Let me tell you – running a live video stream and podcast every week is tough work indeed. Actually… that’s a complete lie – but don’t tell my co-hosts that because they think I’m a genius – it really couldn’t be easier.
You don’t need expensive software, you don’t need any specialized “podcast webhosting”, and it doesn’t even take that much effort to set everything up.
Nothing special here, but a headset is a must, and if you can splash out on a decent microphone then do so; my co-hosts have been known to use USB RockBand mics before, which are actually rather good. The absolute worst thing you could do is to use the microphone and speakers built into a laptop, because your listeners will be grinding their teeth as they listen to your CPU fan and random interference.
For a few extra bucks, grab a pop filter, which will lessen the impact of plosives.
Although your show will be going out live, you’re also going to want a recorded copy to publish via a podcast RSS feed for iTunes and other podcatchers. The easiest way to do this is with your own custom domain, and some standard web hosting running WordPress and Podpress, which will handle both audio and video, let you create separate feeds for mp3 and iTunes enhanced files, and give you the world’s favourite CMS platform to publish show notes. Beware though that hosting videos is going to use up a lot of bandwidth – for our show, the videos remain on YouTube, and the podcast feeds we publish on our site are audio only.
You might choose to go with a specialized podcasting service or one of these new fangled “broadcast yourself instantly” apps, but I’d suggest you leave them well alone. It seems easier to start out – but you’ll be locked into their service, so when the time does come that you “make it big”, migrating to a proper hosting platform will be impossible. You’ll have advertising plastered everywhere, which you may never see any actual income from, and you certainly won’t have any control over. Don’t throw your creative value into someone else’s hands.
Running the Live Show
If it’s just you presenting alone, or along with your guests in the same room as yourself (assuming you have your own hardware mixer), there are quite a few ways you could feasibly run a live show – but instead of wasting your time with an endless list, I’m just going to tell you the best ways of doing it.
For audio only, I suggest Mixlr.com. It’s easy to set up with a cross-platform desktop broadcasting application that they provide for free; the service itself is free; and you get a built-in chatroom for listener feedback.
It’s designed to stream music so the quality is excellent, and you can download your previous episodes for offline editing or hosting on your own podcast feed. Doesn’t get much simpler than this.
For solo video broadcasts, Justin.TV/Twitch.TV is the most popular online streaming platform, but you’ll still need a bit of software on your PC that sends the video to the service – I’d suggest FFSplit for this. It’s free, but aimed at users who want to record their desktop gaming sessions with a webcam overlay. It can both record locally and transmit live at the same time, which is convenient. If you’re using some other way to broadcast that doesn’t record locally as well, you can always download your broadcasts using this Twitch downloader tool.
For multiple presenters, in different locations, things get rather more complicated.
Mixlr will still work for multi-host audio broadcasts, but you’ll need some fairly complex technical magic to pipe your Skype audio into a single channel and send it over to the Mixlr app. Luckily for you, I wrote a tutorial on precisely that.
Multi-host video broadcasts are surprisingly easy thanks to Google’s Hangouts On Air. Hangouts is a powerful free video conferencing system available to everyone on the Google Plus social network; On Air is the newest feature that enables the Hangout to be simultaneously broadcast live to YouTube.
When the Hangout is over, it remains online as a regular YouTube video. For our weekly Technophilia Podcast, this has been by far the easiest way to get everything running – usually quite smoothly if everyone has a good enough internet connection. Just start the Hangout, invite your co-hosts, and make sure to check off “On Air” option at the start.
You can start the live stream at any time, and the YouTube part of things is all handled automatically, saving to the account of whoever started the Hangout. You can download the video afterwards; I import the resultant mp4 video file straight into Garageband for producing the audio show. The only downside to using Hangouts is the lack of a decent chatroom, but the auto-refreshing YouTube comments can work in a pinch.
It’s not all about the software though; a lack of structure and a strong lead host can kill even the most determined podcasters. For collaborative editing of a show outline, we use Google Docs. We collate stories to discuss with links for everyone to read up on beforehand (though I get the feeling Dave never reads anything beforehand), comment on feedback from listeners and claim stories we want to take the lead on. Some of us even write our own notes on want we want to say; rarely does just “winging it” result in a good show. When you have more than one host, it’s also important that one of you take the lead – keep the show moving along, filling in the gaps and sequeing between stories.
Have you ever run a live podcast, and how did you do it? Do you have any more advice for any budding podcasters you could share in the comments?