Taking It Online

Taking It Online

Is 2020 the year that live streaming graduates to the mainstream and beyond? Circumstances seem to be dictating that may come true.

Since we’re still smack in the middle of the great quarantine of 2020, and many of us are heading into month three of little to no paying work, I want to talk about taking it online. As witnessed by a casual browse through your favorite retailer’s website, live streaming gear is sold out everywhere. However, if it has been impossible to find online streaming gear in April 2020, the situation can’t stay this way forever. Just like the supply chain has began to repopulate grocery stores and drug stores with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, eventually, the supply chain will restock retailers with the tools needed to live stream content.

Taking It Online
If you’ve ever used Facebook Live, YouTube, Vimeo or other variants, it has become quite easy to live stream from your phone.

But Why Live Stream?

Before we do a little diving into live streaming gear, the actual box or plug-in device that will allow you to live stream by plugging a video camera into your computer, let’s talk a bit about why you might want to live stream. For those of us termed “nonessential workers,” most of us still need to generate at least some income from our business.

I have a friend who’s a fitness and yoga instructor. Her gym has been shut down since the first day of quarantine, so short of live streaming or uploading to YouTube, she can’t really instruct her clients. What about your clients who are considered “nonessential”? Are there ways you can utilize your video and sound skills to help them survive?

Let’s also define the type and level of live streaming we’re talking about here. Anyone can grab their phone and live stream to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo or any of another dozen or so live streaming services and platforms. It’s pointless to cover those types of users in this blog because those types of users aren’t going to hire you. They’re going to do it all themselves and not pay you to assist them most of the time.

From a business perspective for you as a media pro, you need to concentrate on what makes sense to live stream and where you might be able to generate some paying work from. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does contain some valid factors for you to consider converting or beginning to build a book of business with live streaming. What can you offer that smaller businesses can’t do themselves? Here are some ideas.

Writing, Producing And Preproduction

I’ve found that many clients are very knowledgeable about their product or service, client base and end users. Translating all of that knowledge into an effective script for a live stream or a roll-in piece isn’t a skill that most business people innately posses. If you’re a good researcher, writer and understand how to best utilize the video/film format to build engagement and tell an emotionally moving story, that’s worth a lot to clients.

In my experience, even professional event planners and coordinators aren’t always well versed at how to produce a shoot and timelines, and they won’t have the resources that you have in the production community for crew, talent and resources needed to pull off a professional production. It’s up to you to demonstrate your value as a producer if you want them to hire you or your company to produce this project for them.

Taking It Online
The NewTek Tricaster Mini and other devices like it make multi-camera, visually sophisticated live streaming a reality for not much money in the grand scheme of things.

Marketing Message Alignment

Often, companies and organizations have a strong marketing message and, at times, will already have a solid image with their client base. More often than not, though, those marketing messages may not work very effectively for the emotional engagement that you want to build for a video/live stream or cinematic roll-in piece. The client’s marketing message may be too dense with information to work well in a video and may need to be simplified and boiled down to the most basic points. That’s your job as a producer and/or writer as this skill is valuable to the client.    

Taking It Online
SMEs, or Subject Matter Experts, can be a big asset in producing authentic, valuable content that hits home with a client’s audience.

Subject Matter Experts

I’ve found that while clients may have in-house subject matter experts who know their product, service or subject inside out, the expert may or may not be comfortable on-camera. Audiences today, especially for a live stream or webinar, value authenticity but also brevity and conciseness. If their subject matter expert(s) won’t be great on camera, it’s your job as producer to shift their roles to co-writer, script consultant and cast for a talent who will be more comfortable and persuasive on camera. Remember, the worst move you can make in corporate videos is asking a non-actor to act as it’s almost always painful to watch. I’ve had better luck in casting professional spokespeople and delivering a clear, concise and authentic script for the talent.   

Media Coaching

Media coaching is a specialized talent that not everyone has. But, if you can media coach effectively and measurably improve any executive, management or spokesperson’s performance through coaching and training well before shoot day, that’s a service that’s incredibly valuable and commands a high price in the marketplace. Tip: A large portion of successful media coaching is working with the talent to just teach them to feel relaxed and comfortable on camera. Then you can move to actually increasing the effectiveness of their delivery, fine-tuning their performance.   

Taking It Online
The price-performance paradigm is rapidly changing with new devices like the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro. For $595, it offers a four-input live switcher, effects, audio mixing capabilities and can stream directly without a laptop or phone.

Multi-Camera Live Streaming

Most in-house or casual live stream users won’t have multiple cameras and a switcher setup. New tools are hitting the market that allow easy and professional looking switched multi-camera performance. New tools from Roland, Blackmagic Design, Newtek and many others allow for professional television studio-quality results for live stream without nearly the budget needed for live multi-camera broadcast TV. The first part of the equation is the gear, but just as important is the directorial knowledge of how to utilize and shoot with multi camera setups. Few clients will be versed in the visual language of live television, which is essentially how to think of multi-camera live streaming.

Professional Crews

As in all other types of production, if you can assemble and bring in a professional crew with all of the positions needed to effectively execute the script, that’s a valuable commodity.

Roll-In Packages

What is a roll-in package? Basically, it’s a pre-recorded clip that you can add to or cut to during the live stream. They can be as simple or as complex as any type of production but for a live stream, a well-executed roll in clip can definitely elevate the audience’s perception of the live stream event.

Taking It Online
Sophisticated motion graphics design and animation is a way for you to differentiate yourself from the competition. Whether you’re skilled at it yourself or work with a professional who is, motion graphics are important in modern live streaming.

Motion Graphics Design And Execution

Motion graphics have evolved into a wildly sophisticated art form, and the ability to write, produce and coordinate a single or team of motion graphic designers and animators is far beyond the scope of most clients and, at times, even in-house media departments.

This is too broad of a subject to write about in greater detail in the space I have, but I hope that this helps you to think critically about new and emerging roles in production since the advent of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Regular production may or may not come back in the way we think of as normal for a long time, if ever. If there’s anything that the quarantine has shown clients, businesses and your audience is that a lot more can be accomplished with remote production and live streaming than ever thought possible.

Nobody knows yet when large gatherings of people for national sales meetings, conventions and trade shows will be possible. Nobody knows if people in general may become less travel oriented than they’ve been as far as flying to distant locations for meetings and gatherings. Nobody really knows what the “new normal” is going to look like, but in my opinion, preparing yourself to enlarge your skillset and utilize it in new ways for potential clients and audiences will become a part of the “new normal.” More people working remotely and from home may be a big part of it. Regardless of where things end up, think about the possibilities and your place in them.