More Thoughts On Live Streaming On YouTube

I have started doing Live Streaming on YouTube about more than half a year ago, regularly on my channel, typically on Thursday night 10pm, Malaysian time. I have written before about my intentions why I started Live Streaming, the challenges that I faced and how I worked around them, you can find my previous articles here and here. Since my last update more than 3 months ago, there has been some small changes which I do want to explore and talk about in this blog. It has been quite fulfilling being able to reach about 150-200 people concurrently during a live session, and throughout the entire stream, thousands of people. My Live Stream is definitely a work in progress, so from time to time it is important to sit down, reelect and make adjustments for further improvements. 

Here are some things that remained the same, in case some people never bothered to check the previous post about my Live Stream setup:
  • I still use the OM System OM-1 as the main camera with Panasonic 15mm F1.7 attached.
  • The OM-1 was run through a HDMI cable into an EZCAP 4K capture card, which outputs USB into my PC computer.
  • I am running a AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU with 32GB RAM and GTX1660 graphics, a low level yet effective setup for non-strenuous streaming uses. 
  • The video feed was captured by OBS Software on computer which was connected to YouTube by default. 
  • All main light and ambient accent RGB lights remained unchanged. 
Here are some things which have changed since the last setup:
  • If it isn't obvious on the cover photograph already, the microphone is new. It is the Maono PD200X, a dynamic microphone. I will talk about this later in this blog. 
  • I am using a new "deadcat" for the microphone, or a windshield with synthetic fur, which was super effective to reduce 99% of my plosives. 
  • I have tinkled with the OBS software a lot more, when it comes to filter adjustments, both for audio and video
  • I have started to share slideshow of photographs in between my streams, which I did not do previously. I believe showing my work is important as a photographer, if I want people to take me seriously. 
  • I disabled comments on the post-stream playback. The Live Chat feed during stream is available. That means, you can come into the chat when the stream is Live, but once it ends, you cannot make any new comments. You can still see the conversations in the chat that happened during live. I personally believe if you have something to say for a Live Stream session, it should be said during the Live, not after. 
Basically, the hardware setup is the same, except for the new microphone. 

Previously, I was using a Maono condenser microphone (can't be bothered to check the exact model number), which I bought for about USD25, or less. I bought the microphone because it was cheap, and based on my hunch, with very little research and knowledge. I did not get that specific microphone for Live Streaming purposes; I was just recording normal YouTube videos in my room during the pandemic lockdowns. That was where the old RM9/USD2 lavalier microphone which I used for the first 2 years of making YouTube videos, could not work very well. Hence, I switched over to the condenser microphone that worked better in a quieter, indoor environment. It served its purpose and was happy with its high performance to cost ratio.

As I started Live Streaming, I noticed that the condenser microphone did not work as well as intended for this purpose. I needed to do massive tweaks and adjustments to get the sound to the profile that I liked. Furthermore, my room was untreated, I had hard walls, ceilings and floor, which resulted in harsh sound reflections. My sitting position was just next to the window, with occasional loud motorcycle engine zooming by, or a blaring siren of a police car. The older Maono condenser microphone was just not up to this specific task. Previously, I recorded my videos in a different location, with carpet flooring, me sitting on a sofa, and with padded wallpapers, and definitely, away from the windows. 

Initially I thought of maybe doing some sound treatment in my room, which I think is absolutely going to take a lot of effort and not to mention - cost. After speaking to some friends and doing my own research, I realize that if I switched to a dynamic type of microphone, I could potentially solve all the issues that I had. That was when I stumbled upon a Maono dynamic microphone, the PD200X (for about RM280/USD60). Let's face it, I am still budget conscious, and I am not willing to spend thousands of hard-earned Ringgit on a popular branded microphone and elaborate, technically complex setup using external audio interface. Keeping things as minimal and as straightforward as possible, a USB dynamic microphone that does not break the wallet, was the alternative route I went with. 

I am quite satisfied with the performance of the new dynamic microphone. The sound isn't perfect, it isn't recording level quality, or "pro" sounding, but it successfully eliminated all the initial problems that I had with the previous condenser microphone. The dynamic microphone did not pick up that much room noise, and even if there was something loud happening outside the window, it was quite faint but still audible, which I thought was tolerable. And more importantly, I did not have to do that many adjustments to get the sound to the profile that I am happy with. All I did with the adjustment was to cut out some harsh frequencies, added compression (so that the loud part is not too loud, and soft not too soft) to help with listening for longer duration, preventing fatigue on the listeners' ears. 

The original "pop filter" which was a sponge type cover that came with the microphone did a poor job in handling plosives, so I bought a "deadcat" separately which worked way better. 

I realize I have been just emphasizing on audio up to this point, but I guess audio is extremely important when it comes to any video work, especially Live Streaming. 

Some of my friends advised me to use a full-on audio interface so I have more power and control over sound and everything else. At this moment, I'd rather not dabble into such complex setup. Generally, it takes me more than an hour to set everything up for a Live Stream, yes more than an hour, if I were testing something new or different it could stretch to two hours, I am not kidding. Think about it - mounting the camera on tripod, connect the camera to PC, open up the software, connect the microphone, set up the lights, the background, arrange the images for slideshow, testing the setup and allocating time for troubleshooting, and a thousand things can go wrong during a live stream session. Making a little adjustment here and there, it has not been easy. There are a million things running through my head, yet I need to speak and present myself when the stream goes live! How about my talking points, how about responding to chats? 

Therefore, I minimize the workflow as best as possible. No audio interface, just a simple USB cable straight into the computer for the microphone. One camera feed into the computer, no unnecessary switching. Just me alone in the stream, no guests, no piping in extra video feed from video calls from other people. No complicated tweaking, just minimal adjustments in the filters. If anything goes wrong, there are backups standing by - I have back up microphone, backup camera, backup capture card, back up HDMI cable, all standing by. The issue is not about not having a backup, the issue is, when something goes wrong, sometimes it takes time to figure out what is wrong, and when you are Live, it looks really bad on you. Fumbling around not knowing what is wrong and not knowing what to do, can be anxiety inducing, which I try my best to prevent. There are a million possibilities of things doing wrong, and sometimes we have no clue what the problem is.  So, the less there is to deal with, the better. 

Of course, I acknowledge that my setup is far from ideal, and that is true. At least it works for now, and the recent Live Stream sessions have been going on smoothly, without any hiccup. 

The thrilling part about Live Streaming is the immediacy - people are there right in front of you, they respond to your discussion in real time, and you get to interact with so many people all at once. The magic is the live interaction between the content creator and the audience - something that typical video uploads to YouTube cannot to. The experience is similar to dialing into your favorite radio station and speak to the Radio DJ. In YouTube Live Streams, the experience is amplified, because you can see the face of the person responding to your chat and questions live. All at the comfort of your home, or wherever you are with your viewing device. 

I started Live Streaming as an experiment, myself wanting to try new things. I find myself doing this for more than half a year now, and I continually find ways to improve myself, no matter how small each step takes. This is still work in progress!

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