Up a (live) Stream with an iPad(dle)

Ma’ayan Plaut is the social media coordinator at Oberlin College.

Here at Oberlin, parents and family weekend is second only to commencement/reunion weekend in terms of the sheer number of events. These three days in early November are packed with concerts, faculty lectures and student performances as well as lots of quality family time. This is a perfect, slightly lower-key scenario from which to plunge headfirst into an experiment in livestreaming.

I had livestreamed before, earlier in this semester, with great success. This weekend offered a plethora of events to choose from, but we selected our targets based on ease of streaming (we’re currently working from an iPad 2, which has superb audio and pretty good video quality), ability to position intelligently during the stream (can we actually see based on where the streamer is positioned in the space?), diversity of events (several kinds of music, improv comedy and an aerial circus show) and the nostalgia rating (how much would an adoring Oberlin fan appreciate this video?).

One of the “challenges” of being on a college campus is that there are so many wonderful things happening—especially on the weekends—and many of them occur at the same time. I ran into just that problem this weekend: competing events that were equally awesome and had excellent livestreaming draw and only one of me. Luckily, my coworker Harris was planning on attending many of the weekend’s events as well and was able to broadcast some of them to the world outside Oberlin. Thanks for the double-team-stream, Harris!

Things to consider when livestreaming:

  • Permission is golden. On a college campus absolutely swimming in music, this is extremely important. Conservatory-based performances have strict rules about recording—both video and audio—because of the restrictions involved with playing original works (same goes for plays and theatrical works). In contrast, student groups often arrange their own music and perform new creative pieces. Ask them for permission in person.
  • Test everything. I biked around campus to check the Internet connections at all the locations from which we’d be streaming. (Livestreaming requires a good Internet connection, whether wireless coverage or 3G. Without a good connection, your stream will go from live to dead in seconds and your loyal viewers will be quite disappointed.) I also tested several different streaming services and settled on UStream for their speedy setup during the tests. (Note: Sites like Bambuser offer Facebook plugins that allow the stream to be broadcast straight from your Facebook page. For the future!)
  • Archive, archive, archive. While part of the “cool factor” of livestreaming is the live aspect, the archived video is as an excellent pick-me-up for folks who were not able to watch the live stream. UStream also allows for uploads to Youtube and the ability to download the video afterward as well.
  • You’re the tripod. If you’re doing the quick and dirty version of livestreaming like I was, you’re holding a smart phone, iPad or the equivalent for no less than 30 minutes. You need stamina and you also need to be conscious of your viewers, which means no sudden movements and no personal commentary. I didn’t think this would be a problem, but the first event I went to was a performance by OSteel, our campus steel drum band. I realized that dancing wasn’t really an option. Neither was laughing at the improv showcase nor was cheering for my friends during an a capella performance or the aerial circus show.
  • Publicity is key! If no one is watching, why are you livestreaming? Since this weekend was more of a test, we didn’t do a huge publicity push, but my co-streamer and I did let people know on Facebook and Twitter that we would be streaming within the hour. (The only exception was the aerial showcase. After checking in with the performers, they sent the link to coaches and parents, which meant double the number of viewers compared with the earlier streams—pretty cool!) Otherwise, we counted on the serendipitous possibility of a curious friend or follower clicking on our links.

It turns out we did pretty well. After each stream, I posted the link to the archived video to my own Facebook and Twitter accounts and in the comments announcing the stream on the Oberlin College Facebook page. The comments poured in from nostalgic alumni and grateful parents thanking us for allowing them to be a part of the weekend.

While we probably won’t do streams regularly, the thought of it is less intimidating now that we’ve tried it. We know we have an audience out there, and we might as well regale them with some live Oberlin spirit. Stay tuned!

Have you livestreamed at your school? What was the response from your viewers?

One response to “Up a (live) Stream with an iPad(dle)

  1. I haven’t tried live streaming events in my alma mater, but I hope to do just that when we hold a batch get-together. It’s lucky for our generation to have a chance to connect long-lost friends using such technology.

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