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Livestreaming Music Diary - Facebook Live

20 Apr 2020 🔖 music
💬 EN

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If you work in tech, you fix the printers for your family. During shelter-in-place, I’ve had a new duty for close friends and family: improving and running musical livestreams.

So I suppose I might as well blog a few things I’m learning here and there.


Burner Facebook Account

It probably goes against every imaginable Facebook term of service, but it really helps to have a spare Facebook account with no friends, to avoid technical difficulties like putting a broadcast into “Only Me” privacy incorrectly.

Facebook Live: Outdoors, iPad, Facebook iOS app for broadcast, iPad built-in camera and mic

Only Me privacy warning

Set your audience BEFORE you go into the “live” part of the app.

Despite looking like you can change your audience while you broadcast, or before you click the blue camera button, it doesn’t work.

Set your audience while starting a “post” on your wall if you really want to make sure you’re only broadcasting to yourself.

Otherwise, you could get a nasty surprise when your mom clicks “love” while you point a camera at the wall muttering, “Is this thing on?”

Streaming from a Page

You can stream from a Page with the iOS Facebook app, but you can’t do it once you’re inside the “live” part of the app.

Instead, visit the Page you administer and click “Publish” as if to write a post – then click “Live Video” as the type of post you want to make.

When the “live” part of the app pulls up for filming and such, the feed will be hosted on your Page instead of your personal wall.

However, remember that there’s no “Only Me” on a Page’s wall, so … it might be nice to make a spare Facebook Page for your spare Facebook account to be an admin of, so you can rehearse clicking all the buttons without alerting your mom – and your band Page’s followers – that you’re live with a lovely view of a wall and some confused mutterings.

Notifications & Sharing

The “architecure” of a Facebook Live video and its reminders is … interesting.

One disadvantage of broadcasting from the Facebook iOS app is that there’s no way to tap into Facebook’s “schedule a live broadcast” feature, which would have given you:

  1. A URL in advance where people can go to actually watch your livestream
  2. A post on your wall / Page with an embedded “Get Reminder” button that people can click so Facebook tells them the moment your livestream goes live
  3. A rich editing interface for dialing in the “description” of your video, @-mentioning other people / pages, etc. ahead of time

You can only start a brand new broadcast by clicking the button on your iPad.

And then, BOOM, there you are, live, and you need to avoid touching the iPad until the broadcast is done (lest you knock the camera out of focus – because the Facebook iOS app doesn’t let you lock the camera on one spot for a whole broadcast).

  • Q: So … how do you text your mom the link to your livestream in this scenario because she can’t “find you” otherwise?
  • A: You need a second person and a desktop / laptop that’s also logged into your Facebook account.

That person’s job, once you’re broadcasting, is to go to your Facebook wall / Page’s posts and click the timestamp (e.g. “1 minute ago”) for the post encapsulating the actual video feed.

That link will be in the format https://facebook.com/YOUR_USER_ID_OR_PAGE_NICKNAME/videos/123456789, where 123456789 will be a longer number identifying your stream.

That’s the link you want your “social media expert” (e.g. your kid) to text your mom with, share in various groups whose attention you want to get, etc.

Facebook will natively tell your friends (if streaming as “yourself”) or your followers (if streaming as a Page), eventually, that you’re live, but it might take its sweet time to do so.

Plus, if you’re, say, doing a duet … who’s going to share the link to your companion musician’s followers? Not Facebook.

If your companion musician trusts your “social media expert” enough, have them log into their own Facebook account in a different browser tab on the laptop/desktop so that the “/video/123456789” link can easily be shouted from the rooftops under their Facebook account, too.

Outdoor sound and the iPad built-in mic work nicely

If you have a way of putting the iPad on a tripod, recording in a quiet outdoor place with strong WiFi works pretty nicely.

Have the “talent” sit a bit away from the camera, for 2 reasons: video focus + sound quality.

Focus on someone’s face by tapping the screen there, go live, tidy up any focus issues, and then don’t touch the iPad for the rest of the broadcast.

Particularly if you’re using the rear camera, if your “talent” is too close to the iPad, even if they’re barely moving, the Facebook iOS app seems to get confused a lot and try to refocus, sometimes leaving them blurry.

So far, I’ve decided it’s best to just have everything at kind of a bland middle-range.

Also, playing with amplification, in a quiet outdoor setting, from a bit of a distance seems to work pretty nicely for sound quality.

Make sure that the musicians have hand microphones for talking through their amplifiers, so that they can be heard between songs.

Yeah, you’ll have a few bird chirps get into the sound, but if you don’t have many airplanes overhead, nothing’s really going to be noticeably louder than the music, and we’ve gotten a lot of compliments.

You may want to put up some signs or caution tape to keep people out for walks from getting too close. They will gawk. Social distancing!

