Live Broadcasts

June, 2020

The Basics

First and foremost with any live broadcast is the necessity of a stable and sufficient network connection. The difficulty with live broadcasts for events such as weddings is the availability where the event is taking place of a sufficient network connection. Wifi is typically suitable as are some cellular networks. But something of this sort is required uninterrupted for the entire broadcast and is sometimes not available where and when it is needed.

Other factors to consider are the size of your audience, how private you want your event to be, and how long you expect the broadcast to last. Simple services such as Zoom are great for allowing in only those viewers who are invited. Nearly all plans have pricing layers built around the size of your audience and the length of your broadcast. Keep in mind that invite-only events require you to have contact information, mainly email or cell phone numbers, for everyone you wish to view the broadcast. You may also need an operator managing the broadcast to approve who accesses the stream and who doesn't, and to be able to answer any questions viewers may have.

Keeping the audience under 100 viewers and the duration under 60 minutes fits neatly with the scale and economics of most basic broadcast plans and what most people planning weddings are interested in having as part of their event.

On The Technical Side

“Big” cameras, including smaller camcorders, are typically great for capturing video (or stills) using, especially in extreme situations of darker or brighter environments, into a particular format, call it A. When we edit an event after the fact we use software and hardware that processes all that and converts the original, large format to any multiple of output formats, all of them compressed in size,  depending on the final usage. Let's call the final output format B.

These cameras are required to be tethered to a computer that is in turn connected to the internet in order to handle the compression from format A to format B, then transmit the result along the necessary networks. All this introduces the idea of latency, which simply means it takes time for all this to happen, typically seconds. Your viewers will never actually see the broadcast live, but rather will be several seconds or more behind.

Cell phones can be great at capturing video, especially newer phones. Newer phones especially are also running on bigger and better hardware specifically designed to handle the main tasks a phone is used for, such as capturing video. The beauty of phones for broadcasting live is that they contain all the hardware and software needed to capture video, convert it from format A to format B, AND transmit the result along the necessary networks. Their compactness allows them to be discrete and if necessary, mobile. 

The downside to using any phone for video is the relatively small size of their capture components, making them limited in where they can be used, namely darker environments typically found inside churches.

Not all HD is the Same

One last factor to keep in mind on the technical side is that most broadcasts, especially those on the lower pricing levels, are scaled down in quality, again for network considerations. They still are broadcast in HD, but the quality in the end will not look like it does coming out of your camera, and certainly not what you are likely used to watching Netflix, for instance.

And yet the final image quality, even for a phone, will still look noticeably better than any webcam. 

Putting it Altogether

No two weddings are the same. Period. Broadcasting one live is not much different. Yet most still have the basic format of a processional down a main isle, attendees on either side, toward the front of the gathering  where both attendees will stand along with their officiant, followed by a recessional.

Here is a suggestion in these cases:

- The camera setup, be it a cell phone or camera tethered to a laptop, occupies an end seat and is stationed nearer the front of the gathering, facing rearward for the processional.

- Once the bride/groom pass, the camera pans to follow them toward the front of the gathering, then is moved into the center of the main aisle where it stays for the remainder of the ceremony.

- It is then moved back to its end seat for the recessional, repeating the original process following the married couple, then terminating the broadcast.

Again, every wedding is different, as is every venue. You may find a choir loft, for instance, to be a handy spot to station the broadcast setup.

Plan B

All the planning in the world will do no good in the event of any kind of network failure. The best plan as a back up to a broadcast is to also have the broadcast camera or broadcast service record the event as it is being broadcast, allowing the recorded event to be uploaded after event using a stable internet connection to where you can invite your guests to view it. This typically can happen within 24 hours of the event itself.

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