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Running digital livestreaming — North Wales Regional Meeting

The North Wales Regional Meeting was hosted on 30 March 2021 by AMA’s Regional Associate, Crayg Ward from Theatr Clwyd, and supported by HdK.

Phoebe Cleghorn, Digital Marketing Manager for HdK has summarised the discussion:

The North Wales Regional Meeting provided AMA members an opportunity to network and discuss the ever-relevant topic of digital livestreaming, opening up to a wider conversation about digital marketing during and beyond the pandemic.

Phoebe Cleghorn, Digital Marketing Manager, HdK

Insights from Theatr Clwyd’s Communications & Membership Coordinator, Crayg Ward

To kick off the meeting, Theatr Clwyd’s Communications & Membership Coordinator Crayg Ward shared their experiences with digital livestreaming. Crayg shared learnings, insights and anecdotes from their journey going from an in-person venue to offering paid livestream events online, and the work it took to get them to the point of doing so. Such insights included:

  • Before COVID, Theatr Clwyd had been using a streaming company for their shows for a couple of years and had planned to use streaming in 2020 in a steady, controlled way. However, due to the pandemic, they were faced with a need to learn how to do this in-house.
  • Initially, they downloaded a free software called OBS Studio, which enabled them to use multiple camera inputs through YouTube Live, manipulating which feed each camera was going into. They could also use this to set up a camera feed with a BSL signer, overlaying it onto all other camera feeds.
  • Through testing on a personal YouTube channel, they were able to identify that the quality they were producing was much too low, and needed rectifying through a number of solutions: 
    • Amending image quality through settings in OBS Studio
    • Using tripods and SDI cables to connect the cameras through to the streamer box for a better quality stream
  • They also did a free test livestream to generate feedback from audience members, so that they were able to make sure streamed content was of the highest possible value when charging customers. The aim was to make them feel like a full production.
  • Later, they moved from OBS to VMix, which has a paid subscription and is more user-friendly with more functionality available.
  • They also created a paywall function linked to Spektrix.
  • Originally working from YouTube Live, they discovered the platform would shut streams down if they are found to be behind a paywall. As such, they found that DaCast was a suitable alternative, charging organisations a subscription based on the quality of stream you want to put out.
  • For their pantomime, they hired an external streaming company so that they could use an 8 camera set-up. They ran through two performances with all cameras filming, allowing the company to then edit this footage together into a streamable performance. 

Through this process, Crayg shared that the team as Theatr Clwyd has been continually investing and learning more about digital livestreaming and how they can best deliver this as part of their offering.

Group discussions

Next, the meeting initiated a group discussion, with members sharing thoughts and asking questions about digital livestreaming. These touched on:

  • How touring companies can use livestreaming and whether it’s cost-effective. Perhaps investing in vlogging cameras, which can also be used for creating video content for social media.
  • How livestreaming can help arts organisations make their offering more accessible, with streams available to those in care-homes and people who aren’t able to make it to in-person performances beyond the pandemic.
  • The importance of making livestreamed experiences completely different to in-person experiences. Making sure it’s brought to life in a way that’s more appropriate for filming, necessitating additional creative roles such as Director of Photography.
  • A need for venues to continue to embrace their local community, while breaking down geographical barriers and appealing to a wider national, and even international, audience. 
  • How to create the best audience experience pre-show, post-show and during the interval. With pre-filmed content such as glimpses into the dressing room, interviews with the cast, the cameras being set up, the lights coming on just before the performance starts, and so on.
  • Adding value to livestreams by providing exclusive content to ticket holders, including a digital programme and additional video content.

Summary

The regional meeting raised a number of key insights into digital livestreaming and, with audiences becoming increasingly discerning when it comes to digital content, such collective learning can be incredibly valuable.

The North Wales Regional Meeting was supported by HdK.