Jens here with a few tips on how to get great sound and keep up with all the video trick, gimmick and o yeah, useful tools for improving your live stream shows!
Alright, so it has been 4 months since back in June when I discovered, what at the time, was an ugly UI with over-sized fonts and lack of functionality, formally located at Blab. The newest platform to catch the attention of both Social Media (“experts?”, “strategists?”, “well knowns?”) and other well established live streamers, is slowly spreading to the masses through other modern social platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook etc.
Well not quite “masses” yet but I can remember the exact day 5 weeks ago when the quiet neighborhood went from having a maximum of 3 to 10 or more Blabs simultaneous rooms active with conversation and the free exchange of ideas.
Of course you're going to find the rooms where the amazement of video chatting is satisfying enough thereby lacking much substance , but for the most part, the conversations I had were entertaining and allowed me to focus my attention on the people I am with rather than needing a second or third task like editing photos to keep me occupied and attentive enough to conversate.
The factor that drew me in further into live streaming shows was the ability to find cracks and ways to expand this evolving technology by routing in 3rd party software to enhance the audio and video experience.
Use 3rd Party App to Enhance Your Streams
In this article I will cover some of the software available to manipulate the audio and video streams that each user controls. If you want to have a good radio and/or TV show you gotta have scenes, lower thirds and the occasional fart button to let the audience know that you have figured out how to use the platform to its max potential. You'll see how to manipulate your computer into being a mixer, at times crashing the drivers which usually do not have virtual cables running in and out of multiple layers of apps.
BUT, DON'T LET THIS SCARE YOU!
I will try to make it as clear as possible, and show you how to use a few simple tools and apps to improve your show or personal stream. Once we have you all tuned up and you have created your content, don't forget to repurpose your live content on other websites like YouTube or your own blogs.
First off, If you are going to spend a significant amount of time communicating over the internet, get yourself a good mic.
Personally, I use the Audio Technica, a well established brand, Model AT2020 (the 20's referring to sound range picked up by the mic) which being a condenser mic, provides that radio depth in your voice.
However, due to this technology being rather sensitive, you may want to find a quiet place to call from. Here is a little more detailed info on condenser vs. dynamic mics:
“If you want that extra level of depth to your Podcast, it might be worth going for a condenser microphone. Condenser microphones work in an entirely different, un-fathomable way, but suffice to say, they introduce a higher level of quality to your recordings. However, and this is key, that only applies in the right context.
The problem is, because of their sensitivity, condenser microphones tend to pick up a lot of background noise. This means you need a nice quiet recording environment to take advantage of the quality they offer. They also tend to be a lot more fragile, so they’re no good for carrying around in your bag.
Essentially, if you want the best quality, but plan to only record from your desk, using a mic stand, in a very quiet environment, then a condenser microphone could be great for you. A good example of an entry level condenser microphone is the Samson C01 Studio Condenser Mic.
Of course, the alternative is a Dynamic Microphone. Dynamic mics are essentially the opposite of everything I’ve described above. They record a narrower range of frequencies, and so can sound a little less rich. They record less surrounding noise, so you have to be right up close to the mic. But, because of both of those features, they can be lovely and quiet, and forgive much worse recording environments.” (thepodcasthost.com)
Personally I'm all about the condenser sound.
Beefy is how I like to describe it. Most of these mics are around $100, with some less expensive ones such as the Samson Go-mic available for those on a tighter budget, or in my case, don't have a family member with a recording studio to slide an extra mic your way 🙂 (got lucky there) .
Second is the ability to adjust and manipulate the sound you are inputting to your live stream and although buying an actual mixer, may be out of reach for most and a bit over the top unless you plan to have musical instruments and mics share the input. So get yourself a small midi controller (personally I use the Mbox2Pro), a USB mic which will help you avoid needing external phantom power, or you just want to run the single mic, you can find a phantom 48v power unit under $50 bucks.
Luckily and to my surprise, there is a FREE version of a digital Mixer by VB-Audio called VoiceMeter. This platform allows for 2 hardware inputs an 2 digital ones, plenty for routing in 2 mics and some sound effects or bringing a Skype call into the window for the audience to hear. This of course opens a range of possibilities from streaming music to SounfFX etc. This software is Windows based, so MAC users will need to search for an alternative. The second part of this artificial and quite intricute setup (yet keeping the Ui simple and self explanatory for the average Windows user).
After installing both so files, open the Voice meter panel and begin setting up your hardware inputs. Click on the top of the very left fader (slider) above the square box to view available inputs. Select your main microphone, and/or the control you are running it though and speak into it to see if your levels are high enough to be heard, yet not too much which could cause that scratching sound you may be familiar with from blowing into a hot mic.
You can choose to select another input or leave the second blank. Now over to the next 2 channels, these are were digital input happen, at initial setup playing a combination of almost everything your comp. is putting out. Lastly on the right side, we select where the sound will end up. In this case it's important to match-up your output with the settings you choose in your browser so that the person on the other side of the blab can hear you as well…
WARNING: This is where things get a bit tricky…
The audio driver your computer uses likes to lock on to one feed of sound so it can sometimes get confused by the amount of different channels, so remember that after each step to refresh your browser to refresh the drivers as well. If entering and there is no sound, a quick refresh solves the problem a majority of the time, if not, clear your browser history, exit chrome and return to the stream. This should have cleared the cash and allows you to pick which input you want. There are also several youtube videos which explain this software in more detail and how to combine it with streaming tools for best results. To see the video/audio quality when using these tools check out my photography site for samples (vb-audio.com)
VB Audio ASIO Bridge
Additional add-ons include Asio Bridge, HIFI-Cable , Virtual Cable, and many sound manipulation and recording tools that match professional hardware.
Options: ManyCam, X-Split, SparkSoft, CamTwist
1)ManyCam – The most popular and easy to use of the bunch, providing a large selection of gimmicks such as glasses and wigs along with some great functionality. (https://manycam.com/)
@Evolvedphotoco with Star Wars
2)XSplit – This is a more professional setup and “lacks” the ability to use fun filters and masks that have coined Manycam as the platform with the most diverse software. This program allow you to set up 4 scenes and up to 12 in the paid version each with a unique combination of preset content such as webcam, desktop streams and different media such as Youtube videos and mp3s . This ability to have the different scenes ready to go at the click of a button make this app my favorite, especially in combination with the audio software above and its ability to record your content or stream it live to youtube as you are on other platforms like blab or appear.im (https://www.xsplit.com/)
3)SparkSoft – The unique trick this pony has is the ability to stream from your digital SLR camera for the ability to have crystal clear video streaming with a variety of lenses. I attached a 10.5 mm fisheye to my Nikon D600 and had an awesome 2nd stream to add into the first and give the audience multiple perspectives of the photoshoot I was streaming.
4)CamTwist – Lastly for the MAC users there is CamTwist. Similar to the 1st and 3rd app on the list, this also includes some gimmicks to the regular ability to stream your desktop/webcam and has allowed those using macs to have a free option to display unique content and lower 3rds etc. http://camtwiststudio.com/
UPDATE AUGUST 2016
Here are a few more live streaming video options to explore now that Shaan Puri has shut down his site. In this video you'll hear a full review of 5 Live Streaming Platforms Compared