09 Mar 2021 16:43 IST

How streaming transformed content creation

Making the internet experience more democratic allows equal opportunities for all kinds of talent

As internet speeds steadily increase with many countries offering 4G LTE as the default standard and moving upscale to 5G in select urban markets, streaming services have come to dominate every aspect of modern life.

The internet has truly democratised creating and sharing of information. For years, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have allowed each of us to voice our opinions without the approval of editors who oversee the letters section in newspapers. Blogs have made it possible for anyone to publish their work online without nods from op-ed editors and book agents. Legions of citizen journalists, armed with a cellphone camera, have captured history that traditional photojournalists never could because they were not there at the moment.

Streaming is the culmination of an internet experience that is democratic and doesn’t discriminate; it takes information revolution to a new level. Today, weddings, religious events, and other celebrations are seamlessly broadcast live on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, often from a family member’s laptop or tablet. The video, lighting and audio standards are rarely of professional quality. But that is not the point. Family events are no longer limited to the few who can attend at a brick and mortar venue and are available to anyone around the world with a phone, a tablet, a TV with a streaming media player (FireTV, Roku, Chromecast, AppleTV), or a Smart TV that is built-in with a streaming feature. End to end, from broadcaster to viewer, it simply cannot get more democratic than this.

Streaming has made it possible for thousands of caring citizens to organise for their favourite charity. A Bangalore high school student, Aryan Jain, told me last week that he got together a few like-minded amateur artists and stitched together an hour long music performance, beaming it live to a YouTube audience that paid a nominal fee to watch. The teenagers then donated all the proceeds to children whose main breadwinners were incarcerated in prison.

Level playing field

Streaming allows thousands of people to monetise their skills. A Yoga practitioner can stream her daily routines live on Facebook and charge for people to follow along with her. It’s a myth that one must learn Yoga only from a certified instructor who is of the same calibre as Baba Ramdev. Millions just want a mentor to show them the difficult poses and a streamed event enforces discipline on viewers by forcing them to drop whatever they are doing and attend it at the scheduled time, or lose their money’s worth.

What if you are a math teacher, want to charge for your live-streamed lessons but you wish to alternate between showing a facial shot and sharing your screen? That’s easy. Get a Wacom tablet that connects to your computer using which you can write on the tablet as though you would on a whiteboard. If you have a paid Zoom account, the tool’s PayPal integration allows you to seamlessly collect fees from your students before they enter your Zoom room. PayPal charges a convenience fee which will be deducted from your earnings. For India-based accounts, PayPal is not an option after the company exited the country. Eventbrite is a good alternative.

If you don’t want to use Zoom, you could broadcast your class using a Facebook Live paid event. Facebook has to first approve your business or group Page for live events. For a limited time, through June 30, Facebook is not taking any commissions on earnings from live events, so, all revenue earned from ticket sales will go to you. Facebook performs all the tasks of the box office for free — validating each user, collecting payments and applicable taxes, authenticating tickets so that only ticket holders can view your broadcast, and processing refunds. As the event’s originator, you deliver a star performance and sit back and wait for Facebook to send you funds directly to your bank account.

Broadcasting made easy

But how do you alternate between facial shots and displaying your screen on Facebook Live? What if you want to use a professional external microphone and video camera to capture your face? Facebook Live now comes integrated with a few third-party streaming providers. One of the best, recommended by Facebook, is open-source and free: Streamlabs OBS.

With Streamlabs OBS, you can use your external microphone, web camera, and other audio or video sources. You can display your computer screen with a click and set it up so that a shot of your face appears as an inset, just like in Zoom. You can create a short movie file of your logo or other promotional material that will automatically play when you transition from web camera to screen, just like the big TV networks do when switching from live view to replay view. You can create a digital image of your logo to appear anywhere on the web camera screen capture so that you look like you’re broadcasting from a studio. And all of these features are free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streaming has changed the way we live. Anyone can now broadcast to an audience. The only issue is that we should have a following, to begin with, a following of fans who are willing to watch or pay and watch. That is unfortunately something with which all the streaming tools cannot help.