by Mari Smith
How powerful has video become to engage an audience? According to the Livestream blog, 80% of people would rather watch a live video from a brand than read a blog post. Plus, 82% prefer live video over a brand’s social posts.
If live video is not already part of your business’s social media strategy, it’s time to get on board. And while you can simply use your smartphone, going for better quality will make you stand out. The 90% of Facebook viewers who believe video quality is the most important aspect should be reason enough for small businesses to direct some resources toward production gear.
Even a nominal investment in lighting, camera and sound will make a big difference to the quality of your videos, enabling you to stand out in the news feed.
I’ve been live streaming from my home studio for over 15 years. Since Facebook Live launched five years ago, I upped the quality of my broadcasts with even better equipment. I’ve received tremendous feedback over the years from my audience. I’ve been recruited by leading brands such as AT&T, Adobe, Verizon, Bank of America, HubSpot, and Cision to lead on-camera webinars. And, I’ve appeared on TV interviews with the likes of BBC Newsnight where the producers were amazed by my video quality and that I was streaming from my own studio.
The best part? It did not cost me a lot of money. Here are live video streaming tips for creating your own home studio.
Bright, well-lit videos are eye-catching and jump off the screen. That’s why lighting is so important. Some simple additions to your home studio or office set-up will make your lighting much more robust.
You want to create light in front of you and along either side. And, ideally some back-lighting, too.
Ring Lights: Often referred to as the “Diva Light,” you’ll find a variety of options for this type of light, which is placed in front of you when recording. The ring light casts a lovely soft light on your entire face and shows a circle reflection in your eyes. This is key. You want your viewers to be able to see the light reflected in your eyes.
I like the Video Lighting Kit by Neewer. This 18” (48cm) Dimmable LED Ring Light comes with a light stand, as well as white and orange filters. I highly recommend using the filters; I split them so I have two white and two orange filters.
Side Lights: In addition to the ring light, add fill lights on either side of you. You’ll get that lovely, professional look and feel. Simply place one light on either side of your camera/webcam/computer. There is a wide variety of choices here, depending on the space you have. Perhaps experiment with a tabletop fluorescent light or a tabletop and standing lamps. A great option is these Neewer Video Lights and Stand Kit; they have a nifty dimmer switch so you can easily adjust brightness as needed and cost about $200.
Studio Lights: If you have the space for an in-home studio with a bigger footprint, definitely look into a pair of soft box lights with diffusers. You would purchase these instead of the tabletop lights. For example…
A Quality Camera
A camera is what makes all the difference to the stunning, professional look you can create for your live streaming. However, without the right 3-point lighting, your good camera won’t create the same impact.
Most people stick with their laptop or desktop computer’s built-in camera. But I strongly recommend going for a better-quality external camera, either an affordable webcam or, better, a DSLR camera if you can. (You may even have one!) By investing in a good DSLR camera and 50mm lens—along with the 3-point lighting setup—you will literally look more life-like! You’ll look 3D, jumping off the screen. And, guess what? With the lights reflected in your eyes and the depth of field, you look more human and people feel more deeply connected to you. This is a very good thing in today’s world.
Webcam: If you wanted to level up your video quality just a bit from your built-in camera, you could get an inexpensive external USB webcam such as the Logitech BRIO – Ultra HD Webcam (around $200), which includes a built-in microphone.
DSLR: But, to really stand out on Facebook, YouTube, all other social channels, and in your Zoom meetings, you can create television-quality video with a DSLR camera. A professional camera with a good lens will give you that lovely depth of field and beautiful video quality. Any brand or model of DSLR camera should work.
My favorite is the Sony a6500 4K Mirrorless Camera with a 50mm lens (my team and I call it ‘the nifty fifty;’ this lens will give you a nice, soft focus and terrific depth of field). Place the camera on a tripod about six feet in front of you. And, ideally have something in the background about six feet behind you that will look blurry. Not just a blank wall as the depth of field won’t quite look the same.
The Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera is also a great choice. Or, check out Nikon cameras, if you prefer.
Capture Device: You will need a convertor in order to connect a DSLR camera to your computer. The Elgato Cam Link 4K is super popular and works really well. (Check if your camera is compatible here before ordering.) Plus, a HDMI cable; your DSLR camera needs to output video via a mini or micro HDMI output jack. The cable goes into your camera and into the standard HDMI port of the Cam Link, and the USB on the other end goes into your computer.
AC Power Adaptor Kit: If you are live streaming, be aware that most cameras will auto shut off after 30 minutes when running on battery. You definitely want to avoid this happening so be sure to get the right AC power adaptor for your DSLR camera; it fits in the battery slot.
Once your lighting setup looks great, you’ll want to ensure you have the perfect audio. People will forgive grainy, lower resolution video and a shaky camera. But they’ll quickly switch off if the audio quality is poor!
When you do Facebook Live broadcasts, webinars and Zoom meetings from your desktop, you’ll need to decide whether or not you want your microphone in the frame. Using a boom mic clipped to my desk, I’m usually able to place my mic just below the camera frame. Or, there are overhead booms that work just as well.
While some folks are fine using a headset mic, I am not a fan of this look. When was the last time you saw a news anchor or talk show host wearing a headset microphone? Right, me neither!
For my professional microphone, I have the Heil PR-40 Broadcast Quality Microphone Bundle – at about $330. It’s the HeiL PR-40 mic, shock mount, and boom. Plus, to make the mic work on your computer, you’ll also need an adaptor to convert from XLR to USB. I use this one by Shure.
The Audio-Technica AT2005USB dynamic mic is an excellent, more affordable choice at $160. You’ll need to do some sound tests to see how close you need to be. I have this mic, as well as the shotgun Sennheiser MK 600 - $325 – that gets placed above your camera out of the frame.
I’ve gone through many mics over the years; each has its pluses and minuses. Sometimes you have to test to see what works best for your needs.
Look and Sound Like A Pro!
Trust me, your level of production value will place your livestreams head and shoulders above the competition. Now, more than ever, with the whole world using tech to stream events, meetings and social media live broadcasts, it’s time to increase your production value.
Try not to be overwhelmed by all the choices.
Keep your setup as simple as possible. Get the 3-point lighting set up. Then, improve your audio quality. Then, upgrade your camera. Or, maybe you already have a good camera and just didn't realize you could connect it to your computer! Start small!
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