Technical Advice for Entertainers
Across the world, entertainers are turning to live-streaming, especially in the midst of COVID-19, the Coronavirus. It seems like every day there are more online magic shows, magician’s lectures, and online summits being offered. This trend has many folks turning a room in their house into a makeshift home studio for performances and virtual meetings.
Live-streaming can feel overwhelming. I remember feeling very anxious about the technology during my first broadcasts. It can feel like a lot of pressure when you’re manning the controls and trying to put on a professionally polished show. Often I didn’t go live, for fear that I would embarrass myself. Over time though, I learned several tricks that made going live a breeze. Now, instead of stressing, I focus on connecting with my audience.
As a full-time speaker and entertainer, I too have found myself turning to live streaming more and more. In addition to being a performer, I also own a production company, which offers live event services. Today, broadcasting and simulcasting live events is becoming increasingly popular for everything from concerts to conferences. Today, I teach entertainers and small businesses how to “go live” and share their message with the world.
Most basic livestreams are shot from a single camera angle and hosted on ZOOM or Facebook . This is the common the setup that you most often see on a webinar or training video. While this gets the job done, it has little to no production value. In fact, it’s usually pretty boring. If you desire to put on a professional show or want to charge for your performance, up-level to a multi-camera setup.
In this article, I’m going to outline my preferred hardware, software, and special tips so that you can start broadcasting almost immediately, with little to no investment.
Getting Started with Live-Streaming
You might think that you need to buy expensive cameras or rent a studio space to start broadcasting. Believe it or not, you may be able to get started with items currently in your pocket or on your desk.
I broadcast through an app called Switcher Studio. Switcher is an iOS-based solution, meaning that it uses Apple devices to capture audio/video and control the broadcast. Additionally, you can bring in pre-recorded video, animated graphics, your logo, and video chat with your viewers. If you have a couple of iOS devices and a dependable WiFi signal, you’re good to go.
Designing Your Show
Before we get into the technical weeds, let’s first look over what you want your show to look and sound like.
Grab a sheet of paper and answer these questions. We’ll use that next.
1. Where will you film?
A room with hard surfaces is less desirable than one with carpet, drapes, etc. Anything that can help absorb sound will help.
2. Will you be performing stage, parlor, or close up?
If you’re doing a a combination, I’d suggest two iPhone cameras (wide shot and close up shot).
3. How many people will be filmed?
Plan on one microphone per person or a single overhead mic.
4. Will you control the broadcast or do you have help?
If you’re flying solo – simplify your setup.
5. Will you use music or sound effects?
If so, you’ll want to be sure this is heard clearly in your live feed.
Now that you’ve designed your show, we can look at the actual physical equipment that you’ll need. For most performers, I recommend running their broadcast with two iPhones (as cameras), an iPad (as the switching device), a few film lights, and a lavalier microphone. This setup is the easiest plug-and-play, especially for solo performers. If you aren’t tech savvy or don’t want to get distracted with equipment, start here. You can always add more later.
Most professional broadcasters will agree that viewers will forgive choppy video over poor audio. Don’t trust the mic on your switching device alone. Using this will bring in ambient room noise. Instead, use a lavalier microphone.
If you normally perform with a handheld or headset microphone, it is possible to connect that via a mixer. The simplest connection though, is using the Rode smartLav+. This mic plugs directly into switching device and requires very little adjustment. If I could make only one investment for my live-stream setup, this would be it.
An important point to mention is lighting. It’s best to start by getting three lights that diffuse the light and can be temperature controlled. The most popular for those starting out are “LED panel lights” and “soft boxes”. These provide a lot of bright light without casting harsh shadows or washing out the facial features of the subject.
BASIC HARDWARE LINKS
ADVANCED & OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES
Switcher Studio offers a 14-day free trial. Practice using it and rehearse performing with it. If you don’t have someone manning the controls, pick one camera angle per trick and switch in between, to avoid distractions.
Switcher Studio offers something called SwitcherCast. This makes it possible to bring in your laptop as a source for your broadcast. You might use this to show PowerPoint slides or bring in guests via their Video chat feature.
It’s also possible to connect Switcher Studio to ZOOM. This makes it possible for you to see your audience and interact with them face to face. This is more of an advanced setup, but you can figure it out with some help.
Tips for Performers
As a magician, it’s incredibly important to connect with your audience and get feedback. A lot of performers tell me that this is hard for them when lives-streaming. Here are a few tips that will instantly better your performances.
Add a TV Monitor
My favorite tip to give performers is to connect a TV or computer monitor, with a live output of their broadcast. It’s helpful to know what your audience sees on-screen. Imagine performing a card trick where the light was reflecting off of the cards. No one would be able to see what card was chosen. Or perhaps you are doing some fancy manipulation, with your hand just out of frame. Mistakes like these are a big reason why people tune out or log off of your broadcast. Thankfully this can be easily avoided.
A TV monitor allows you to see exactly what your audience sees, in real-time. To accomplish this, simply connect an HDMI to USB-C or HDMI adaptor to Lightning port from your switching device to your television. When placed directly in front of you, this screen will act like a mirror, allowing you to see every move while appearing that you’re looking out into the your virtual audience.
Make “Eye Contact”
Position your TV monitor on a stand so that it’s at eye level, across the room. Next, position your main camera device directly in front of it. When setup correctly, you should be able to look yourself in the eye on screen, while creating the illusion that you’re looking directly into the camera lens. This gives the illusion of eye contact. The beauty of it is that everyone watching experiences this at the same time. This is one of my greatest live-streaming secrets for performers.
Create Audience Interaction
Many performers greet those that join the broadcast as they appear or respond to comments, in the feed. In most cases, I feel that this disrupts show flow. Consider going live a few minutes ahead of schedule to greet your audience instead. Then, create a dedicated question and answer time, at the end. You can also bring people on screen to pick a card, think of a number, etc.
Consider putting a trick early in the show in which everyone can guess, comment, or participate as part of the effect. This helps people feel engaged and included. As Jeff McBride would say, it creates participants, instead of spectators.
It really helps to have a mentor answer a few questions before your first few live-streams.
At Veley Productions, we help people get started with live-streaming and offer equipment rental to up-level your broadcast.
Have questions? Want us to run your broadcast remotely?