Technology has expanded exponentially in recent years. It’s changed the way we learn, socialize, do business, and more. Everyone from stay-at-home moms to high-powered CEOs uses technology in their everyday lives, and one of the most popular technologies right now is live video streaming. It’s a $100 billion industry, so if you’re not yet using it in your own online world, you may be missing out.
If you’re planning on boosting your online presence, increasing your business, or gaining a following, understanding the technology behind live video streaming is important. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of the tricky tech stuff, but a bit of knowledge can be helpful to make sure you use it to your advantage. Here’s what you should know about it and why you should be incorporating it into your online business.
What Is Live Video Streaming?
Live video streaming is a powerful tool used by businesses, influencers, and everyday people to share their content in real-time over the internet. Instead of pre-recording and editing video content, people are able to host virtual events, create content for entertainment, or even broadcast gaming sessions as they happen.
This kind of video creates an immersive and interactive experience, as content creators are able to connect and engage with their audience in a more personal way. It also allows the audience to participate in real-time from anywhere in the world, which promotes a feeling of inclusivity and community.
Why Is Live Video Streaming So Popular?
Technology has improved, and more people have access to high-speed internet and portable devices with good cameras. This allows almost anyone to create content using high-quality video with low latency, which has increased the popularity of live video streaming.
As the demand for engaging real-time content increases, live video streaming is going to become even more popular in the years to come. Businesses, entrepreneurs, influencers, and everyone else are able to promote their products and services while building relationships with their audiences.
Live video streaming is also versatile, and content creators are able to share their thoughts and experiences in real-time. The audience can interact by commenting, sharing, and liking the content and can get real-time answers to their questions.
Other reasons why live video streaming is so popular with viewers include:
- Convenience: You don’t have to even leave the bed to take part in live streams. Join in from anywhere, no travel is required.
- Authenticity: In-person content creates a better personal connection. It gives you a chance to really show off your personality and be yourself, but it’s also easier for viewers to spot inauthenticity.
- Great Engagement: People engage more with live content, especially when they have questions that they may be able to get an answer to. The same level of engagement is pretty hard to get with pre-recorded videos.
- DIY Content: There’s no need for professional editing or anything like that. It’s as simple as hitting play and letting it run.
- Versatile: You can live stream any kind of content in any niche; tutorials, short courses, vlogs, product reviews, and so on.
- Cost-Effective Content: Thankfully, live video streaming isn’t as expensive as it might seem. All you need is a smartphone (which you likely already have) or a webcam and a stable internet connection.
How Does Live Video Streaming Work?
Live streaming is a process, but it’s not as complicated as you might assume. Here’s a quick overview of how it works. Keep in mind that this all happens in the blink of an eye to show the video live, as it’s been recorded.
This is where your camera and microphone come in. They’re used to capture the video and audio, both of which are the main components of a video live stream. You can do both on a smartphone or camera, but it’s a good idea to use a separate microphone for better-quality sound.
Both video and audio content need to be in a format that’s suitable for streaming. As they’re being captured, the video and audio are encoded (compressed and converted into an easily transmissible format) and sent out over the network. Common video codecs include H.264 and AV1, and common audio codecs are AAC or MP3.
The encoded data is sent to a streaming server, which then splits it up into smaller sections to make it easier to transmit. Each section is only a few seconds long, but it makes it much easier and faster to send large volumes of data across the internet for “live” streaming.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
The package of small sections then gets sent to a CDN. CDNs distribute the content of your video stream across multiple servers in various locations so that no matter where someone tunes in from, there’s a server close by to access lag-free streaming.
The CDN then transmits this segmented data to each participant’s device for the live stream, where it’s decoded into a format that’s playable on their device. There may be a couple of seconds difference between the actual creator and what the viewers are seeing, but this is the live stream that happens in as close to real-time as possible.
Different Types of Live Video Streaming
There are two main types of live video streaming—one-to-many and many-to-many. Here’s a quick overview.
As its name suggests, this is when one person presents to a crowd. The presenter owns the rights to the audio and video, and they typically can’t see the people they’re presenting to. They can interact with their audience via polls or live chat.
Many-To-Many Live Streaming
Many-to-many is a much more interactive environment that involves many people in one video presentation. A Zoom call is a good example of a many-to-many format—multiple people can join, speak, and share content with each other in real time.
