Ever wanted to let your family, friends, colleagues, or anyone else join you in an event that they can’t make it to? Or perhaps you want to start a liveblog for the next Apple keynote event. Either way, you need a way to stream video, text, and pictures in real-time. Suddenly YouTube just doesn’t quite cut it.
There’s several web apps out there for live video streaming, but the new Livestream is the one you should check out. With a free account, you can stream unlimited video, text, and images, and with a paid account, your visitors can see the livestream without even logging in. Plus, it’s simple to use. Let’s take a look.
Is it Live, or is it…
Nothing can be quite the same as being there, but a livestream does almost the same. Even a real-time text stream from an event can do a lot to make you feel like you where there; that’s how I’ve followed along with every Apple keynote and State of the Union address in recent years, sans video, and it’s plenty to keep you in the loop. With video, though, you won’t miss anything of the event. That’s why it’s so great that Livestream lets you have it all: text, images, pre-recorded video, or a live video stream, all pushed to your viewers in real-time.
Livestream’s been around since 2007, but has recently been relaunched with a new design that’s nicer than ever. It’s simple enough to get started that anyone who could use a social network could use it. You just create an event name, set the date and time it’ll start and end, then invite your Livestream followers or Facebook friends to the event.
From your event page, or actually anywhere on Livestream’s site, you can quickly add text, photos, or videos from the Post button on the top left. Each text post can have up to 100 words with no formatting, but that’s fine for most uses. You’ll only be able to upload one picture at a time, though, so I found it easier to make a public album on another photo sharing site, and share the link in the Livestream as a text post.
The only thing you can’t do directly from the website is stream live video. To start a live video stream – likely the reason you want to use Livestream in the first place – you’ll need to download Livestream for Producers for your Mac or Windows PC. You can also stream video directly from an iPhone with their Livestream for Producers iOS app. Either way, it’s a simple app that lets you choose the video and audio input you want to use, set the bandwidth settings, and start the stream with little hassle. With the desktop app, you can even share your desktop for a tech broadcast, or perhaps to show off a presentation along with the video. The streaming app worked very good in my experience, even on a fairly slow internet connection (we streamed over a 2Mbps WiFi connection, then switched to a 3G connection, and it still worked great with only a few seconds delay).
Your Live Event Page
Now that you’re all set up with your livestreaming controls, you need an audience. It’s not much fun to just talk to your own self, after all. The good thing is, Livestream makes it very simple for your visitors to see your livestream. With a free account, viewers will need to login with a free Livestream account or signup via Facebook to see your livestream, but if you have a basic $49/month account, any visitor with your event’s unique link can see the livestream automatically. Livestreams will work on any device, and the videos will play back even on a mobile devices in real time. The page will automatically refresh, loading new text and starting the new videos streams as you start them. Viewers can then rewind the video, or come back and watch again later (up to 30 days later on a free account, or indefinitely on paid accounts). When you have live video streaming going, viewers can comment on the video without signing up, too. In all, it’s everything you could ask for a Livestream.
As mentioned before, Livestream has a free account that’s all you’ll need if your livestream viewers can sign in with an account and you won’t need your video for more than 30 days. It’s a great way to stream your events and get all of the pro tools without having to invest anything. Going pro doesn’t have to be expensive with Livestream, though. You can upgrade to a basic account for $49/month, which lets you keep your video archives indefinitely and let anyone view your livestreams even if they don’t have an account. If you want to embed your livestream on your site, you’ll need to spring for a $399/month Premium account, which also includes premium phone support.
So, if you want to stream video online and let anyone see it without having to do anything extra, the $49/month Basic account is just what you’ll need. It’s the easiest way to let everyone view your livestreams, something even Grandma can do. You can just upgrade for one month if you have only one event, and then downgrade after that to a free account if you won’t be livestreaming all the time. It works great.
If you really want to go pro, the Livestream team has some neat hardware for sell, including a $495 Livestream Broadcaster box that can stream HD video directly from your camera over Wifi or 3G, no computer required. Or, for $8,500, you can get a Livestream Studio, which is a production computer in a box that lets you mix and stream 5 HD video feeds at once. That’s way more than most of us need, and a webcam+computer will do you just fine, though the Broadcaster is a rather nifty option if you’re livestreaming a lot.
On a Personal Note
It’s easy to try an app out for a week, see if it works good, then write a review. That’s what we usually do; there’s no way every app we write about can play a personal part in our lives. Sometimes, though, an app really makes your life better, and you just have to write about it. That’s how Livestream is for me: two of my siblings passed away in a tragic car accident, and we needed a way to let friends and family around the world see the funeral when they couldn’t attend. There was almost not other app that would make it terribly simple to do this, but Livestream worked perfectly. The price of a Basic account for a month was nothing in comparison to what it let us do, and it worked so well streaming the video (even with just a webcam connected to a MacBook Air, streaming over 3G since our local internet was down), I had to review it.
The new Livestream gets a 10 rating because it just worked and did exactly what I needed from a live video streaming app. It’s simple to get started with, makes it easy even for non-techies to use, is fun to work with and beautifully designed, and is actually a great value compared to other pro live video streaming apps. What more could you ask?