Live Streaming Options

This is a very non-exhaustive list of streaming services. The festival is neutral regarding streaming services and technologies. We, the people behind the festival, are more experienced with Zoom & Facebook live streams, hopefully our biases from personal experience won’t show through too much.

The first thing you need to decide is does your art form benefit from real-time audience feedback? For example stand-up comedians are used to hearing the audience laugh and often pace themselves depending on that. On the other hand, a serious classical music quartet may feel that their performance positively benefits from not hearing the audience & may prefer written comments.

Conferencing Services

Most streaming service that do permit real-time audio feedback were designed for virtual meetings or conferences & we’re going to call them “conferencing services” from now on.

They tend to have a default mode where if the attendees microphones are on and someone starts speaking they automatically gain the video focus … taking it away from the performer(s). Some conferencing services make it easy to switch this off with a “Spotlight” facility. They also can have quite a low number of attendees, performers & audience members combines. 100 for Zoom but anecdotally performance can degrade after 50, Jitsi says a hard limit of 75 but performance degrades after 35, and so on. In general the more audience members you have in the conference the more bandwidth you will need.

There’s also an issue with extraneous audience noise. In a live performance people are constantly reminded that they are in an auditorium. When watching a streamed show they can get distracted and take phone calls, talk to other members of the household, etc. We’ve found it best to have someone other than the performer managing the stream ready to mute sources of this unhelpful noise.

Many services permit live streaming from them to a secondary service (Facebook, YouTube, etc). This can be useful for managing a large audience. Invite the first few tickets sales into the conference software and the others into the secondary service.

NameSpotlightGreen ScreenStream CostNr PeopleMeeting length
BigBlueButton??Youtube?$0100?
Bluejeans??YouTube$12.5
$17.5
VariesUnlimited
Jit.siPartialNoYouTube$075 (de-grades after 35)Unlimited
StreamYard?PartialYes$25 / mo?Unlimited?
ZoomYesPartialYes$15 / mo10024 hours
Conference systems

Notes

BigBlueButton:

  • Demo system available at https://demo.bigbluebutton.org/.
  • Browser based, no end user downloads required.
  • Open Source server, requires a Gnu/Linux system to install. We have not tested this, nor are we likely to.
  • The hundred limit seems to be variable. If you want to do the math(s) you can calculate your maximum participants based on your available bandwidth.
  • There is discussion on their site about adding live streaming in the future but it seems to already be there.

BlueJeans:

  • We have not tested it but people who have used it report a high degree of satisfaction.
  • Integrates with Microsoft Teams for corporate streaming.
  • $12.49 / month for 50 participants, $17.49 for 75. No free option, but 7 day free trial is available.
  • Browser based.

Jitsi:

  • We’ve tested this and it seems solid.
  • Their documentation states a maximum of 75 participants but that performance degrades after 35.
  • Users on laptops use their browser. Devices must download an app.
  • They don’t provide a spotlight facility, but you can start the meeting with everyone initially having focus on the owner .
  • Conferences can be recorded, but only to Dropbox.
  • Recently, as one performer was unable to get into the Zoom room we were hosting, we quickly switched an existing meeting (4 people) from Zoom to Jitsi. Several of us noticed that the video quality wasn’t as good in Jitsi. It was still tolerable but if video quality is important to you it would be best to check this before committing.

StreamYard:

  • We haven’t tested this, but have heard good things about it from people who have used it for shows.
  • There is a free option, with a maximum of 20 hours streaming per month, 6 on screen participants, and no recording.
  • We can’t find a maximum conference length but recording is limited to 4 hours per stream.
  • They don’t disclose a maximum number of people per session for paid options.
  • Browser based. The host must be on a laptop or desktop. Other participants can be on phones.
  • Green Screen only works on Chrome Browsers.

Zoom:

  • This is our work horse. We’ve been using it on a regular basis since late March 2020.
  • Participants on devices must download an app. Participants on laptops should download and install an app but it can be used in a browser window with slightly reduced functionality.
  • The Free option is limited to 40 minutes per show.
  • We’ve heard that this can have problems with more than 50 participants in the room. Anecdotally we’ve heard suggestions that asking non-performers to turn their video off can help.
  • Green screen is available on more powerful laptops and Apple devices. It is not available on Android devices.

Non-interactive Streaming

This isn’t the greatest name for this section. Most streaming services permit text comments to be made. We mean streaming services that don’t allow speech, laughter, etc to be heard by the performer(s).

There seem to be several candidates for your non-interactive streaming. Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Vimeo, YouTube to name a few.

Facebook

Facebook is the most common in our circles

Pro:

  • Facebook is very widely accepted by the public
  • You can stream publicly to your profile or publicly to a page
  • You can stream to a private group & only let people you want to see your stream join that group
  • Very widely supported as a streaming target by conferencing services

Con:

  • People who aren’t logged into a Facebook account will have difficulty seeing your stream. People who are philosophically opposed to Facebook won’t be able to see it easily.

YouTube

Pro:

  • YouTube is very widely accepted by the public
  • You can stream to your channel either publicly or semi-privately (unlisted) & only let people you send the URL of your stream to join that group
  • Very widely supported as a streaming target by conferencing services

Con:

  • There doesn’t seem to be any way to know the URL an unlisted video will have ahead of starting the stream.

To Be Added

Instagram, Twitch and Vimeo all have staunch supporters. We haven’t found the time to test & write up. We would welcome write-ups