What Are Live Streaming Protocols?
Live streaming protocols are rules that define how data and systems communicate with each other over the internet. They allow for the standardization of segmentation of data and delivery of live video for the best results.
- HTTP Live Streaming (HLS): The most popular, compatible with almost any device.
- Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG-DASH): Open-source alternative to HLS.
- Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP): A protocol developed by Adobe, originally for Adobe Flash but now for all RTMP-enabled encoders.
- WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication): Open-source system delivering live streams with real-time latency.
- Secure Reliable Transport (SRT): Open-source tech that doesn’t rely on a single codec, making it suitable for pairing with any audio and video codecs.
- Microsoft Smooth Streaming (MSS): An extension for Internet Information Services (IIS) identifies local resources and adapts the video quality accordingly.
What Technology Do You Need for Live Streaming?
If you’re planning on doing live streams, you need the right tech. If you’re using a popular streaming platform, all you really need is a device to record video, a device to record audio (sometimes the same device), and a reliable internet connection.
If you’re technologically inclined, you can go all in on live streaming software and do the backend stuff yourself. Here’s what you need to get started creating high-quality live streams.
A Camera to Capture the Video
You don’t need anything too fancy. Most smartphones today can capture good enough quality video to be acceptable for live streaming purposes. You may also be able to use the microphone for audio, although a lapel mic can make a big difference to the quality of your sound.
Unlike regular video that gets uploaded to a platform of your choice, you need to decide which platform you’re going to host your live stream on. Some examples include YouTube, Facebook Live, Instagram Reels, Twitch, and many more.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Most hosting platforms have a built-in CDN to distribute and deliver content. If you’re planning on hosting your video on your own website or through a platform that doesn’t include a built-in CDN, you’ll need to invest in one yourself.
Encoding Hardware and Software
Otherwise known as “streaming software”. This is what takes your content and puts it into a format that your platform of choice can use. There are plenty of options available, so do your research.
You need to have a seamless, strong internet connection for live streaming to work properly. It’s also wise to check your web host’s uptime and bandwidth. This is non-negotiable—if you don’t have this, you might have to stick to normal videos that you can upload when you have internet access.
Backup Equipment and Contingency Plans
If your live video goes down, it goes down! You can’t edit it out later. So if you’re serious about live video streaming, you need to have a backup plan… And a backup for your backup. Put your internet route on a battery in case the power cuts. Have a second camera, just in case.
The Benefits of Live Video Streaming
Live streaming in an excellent way to:
- Increase engagement: Those who take the time to watch your live stream are warm leads. This is the best time to engage via questions, comments, and surveys.
- Build community: Live streams are a great way to convey your authenticity and start building meaningful relationships with your viewers.
- Promote products: An excellent way to reach more people and make more sales.
- Answer questions: People have questions. You have answers. This is the best way to help them learn more in real-time.
- Interview others: Add value to your viewer’s experience by interviewing people who are relevant. This also helps you build relationships with other influencers.
What Are the Challenges in Live Streaming?
Live streaming relies very much on your internet connection, which could be a challenge in certain areas. If you’re prone to power cuts, fluctuating signals, or reduced resources.
The biggest factor that stops most people from trying live streaming is that it’s in real-time. There’s no editing to get rid of stutters or mistakes. Live streamers need a certain amount of confidence in order to be able to make engaging, interesting live streams.
Even with confidence, the content needs to be relevant, interesting, and value-packed. This can be a challenge, especially if you do live streams often and need to keep them exciting and relevant.
Live Video Streaming vs On-Demand Streaming
Live streaming is when you record and broadcast your video at the same time. There’s no period in between where you can edit and remove pieces or polish up the audio or video. As it happens, it’s sent to your viewers. The viewers also need to be available to watch at the time the live stream is scheduled for.
On-demand streaming is when a video is uploaded to a platform, and viewers can go online at any time and watch it. It’s available for anyone in any country to view “on demand”. In some cases, live streams can be recorded and uploaded later, which then becomes on-demand content.
The Future of Live Video Streaming
Live streaming is becoming more and more popular by the day. Influencers who aren’t yet using it are missing out. It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to get started, and it’s more affordable than you may think. Take the leap—you won’t regret it if you do it right.