnswerman.com).
I had also bought three brand new iPad Minis Apple iPad mini 4 (16GB, Wi-Fi, Silver). The reason I wanted three was so I could broadcast to three platforms at one time, which, at the time (and still is), Periscope and Meerkat, and occasionally Facebook Live (I’ll explain why I’m not using an iPad to broadcast to Facebook Live much anymore.)
And yes, I could have used my phone and saved the money on one iPad. But one desire I have for my live video studio is to not have to set it up and take it apart each and every time I use it. I have tripods and iPad clamps (see below) and I want to set up the studio one time, and one time only, and be able to sit down in front of it at a moments notice and start broadcasting. That is a somewhat expensive luxury, but I’m taking this very seriously and I want to do it right.
So getting back to the equipment, in order to run sound from the microphone to the mixer, and then out the mixer to the iPads, I needed three iRig 2 (IK Multimedia iRig 2 guitar interface adaptor for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac and Android).
As I said, I needed 3 of the iRig 2 because there is one cord that runs from the mixer to the iRig 2, and then from the iRig 2 both into the first iPad, and then to the second iRig 2, which then goes into the second iPad, and into a third iRig 2 which runs into the third iPad.
By doing this, professional sound from the microphone runs through the mixer and into each iPad, which far surpasses the built-in microphone on the iPad, even though the built-in isn’t terrible. But the Heil PR-40 sound going into the iPad broadcasts is really second to none, at least as far as it goes for consumer grade equipment.
In order to test and monitor the sound, I chose the Sony MDR-7506 Professional Headphones. Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone I plug these directly into the mixer’s designated headphone jack.
These headphones come recommended by many popular broadcasters, and I’m very happy I chose them.
They are very comfortable, they shut out sounds while providing superior sound coming from the mixer. I don’t always wear them because I prefer my broadcasts to be with me without a headset on, but when I’ve joined in on Blabs, I really like them because I can focus on the conversation people are having without being distracted by noises around me.
Other items I chose included the following: a “pop” filter to lower and/or eliminate unsavory popping and cracking noises that are made by the mouth while speaking, a Heil shock filter Heil Sound PRSM-B Shockmount (Black) to balance and stabilize the microphone and suppress low frequency rumble, thus improving the quality of the sound, a Heil boom C-clamp Heil Sound Boom C-Clamp for the PL2T and SB2 and a flexible Heil boom Heil Sound PL-2T Overhead Broadcast Boom to hold the microphone while allowing me to put the microphone where I want and suspend it about 8 inches below my mouth while broadcasting for the best sound results.
As for wires and cords, I bought a simple 3 foot stereo 3.5MM to two 1/4″ wire (here: Hosa CMP-159 3.5 mm TRS to Dual 1/4 inch TS Stereo Breakout Cable, 10 feet) to run from a fourth iPad (or an iPhone or some other device) into the mixer so I could play music into the broadcast if I wanted, such as some music to entertain viewers logging in to a broadcast that was just starting, perhaps to go along with a countdown clock.
As for the microphone cable, I like Mogami because they have some of the best cables available, and when you choose to buy awesome, professional grade gear, you should do the same with your wires and cables. The microphone cable I chose is the Mogami Gold Studio 15 Microphone Cable Quad Conductor 15 feet. I do recommend 15′ or so (in fact, never get the amount of cable you think you’ll need, get the next size up past what you think you’ll need – I promise, this will save you big headaches later.) This cable simply runs from the microphone to the mixer (or compressor – see below in the section about my ‘second’ live video studio).
You will then need a cord to run from your mixer to the first iRig, and then from iRig to iRig. The first cord, from the mixer to the first iRig, is the Monoprice 104769 6-Feet Premier Series XLR Female to 1/4-Inch TRS Male 16AWG Cable
Then, from each iRig, I use the Mogami Gold Instrument 10 Guitar/Instrument Cable, Straight Ends, 10 feet. So, if you are using three iPads, as I did in my first studio, you’ll need two of these cables, one from the first iRig to the second iRig, and then one for the second iRig to the third iRig.
Just so you know, each iRig has a permanent, designated cord coming out of it, and that is what you plug into each iPad. Also, while broadcasting, you will not be able to hear what is going on on each iPad while configured this way, and for most broadcasts, that is okay, as it will be just you speaking.
However, if you are doing a Blab or some other broadcast where you are interacting with others, you’ll have to plug your headset (which is normally plugged directly into the mixer) into the last iRig device in the chain of iRigs so you can get their sound.
Quick Review of My First Live Video Studio Setup
So let’s recap, real quick. Hell PR-40 microphone sits in boom with pop filter and shock mount. A microphone cable runs from the microphone to line 1 of the Mackie mixer. The XLR Female to 1/4 Inch TRS Male cable runs from the line out of the Mackie mixer to the first iRig 2. The first iRig’s designated, permanent cable runs into the first iPad.
