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How to Stream to Facebook Live

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With 1.65 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the largest social network in the world. It's no surprise that when the company introduced live streaming, the online video industry took notice. "If Facebook introduces a new technology," said AOL Alpha GM and product director Drew Lesicko at Streaming Media East 2016, “we stop on a dime and rethink what we're doing.” If you haven't already begun streaming to Facebook Live, chances are good you're looking to get started.

Facebook Live is a free live streaming service that lets you share your live events—personal or professional—right where they'll have the most impact. The pieces are all in place, and the service functions very well. In some scenarios, operation is straightforward. For example, if you want to publish to a Page (as compared with a Profile, Event, or Group), it should be simple to do so from your mobile device or computer. You should also be able to monitor the event and check analytics (and Boost the event) once it is complete.

But if you want to publish to a Profile, Group, or Event, you may not be able to monitor the event when you're live. As of mid-August, I can't figure out how to access analytics when I publish that way. I'm sure this will get sorted out over the next few months, but if you're stepping outside the box in these early days, you may become frustrated.

To minimize this frustration, you should identify two key data points when planning your event: where you want to broadcast from and where you want to broadcast to. The two origination options are  your mobile device and computer, though it won't be long before cameras can broadcast directly to Facebook Live. Destination points can include your Profile, any Page you own, any Groups that you belong to that enable live broadcasts, and most Event pages. Once you have that information, you're ready to start streaming. Let's begin with some Facebook Live basics.

Facebook Live Overview

Facebook Live events can last up to 90 minutes, and Facebook will capture the live videos and convert them to multiple bitrate files for video-on-demand (VOD) distribution. You can produce longer videos, though these will only be streamed live and won't be saved or made available on-demand.

As currently configured, Facebook Live can only accept a maximum resolution of 720p, so broadcasters seeking 1080p or 4K distribution will have to find another solution. The actual broadcast resolution depends upon the originating device, and the videos I produced from an iPhone maxed out at 400x400, though I can't say for sure that this is the limit. Videos produced from a computer or notebook can range up to 720p in resolution.

With this as background, let's explore mobile operation.

Mobile Is Simple

Mobile operation is app-based, and iOS and Android operation is similar. In both cases, you access the function from your Update Status screen, clicking the icon that looks like a person's head surrounded by two circles (Figure 1, far left). This opens up the second screen, where you click the arrow to choose where to share the video and enter a description. Choose where to share the video on the third screen. When you click Done on the upper right, you're returned to screen 2, where you click Go Live to start the live event. It's easy.


Figure 1. Mobile operation is pretty simple.

Note that the Ozer Family Descendants group, shown on the far right, isn't listed in screen 3. It should be, since it's a Group I belong to, just like the Long Branch High School Group. Don't worry. If your Group isn't listed in your Share With screen, click over to the Group and choose Write Something. If live streaming is enabled for that Group, you'll see the same icon, which is called out on the far right in Figure 1. Click it to start the simple wizard.

Use this same method for broadcasting to a Page. That is, if the Page isn't listed in the Share With screen (e.g., my Streaming Learning Center Page), navigate to that Page in the app and choose Publish. The live broadcast icon should appear. Click that, enter a description if desired, and then click Go Live.

Once you're live, you'll see the screen in Figure 2, shown in landscape mode. As you can see, the app displays any comments on the right. Click Finish to end the broadcast. Again, it's easy.


Figure 2. Here's your broadcast screen, with comments on the right.

Now let's transition over to the desktop, where simplicity starts to head south.

Facebook Live on the Desktop

To stream to Facebook Live, you'll need a live streaming program such as Telestream's Wirecast or the less functional (but free) Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), both of which I used in my tests. More and more software and hardware is supporting Facebook Live each day; unfortunately, Facebook does not keep a comprehensive list. Wirecast supports Facebook Live directly, while OBS supports it via the generic real-time messaging protocol (RTMP) server controls, highlighting that any live streaming program, such as Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE), should be able to stream to Facebook Live. Let's cover operation with OBS, and then come back to Wirecast.

When working with a program that doesn't directly support Facebook Live, such as OBS, you start in Facebook. Specifically, you click over to the Page you want to broadcast the video to, and click Publishing Tools (Figure 3). Note that you won't see this Publishing Tools option from your Profile, just a Page that you control. I add more on how to send a live broadcast to your Profile with OBS later.


Figure 3. Starting the publishing wizard in Facebook on the desktop

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