Facebook Live: Indoors, iPad, Facebook iOS app for broadcast, iPad built-in camera, USB “audio interface”

Don’t use this option. It would’ve been awesome, but I just couldn’t get it to work.

In this situation, to control sound a little better indoors, I tried routing the musician’s mixer output through a “class-compliant” (iOS-compatible) USB “audio interface” like the $30 Behringer UCA202 and plugging it into the iPad with a $40 Camera Connection Kit.

It turns out that the last “sound device” you plug into an iPad is what it considers its “system sound,” and the Facebook iOS app pulls its audio from “system sound,” so … that’s how you use sound from a mixer instead of the built-in mic.

Unfortunately, although the broadcast seems to go fine, when you watch your recorded video after the fact (which can be a huge source of watches), your sound could be embarassingly off from your video.

According to Cliff Cabute, this is because many consumer-grade apps…

“[process] the video feed and their [audio] separately, and because a video feed has much more data than audio, any hiccup to your internet connection will cause the video to drop frames first while the audio continues to be played in real time.”

For some reason, I’ve never had this problem using the Facebook iOS app for broadcast and the iPad’s built-in mic and built-in camera, but I get it when I try to replace the mic with a USB audio interface.

Cliff says that desktop/Laptop-based professional-grade software:

“essentially [take] both your video and audio into a single stream

“And because the audio is in a single stream process with the video, any dropped frames of the video will also drop the frame of the audio so that you will always appear to be in-sync.”

I’m still looking for a different iOS app that can have this “professional-like” combining effect so that I can set up musicians to be self-sufficent with just their iPad, a CCK, and a USB audio interface.

UPDATE: I think I found one! Larix – I still need just a bit more testing of my most recent feed on multiple devices for sync, but I think this is going to be the one.

Facebook Live: Indoors, desktop & “stream key” for broadcast, iPad over USB as a “webcam,” USB “audio interface”

My next step was to play with Cliff’s suggestion that I “go pro.”

Luckily, the software to do this is free: it’s called “Open Broadcast Studio,” or OBS, for short.

$15 for Will Townsend’s “Camera for OBS Studio” iPad app and some dinking around later, I was successfully using the iPad as a glorified webcam, using its power cable to plug it into my laptop.

Using a “stream key” I acquired at https://facebook.com/live/producer/, sure enough, I was able to configure OBS to “broadcast” to Facebook live using the iPad’s camera and sound coming in the UCA202 (I knew it was the UCA202, not the iPad mic, because I plugged the UCA202 into a smartphone streaming late night television and talked a lot – confirming that I was not hearing my own voice but was hearing Graham Norton’s).

Speaking of which, using sound from copyrighted sources in a Facebook Live broadcast is a really good way to get Facebook mad at you … so see if you can find a better source of “3rd-party” sound to test with than Spotify or talk shows. Thanks and sorry, Mr. Norton.

Ahem. Another good reason to have a “burner” Facebook account while you test.

“Camera for OBS Studio” even had a feature where I could focus on a point of interest in a scene, then “lock” the focus for the rest of the broadcast, and eliminate the constant blurring/unblurring issues I had with the iPad’s built-in camera when the Facebook iOS app was my interface with the internet.

The main problems with this setup are that it definitely requires someone “behind the camera.” It’s not at all “self-serve” for solo musicians quarantined alone.

  1. The buttons on OBS are tiny. There’s no way a musician should have to be fiddling with this from their seat in front of the camera.
  2. The laptop is one more piece of equipment to worry about “ground loop” noise from, you may not own a laptop, etc.
  3. You may have to “start” the broadcast in 2 places – once in your web browser at facebook.com – and also in OBS – which is a lot for the musician to think about and validate when trying to be creative and professional in front of a camera.

Don’t exceed your technical prowess, and if you do, be charming

  1. If you don’t have a techie in your life to “run video” for you, don’t try to work with OBS and such.
  2. If you don’t have “recording studio” / “live sound” experience, don’t try to over-engineer your sound and work with “audio interfaces” and such.
  3. If you do stretch your wings a little bit and play with something new, be ready for your issues to be broadcast live. Have a lot of, “Hi mom!” and “Technology, right?” jokes – and remember to look into the camera and make them while you fumble.
  4. Have a plan about what you’ll do in case of a total technology failure. Not sure you’re going to get something right? Say during the broadcast, “If I click the wrong button and end this stream, refresh the Facebook page for the Floating Lemons Band every few minutes and look for a fresh livestream – I’ll get back up and running eventually!” Rehearse being smooth & charming about being unsmooth & frazzled.
  5. Presume your camera is live and your mic is hot when it comes to clothing and cursing. (Ahem … not that I speak from near-accident experience or anything …)

More coming later if I think of it.


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