Live streaming isn’t only a way to stay in touch with your alumni base, or simply a nice way to keep parents in the loop. This is high engagement “show don’t tell” marketing.
I’m not going to focus too much on the “why” of live streaming right now. Instead we are going to dig into one of the most popular live streaming services: Livestream.com, formerly known as Mogulus. I’ve heard your questions, been in touch with the good folks at Livestream and now it’s time for an in depth review.
If you’re pressed for time here’s the quick and dirty: this a high end streaming service with both free and premium versions packed with features, backed up by awesome customer support and packaged in a slick interface. In pure coolness terms this thing is right up there with Doc Brown’s time machine. But like the time traveling DeLorean, Livestream does come at a price.
Free, Browser Based, Multi-Camera Goodness
What you notice right away when you set up your free channel is the full feature set. You aren’t locked into broadcasting from only one camera. Instead you can mix multiple live cameras coming into your computer via firewire, add an off site camera connected to your channel via the internet, and overlay all of that with slick titles, over the shoulder graphics, and your pre-recorded videos.
In addition to these great features you also get a robust chat platform, embeddable player, video on demand and an autopilot that loops your recorded content when you’re not live.
Imagine broadcasting a basketball game and having a former player come on from college at the half. It’s easy, free and you don’t even need to download any software: it all works right from your browser.
Stream From Your Desktop
Of course asking your poor little browser to do all of this is asking a lot. For a more robust experience you can download Livestream’s free desktop app called Procaster. The app integrates smoothly with the service with a few wrinkles. You can stream a camera as well as your desktop, integrate Twitter, and record your broadcast locally or on the service. But when you go this route you loose full multi camera mixing and the ability to manage your titles and overlays from the desktop.
Third Party Integration
Once I got a little more serious with live streaming I tired of quirky browser based solutions. Livestream integrates smoothly with the usual higher-end video streaming applications like Wirecast or Adobe Visual Communicator that give you complete control over your audio and video signals. You can even combine Adobe’s free Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE) with these applications for the absolute best control over encoding your stream.
In fact when I asked Livestream about FMLE they told me they designed Livestream specifically to integrate with the app as the gateway to their service. (Update: Adobe seems to have recently released a Mac version of FMLE – I’ll post more on this when I give it a try!)
All of this integration is very nice and also represents one of my gripes about the service. Full multi-camera mixing and overlays makes Livestream stand out from the crowd but these features aren’t available through any of the desktop applications (not even their own). So to use those features I either need to keep a browser window open in my already crowded desktop and do it myself, or have a dedicated person at another computer in charge of this. In practice neither of these two options really works so I end up never using these great features!
In Back to the Future Marty McFly can’t believe that Doc Brown built a time machine out of a DeLoean, but that beautiful package came at a steep price. For Michael J. Fox’s character it’s the 1.21 Gigawats of electricity necessary to power the DeLorean that drives the plot of the film. And like Marty McFly if you go with Livestream you’ll also have to pay a steep price.
Sure you won’t have to harness lightning to make your stream work, but you’ll have to either deal with a very steep pricing scheme starting at $208 per month or loads of ads.
The pre-roll and pop up ads on Livestream prompted one commenter to write, “The advertising, both the overlays and the drop-in spots, on Livestream has developed into something beyond odious.” Although I don’t like watching ads I don’t mind them quite as much as this commenter. On our school channel we work through this by posting a disclaimer on the page with a message thanking viewers for watching ads to keep our stream free and letting them know we don’t control which ads play.
Top Notch Customer Service
Livestream offers top notch customer service, even for its free users. I have asked for help with technical issues, ideas for this article and even for a free trial of the premium service. Each time I was quickly contacted by a real person via email who took the time to answer my questions and make sure I was satisfied.
I asked Alex from Livestream some of your questions and here is what he wrote:
Hans: Is Livestream considering any type of “Pay-Per-View” service?
Alex: That is something we have done extensive work on and, although it has not been rolled out is on our immediate road map.
Hans: Is Livestream considering any kind of educational pricing schemes?
Alex: We do have educational pricing of $2,500 per year for one premium channel and $800 per month for a premium network.
Hans: Getting started with live streaming can be a little daunting, what is the optimal setup you would recommend beginners use?
Alex: The very basic recommendations I would send along would be: PC Laptop (dual core, minimum 2GB RAM, Procaster or Flash Media Encoder, and at least 1MBps upload bandwidth from dedicated Ethernet line.
Quit Reading & Start Streaming
If you are still reading this article without the benefit of time travel you deserve some kind of award. So now’s the time to get yourself over to Livestream.com, set up your free account and start broadcasting!
Have you already explored Livestream? Have a different or similar experience than mine? Still have questions? Let us know about it in the comments!