Live streaming guide

Man using phone to live stream in kitchen

Live streaming allows you to create and share videos in real time. From companies' live streaming events to professional gamers live streaming their gaming sessions, live streaming has many uses.

From educational webinars to entertaining games, you can use a live stream to share games, experiences, opinions and more with other people online.

While setting up a live stream is fairly straightforward, it requires some technological tools and advanced planning.

How does live streaming work?

When you live stream, you capture a video feed and broadcast it to viewers in real time via a streaming platform. People can log onto these streaming platforms and select channels or accounts (the verbiage varies across platforms) to tune into or even subscribe to. When you go live from your channel or account, you can then alert your subscribers.

These platforms often offer interactive features, allowing you to engage directly with your viewers. For example, there might be a live chat window alongside the stream where viewers can write comments and you, as the broadcaster, can reply. This creates an engaging interactive experience that can be a lot of fun for all involved.

Note that it's also possible to record your live streams and save them. This allows people who might be interested in your content but didn't manage to tune in to catch the "show" later. Many live streamers save their old content, allowing people to browse previously recorded videos at their leisure.

Many streaming apps and platforms allow you to create a live video feed and broadcast it to a public audience. To live stream, you'll also need a device to capture video and audio footage, such as a mobile phone, and a high-speed internet connection. The next sections go into detail about the technology you'll need and some popular streaming platforms.

What do you need for live streaming?

Before live streaming, you'll need to invest in some basic technology. We'll take you through what you'll need for a video streaming setup step by step.

Good internet speed

A stable and fast internet connection with sufficient bandwidth is one of the most important components of any live stream. Even if you've got the best-quality webcam and audio equipment, without great internet, you won't be able to stream. So, just how fast does your internet need to be?

Broadly speaking, you'll need at least 3 to 6 Mbps. However, the precise requirements depend on many factors, like what you want to stream, the platform you use and the video quality. For example, streaming online games requires more Mbps because you have to simultaneously accommodate the game plus the video. Bit rate impacts various components like buffering time, video resolution and connectivity consistency. A higher-resolution stream will need a higher bit rate.

Further, different streaming platforms have different recommendations as far as minimum internet speeds (more details below). You can use speedtest.net to check your current connection speed and get information about critical characteristics of your internet speed that impact streaming quality, including:

  • Ping rate: This is the speed at which your device gets a response from your internet after the device has sent a request. It impacts latency, the delay between your taking an action (such as clicking the computer mouse) and that action being carried out on the screen. The lower the ping rate, the less the latency.
  • Download speed: This refers to the speed at which your device pulls data from the relevant internet server. For example, if you're playing an online game, your device needs to download information about the game from a game server.
  • Upload speed: This is the rate at which your device uploads data to the relevant server. For example, when playing an online game, the actions you input into your device (like your persona running, jumping or throwing a punch) must be transmitted to the server.

To ensure a smooth live stream experience, aim for an internet connection speed of about 25 Mbps. Frontier® Internet offers several high-speed internet plans to accommodate your streaming needs — and those aren't even the fastest options available. If you want higher-quality streaming (for example, because you want to stream live-action online games), put your trust in Frontier FiberOptic Internet. Enter your address into our availability checker to see which internet plans are available in your area.

Choosing a streaming platform

Before you can start streaming, you also have to figure out what platform you want to use. Streaming platforms may also be referred to as content delivery networks.

Free streaming platforms include Facebook Live, Twitch, Discord and YouTube. Paid options include Vimeo Livestream, StreamShark and Dacast, although these are generally used primarily for large-scale events like concerts. When you're just starting live streaming, you'll probably want to stick with a free platform. While it's largely a matter of personal preference, different platforms have different focuses. Here's what you can expect to find on each one:

  • YouTube channel streamers generally cover a variety of lifestyle topics from beauty and fitness to home improvements and cooking.
  • Discord likewise covers a diversity of topics. Popular fields include games, anime, memes and music.
  • Facebook is generally used in conjunction with existing Facebook pages or profiles and is a convenient way to share news about a brand with followers.
  • Twitch is predominantly used by gamers to live stream their game play, but many Twitch users also use it to broadcast music and creative content and "just chatting" streams, where users talk and interact with viewers.

Once you've decided on a platform, you'll have to sign up or create an account before you can start streaming.

Get the right equipment

With your internet ready to go and your streaming account set up, you have one last thing to take care of: your equipment! You need some tech tools to capture your live stream and transmit it to the streaming destination you've chosen. Here's a quick roundup of the essential equipment needed:

  • Video and audio source: You need a device to capture the sounds and images for your live stream. This could be a computer screen, DSLR camera, camcorder, high-quality webcam, phone or tablet camera or PTZ camera. To capture audio, you can select from various types of microphones, such as a lapel microphone, headset mic or handheld mic.
  • SDI or HDMI cable: To capture your audio and video signal, you'll likely need an SDI or HDMI cable. Note that if you're using a computer to stream, you will also need a capture card, which connects the computer to the audio/video recording device.
  • Video encoder: A video encoder takes the video signal you capture with your device and translates it into a signal that can be transmitted online. The software compresses and converts video-audio signals, making them small enough for real-time streaming. Encoders also allow you to control settings like frame rate, output resolution, bitrate and codec (how the audio and video is compressed for internet transmission).
  • Production extras: Depending on the type of content you want to stream, you may also want to invest in other tools, like lights, tripods and extra microphones. For example, if you're planning to live stream interview-style content, you'll need additional microphones for yourself and for the other person involved.

How can you make money from live streaming?

With basic equipment and a streaming platform account, you can start streaming right away. If you really enjoy live streaming and dedicate yourself to your hobby, you may even be able to turn your passion into a money-earning pursuit.

Some people have managed to make a full-time career out of streaming but making enough to turn streaming into a full-time career can be tough.

  • Popular streaming platforms allow you to request donations or tips from viewers in the form of virtual tokens (with a real cash value).
  • If you become more established as a live streamer, you might be able to take advantage of patronage programs that allow you to get regular support.
  • Some streamers collect payments via third-party platforms, such as GoFundMe, Patreon and Streamlabs.
  • You can also collect revenue from ads that run through your streaming channel.
  • As you gain traction as a streamer, you might also be able to get sponsorship and brand deals with companies to promote their goods or services.

Get Frontier Internet for a smooth and reliable streaming experience

A strong internet connection is one of the most important components of any live stream, ensuring connectivity with less interruptions and reduced latency. If you're considering live streaming, get the speed you need with high-speed internet from Frontier, including Frontier FiberOptic Internet services. You can enter your address to check availability in your area online.