This article is posted with permission from Sophicity’s CitySmart blog and shares non-technical, municipal-relevant insights about critical technology issues, focusing on how technology reduces costs, helps better serve citizens, and lessens cybersecurity risks. Sophicity is solely responsible for the article’s content.
Quick! Name the top three websites in the world!
You probably guessed Google as number one. Number two? YouTube. Number three? Facebook.
Why is it significant that YouTube and Facebook are number two and number three? It’s because content today is driven so much by video—and video is easier to create than ever before.
What led to this video explosion? A few things:
- Fast, cheap broadband internet access nearly everywhere
- Faster, more reliable Wi-Fi access in more places
- 4G mobile coverage replacing slower 3G coverage
- Smartphones and tablets that easily record video
- Easy to use services (like YouTube or Facebook Live) that allow non-technical users to upload videos
One great benefit of this video explosion is the ability to easily stream videos live. As a city, you’ve probably already tried live streaming or want to explore this content option more. If so, we’ve got a few tips and best practices to keep in mind as you get those video cameras recording.
1. You’ve got lots of flexibility with budget and technical complexity.
Video is accessible to you no matter what your budget and technical limitations. Some aspects that you can adjust include:
- Cost: Free tools exist such as the camera built into your smartphone or tablet combined with a free platform like Facebook or YouTube. As you go up in price with hardware or software, you can increase the quality of the video or technical capabilities.
- Video quality: Obviously, a smartphone held by a non-technical employee will record video—but it may not meet you or your viewers’ expectations. Plenty of hardware and software exists to up the quality as much as you want—from more expensive video cameras to specialized video streaming software.
- Technical complexity: Depending on how technical you want to get with video and what resources you have available (such as knowledgeable city staff or a video vendor), you can keep your recording simple or produce incredibly complex videos with multiple shots, high definition, or streaming that goes out to multiple social media channels at once.
2. You’ve got a lot of video add-ons that will delight people.
With modern tools (including free tools), many add-ons help make your video more exciting and engaging. Features may include the ability to:
- Stream live as an event is happening.
- Allow people to make comments about the video while it’s playing. You can even interact with those people and answer their questions. However, you want to be careful and perhaps turn this feature off depending on your policies (such as dealing with cursing, hateful comments, etc.).
- Broadcast the video in people’s news feeds if they are followers of your city on a social media platform.
- Notify people when the video starts broadcasting live.
- Allow people to view the video later if they missed the live broadcast.
3. You can integrate video cameras and streaming software with social media platforms.
Modern video equipment and software usually integrates well with social media platforms. Some aspects to review with your video professional are:
- Video equipment: Do you want to record the video professionally? Will you need to set up multiple cameras for multiple angles? Are you just using a smartphone or tablet? If so, is it set up properly to capture video and audio so that people can see and hear the event? Have you done a test?
- Hardware: A cheap laptop or aging desktop may not be able to handle the demands of video software and storage. Video software takes up a lot of memory and CPU, and the storage of videos may require a server or cloud storage option.
- Software: Free or low-cost video software may quickly hit limitations. A technical discussion about video streaming software goes beyond the scope of this article, but a video professional will probably look at elements such as encoding, HD capabilities, streaming capability (so that videos don’t freeze or get choppy over a bad internet connection), APIs (code that connects your software to social media platforms), graphics capabilities (such as overlaying someone’s name on the video when they’re talking at a city council meeting), or how many total viewers can view your video live.
- Internet bandwidth: High-speed broadband is essential for live streaming, preferably through a wired connection. If you must use WiFi, then make sure you use a high-speed internet connection. And if you must use your smartphone or tablet without WiFi, then make sure you’ve got a 4G connection.
4. Beware of a few live video streaming pitfalls.
Be careful of a few video pitfalls that may impact your decision to live stream your events.
- Make sure you have your own copy of the video. Yes, it’s very convenient to simply embed videos on your website from YouTube, Facebook, and other sources. However, it’s ideal to create a standalone video (preferably as an MP4 file) that you own, store on your own servers or video storage solution, and can publish on your own website if you desire. If your video only lives on a platform that you don’t own or control, then you are subject to the whims of that company and may have ownership issues with your video in the future.
- A live video stream is not the official record of your city council or other city business meetings. Videos do not replace open records laws concerning city council meetings and other meetings involving city business. You still need to publish minutes and follow all laws relating to documenting city meetings.
- No easy way to integrate minutes and agendas with live streaming platforms. Unless you are using sophisticated software, the free or inexpensive tools today do not have options for integrating the use of agendas and minutes with live streaming. When people later watch the video, they may have trouble finding parts of the meeting that interest them.
- Possibly disable comments. We live in an era when people will say anything to stir up trouble and “troll” your social media platforms. You may want to disable the comment feature for live streaming videos. If you want to give citizens a forum for engaging, then you may consider blocking specific users who are vulgar, hateful, or harassing.
- Make sure you deliver a minimum quality live video streaming experience. It’s embarrassing if you’re live streaming a city council meeting and no one can hear what anyone is saying or the footage is blurry. If you are going to live stream, then make sure you meet a minimum video and audio quality threshold.
- Follow requirements. For example, Facebook Live has a 4-hour video limit and a title length requirement for what you name your video. Knowing requirements like these will help you anticipate problems such as the video suddenly cutting off or failing to work because the title is too long.
Live streaming video holds a lot of exciting potential for your city as it becomes more mainstream. By following the tips and best practices above, you’ll make sure that the video experience you broadcast connects with your audience.