How to broadcast live to the world, from your phone

Periscope lets you broadcast live from an app on your phonePeriscope lets you broadcast live from an app on your phone
Periscope lets you broadcast live from an app on your phone
BACK IN my television days, live streaming involved an outside broadcast truck with a satellite dish on the roof, and a great deal of money. We didn't call it streaming, either: an announcer would intone, 'we bring you live pictures...', and we'd start transmitting.

The complexity and cumbersomeness of the operation meant it was done only when strictly necessary: a sports event, for instance, or a political party conference.

But times have changed, and with the latest generation of phones and apps, not least Facebook, streaming technology is literally in everyone’s hands.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The democratisation of the airwaves has meant that in recent weeks we have seen live coverage of events that TV stations could never have witnessed at first-hand. But it has also demonstrated that live streaming is as useful for personal events as for hard news.

A child’s birthday party, a graduation or a school concert can now be broadcast as it happens - publicly to a worldwide audience or privately to a few chosen friends.

The most startling aspect of all this is that no expense or new hardware is required - though your phone will have to be a recent one and your monthly data allowance plentiful.

Basic live streaming is as simple as starting the Facebook app on your phone and choosing the Broadcast Live option as you update your status. Just give your feed a title and you’re on the air. As with any Facebook update, you can target it to specific people, your circle of friends or the public at large. When your broadcast is over, the video will remain on your feed and can, with a little perseverance, be downloaded for further use.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

An alternative to Facebook is Periscope, owned by Twitter and dedicated to nothing but live streaming. This means you can browse and view what others are broadcasting (but good luck finding something interesting) and stream directly from a compatible GoPro camera via wi-fi. This is potentially a more exciting prospect, because GoPro’s miniaturisation means you can get more imaginative and exciting pictures than from a hand-held phone.

Stringwire is another alternative to Facebook and takes integration a stage further, by working with certain camera-equipped drones and quadcopters. The idea is that you can broadcast aerial footage of an event with the minimum of effort and make the footage available to broadcasters. The app has been developed by the American network NBC - a fact that speaks volumes about the changing balance of power in broadcasting.

YouTube also supports live streaming - either direct from your phone or a separate camera with a USB connection. This makes it possible to broadcast more professionally - using multiple cameras if you have them, and an external, mixed audio feed. Again, your footage remains online for as long as you want, and you can download it for editing. YouTube’s default setting is to broadcast publicly, but you can change this if you want to restrict your audience.

Other, more specialist apps are available - including Meerkat, which pioneered the drive towards live - but whichever you choose, do remember the golden rule of holding your phone on its side. Awful-looking upright pictures with black bars left and right have become commonplace, but that’s no excuse to resurrect a format abandoned by John Logie Baird around 1936.