A Guide To The Gear You Will Need For Great Audio And Video On Facebook Live
Once upon a time, telling your story over live broadcast was a terribly expensive endeavor. Thanks to a variety of online services available today, sharing live video and audio with an audience is a relatively simple process.
This is especially true of Facebook Live. With a few taps on your smartphone screen, you can begin broadcasting any message or event, in real-time. And even better, your live broadcast has a good chance of appearing in the news feeds of those who already follow you — a built-in audience.
If your live video is intended to be casual and straightforward, a simple smartphone setup is fine. It will work great if you are in a quiet space and are speaking alone into your phone, or perhaps with one other person. But what if you need to present a more polished image? What if you need to stream an interview when you are in the field, an auditorium or a warehouse? That’s when it is time to invest a little in a setup that will take your Facebook Live event to a whole new level.
Start With The iPad
First, get an iPad. Why the iPad instead of the iPhone? Simple: screen space and power. Using an iPad will give you the space you need to easily see all the controls and to monitor your live feed. Oh, and it has a great camera. (Tip: Spring for the iPad Pro if you really want a workhorse tablet that you can use for multiple applications.)
How To Capture Good Audio
In a controlled environment like that described above, the iPad’s built-in microphone will capture decent audio. But the background noise of, say, an annual meeting will render your one-on-one interviews difficult, if not impossible, to hear. The secret is to use a high-quality XLR microphone. Connecting an XLR mic to an iPad is quite simple with just a couple of tools.
The Shure SM63LB is the perfect mic for this application. Why?
- It’s made by Shure, so you can depend on it to be well-built, rugged and reliable.
- With its long barrel, small profile and light weight, it’s designed specifically for interviewing.
- It’s omnidirectional, meaning it picks up the signal directly in front of it (the person being interviewed) with minimal ambient noise.
- It’s a dynamic mic, with means it does not require a power source (phantom power) to operate.
- At around $150, it’s quite affordable for the quality you’ll get.
And Now, The Adapter
While it may not have been Apple’s intent, the company’s release of a simple adapter paved the way for a dramatic improvement in audio capture on the iPad. The Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter was designed to allow you to plug a camera into your iPad for file transfers, or even a USB microphone. But this priceless gadget is a bridge that allows you to greatly improve your audio — and it’s only $39.
The Magic Connection
This may very well be the best $99 you will ever spend on a tech product. The Shure X2u is an amazing piece of hardware that introduces numerous possibilities.
- Plug-and-play connectivity
- The ability to provide phantom power (in case you want to connect a condenser mic)
- A 1/8″ headphone jack (with its own volume control) to monitor what you capture
- A very nice built-in preamp
- And yes, it comes with a USB cable
Once you get this beauty in hand, spend some time with the manual and get accustomed to where the controls are, what they are for, etc. You want to be comfortable with it in the field.
Putting It All Together
One of the great things about this setup is that it’s really hard to mess it up. There is really only one way to connect everything:
- The Lightning adapter plugs into the iPad
- One end of the USB cable plugs into the adapter
- The other end of the USB cable plugs into the X2u
- An XLR cable (not included) then connects the mic to the X2u
IMPORTANT: See that Lightning port next to the USB port on the adapter? Plug your iPad charging cable into that and connect to a wall outlet or extension cord. The adapter needs power to make everything work.
A Few Other Things You Should Get
- A mic flag, like this one. Measure the surface, then print your logo four up on a sheet of label paper. Cut and apply, then slide your mic into the square. This gives you an official, professional look when interviewing people (see photos below for an example).
- A hardshell case or padded bag to safely pack and transport your gear.
- A mount to hold the iPad and attach it to a camera tripod or stand.
- A short XLR cable.
- Some black twist ties or plastic straps to hold cables in place when using this setup on a tripod.
Before your big interview or event, take some time to get comfortable with the equipment. Practice putting it all together, several times. Get good at it. Do a test on Facebook Live (without actually going live) to make sure all the levels are good and that your video is composed well. A little practice will make your event go much smoother.
And … We’re Live
Here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Open your Facebook Page (you must be logged in and have admin privileges) and tap the “live” button. Type in some information about the event, add a geotag and GO LIVE!
Some Final Thoughts
- When possible, make this a two-person operation. One can focus on operating the iPad, adjusting volume levels, etc. The other can focus on the interview, their message and being the on-screen personality.
- Have a co-worker monitor the feed on Facebook, on a computer away from the event. Ask them to text the operator some quick feedback (video is off-centered, audio is too quiet, everything looks great, the CEO’s tie is crooked, etc.)
- Remember, this is live. No editing. No deleting. You’ll have the opportunity to remove the video from Facebook later, but what people see while watching the feed will live on in their memories forever.
- If you are sharing a long event such as an annual meeting, consider doing so in smaller segments. Interview some members/customers for a few minutes, then take a break. Share some images of people registering, encourage viewers to come down and join the fun, then take a break. Interview the CEO, some employees, others with your company. Keep it friendly, fun and brief.
- When it comes time for the business portion of an annual meeting, set up at a good angle to capture the stage and stream as much of the meeting as you’d like. You may have members sitting at home unable to attend, so share the entire business meeting portion with them, from greeting to final election results. You may even want to show them some of the prize drawing action.
Here are some screenshots from an Annual Meeting of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative (Hartford, Alabama) where this setup was used:
Good luck with your Facebook Live event!
Got questions? Contact Andy Johns, WordSouth’s Manager of Marketing and Business Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.