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Live Mobile Streaming: Nine Tips for Success

December 7, 2016 by Chris Knowlton

mobile devices with streaming video images

Thanks to apps like Periscope, Facebook Live, and YouNow, streaming video from mobile devices is fun, easy, and gaining popularity. But ensuring your live-streaming content is engaging requires some thought. Let's look at a few ways to make your live mobile streams look and sound great, and then dig a bit deeper to discuss firewalls, privacy, and copyright. With nine key considerations in mind, you'll have a solid foundation for your mobile streaming projects.

 

1. Bandwidth

Wi-Fi is usually preferred over 4G, 3G, and other mobile data connections. It often provides greater throughput, and the cost of streaming crisp video over a mobile data connection can be surprisingly high. Whether using Wi-Fi or cellular data, you'll want to send a high-quality stream from your mobile device to your streaming service or server (such as Wowza Streaming Cloud or Wowza Streaming Engine), which will then convert your content into multiple lower quality levels and various formats to ensure every viewer can get the best stream his or her network conditions and viewing device allow at any given moment. If you're broadcasting a planned event, try testing your bandwidth speed (typically using a free app, such as Speedtest) and streaming in advance, ensuring the outbound stream from your mobile device is using 80% or less of the available bandwidth.

2. Lighting

Capturing video of a live event won't have much value if your viewers can't see the subject(s) well. Some events are already well-lit, but others (such as live interviews indoors or at night) need a bit of help. Fortunately, a growing selection of inexpensive, bright, lightweight, and portable LED lighting options are available from online retailers.

3. Steadiness

Unless you're going for the shaky handheld look of The Blair Witch Project, you'll want steady video capture so your audience doesn't feel seasick. Inexpensive accessories allow you to put your mobile device on a tripod for shooting stationary video. Using the same kind of clip with a monopod may be a good option if you're shooting occasional movement. For full-motion shots, your best bet is to buy a device such as the Steadicam Smoothee to keep the camera stable as you move, but options range from high-end electric gimbals to low-budget stabilizers you build yourself using online plans and common plumbing supplies.

4. Audio

High-quality audio is vital for retaining an audience—hard-to-hear or crackly audio turns people off more quickly than bumpy or dark video. Good external microphones are numerous, including reasonably priced analog shotgun and wired lavalier mics, as well as sophisticated digital microphones that plug into your data ports.

5. Power

Compressing raw video from your mobile device's camera into something that can be streamed usually takes a lot of processing power, which can quickly run down a phone or tablet battery. If you're broadcasting an event that will last more than a few minutes, it's best to connect to an external power supply, such as a plug-in charger or a portable battery.

6. Interruptions

Nothing puts the brakes on a broadcast faster than an incoming phone call or pop-up notification that causes your streaming app to stop. To ensure you don't get interrupted, put your mobile device in Do Not Disturb mode before you start.

7. Firewalls

If you're planning to broadcast video from your mobile device over Wi-Fi, you may need to get an outbound port opened in the network firewall so your video stream can reach your external streaming server or service. Broadcasting apps often use the RTMP, RTSP, or (in the case of Wowza GoCoder) WOWZ protocol to push their streams. (Check with your live-streaming app provider to learn the recommended protocol and port to use.) If the firewall and network are appropriately configured, the security risk of opening up this outbound port will be very low. As appropriate, engage early with your network administrators to ensure they're on board with your plans so they can open any ports needed, and so they don't misinterpret an outbound data spike as a data breach and shut down your stream midbroadcast.

8. Privacy

Regardless of the location from which you plan to broadcast, ensure there are no privacy policies that might block your plans. For example, many schools and houses of worship are understandably concerned about sharing live broadcasts that could reveal children's identity or personal details outside of their internal community.

9. Copyright

If your live broadcast will include purchased or performed content such as music, plays, videos, or readings of written works, you probably need to obtain permission to use each of these. Simply owning purchased sheet music, a CD, a DVD, or a book that contains the content does not mean you have the rights to digitally transmit it. As a starting point, this Copyright Compliance document from Amazon Web Services might be useful. (Although it's geared toward churches, it can be applied to a wide array of contexts.)

 

Bonus: Deciding on Your Mobile Streaming Workflow

With the nine tips above in mind, you're well positioned to stream engaging content from your mobile device. There's just one piece missing: what workflow will you use to actually make the streams happen, and to deliver them smoothly and reliably to your audiences? Today's live-streaming technologies make it easy to get started in minutes using off-the-shelf products—and make it possible to build a custom solution in record time. Here are your primary options.

wowza gocoder SDK code example

Custom App

Maybe live streaming is just part of what your app needs to do. Whether you already have a cool app or are planning one, you can add mobile broadcasting capabilities to it using the Wowza GoCoder Live Streaming SDK. The SDK includes documentation, sample code, and sample apps. You can take it for a test drive with a GoCoder SDK free trial.

Branded App

If you plan to have your audience or others contribute content for your site, you might want them to use an app with your branding. If the off-the-shelf Wowza GoCoder app (see below) meets your mobile broadcasting needs, you can modify the branding and many of the settings via the Wowza GoCoder Private Label program.

Off-the-Shelf App

Numerous apps are available for live streaming from your mobile device. Our favorite (naturally) is Wowza GoCoder, a free download for Android and iOS devices, available from Google Play and the Apple App Store, respectively. It features an intuitive interface with simple first-time-user contextual help, and allows you to stream video with up to 4K resolution. You use Wowza GoCoder in conjunction with Wowza Streaming Cloud (a user-friendly managed cloud service with a free hosted any-screen player) or Wowza Streaming Engine (DIY server software that runs on your own server or in the cloud).

 

Want to learn more about live mobile streaming and how to integrate streaming into your own mobile app? Check out these related posts:

Live Mobile Broadcasting: What Are You Waiting For?

GoCoder SDK App Challenge: Announcing the Winners!

Wowza GoCoder SDK: "A Whole New World of Possibilities"

Democratization of Streaming, Mobile Streaming Apps & More—An Interview

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Chris Knowlton

As a passionate evangelist for streaming media products, Chris Knowlton has spent 15 years working on technologies that make live and on-demand media delivery accessible. A recognized industry authority, Chris was honored in 2011 as a “Streaming Media All-Star” by Streaming Media Magazine, and holds several patents for streaming technologies.