Using a DSLR, Mirrorless Camera, GoPro or Professional Camcorder

I have a 187 gallon reef aquarium and every now and then I like to share it in real time using either Facebook Live or YouTube. The first time I tried this I used my smartphone and it fell way short in representing the true colors and vibrancy of the tank. My tank, like most reef tanks, has a lot of blue light and my phone didn’t have a way to adjust the white balance to capture the authentic colors. And then there is audio. In many instances, you will not want to rely on a phone to capture audio when live streaming.

 

Motivated to find a better solution, I did a lot of research and came up with a way to live stream using my DSLR. The DSLR had the necessary white balance controls and it also gave me the option to capture other perspectives using different lenses. For instance, I love the up-close detail you get with a macro lens and to be able to stream this live is just cool!

 

Complete Guide to Live Streaming on Facebook and YouTube

 

Complete Guide to Live Streaming on Facebook and YouTube

Time to Upgrade Camera For Live Streaming

My DSLR, a Canon 5D Mark III, did a great job for the three and a half years I had it but it was time for an upgrade. I sold my Canon and purchased a Sony a7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera. Why did I do this? Generally, mirrorless cameras are better for video versus DSLRs so I performed some due diligence and settled on the Sony since it had a reputation for producing stunning 4K video! Of course it would be nearly impossible to stream in 4K but I wanted to step things up for the videos I edit and produce for my YouTube channel.

 

There are also times when I like to live stream using a GoPro since I can attach it to a chest harness and free up my hands, allowing me to easily do live demonstrations from my viewpoint.

 

The equipment needed to produce live video and the steps for streaming are very similar for a DSLR, mirrorless camera, GoPro and even a professional camcorder such as a Sony HXR-NX80.

Equipment List For Live Streaming

  • Computer or laptop – You will not be able to effectively stream video if you don’t have a computer or laptop with enough giddyup. Check with the manufacturer to make sure you have a powerful enough processor, sufficient RAM and a good graphics card. I can stream really well using my iMac but I when I tried using my wife’s MacBook the stream was terrible.
  • Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder – Thunderbolt – You will need to set this device up on your computer or laptop. This is a good tutorial video on how to do so.
  • 3m Thunderbolt Cable
  • Apple MMEL2AM/A, Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to 2 Adapter – You will need this if you have a newer Mac with a Thunderbolt 3 port. Some Windows PCs and laptops have Thunderbolt 3 ports as well.
  • HDMI Cable
    • DSLRs/mirrorless cameras/GoPros – You will need a male/female HDMI cable. Go with a long one to maximize the reach between your computer/laptop and video camera.
    • Professional camcorders – Use a standard male/male cable. Again, I would recommend a long one such as this 50 footer.
  • Mini-HDMI to HDMI Cable
    • Professional camcorders – not needed
    • DSLRs/mirrorless cameras – The Mini-HDMI to HDMI cable should come with the camera, although they are pretty short. I picked up this longer one to further extend the reach of my camera.
    • GoPro – GoPro Micro HDMI Cable

 

Audio

As for audio, I highly recommend purchasing an external microphone for your DSLR or mirrorless camera such as this one sold by Rode. Professional camcorders have good external microphones but if the subjects are more then 6 feet away use a wireless lavalier microphone system. This system would also be the optimal way to go for a DSLR or mirrorless camera if your subjects are not close to the camera.

 

The internal microphones on GoPros, quite frankly, stink. To upgrade my GoPro’s audio, I picked up an external microphone as well as a few other accessories. The setup works great.

 

Complete Guide to Live Streaming on Facebook and YouTube

Equipment for GoPro Audio Upgrade

You can check out this video on how to put all of the pieces together.

 

Connecting Camera to Cables and Streaming Equipment

  • Connect one end of the Thunderbolt cable to the Thunderbolt port on the Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder.
  • Connect the other end of the Thunderbolt cable to the Thunderbolt port on your computer or laptop. As previously mentioned, if you have a newer Mac with a Thunderbolt 3 port then you will need to use the Thunderbolt 3 to 2 Adapter. Use this as well for Windows PCs and laptops with Thunderbolt 3 ports.
  • For a DSLR, mirrorless camera or GoPro, insert the male end of the male/female HDMI cable into the HDMI port on the Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder. If you are using a professional camcorder insert one end of the standard male/male HDMI cable into the Mini Recorder and the other end into the HDMI port on the camcorder.
  • For a DSLR, mirrorless camera or GoPro, take the appropriate Mini-HDMI to HDMI Cable and insert the male HDMI end into the female end of the HDMI cable coming out of the Mini Recorder. Finally, insert the Mini-HDMI connector into the Mini-HDMI port on the camera.

Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder - Thunderbolt

Software For Live Streaming

Now let’s talk streaming software. I use a free solution call Open Broadcaster Software or OBS. Another way to go is Wirecast, which costs $695 and has many cool features not available in OBS, including the ability to live stream simultaneously to both Facebook and YouTube. If you want a professional streaming solution then use Wirecast.

 

Before opening up OBS, let’s cover the bandwidth needed for live streaming. Step one is to test the upload speed at the location you are streaming from. You can do so by visiting speedtest.net and clicking on the “Go” button. I recommend having a minimum of 20 mbps upload speed for live streaming. I also recommend being hard-wired to the internet at both private and public locations versus using WiFi. A 300 foot ethernet cable is relatively inexpensive.

 

If WiFi is your only option, do it on a password protected network, especially in a public place. Bandwidth can be consumed quickly on a non-password protected network by others browsing the internet on their phones.

