So you have been asked to do a live webcast for your company, friend, community, or local band. You ask yourself: “What’s a live webcast?”
Don’t worry! I am here to help you out. I’ve done live webcasts on Queen St. Toronto, as well as the ivory towers of the corporate world. I started my career doing community events, which meant that I had no access to T1 or fibre connections with incredible amounts of bandwidth. Instead, I learned from the beginning how to do quality webcasts using standard household DSL and cable broadband. I started this work in 2002 when webcasting, or “live internet streaming” was in its infancy. Okay, let’s get you started.
If you’re in live production, you’re already 75 per cent of the way there and that’s good news, but before you can commit to doing a webcast for your over-excited parties, you must check the available bandwidth at your webcast location. Bring your laptop or make sure there is a computer on-site that is accessible to you.
Connect to the network and go to www.speedtest.net. This online speed test tool is fun and accurate. It’s like looking at the speedometer on your car – and it can be a real adrenaline rush. Click on the geographical area that is near to you. Don’t worry about the download – pay attention to the upload! Upload is important because you’re taking your broadcast out of your location to a multimedia server. Upload speeds can be from 100 kbps to 1000 kbps or higher depending on where you are. Do this test several times, using different locations, then average the numbers. If your upload speed is 200 kbps (average) then you should be webcasting at 100 kbps. Why? Bandwidth fluctuates, and if you are broadcasting at 200kbps and there is a fluctuation, your webcast will be kicked offline, so you need to leave some room.
You are not quite ready yet. If you are in someone’s home it’s fine to disconnect any computers on the network before your broadcast. If you are in a corporate environment, you may be behind five firewalls and a suspicious IT department. Go to the IT department and explain what you are going to be doing. Make sure you understand the culture of the network and how it’s used. Also, if you have to obtain a static IP (Internet Protocol) address, which you may need to do depending on the type of webcast you’re doing, only the IT department can do this and it may take time to sort out.
Warning! If you test your connection two weeks before your broadcast and everything is fine don’t assume when you return that it will still be set up for you. IT departments have huge responsibilities and things can change while you are gone. One more thing: Do not do a webcast using a wireless network … just don’t go there.
Brad Marshall is the Owner of Popular Minority Production, which brings live events to the Internet (www.popularminority.com). He is currently writing a 10-week course on Live Webcasting to the Internet for Conestoga College in Kitchener, ON. He can be reached anytime at: firstname.lastname@example.org.