For the past several months, I have been the broadcast engineer for the Facebook Live streams used to connect viewers with the host and staff of The A.V. Club Hosted By John Teti. Although we have had several “successful” live streams, they weren’t without their technical hardships.
For starters, let’s look at Facebook as a platform itself.
Facebook started as a convenient way for college students to connect, share their stories, images, and whereabouts with each other. It was a very simple platform that worked well, and inevitably paved the way for the oversharing of personal information. Once the platform was open to the public- Facebook became less of a communication tool and more of a part of our daily routine.
Since most people do use Facebook as regularly as they use the restroom (usually at the same time too), businesses have latched onto this platform. Why not? My father who was a very successful hot dog vendor from Taylor St. once told me “You gotta go where the people are.” Although this simple piece of advice holds true for almost any business, does it make Facebook right for live streaming?
Understanding that now anyone can “go live” to Facebook from almost any device, is what makes streaming to Facebook almost as difficult as it is easy. I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but hear me out- it is the fact that the streaming platform within Facebook needs to be easy for any non-professional to use. This necessity for easy streaming, can actually complicate things for the streaming professional.
As someone whose clients specifically request and pay me to utilize Facebook Live as a streaming platform, I can attest that there is additional knowledge required to reliably stream to Facebook. I know that most of the popular software-based streaming solutions utilize an API to connect with Facebook, but I have found that the API isn’t always reliable.
In fact, I experienced this failure while I was in LA doing streaming a fashion event for a client. I used the API the night before for our test stream and no issues. However, on the day of the event- it suddenly stopped working. Luckily, I knew the “workaround” needed to access the RTMP code and stream ID, but if I hadn’t known what to do, I would have owed the client a big apology and a lot of money.
Although Facebook is where “the people are,” it doesn’t necessarily make it an ideal streaming platform for everyone. It is nice to have a video appear seamlessly on your Facebook page (for free), whereupon your followers can easily connect and comment with your talent, but please remember that this platform was designed for the masses who use a mobile device for their personal streaming needs.
This oversimplification creates additional hurdles for broadcasters using professional equipment. For example, Facebook limits streams to only 4 hours. Not bad for the family streaming a school play, but for a corporation streaming a conference or a concert- that might not be enough time. Also, Facebook limits stream resolutions to 720p 30. Yes, this is technically considered HD, but for content producers seeking a better experience for their viewers (think fast-paced sports)- this might not be enough.
A bigger issue for me is regarding content rights and reporting. Although Facebook does state that your content is your property, however anyone can “report” your video should they feel that the content is inappropriate or somehow violated a copyright. Accountability is a good thing, but false reporting should be a concern as it can take your broadcast or video offline.
If you the professional content producer are aware and okay with the caveats that come with streaming to Facebook Live, then perhaps it is a platform worth trying out. Granted you should always run a test stream ahead of your event on any platform, but with Facebook Live- it is a necessity. There are pros and cons with all streaming platforms, but understand the needs of your broadcast and make sure to set expectations accordingly.
After all, Facebook Live was intended for and designed to be a non-professional platform, so please be aware of some of the issues that might arise when streaming with professional gear. Should you have any questions or would like to know how to reliably steam to Facebook Live- contact us at Stream Dudes for the right tools and guidance.