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The Accidental Videographer Does Facebook Live

If you're an accidental (or last-minute sub) videographer charged with a live production, have a seat, bring a notepad, and live and learn.

This past Streaming Media show I was tasked with shooting about a dozen interviews in the Streaming Media magazine booth. Since we had a LiveU Solo unit in for testing, and have written multiple articles on the whys and hows of streaming via Facebook Live, we decided to try that too. Though I’ve shot and produced multiple live events before, I was performing these tasks this time because the usual video guy couldn’t make it to the show.

That means I was working with totally new audio, video, lighting, and streaming gear, in an unknown environment, while also charged with a three-hour workshop, three one-hour sessions, plus the normal meetings, dinners, and other after-hours events incident to Streaming Media shows. This makes me the accidental videographer, at least for these productions. In this article, I’ll tell you what I screwed up, what I learned, and how I’ll do it better next time.

If you’re a pro, you’ll probably find little of value save a laugh or two. If you’re an accidental videographer charged with any live production, have a seat, bring a notepad, and live and learn.

The Setup

Figure 1 (below) shows the setup, which involved two cameras, both Sony PXW-X70s. The primary camera is the one I’m driving, which is configured with a two-shot of the speakers, Streaming Media’s Tim Siglin on the right, and Tim Dougherty from Wowza on the left. The camera on the right is a close-up on Dougherty and doesn’t figure into the live stream. Rather, this footage is used only for VOD videos prepared after the event, and to capture secondary audio via a small shotgun microphone atop the camera.

Figure 1. Out two-camera setup. Photo by Joyce Essig, LiveU.

Both speakers are wearing lavalier mics transmitting to receivers on the primary camera. This is connected to the LiveU Solo at my feet via HDMI. The Solo also accepts HD-SDI, which the camera also outputs. In retrospect, I probably should have used that connection, though it likely made very little difference to the actual production quality.

As an aside, the Solo performed perfectly during the event. One thing we did right was to provision an Ethernet connection used solely for streaming to Facebook Live. Once connected, the Solo pushed out a steady 5 Mbps 720p stream that looked gorgeous once we overcame some of the errors that you’ll learn about below. Let’s make Lesson 1 “Get a Dedicated Connection for Streaming,” and Lesson 2, “Get a High Quality On-site Encoder.” Let’s agree Lesson 3 should be “Get Your Live Workflow Up and Running Before the Event,” which I had time to do with the Solo, but not with any other gear. On to Lesson 4.

Lesson 4: Have a Setup Checklist

Each video shoot involves dozens of decisions, auto or manual, capture format, audio connectivity, and if manual, shutter speed, gain, iris setting, white balance setting, focus strategy, and others. The only way to consistently think through and properly configure all these settings, particularly if you’re in a hurry, is to use a checklist (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Camera setup checklist.

It doesn’t need to be exotic, but it needs to cover all of the items shown in Figure 2. This is particularly true when using two identical cameras, since identical settings will really simplify matching colors during editing.

Though I obviously had this checklist somewhere, I didn’t print or otherwise bring it to the show. While I got the configurations mostly right, in my rush to get everything up and running, and the live streaming started, I did forget to white balance the main camera, leading to the embarrassing (but appreciated) comment shown in Figure 3 (below). While you can (usually) fix white balance in post, you can’t when you’re streaming live.

Figure 3. Yes, dear.

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