We’ve all become semi-pro’s at using our phones and computers to keep us connected in a world where staying social distant was essential. While using a cell phone or webcam to live stream a Wedding may sound like a good idea there are several reasons why it’s NOT a good idea. Thankfully, Wedding Videographers all over the world are now starting to offer live streaming as an option in addition to their usual cinematic or documentary packages. Knowing the right questions to ask them might mean the difference between a successful live stream and one that’s filled with a lot of “oh crap” and “what just happened.” And having that peace of mind going into your big day is worth every penny.
Top 10 Questions
1) Do they use dedicated cameras or just a cell phone or webcam? This is important. Using a cell phone or webcam may seem like a good idea, but for live streaming weddings it’s actually not a good idea at all for a number of reasons (see this post for more). If you care about your Guest's Viewing Experience, you’ll ideally want dedicated cameras (DSLR, Mirrorless, Cinema or Professional Video Cameras) for maximum video and audio quality. Most professional wedding videographers will have this.
2) What do they use to connect to the internet? Oh boy. This is a big one. First off, be wary of the company that says they can live stream from anywhere without even running a single test. I realize that’s comforting to hear but that really just means they haven’t been live streaming weddings. Many wedding venues, both indoors and outdoors, don’t have wired access to a solid high speed internet connection so you’re left with potentially spotty wifi or wireless options. That can be okay if you’re able to get a really strong signal and upload speeds in excess of 10Mbps. But if they say “I just use my phone’s hotspot” then maybe ask them what upload speeds do they get at YOUR venue and what’s their backup plan if their hotspot doesn’t get a good signal at your Ceremony site. And if they say that doesn’t matter, then run. It does matter. Slow or spotty internet connections lead to frozen streams and frustrated viewers. It’s important that tests are run at the ceremony site PRIOR to any wedding. If they offer “Network Bonding” then you’ve likely hit a company that truly understands the challenge of streaming live from remote locations. Network Bonding isn't "required" but it certainly helps! That allows you to take the bandwidth from several different available internet sources (eg. Wifi, Cellular, Wired/Ethernet) and COMBINE (or bond) them into one strong signal so you not only can stream at a higher quality but also you now have backup networks in case your primary internet source runs into trouble.
3) Will there be any issues live streaming the music in my ceremony? The music you envision for your processional and recessional is likely licensed and if the company is streaming using YouTube Live or Facebook Live, then as soon as the site detects the licensed music, there's a chance the stream will be either muted or shut down depending on the artist's/music label's restrictions and the particular CDN (or site that you're streaming to). YouTube Live is a bit more lenient than Facebook Live as they'll simply credit the musician after the video is re-posted. However, we suggest they run a live stream test with the music being played ahead of time! As an alternative, there are a number of paid CDN’s or platforms that allow music like this to be played. But knowing you’ll be okay and hoping you’ll be okay are two very different things.
4) How many cameras do they offer? One camera with a good zoom lens is really all you need, however, there are BIG advantages to streaming a wedding live with 2 or 3 cameras. With one camera (and a proper zoom/telephoto lens) you can see the whole ceremony nice and close as if you were in the front row. But with multiple cameras, you can see the bride come down the aisle AND the groom’s reaction (sometimes this is the best part!), plus you can see close-ups on the bride and groom during the vows and throughout the ceremony. If they only offer one camera, that’s okay, but consider the advantages of having more than one camera and how that only helps enhance the guest’s viewing experience. For larger venues or churches we highly recommend a 3 camera live stream to get both sides plus right down the middle. The perfect ceremony setup!
5) Do they have a zoom lens and if so what is the focal length in mm? This might not seem like such a big deal until you realize that if they don’t have a lens that can optically zoom in more than (approx.) 70mm then you’ll end up with a shot that’s wide and far less intimate. A standard 70-200mm lens is ideal in this case. Being able to zoom in closer matters a lot when you start considering your guest’s level of engagement. Professional Videographers will often shoot a Ceremony using lenses closer to 200mm. The close up shot of you guys not only helps make your guests more emotionally involved but it also helps make your video look less pixelated and easier to view. And remember, any talk of pinching-to-zoom using a mobile device’s camera only leads to a pixelated mess on your stream when things are further compressed, among other issues discussed here.
6) How long have they been live streaming weddings? If they just started live streaming weddings, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be good. But the more experience they have, the better they’ll be at tackling the obstacles and roadblocks that streaming a wedding live will inevitably present. I’d also suggest you take a look at the work on their website so you know they also have lots of wedding experience. By nature, the style of filming a Wedding Ceremony in its entirety is more "documentary" in style than "cinematic", but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t look and sound good.
7) Do they offer a dedicated web page for the viewers or is it just for social media sites like Facebook or YouTube? There’s several advantages to having a dedicated web page for your Ceremony. It’s a more professional layout for your guests than just having it on your personal feed, but it also gives you a bit of privacy since only those with the dedicated web page link will be able to view your Ceremony.
8) What happens for those that miss the live stream or have trouble viewing it? You would hope your Videographer has a plan for those that run into internet trouble while viewing it, or miss the live stream entirely. The best option is that they actually record and then re-post the live stream on the live stream page on that same day. This is not hard to do and any reputable company should offer this option at no extra cost to you.
9) What is the quality of the live stream? Remember this: The quality of the live stream is directly related to the internet upload speeds obtainable at the Ceremony site. That being said, most companies should offer streaming in HD which is either 1280x720 (aka 720p or HD) or, 1920x1080 resolution (aka 1080p or Full HD). Both will look good on mobile devices and computers and some sites like Facebook don't even offer 1080p so don't be alarmed if your wedding is streamed at 720p. It still can look great with sufficient bitrate. But really it all comes down to testing the internet speeds at the Ceremony site AHEAD OF TIME so they’ll know what bitrate they’re able to live stream at. Just because someone streams at full HD resolution doesn’t mean it’ll look good. Live Streams are all about bitrate and how high of a bitrate a company can stream at depends 100% upon the UPLOAD speeds that they can get at the venue. A bitrate of 2Mbps to 4Mbps looks good and a bitrate from 4Mbps to 8Mbps should look great. Anything beyond that is a bit of overkill for weddings where there's not much action. TIP: If you're at your venue and you run a speedtest yourself (a few times) then a good idea is to stream at no more than 1/2 of whatever UPLOAD speeds you see just to be safe. :) Also remember that those speeds will vary depending on the network or carrier you are testing.
10) How do they capture the audio at their weddings? Some might say that audio is even more important than video when it comes to live streaming. Either way, it’s crucial that your service has access to professional audio. If they say “you can hear it using our phone’s microphone just fine” then open up a new tab and keep looking because they’re not your answer if you care about your guest's experience. Your guests deserve a good viewing experience and being able to hear you guys loud and clear is a huge part of that. There’s really two options for great audio. They should have at least one (but ideally two) wireless mics for the officiant and the groom, and/or they should be able to embed the audio feed from the venue or DJ at the Ceremony. Some may say the use of on-camera mics alone are good enough. But in truth, relying on on-camera microphones isn’t a great option. Yes you can probably hear the speakers, but they’re not the direct feed which makes them sound distant and echo-y and many of your guests watching remotely will inevitably have trouble hearing everything. And what happens if the DJ's sound system cuts out or has issues (it happens!!)...then what? Well having those wireless mics in place is a great backup so your viewers at home can still hear loud and clear. Obtaining a dedicated audio feed using either of the methods above is the only way a reputable live stream company will do it. Your guests will thank you for it.