Then, the first Mogami Gold Instrument 10 Guitar Cable is plugged into the output of the first iRig 2, and into the input of the second iRig 2. The second iRig 2 is plugged into the second iPad. And that all is repeated one time for the third iPad.
The Sony headphones are plugged directly into the Mackie mixer. The 3 foot stereo 3.5MM to 1/4 wire run directly into the Mixer (any line you choose).
That is my first live video studio, and it only lasted for about a month or two. However, my second live video studio is just about the same as the first, only once I started playing with OBS and ultimately Wirecast, there was no need for one of the first three iPads to be used for Facebook Live, and instead, there was a need for some sort of video camera (which I already had), a laptop, and a few other pieces of equipment and software.
So let’s discuss my second live video studio.
My Second Live Video Studio
As stated above, my second live video studio is the direct result of my desire to broadcast from my laptop to Facebook Live, which allows me a lot of options as far as enhancing my broadcasts.
Keep in mind – I’m very, very new to all of this. But I when I broadcast, I want the broadcast to be as cutting-edge as possible.
So basically, my second live video studio consisted of my first live video studio, as illustrated in detail above, along with a new component to the live video studio, which included my laptop, OBS and Wirecast software, a camcorder, and a mini-recorder. Go ahead and read on, I’ll tell you all about it.
The OBS Project Software
The point of the OBS Project software is to allow you to broadcast to various live video platforms, including Facebook Live, with a laptop, all while adding special effects, text, picture in picture, lower thirds, and the like.
If you want to be able to hook up your iPhone and display to your viewers what you are doing on your phone, you’ll need something like OBS Project (or Wirecast). If you want to fade out of the picture with you facing the screen, to say, a webpage, so you can show your viewers something on the internet, you’ll have to have something like OBS Project (or Wirecast).
You can’t do these things broadcasting to Facebook Live, or other platforms, with a mobile device.
So it was imperative for me to learn this software and hardware as quickly as possible, so I could do these things if I wanted.
In the end, I did not get very far with the OBS Project software, which is a shame. I do intend to go back and try to master it, but I was too restless to screw around with it any longer than I had.
Still with the OBS Project software being free, this was a great place to start.
When I first downloaded the OBS software, I had a choice to use the built in camera on my laptop or use an external camera source.
I did not own a webcam, and didn’t want to buy one. I knew I did not want to use the camera on the laptop (a MacBook Pro from 2012). That left me with wanting to use a camcorder.
Well, I had to very nice Canon camcorders that I bought a few years ago for a project and then never used. The Canon camcorders I have are as follows: Canon VIXIA HF G40 Camcorder
This camera is wicked. When I bought two of them, they were twice the price, at least. Over the last 2 or 3 years since I bought them, I had regrets having done so to have so much money tied up in them. But…I never knew they’d someday be key to my operation, and for that I am delighted!
Well, to run a non-webcam camera, like this Canon, directly into the laptop, there is a little problem. Most laptops, if not all laptops, are not going to accept the signal without some extra equipment.
For me, the solution was in the BlackMagic Design Ultrastudio Mini Recorder: Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder – Thunderbolt
I run the camcorder out into the BlackMagic Mini Recorder via an HDMI cable AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable – 6 Feet (Latest Standard)
Then, I run a Thunderbolt cable (Apple Thunderbolt Cable (2.0 m) – White) from the Blackmagic Mini Recorder right into the laptop.
After doing this, the computer and the software on it went from no signal to having a video signal! Awesome, right?
Well, not quite.
Then there is the sound, which was a major pain in my ass. The headaches caused by my sound issues went on for about about three months, and it delayed my desired broadcast schedule, causing me stress and disillusionment with the entire project.
Here was the main problem, which I didn’t even figure out until I abandoned OBS for Wirecast. While my computer would recognize the Heil microphone with the input being the headphone jack in the side of my laptop, none of my software would…which I did not realize. So anytime I would test broadcast, I did not realize that I was getting sound from my laptop microphone.
Of course, this was shit sound, to say the least. And it kept me from broadcasting much. It was humiliating to have such awesome equipment, and such shitty sound. So I mainly broadcast from the three iPad studio when I wanted to broadcast, while in the meantime I tried to figure out my sound problem.
Going back to the OBS Project software, I did have another problem with the sound – that being that whatever you heard me say would be 5 or 8 seconds after my onscreen presence said it. This synchronization problem was something that I just…hated. I mean, it drove me nuts. I tried everything to fix it, and couldn’t.
Up until…someone on Joel Comm’s Live Video Marketing Mastermind Facebook page mentioned a potential fix for it. I tried this, and it worked! But that fix was short lived, as it started doing it again very soon thereafter.
