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The Humane Society Streams Lifesaving Missions Live to Supporters

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It is worth the bother? It would be easier for the Humane Society to shoot video as an event unfolds and then edit it into a polished package afterward. The organization does that, but going live gives events the immediacy of news and captures viewer interest in a different way. Even after a live video is over and is saved, people still watch it because they like the spontaneity of how the event unfolds.

“I came from a news background and live was always in my world, and people like live,” Loftus says. “Even when they’re watching it prerecorded, I think it’s still compelling for viewers to see the content unfold live. It just has a totally different feeling than a produced piece. There’s no music, there’s nothing. It’s just raw.”

The Humane Society still uses a variety of streaming options, even though it’s leaning toward Facebook at the moment. It uses Brightcove internally when it wants an executive address to stay in-house, for example. For public video, it gets strong numbers on Facebook, although only when the event is fresh. On Facebook, views start strong but drop immediately. With YouTube, on the other hand, Loftus sees videos that are 5 or more years old still doing well.

Cellular Bonding Is a Game-Changer

Working with LiveU, Loftus says, has been a “game-changer.” The unit is easy to carry, and being able to rely on a person back at home to set the stream up and tell him when he’s live makes the operation far simpler. The LiveU equipment clips to a belt and lets him monitor the audio and video prior to going live. He uses the LiveU Solo because it accepts an HDMI connection. The crew attaches two USB Wi-Fi connectors and a MiFi unit (purchased locally if they’re abroad), with all three bonding to deliver a strong stream. Going with three channels has never been a problem even with 1080p HD video. The crew shoots with a Nikon 810 DSLR or occasionally a Sony electronic news gathering (ENG) camera. The Sony is more professional, with a zoom lens and two microphone jacks.

The person back in the Humane Society’s home office uses a MacBook to monitor the LiveU stream through a browser. That person can set the encoding rate and send the away team messages so they know when they’re connected and when they’re streaming. Loftus prefers to set the stream but not go live right away. That gives him time to check the data rate to ensure it’s strong enough. When everything is ready, a button tap takes them live.

The LiveU unit sends the Humane Society’s stream directly to Facebook or YouTube, so there’s no need for a CDN. A member of The HSUS’s social team works with the live video, responding to viewer comments or questions. The team will even bring viewer questions into the video, getting the on-camera host to repeat queries and answer them.

The Humane Society helps animals trapped by natural disasters as well, and brings viewers along with live video. In October 2016, a crew of six went to South Carolina to rescue animals trapped by flooding, riding along with the National Guard. Loftus waded through water up to his waist and secured his camera with gaffer’s tape so nothing would fall off. He followed the team members as they rescued stranded cats, bringing the live experience to followers. The team went to areas were cats had been sighted, put them into carriers, then brought them to an emergency shelter so they could be reunited with their families. If the team wasn’t able to secure the cat, they left food and monitored the area. During the 2-day mission, the team rescued approximately 50 cats, with viewers seeing much of it live.

The Humane Society team uses the LiveU Solo connected to a Nikon DSLR or a Sony ENG camera, which allows them to stream a live signal reliably from almost anywhere.

While the Humane Society hasn’t done it yet, Loftus has plans to bring large internal teams into the live streams. In multi-person rescues, he suspects live video could be a useful tool if people sitting around a conference table in the office were able to view the action and direct resources on the ground.

At the moment, Loftus’ team is the only one at the Humane Society creating live video shoots, but he’d like to grow that and create multiple teams around the world. Humane Society International is expanding, he says, and he wants to train employees or freelancers in less-developed nations to document rescue operations, then coordinate all the feeds so followers can find them.

Shooting live video isn’t just a one-and-done experience, Loftus has found. That live event feeds a whole ecosystem of video.

“When you go live, you’re recording as well, so you could pull that live feed down and create a smaller story, whether it’s 30 seconds for Facebook or a longer one for YouTube,” Loftus explains. “Shoot a live feed so that you can have a live experience, and then take that live experience and edit that up, whether it’s sound bites or B-roll for press or a shorter Facebook or YouTube video, and push it out to all your channels.”

Doing it for a good cause makes it all the more valuable.

[This article appears in the June 2017 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "The Humane Society Streams Lifesaving Missions Live to Its Supporters."]

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