Concerns about spreading COVID-19 and restrictions on guest counts at an event have left couples seeking new ways to include their loved ones on their wedding day. The special events world has been getting pretty creative with safety measures during the pandemic, and live streaming has become a popular solution.
As a musician, the topic of live streaming holds particular interest to me. To date, roughly half the events for which I have provided live music during the pandemic have been live streamed (including a couple via live international television over the summer). These experiences have given me opportunity to take a deep dive into various components of the successful live stream experience. What follows are some thoughts both for DIYers and for couples looking to hire a professional service.
First, a distinction between videography and live stream. Obviously there is a time difference with regard to when the product is released. A videographer’s video is released after hours of careful post production editing, while live stream is strictly a real-time transmission. As a consequence, videography is more artistic and curated, while live stream tends to be more raw and in the moment. Most live stream services offer videography; however, not all videographers can provide live stream.
1. Establish that your venue has an accessible, high speed internet connection.
2. Find the streaming platform for your needs. Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Google Meet, Zoom; each one provides its own options when it comes to privacy, number of guests you can invite, amount of time during which you can stream and/or view the video after the event is over, and mode of interaction, if any, with your guests.
3. Ask your venue if it is already set up for live stream. If it is, ask to see some examples. If the quality is not what you seek, there are a growing number of professional live stream services available.
4. Designate a live stream operator. Your operator should be familiar with both your live stream platform and your video live stream device, comfortable using the tripod and any other equipment, and able to troubleshoot any technical issues that may arise.
5. Make it interactive. Always send instructions to your guests for joining your live stream, and keep any login as easy as possible. Guests can dress up at home and make their own cocktails to share a toast, posting pictures and greetings to social media. You may ship care packages to virtual guests with special items related to your wedding. Some people have gone so far as to create a live stream booth at the wedding reception, to interact face to face with remote guests.
6. Consider your venue’s visual elements. Where is your light coming from, and is there enough? If out of doors, from what angle will the sun be shining when the ceremony begins? Does the camera’s point of view allow your remote guests to see all the elements that are important to you, and unobtrusive enough that it will not interfere with your in-person guests’ perspective, or your photographer’s line of vision?
7. Pay attention to your audio. Softly spoken vows, for instance, are easily missed by a simple cell phone microphone. Choose a quiet camera location to minimize any background noise, away from open doors on a busy street, electric fans, rustling dresses, wind, etc. You may wish to add an external microphone to the video device for better sound capture. A microphone with a sound baffle is especially recommended if your event is out of doors.
Now as a musician who has been a part of more live streams than I can count, I need to underline something here. Audio poses the biggest difference between an amateur and a professional live stream production. If quality audio is important to you, I recommend that you look at hiring a professional live stream service with high end audio equipment. For a little perspective, consider this: I recently sang for a professionally live streamed wedding that captured sound from no less than seven different sources!
8. Make sure any DJs or musicians know that you will be live streaming well before your big day arrives. Specific copyrights guide the performance of music over the air and internet waves. Professional musicians will guide you through the process, making any necessary revisions to your music plan, and making sure your venue is appropriately licensed. They will also need to be aware of the location of any live stream microphones.
9. Think about your gear. Be mindful that live streaming requires a lot of battery power. Charge a cell phone, tablet or other wireless device the night before your event, and make sure the device has a strong, long-lasting battery. You will want to invest in an inexpensive tripod, too, to minimize any shaky and disruptive video elements.
10. Do a practice run at your rehearsal. Your operator should be comfortable using the tripod and panning the video device, and should review the practice video afterwards to make sure that virtual guests can hear and see what’s going on.
11. Ask people to turn off their cell phones when in large groups to eliminate sound distortion and internet signal interference. Live streaming is a perfect opportunity to plan an “unplugged” ceremony and give your guests the chance to be fully present and engaged with you.
12. Inform everyone that you will be live streaming, and also if you begin the stream before the event’s start time. Your guests and other key players will want to be on their best behavior once the camera starts rolling.
13. Keep everyone’s email addresses handy, and make a backup plan. Worst case scenario, if you can’t connect to wifi, you can still have your event recorded for sharing later.
14. For exceptional quality, hire a pro. A professional live stream service will cover all the bases and get rid of the stress. Hire a service that already understands that the sound mix inside a room and the sound mix via live stream are not the same thing (oh, the stories I could share with you about live streams that relied simply on the acoustics of the room rather than mixing its own audio!). Ideally it will have invested in high end audio equipment, and know how to pick up and mix sound from every single audio source.
A lot goes into music and live streaming, including style of microphones, distance from any microphones while a musician is performing, how to mix any feed from an in house sound board, and sound dynamics of instruments.
Live streaming has been borne of necessity due to the pandemic, but with more and more people experiencing its advantages, it is becoming clear that it is here to stay.
Contributed by Angela Marie Rocchio, Soprano, a cantor and soloist at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis; Please visit her blog for more information about this subject and more.