 

A lower video resolution will also provide more cushion in terms of bandwidth and my preference is to always stream at 720p vs. 1080p. I typically set my stream settings to 720p at 60 fps for YouTube and Facebook. You can’t stream at 60 fps on Facebook but OBS does not have a 720p 30 fps option so the 60 fps option automatically gets knocked down to 30 fps. 720p is still High Definition (HD) and I have found the quality to be pretty darn good.

Test, test, test…and then Test Again!

One other very important thing…..BEFORE LAUNCHING A LIVE STREAM ON YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE OR YOUTUBE CHANNEL, TEST IT ON A FAKE FACEBOOK PAGE OR YOUTUBE CHANNEL. I personally have set up test accounts on both Facebook and YouTube to test my streams to make sure there is enough bandwidth and no buffering. After starting the stream, you can monitor its health in OBS. More one that in a bit. Did I mention how important it is to test 🙂 Ok, let’s move on to the next steps.

 

Complete Guide to Live Streaming on Facebook and YouTube

 

If your camera is already connected to the Mini Recorder and computer/laptop, then disconnect it to change the video resolution coming out of the camera. For demonstration purposes, let’s set this to 720p at 60 fps. There is one more thing you will need to do for a GoPro. While it is disconnected from the Mini Recorder, go into preferences and scroll down to “HDMI Output” and set it to “Live”. Once everything has been set, reconnect your camera to the Mini Recorder, which should be connected to either your computer or laptop. Turn the camera on and launch OBS. If you are using a DSLR or mirroless camera, make sure it is in video mode.

The Home Stretch

We are getting close. The last part is to configure OBS

 

Complete Guide to Live Streaming on Facebook and YouTube

  • Under “Source” at the bottom click on the “+” and select “Blackmagic Device”. If you don’t see this option then double check your install of this device.
  • Click on the Gear icon to the right of the “+” sign and in the “Mode” drop down menu select either 720p59.94 or 720p60. You will know you made the right selection when you see the video from your camera appear. Leave the defaults for everything else and click “ok”.
  • Under “Controls” in the bottom right corner click on “Settings”.
  • Use all of the defaults in the “General” tab.
  • Click on the “Stream” tab and make sure “Streaming Services” is selected at the top.
  • Under “Service” choose either “Facebook Live” or “YouTube/YouTube Gaming. You will notice there are many other choices such as Twitch so this tutorial can also be used for those platforms.
  • Stream key – There are different procedures for retrieving this for both Facebook and YouTube
    • Facebook
      • Go to your Facebook page.
      • Click on the “Live” or “Live Video” button at the top of the page (under the cover photo).
      • Click on “Connect”, find the “Stream Key” and copy and paste it into the stream key field in OBS.
      • If you don’t see “Live Video” on Facebook then visit this page and click on the “Broadcast on Facebook Live” link, sign into Facebook and click on the “Live Video” button that should now appear at the top of your page. You will find the stream key by clicking on “Connect”.
    • YouTube
      • Go to your YouTube channel.
      • Click on your account icon in the top-right corner and select “Creator Studio” in the drop down.
      • From the menu on the left side select “Live Streaming”. If you can’t click on “Live Streaming” then your channel needs to be verified by YouTube for live streaming. Typically this only takes a day.
      • At the bottom under “Encoder Setup” find the “Stream/Name” key and copy and paste it into the stream field in OBS.
      • While you are there enter a title and description for your live stream.

Complete Guide to Live Streaming on Facebook and YouTube

 

Complete Guide to Live Streaming on Facebook and YouTube

  • In the “Output” menu select “Simple” for “Output Mode”.
  • Use 2500 as the “Video Bitrate” and 128 for the “Audio Bitrate”
  • You can record the stream but I would advise against it since it will chew up processing power on your computer or laptop.
  • In the “Audio” menu select 44.1 kHz as the “Sample Rate”.
  • Use “Stereo” for “Channels” and choose “Disabled” for both desktop audio options.
  • For “Mic/Auxiliary Audio Device” choose “Built-in Microphone”. Select “Disabled” for the other two auxiliary audio options.
  • Select “Fast” for “Audio Meter Decay Rate” and “Sample Peak” for “Peak Meter Type”. Leave the boxes below un-checked.
  • In the “Video” menu select “1280×720” for “Base (Canvas) Resolution” and “Output (Scaled) Resolution”.
  • Use “Bicubic (Sharpening scaling, 16 samples)” for the “Downscale Filter”
  • Choose either “59.94” or “60”. Use the same fps you selected as the mode under video source.
  • Leave both the “Hotkeys” and “Advanced” menus as is.
  • Click “Ok”.

Complete Guide to Live Streaming on Facebook and YouTube

Final Steps

Before you launch the stream make sure you have some headphones plugged into your laptop or computer so you can monitor the sound. I also want to remind you about testing the stream on a test account. Ok, are we ready? Hit the “Start Streaming” button under “Controls”. If you chose YouTube then you are live. For Facebook enter a title and description for the live stream to the right of where the stream key is in the Facebook API. Hit “Go Live” in the bottom right hand corner and you are in business.


 

To monitor the stream health observe the “CPU” in the lower right hand corner of OBS. You should be fine if it is under 70% but you may see some buffering if it climbs into the 80% range. If this happens you either don’t have enough bandwidth or your computer/laptop is not powerful enough for streaming. This is why it is critical to first run the stream on a test account. A buffering, choppy live stream is a terrible user experience and will turn off your followers.

 

For a more visual tutorial you can view this video:

 

 

Interested in similar articles, including one on how to stream a webcam live to YouTube?  If so, please explore my other blog posts on photography and videography.

 

And if you are looking for additional insights and information on reef tanks, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my book, A ReefBum’s Guide To Keeping an SPS Reef Tank: A Blueprint For Success. You can also see all of my reef tank videos online now as well as my Live HD Webcam.

 

Happy streaming and reef keeping!

 

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