Here’s the thing about Facebook Live: you can go live with nothing more than your phone!
Hardly any toolkit needed at all.
And if we’re going to learn a lesson from Steve Lacy, it’s to just start. Don’t wait around for the perfect equipment, the newest gadget, the best lighting rig. Take what you have, even if it’s just your phone with its built-in camera and mic, and begin.
You’ll fumble, you’ll get better, and maybe you’ll find that the least amount of equipment yields the best results. It worked for Dawn Beyer, who earned more than $74k in under a year by playing short concerts on Facebook Live using nothing more than her phone.
That being said, there a few affordable items that can, under certain circumstances, make your live-streaming life a lot simpler. Most likely the simpler it is to “go live,” the more you’ll do it, the more fun you’ll have, and the better your broadcasts will become.
Here are five items that can improve your live streaming on Facebook:
1. A lightning/USB mic
The built-in mic on your phone is fine. But if you want something better than fine, there are affordable options for external mics.
I love the Shure MV51 digital condenser microphone.
Firstly, it comes with two cables (USB to USB for PC or Android devices, and Lightning for use with iPhones, iPads, or iPods).
It has a kickstand so you can easily prop it on a nearby table; but if you have to get the mic in just the right position, it’s easy to remove the cap from the bottom of the kickstand and mount it to a mic stand.
This is a small, rugged, portable, multi-purpose digital microphone, so putting it to the test against the best condenser mics would miss the point. When you compare the results you get with this mic versus what you’d pick up with your camera’s built in microphone, though, there’s a world of difference. I’m no audio engineer, so these could be imprecise descriptors, but compared to my phone’s built-in mic, the MV51 provides clarity, smoothness, mellowing out some of the harsher stuff, and it adds a little roundness without sounding smashed.
So yeah, it sounds good AND gives you a ton of flexibility, since the thing has a number of presets to choose from, including:
- acoustic instrument
- loud mode
- flat mode
This allows you to quickly find the right settings for quiet acoustic performances, loud shows, voice/podcast type stuff, and more. Plus with the swipe of your finger you can adjust the gain right on the mic.
A built-in headphone output helps you reduce latency when monitoring, and — these newfangled devices are so smart — it also knows to power up when you phone’s video camera is enabled.
Because the MV51 either requires a mic stand or a flat surface nearby to prop it on, there’s one other mic worth considering for your Facebook Live efforts: Shure’s MV88.
The MV88 is a super small stereo condenser mic made specifically for iOS devices, and it plugs right into the device — so the phone is actually acting as the support brace or “stand” for the microphone. Again, this saves you on having to bring a mic stand or worry about having a table or desk nearby, and that more minimal approach may inspire you to “go live” more often in more locations.
The drawback is that, while you can rotate the MV88 to a degree, you might not be able to get a perfect angle to the sound source AND a perfect camera angle from your phone at the same time if you happen to be oddly positioned in the frame. In contrast, the MV51 can be placed independently of the phone (though you still need them to be close enough together to be connected by the cable, of course). If you’re just sitting in front of the camera strumming a guitar though, the MV88 should do the trick.
2. A smartphone tripod…
… so you don’t have to lean your phone against a stack of books or a tree, and…
3. A small LED light
I breezed over #2 because you can get a smartphone tripod AND small LED light together in a package like this one from Livestream Gear.
The light is battery-operated, of course, so you gotta keep it charged, and expect it to only work at full brightness for about 30 minutes. After that it’ll slowly dim for another 30 minutes or so. But that’s plenty of time for your average Facebook Live broadcast.
Then just remember to put that battery back in the charger when your live stream is done.
4. A taller tripod
If your location doesn’t allow for a good spot to place the smartphone tripod, you can remove the mount for the camera and light and attach it to a standard tripod. This is definitely an “extra,” but if you’re not always going live from the same location, it might be worth getting one of these.
5. BeLive.tv (and a good webcam)
This last option is going to send us in a whole different direction, but if you want to incorporate screen-shares, pre-roll video, split-screen interviews, customized branding, or other fancy elements into your broadcast, you might want to check out a platform such as BeLive.tv, a third-party tool which helps you stage a pro-looking presentation and publish it (live) as a Facebook Live stream.
Be warned: There’s a monthly subscription fee that might seem hefty if you’re on a tight budget. But if you’ve gotten to the point where you’re wanting video elements that aren’t supported within Facebook’s native “Live” features, this is a good avenue to explore.
The reason I include the “good webcam” above is because as the host you can only go live through BeLive.tv from a desktop. If your computer’s built-in camera is crappy, invest in something that captures HD.
Did I forget any essentials? Let me know in the comments.
And if you want some tips on how to interact with your audience, and how to monetize your Facebook Live streams, check out Rick Barker’s session from The DIY Musician Conference below: