Due to our current worldwide health pandemic, virtual fundraisers have now taken center stage. However, despite being easier to manage and having lower overhead costs vs their in-person fundraising counterparts of the pre-pandemic world, virtual fundraisers are not without their own challenges. Perhaps most of which are related to video production and virtual lag. We’ve heard from many auctioneers who have tried in vain to host virtual fundraisers in the past, only to be stifled by constant lag interfering with the live auction process. Luckily, technology has come a long way in recent years and we now have unique software solutions, such as Paybee’s Virtual Auction platform, to solve the issue of debilitating event lag and give users the seamless virtual live auction experience they’ve been in search of while combining live video streaming, pre-recorded video, text chat, live bidding, virtual guests and more. Finally, foundations have the seamless all-in-one virtual auction experience they’ve been looking for in Paybee’s Virtual Gala feature.
Before configuring your other virtual event assets, we have to start with a solid foundation, your internet connection. The most important factor in combatting virtual lag is a stable internet connection. Having a high speed internet connection with good bandwidth will not only improve the video quality and connectivity of your livestream, but will prevent you from experiencing loading and buffering issues. A good tip for a more stable internet connection is to hard-wire your production computer to your internet modem. Depending on your computer type, you many need to purchase an additional ethernet adapter to do achieve this result as well as possible upgrade to a longer ethernet cord, but in the end you will experience a significant boost in internet connectivity levels compared to a wifi connection and a better virtual event experience for your guests. Once your internet connection type is setup, it’s also important to verify your internet connectivity level to make sure you’re within recommended bandwidth levels (upload speed of 5mbps for standard high definition), tools like highspeedinternet.com and speedtest.com can be an indispensable tool in determining both your upload as well as your download speeds.
Live Stream Setup
The next step in setting up your virtual fundraiser is to select a streaming software which meets your needs. Although called by many different names, this is essentially a type of software or hardware which collects audio and video as input and then sends it to a broadcasting platform (content distribution network) to reach your audience. It’s important to select a streaming software you’re comfortable with and learn to use it appropriately, that way you don’t end up with what’s known as user created lag, i.e. lapses in your production due to user error.
The better-known platforms for livestream setup and execution are Wirecast, Belive, Ecamm, Streamyard, OBS etc. These programs not only help you manage the content you display on-screen but they also serve to compress your video, making it ideala for streaming. Based on our feedback with clients, Streamyard is our recommended platform for beginners because of its easy to use interface and short learning curve. We find about 30% of our virtual auction event producers choose to use Streamyard. For more advanced users, we recommend Wirecast which is a paid software platform but offers users more advanced setup options. For a free software alternative which also offers advanced features, we recommend OBS (Open Broadcast Software) which offers advanced setup options.
Content Distribution Network (CDN)
Besides software solutions for your stream, you need to choose a content distribution network as well (CDN). CDN’s serve to close the distance between the user and the streamer via a network of servers. There are many CDN solutions currently available, the famous free options include Facebook live (Facebook), YouTube live (YouTube) and Twitch (Amazon). There are many pros and cons to each but all of these options can work for your virtual event. For example, Facebook live has large built-in audience feature coming in the form of your already existing Facebook connections, in addition Facebook Live is probably the easiest CDN to use and to get started due to its mobile functionality and interface familiarity amongst pre-existing Facebook users. Youtube live on the other hand is better for SEO reasons as you can allow your content to be indexed on the internet and accessed from internet browsers all over the world (videos can also be unlisted if you choose). Twitch is another popular livestreaming option which gained its popularity largely from the gaming community. Part of the reason Twitch became popular for gaming is that it can be used to stream directly from gaming consoles such as Xbox and Playstation, in addition to being user friendly on almost all other devices, an advantage it still maintains to this day.
For more advanced users, there are also paid CDN options which we will cover in a future article.
CDN Specific Settings
Ultra-Low Latency Settings
Latency is another word for delay, the lower the latency setting, the lower the delay. However, lowering latency usually comes with tradeoffs in terms of video quality. In most cases, at ultra-low latency setting you won’t be able to stream in 4k or other ultra HD resolutions. However, for any Streams that require two-way communication between the streamer and the audience, ultra-low latency settings provide the most attractive solution.
Key Streaming Software Settings
Higher bandwidths mean faster internet and less congestion. As a result, your data travels faster, and you’ll have less latency. When setting up your bitrate, it’s important to setup your audio/video quality and framerate to achieve a bitrate below your internet connection upload speed to ensure a seamless video stream.
The larger the video size, the longer it will take to send the video over the internet and the higher the latency. We recommend 1280x720 for max video resolution where a low latency is required.
Higher frame-rates can slow down your stream as well. We recommend sticking to 30 fps for beginner streamers.
When possible, optimize your video and audio encoding settings to specifically match the needs of your CDN. This can be achieved with a streaming software tool such as OBS.