With the OBS Project being a free, open-source platform, there is no tech support for it aside from the forums on their website, and even there, getting a response can be like wishing for positive lottery results.
Ultimately, it was both the poor sound quality (because of the software not recognizing the microphone input, which I didn’t realize at the time), the lag between what I was saying on the screen and what people were hearing, as well as the lack of tech support that caused me to move on to Wirecast. And even though one of those reasons was bogus (although I didn’t realize it), I’m so…so glad I moved on, for reasons I discuss later in this blog article.
Wirecast is a piece of software that is much like the OBS Project, only it isn’t free. Instead, it is $495 for the package I purchased. They have a “Pro” package for $995, but after talking to the reps and techs at Wirecast, it appeared that the basic Wirecast software gave me everything I needed. Not only that, but I could always pay the difference and upgrade to Pro if at any point I realized it has something I needed.
For $99, I also bought the one year of Premium Telephone Support. Can I say this – this this is money well spent, period.
Okay, with the equipment I had, I had several problems moving on to Wirecast, some of which I’ve even forgotten. I did have a problem with my 4 year old Mac and the resources Wirecast uses when it is running, which would cause the fan on my laptop to run nonstop. Wirecast reps help me reduce the CPU usage to manageable levels, and even though the fan runs some, it’s not as often and doesn’t seem as loud prior to those tweaks.
It took about 30 minutes of time with the rep on the phone, going over each and every connection and configuration in the software, but we finally realized that, while my computer was recognizing my microphone that was plugged into the jack in the side of the computer, NONE of my software was! Which is one of the reasons I couldn’t figure this out all along.
So…I had a few choices, none of which were terribly palatable. The best choice I had was to run the microphone from the mixer into the laptop using a USB input. Many mixers these days have a USB output on the back of the mixer. But some mixers DO NOT have a USB output. Wanna guess whether or not my awesome, new Mackie mixer listed above had a USB output or not? If you guessed that it did not, well, you are correct.
So, I had to buy a second mixer! Ugh!
But guess what – after 4 months of pulling my hair out, and a burning desire to get this right, I didn’t give a damn about spending another $300 or so for an instant fix. Which I did.
By the time I hung up with tech support at Wirecast, I was on Amazon Prime ordering my new mixer. This is the one I chose: Mackie PROFX12V2 12-Channel Compact Mixer with USB and Effects
This is a fabulous mixer (the first one was, too). I still have the first one, and will use it for a podcast studio when I get my butt in gear to get that going. In the meantime, sadly, it’s stored away in it’s original box waiting until I get to it.
And let me tell you – with the help from Wirecast and with the aid of a mixer with a USB output, my sound is…awesome!
But…I was having a small issue with the sound, despite it being awesome sound. I was getting a very small, intermittent and irregular popping sound. Of course, that drove me nuts!
Because I paid $99 for premium telephone support, you can rest assured I intend to use it with any sign of a sound problem.
And guess who I got on the phone, randomly, this time around? None other than Stephen Heywood from The Tech Buzz, who happens to be somebody over at Telestream. Words cannot describe how helpful and awesome Stephen was.
So he had me set up an app on my computer that allowed him to share the screen and manipulate my computer over the internet, and we worked our way through the problem. He spent about 45 minutes with me on the phone going over every detail on my computer, my mixer, all of my connections, and the Wirecast software.
I’m not a tech guy, and audio equipment is not my specialty, so I’ll explain this as best I can.
Basically, the signal from the mic to the mixer was very weak, and that was causing me problems. So Stephen walked me through all the adjustments on my mixer so I could get the best sound, but he said that, while I was good to go as configured, that my sound would be far superior and more dependable if I added a preamp / processor to my setup.
This I had not considered, but he told me exactly what to buy. So I did. The processor I bought was as follows: DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor
With the compressor, I did need another Mogami cord, which is as follows: Gold Series Studio 10 Foot TRSXLRF
This particular cord runs from the compressor into Line 1 on the mixer.
I had no idea how to dial in the microphone preamp, so I located a video from the manufacturer on the internet on how to configure the compressor, and, with that, shall I say that my audio now rocks! As far as I can tell, with consumer-grade equipment, my audio and video is just about as good as it can get. Or maybe not. I’m sure I’ll learn of something new, later, that I’ll have to get, that will make everything even better.
So now, I’m down to lighting. My lighting isn’t quite the way I want it, but that is my next project, which I’ll be working on towards the end of August.
So real quick, let’s review who this is set up.
Quick Review of Second Live Video Studio Setup
The Heil PR-40 microphone runs into the compressor (instead of the mixer) via the microphone cord. Then, with the Mogami cord (the last one listed, just above) runs into the mixer, line 1.
