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Pros and Cons of Going Live with Remote Production

As social distancing necessitates remote production, live producers face new challenges and new variables that raise the question: Is walking the live streaming highwire the right choice? It depends, say Ben Ratner and Alex Lindsay, in this clip from their panel at Streaming Media East Connect 2020.

Watch the complete panel from Streaming Media East Connect, "Live Streaming in a Changing World," on the Streaming Media YouTube channel.

Learn more about live streaming production at Streaming Media West 2020.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Ben Ratner: One of the biggest problems with remote production is internet upload speed. Every other part of this can be controlled. Camera, lights, audio, all good--but you can't always control the internet. If there is not an interactive element or a timely element to your stream, I think it's important to at least consider not doing it live. A lot of times companies will say, "Oh, we should do this live. Everyone's doing it live. We should definitely do a Zoom. Or we should definitely do this."

But what I've found is that a good portion of the time you just don't need to do that. It takes a lot of stress off of a production. If something has to go perfectly, there is a non-zero chance that you'll have a problem live. Facebook does Premieres, YouTube does Premieres. You're basically streaming in real time to people with something that you prerecorded or edited earlier.

Take something like a school graduation. You're giving speeches. You're not necessarily responding to the crowd that isn't cheering in front of you. If you know,thousands of thousands of people are going to be watching, and you need it to be perfect and it doesn't need to be live, it's worth considering.

Believe me, I've lost business by telling people "Don't stream it live. You don't necessarily need my services." But it's a lot easier and more cost-effective, depending on the production, to just have everyone record on their phone and pop it into iMovie, if you need to do it cheaper or have another level of reliability.

It's important to figure out the needs of your clients. Sometimes they don't realize that their desires are not necessarily in the right place, so it's good to have that conversation and potentially shift them in a different direction.

Alex Lindsay: I'd completely agree with Ben. When we talk to clients, we basically say that if you don't have sports, breaking news, or interactivity, you probably ought not to stream. You're adding a huge level of liability for no return.

Now, the caveat to that is that we find that if you don't have interaction in three to five minutes, the view time starts to drop like a rock. Esports or sports in general can be a little less of that because there's something happening, and a lot of are interacting with each other. There's something really breaking and unpredictable in the sports realm and in the esports realm.

But for most of our clients, what we would say is that, "You have three to five minutes to start engaging the audience before you start losing them." People want to do a 45-minute presentation. Unless it's really good--I'm talking, $75-100,000 dollars a minute--you're not going to keep them. You're going to start seeing a fade pretty quickly. You have to have really good on-air talent, and really good production values to hang on to people for very long without some kind of interaction or some place for them to interact.

Some of our clients aren't ready to have that kind of level of interaction. But when we talk to clients, I think that participatory video is the future. People want to be part of the conversation, and when we don't find ways for them to be part of the conversation, it's just not effective. As more people get good at that, it's going to get harder and harder to do just a straight playout and have any kind of meaningful viewership.

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