In February 2017 we streamed the inaugural debate for the election of The Mayor of Greater Manchester via Facebook Live. Later in the year, on May 29th, the people of Greater Manchester will elect their first mayor. The Mayor will be responsible for the strategic government of the largest metropolitan regions in the UK. The historically important Mayoral Debate was organised by Place Northwest at the Midland Hotel in Manchester.
Why use Facebook Live?
Place Northwest are developing the presence on Facebook. Broadcasting directly to social media is great for viewer engagement, especially on Facebook Live. Viewers can comment on the video and ask questions during the event. Cross promoting your Facebook Live stream via Twitter and email attracts viewers to your business Page. Media outlets can share your Facebook Live stream quickly and easily to generate even more reach for your business.The video footage is archived on Facebook and remains available to watch and share after the event has finished.
The Mayoral Debate
The debate was lively with the three candidates, Sean Anstee, Jane Brophy and Andy Burnham put forward their views on transport, housing, health, strategic planning and policing. This was followed by a question and answer session with members of the audience. The video recording of the event provides a permanent record of what each of the candidates said they would do if they were elected. It will be interesting see if they do what they said they would do when in office.
Low key event coverage
Our client specified a very low key presence and suggested that we might be able to ‘just put an iPad somewhere near the front’. This was an unusual request and not something we’ve done before. However, we did stream the event with an iPad as requested. See below for how we actually did it.
Following the live stream we shot three short interviews with sponsors which were edited on an iPad and uploaded to Facebook shortly afterwards.
Pros and cons of low key vs traditional filming
Using small portable devices to cover an event offers a number of advantages and disadvantages over a standard camera/computer crewed event. Small devices are self contained and do everything – it really is possible to put in iPad in the right place with a data connection and push the go live button but if you do that you might be disappointed with the results.
With the right planning and some clever software and hardware it is possible to minimise some of these problems.
The Facebook Live integrated streaming option offers very limited control over the image quality and sound. The video is prone to going in and out of focus, stage lighting can be harsh resulting in white over-exposed face. Automatic audio gain means the sound can go quite noisy during quiet sections. Therefore we used specialist streaming software which allowed manual control of focus, exposure, white balance and sound levels.
Lenses in iPads are fixed so if you need to get closer you can’t zoom in. You have to settle for digital zoom which looses quality or move the device closer to the action. There is a way around this with newer iOS devices and dedicated production software. The Facebook Live service is currently limited to 720p HD. The latest iPad Pro models have 4K image sensors which is significantly higher than 720p. Apple’s SDK means it’s possible to exploit this to crop into the 4K image taking a 720p chunk from it – a virtual zoom if you like – with no loss of quality.
Multi-camera live streaming with iPads
Whilst we only used a single camera (iPad) for this event it is possible to switch between 4 cameras (iOS devices), add graphics and play out pre-recorded videos during the live stream.
iPad’s built-in microphones are not suitable for recording at a live event. You could park the iPad near a PA speaker but it will still sound rubbish. We took a direct, wired feed to a line-level XLR converter into the iPad from the sound desk to ensure good quality audio. There was some hiss from the sound desk but this was still much better than we would have got from the iPad mic. We had a 2nd iPad rig as a backup. Hotel WiFi is often unreliable, especially at a busy event. We took our own 5Ghz WiFi unit with a strong 4G data connection – again we had a backup SIMs for different networks and the option of the hotel’s WiFi as a fallback.
The iPad rigs are small and can be a solution for some events requiring low key coverage with minimal fuss. However, a simple set up with a proper video camera and a streaming capable laptop with similar audio feeds would offer much better overall quality. Hardwired data connections to a laptop would reduce the risks presented by WiFi and 4G.
Want to use Facebook Live or YouTube Live for your next event?
Talk to us about getting your business broadcasting live on social media. Call us on 0800 228 9422 or click here to contact us via email.