Because we’re gluttons for punishment, we decided to try and live-broadcast a podcast recording session on Facebook. Here’s what we did and what we learned, if you care to try it yourself.
Our audio setup
- Audacity software
- AudioTechica AT 2020 microphone
- Pop screen
- Focusrite Scarlett Solo dual input analog to digital converter
- Pillow fort! (Made of a box stuffed with mattress topper foam, lots of blankets and pillows)
What we added for live broadcasting
- A small 720p resolution webcam
- Open Broadcaster Software
- A USB LED light attached to a power pack
Keep in mind
First, it’s important to note that pillow forts don’t easily lend themselves to great video. We solved this by putting a TV tray with a milk crate in the pillow fort, but as you can see in the video, it got very warm. It’s also worth noting that we run a two-person setup with an audio producer / engineer and podcaster. Talking through it, though, it may be very possible to do this on your own. It’s also worth noting that our podcast is scripted and I read the scripts off of a phone, so that phone wasn’t available for broadcasting or watching comments.
Also, test. Test everything. Twice. You want to have a good idea of what you’re doing before you go live, and you don’t want to sacrifice your audio recording quality for the live broadcast.
Setting up the software
Once you have all the devices plugged in, you’ll need to have OBS, Audacity, and Facebook all open.
In Facebook, go to your page’s Publishing Tools, and use the +Live function in the video library. You’ll need the Server URL and Stream Key.
In OBS, set up a scene — read their documentation on this if you need help. In the scene, set up the video source, text, etc. Once the scene is set up, go in to the broadcasst settings and select “custom” for the streaming service. Fill in that Server URL and Stream Key.
If at all possible, try to use the same audio source you’ll be recording with. It’ll make the setup much simpler. Set the output audio to “stream only.” If you don’t do this, your audio will break. You’ll also want to leave your audio settings on
Output audio to “stream only” underneath source settings (double click the source). If you don’t do this, you end up with audio coming in from the wrong source – or no audio at all. You’ll want to leave your Desktop Audio Device and Microphone / Auxiliary Audio Device to default. If you try to change these to monitor, then you’ll get audio feedback on your Facebook stream.
Set up your recording as you normally would, and start recording before going live.
Set up your live broadcast in Facebook and go live on Facebook at this point.
Things we learned
First – audio will never sound as good on Facebook. Live streams are compressed very heavily, and that means that you will sound a bit tinny.
Be recording BEFORE you go live, and be sure that all of them are capturing correctly before going live. The whole system is mildly unstable. We shut down OBS in the middle of recording, and it prevented Audacity from accessing the mic and required a full reboot.
Facebook is bad at refreshing comments. The best way we could do was have the audio engineer go to the video, mute audio from the stream, and then watch comments. A possibly better way to do this would be a separate device (phone?) to watch comments. The delay of video and audio on-screen can be a little disconcerting, so it may be better to mute a phone and watch comments on there if you can.
General things to remember about creating watchable video
Lighting is good, and pay attention to lighting. Just like echo y rooms can make audio difficult to listen to, a badly lit video gets old much more quickly. So get a desk lamp or extra flashlight.
Have your camera up, if you can. The reason most webcam shots look weird is that they’re from under your chin, which almost nobody looks good from. Try putting your camera on top of something, or minimum straight-on.
Try and have the camera backed away and give more context than just your face. Part of the fun is letting people “in” on the podcast recording, so showing context helps.
So, would we do it again?
Possibly? I think it would probably be a bit more dynamic if this wasn’t a scripted podcast, but I also would like to see what it would be if we could create a pillow fort where I don’t have a pillow on my head. I think, done well, it could be a really great addition to a social media strategy for a podcast. And it’s fun to be able to get real-time feedback.