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How to Webcast with YouTube Live

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I recently produced a webinar on YouTube Live using Telestream Wirecast, and wanted to document the experience. This isn’t a full, bang-it-till-it-breaks comparative review, it’s more of a CliffsNotes pictorial of what’s available and how to use it.

Making the Grade

As you may know, YouTube Live isn’t available to all comers; you need an account in good standing and (reportedly) a certain number of followers and video views. You can read about the requirements, though followers and video views aren’t mentioned. I didn’t meet the requirements, but Telestream, the developer of Wirecast for YouTube, petitioned the powers that be at YouTube, who enabled my account.

Getting Started

Once you’re enabled, access live event functionality from the Video Manager page (Figure 1). Click Live Events on the left to open a screen providing access to all live, upcoming, or completed events. Or, click New live event on the upper right to create a new event.

Figure 1. Creating a new live event

Not surprisingly, creating the event involves inputting most of the same parameters that you input when uploading a file to YouTube. On the right in Figure 2, you can see that you can send a post to your subscribers and also share via Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter, a nice way to publicize your event.

Figure 2. Inputting the basic webinar info

On the top left of Figure 2, you should be able to make out the Advanced settings tab. Click that to expose the settings shown in Figure 3. Most notably, you control whether or not comments are moderated and whether or not live events can be embedded. Obviously, if you enable embedding, you can embed the event into your own website in addition to showing it on your YouTube watch page, a feature not available in all competitive services.

Figure 3. Advanced configuration parameters for your event

Choosing Encoding Parameters

By design, YouTube Live inputs a single stream from your onsite encoder, and converts that into multiple streams. The number of streams created and their respective data rates depends upon the stream that you send YouTube. You set this in the Ingestion Settings shown in Figure 4. The radio button hidden by the drop-down box is to configure your own custom ingestion settings, which I didn’t mess with.

Figure 4. Setting the basic ingestion settings

Once you choose Ingestion Settings, it’s time to configure your settings into your streaming encoder. This will be automated if you use Wirecast for YouTube or the retail version of Wirecast, and semi-automated if you use the Adobe Flash Live Media Encoder. Specifically, you choose your encoding tool via the drop down list shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Choosing your streaming encoder 

If you choose Wirecast for YouTube, you’ll be offered download links for the product (Figure 6), and for retail versions. Note that if you download the free version, it will uninstall any currently installed versions of Wirecast. I used the retail version for the webcast, and didn’t want to disrupt that, so I didn’t download and install the free version until after my webinar.

Figure 6. Your options for Wirecast on YouTube Live

Once I did, I learned that operation is similar to the retail version of Wirecast, except that your only destination is YouTube and your only presets are YouTube-related. You can upgrade the free version into either paid version by paying the fee and inserting the serial number into the preferences panel.

In the retail version of Wirecast, which I used, when setting your broadcast settings, you’ll choose YouTube as the destination. In both versions, when you press Authenticate, Wirecast will ask you to log into YouTube (Figure 7), and YouTube will ask you for permission to let Wirecast manage your YouTube account.

Figure 7. Autoconfiguring YouTube into Wirecast 

Once granted, YouTube Live passes all server address information and other coordinates into Wirecast, so you don’t have to set them manually. Just choose an encoding preset that matches the ingestion settings that you selected in Figure 4 and you’ll be good to go. It’s pretty slick, and I’m guessing you’ll see this level of integration with more and more live encoding tools. Note that there’s a Wirecast for Youtube channel with videos detailing these basic configuration operations and much more.


Figure 8. Once YouTube Live and Wirecast finished chatting, I was ready to go.

Moving on to other encoders, if you choose the Flash Media Live Encoder, YouTube Live will also provide download links for the Windows and Mac versions, along with downloadable XML files you can input into FMLE to handle configurations and connections. 

If you choose other encoders, you see the information in Figure 9. If you click Recommended Settings, you’ll see a table of suggested encoding parameters. The stream name and primary and secondary URLs are the typical information provided by streaming service providers and should be simple to configure into any streaming encoder. Note that YouTube Live does support captioning, though you’ll have to supply the caption feed to the service. Overall, YouTube does a great job making the new service easy to use with Wirecast and FMLE, while those using other encoders should have no problem figuring out how to connect.

Figure 9. Here’s how you configure YouTube Live for other encoders.

After you input the info and settings, YouTube Live creates the watch page for your event, shown in Figure 10. This is the page you can send your viewers to in the blog posts, emails, and other materials you use to market your live event. As mentioned, you can grab embed codes to embed the live event into your own website, but the player is somewhat defeatured, lacking the countdown clock and comments. On the plus side, only your video is shown -- not the playlist shown on the right in Figure 9 -- and there were no advertisements on my embedded player.


Figure 10.  Here’s the player on YouTube. The embedded player lacks comments and the countdown.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you have your event set up, you enter the Live Control Room. You’ll immediately see a message saying either that your stream isn’t live or that it is (Figure 11). There are two video windows below the screen shown in Figure 11: one a preview screen that you can use at any time before the event, and the other a Public View showing the actual live stream. Click Preview and the preview starts playing. When you do, the Preview button changes to the Start Streaming button. Click that and you're off.


Figure 11. The Live Control Room from which you can preview and take your program live. 

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