In 2021, live streaming is no longer rocket science, and virtually any business—and even individual—can now live broadcast their video content pretty easily. The interests in live streaming content are still growing rapidly and not showing signs of slowing down.
So, if you are thinking about starting your live streaming channel, there’s never been a better time.
However, although live streaming is certainly more accessible than ever, you’ll still need to have the right preparation and invest in the right equipment and platform to ensure the success of your live streaming channel.
With that being said, in this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about live streaming equipment, including how to choose the best equipment for each category.
Without further ado, let us begin.
Live Streaming Equipment: The Basics
While you can start a live broadcast with various different setups, in general, all live streaming setups always involve four core elements:
- Internet Connection
In live streaming, we are essentially uploading the content at the same time the viewers are downloading (streaming) it. If our internet connection as the uploader isn’t reliable and/or fast enough, then it will significantly affect the viewer’s experience.
A stable and fast enough internet connection is a must in live streaming.
- Audio/Video Sources
In live streaming, a video camera is typically the primary video source, and a microphone is the primary audio source. However, there can be other types of audio and video sources like a video file on a computer, mixer feeds, and so on.
An encoder essentially converts (encodes) the video/audio data coming out from the video/audio sources into a stream-friendly format.
- Streaming Platform
This can be free social platforms like YouTube or Facebook, or professional, dedicated live streaming platforms like Viloud.
How Live Streaming Works
Based on the four core elements of live streaming equipment above, typically all live streaming activities will involve this signal flow:
- Audio and video data is captured by the audio/video sources
- The data is then transmitted to an encoder, and the encoder will encode the data into a stream-friendly, compressed format
- The encoder will send the data to the chosen live streaming platform
- The live streaming platform will distribute the data to viewers
That’s it! While the concept of live streaming might seem daunting at first, once you get the hang of it, it’s actually pretty simple. Simply connect the audio/video sources to the encoder (if it’s a software encoder, to your computer), and configure the live streaming platform. Voila! Your live broadcast is ready to be viewed.
Below, we’ll discuss each of these live streaming elements in more detail.
Internet Connection: How Fast for Live streaming?
Don’t underestimate the importance of a fast and stable internet connection when live streaming. Too often we put more focus on getting the best video cameras, microphones, and even encoders, but without an adequate internet connection, your live streaming would fail, period.
So, how fast should your internet connection be?
As a general rule of thumb, your internet bandwidth should be at least 1.5 times your stream’s target bitrate (more on bitrate later), but try to aim for 2 times your target bitrate.
Thus, if your target bitrate is 5 Mbps, then you’ll need at least 7.5 Mbps of bandwidth, or 10 Mbps for an ideal delivery.
You’ll need at least one video camera and one microphone. Nowadays, cameras and microphones come in a wide variety of price points offering different sets of features, and even pretty affordable webcams can now deliver pretty decent video quality. So, you shouldn’t have much issue in choosing the right cameras and microphones based on your available budget.
For redundancy’s sake, however, you might want to have at least two cameras and two microphones, especially if you are planning to run a 24/7 live streaming.
In choosing an encoder, you typically have two different options: software and hardware.
Software encoder is a program that runs on your computer (or even mobile devices), there are various affordable and even free options like OBS, but if you are planning to use software encoders, you might need to purchase a capture card to connect the audio/video sources to your computer.
A hardware encoder, as the name suggests, is a dedicated piece of hardware that can also act as a capture card. They are obviously more expensive than software encoders but are also more reliable with lower latency.
Choosing the right encoder according to your budget and needs is definitely important, but we should also consider the configuration of at least the three most important settings:
- Resolution: 1280×720 pixels, or 720p is now considered the standard HD resolution, but try to serve 1080p (1920×1080) or even 4K (3840 x 2160) if your bandwidth allows.
- Bitrate: bitrate refers to how much data is being uploaded to the streaming platform every second, measured in Kbps (kilobits per second) or Mbps second) and Gbps. The higher the bitrate, the smoother the video quality, but the more bandwidth you’ll need for stable delivery.
- Framerate: how many frames are displayed per second in your live video stream. 30 fps is considered pretty decent, but try to serve 60 fps when you can.
In general, we have three main options here:
- Building your own streaming platform: you can technically build your own website, application, and video hosting/player platform from scratch. This option will provide the most freedom versatility, but also the most time-consuming and expensive to execute.
- Free social platforms: you can live stream your content on platforms like YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch, and other social platforms. You can take advantage of their massive audience base, but you’ll be limited in terms of monetization and content distribution.
- Using a professional video platform: with an online tv channel creator like Viloud, you can live broadcast your content on your website by embedding Viloud’s player, and you can also forward the stream to other platforms of your choice with .M3U8 links.
Now that you’ve picked up the basic principles of starting live streaming and the essential live streaming equipment you’ll need, you can start broadcasting your first content right away.