Then I have a USB cable running out of the back of the newer Mackie mixer directly into my USB jack on the side of my computer.
The camcorder setup is the camcorder running an HDMI into the Blackmagic Audio Mini Recorder, which in turn runs a Thunderbolt cable out of the mini recorder and into the side of the laptop.
The iPad setup and cord system remains the same as the first studio, only that now I do not need one iPad designated to Facebook Live since I’m now using a laptop.
So I removed one iPad from the chain of iPads. That’s it. And the iPad I removed I do have on a tripod next to everything so I can monitor Facebook viewers and comments, since I can’t do it on my computer while using Wirecast.
But what about my original 3-iPad setup? Well, that had morphed just as soon as I got the second mixer and got the sound figured out. Basically, it blended in with the laptop and camcorder setup so I can broadcast on Periscope, Meerkat (or YouTube Connect, once that becomes available), and Facebook Live.
So this blending or morphing of the iPad setup and the computer setup brings us to my third, and final (at least until now) live video studio setup.
My Third Live Video Studio
There really aren’t any equipment changes from the second live video studio setup to the third live video studio setup. The only change is how I have it arranged.
Before, I had all three iPads on tripods to the left of my computer. This allowed me to choose whether to use Facebook Live on the computer or the iPad. I did this mainly because of the sound problems I was having.
Now that my sound issues are resolved, I have one broadcasting iPad on each side of my laptop. This allows for Periscope on my immediate left, Meerkat (or YouTube Connect) on my immediate right, with my laptop and camcorder in the middle. And then I have the one extra iPad to my left for monitoring Facebook Live.
But there are other items that I’ve not discussed above that I really like and that helped me build my live video studio.
Other Items for the Live Video Studio
Well, you do need a way to support your iPads or other mobile devices while broadcasting in a live video studio. For that, I selected the following equipment, and like it very much, as I did try multiple items before concluding on the following:
Tripods: The Cowboy Studio tripods are awesome for desktop studios, as they are very sturdy, adjustable, lightweight, and compact. Cowboystudio Mini Tripod for Camera DSLR, SLR, and Camcorders with Carrying Bag
iPad Mount: I love SquareJellyfish. I’ve been using their gear for over a year and it’s the best out there for this kind of application. They offer the iPad mounts in metal Square Jellyfish MNLGTBLMT337 Metal iPad Air Tripod Mount and plastic Square Jellyfish Mini Tablet Tripod Mount (NEW UPDATED VERSION) (Mount Only)
iPhone Mount: More from SquareJellyfish: Square Jellyfish Spring Tripod Mount for Smart Phones 2-1/4 – 3-5/8″ Wide
Power Supply / Surge Protector: You want to protect all of this awesome equipment, so I chose the Belkin surge protector listed here: Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot-Plug Surge Protector with 8-Foot Cord, BP112230-08
Final Thoughts and Other Live Video Considerations
As stated above, you need to evaluate what your goals are prior to diving in and buying equipment.
You should be ready for plenty of trial and error in getting things set up properly, and getting the equipment just right, particularly the wires and cables, if you are trying new things with your live video studio.
If you are wanting to test your equipment, you should consider having ‘dummy’ test accounts on all platforms for a variety of reasons, such as not wanting your crowd to see all of your test videos, or more importantly, having your crowd get constant notifications of your test videos going live.
When buying cables and wires, if you need a 3′ cable, just go ahead and buy the next size up. If you change your studio around, that extra length might come in real handy.
And you will change around your studio – multiple times, prior to settling in on what works for you.
Also, be sure to have a checklist handy that you keep right beside your live video studio equipment. You want to make sure you don’t forget ANYTHING before each broadcast. For instance, my checklist is as follows:
- Unplug iPads from power source (listeners will hear a buzzing sound when I forget to do this)
- Turn on mixer
- Check sound in headset
- Check cords and connections
- Make sure laptop is plugged in (heavy use of resources cause my laptop to turn off suddenly and unannounced when not plugged in)
- Make sure Wirecast is sending signal to proper page
- Create new titles in Wirecast for current video
- Be sure to turn lighting on
- Silence all other devices and phones before going live
Of course, you may use some of those, and you may have other items to check off before broadcasting.
I encourage you to leave a comment below to address anything I’ve talked about in this article, thoughts you may have about what I still need or what I could have done differently.
And for making it all the way through this article, I thank you for spending valuable time out of your life considering what I have had to say about building a live video studio.
Finally, please follow me on the venues listed above in the graphic, as I’d be delighted to have you along for the ride.
NOTE: Todd Bergin is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
NOTE: Todd Bergin is also a participant in the Telestream affiliate program through Avangate for the Wirecast broadcasting software.