Webcasting: Streaming LIVE on the Internet

Last week was my first live broadcast over the Internet. I have been thinking about it for a while and doing a little research here and there. When I finalized plans with Grammy/Clio winning composer, Robin Batteau, to come to my school and give a master class on composition, I thought that would be a great time to dive into the world of live internet broadcasting.

I streamed audio and video through Ustream.tv. Ustream is a great site as it is, for the most part, “Rated G”. Ustream seems to really want to keep a lid on some of the nonsense and profanity that you’ll find on other video sites and they seem to be doing a good job so far. Then again, one person’s nonsense is another’s Nirvana. Yes, you can watch some teenager play Guitar Hero or catch a glimps of a raccoon as it comes into camera range when tempted by the bait that the broadcaster has left. But I have also seen a few very cool things on Ustream.tv. Need a few questions answered about problems on your computer? Check out PC-Addicts. They just sit there and answer your questions. They are very helpful and really seem to know their stuff. Tell Chris D I sent you. You can also catch other interesting things on Ustream. I just saw a live broadcast from a club Budapest and one of our very own music educators broadcasts on Ustream frequently enough, EdTechMusician.

I’ll be honest about the amount of time I spent in preparation. It was several hours a day for three weeks. First you have to research a site. It’s got to be OK for kids to go there (I can’t even get YouTube in the school building so I couldn’t possibly put video there). Watch the site. Learn the site. Get the downloads. Learn the software. Does it work in the school building? Do I have the interfaces I need? How’s the lighting? The audio? Oh, we can get it better than that! Change mics. Reposition and test again. Latency? Is that the feed or my setup? Is this thing all going to crash in 30 minutes? Is it recording while we are streaming and will it record everything? Can I get the remote desktop access to show the kids music as it plays? What part of the desktop? Check to resize and how it will look in that little 2” box. Oh yeah, I have a guest coming and I need to make sure I have everything for him, too!

I learned a few things broadcasting. First and foremost, Murphy’s Law applies. My broadcast was an hour and a half long. I think it was pretty great for the most part but it wasn’t without its hitches. Live is never the same as rehearsed and edited. It’s kind of like the difference between getting the band to run through a tune a few times before you perform or jamming with people you’ve never played with before in front of a live audience. It all depends on your skill, experience and comfort level in the environment. So, practice does make perfect.

You can check out my Ustream channel and see the video of the event at MusicEdTech:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/musicedtech

All in all, it was an enormous amount of work and stress. Much more than I expected and well above and beyond what I need to do as an educator. Will I do this again? You bet! As a matter of fact, I’ll be streaming live and on location from a conference I am speaking in next week, Friday, April 25 & 26 in NYC. Stay tuned for more details…

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