Dabbling with YouTube live streaming

I have seen a lot of YouTubers doing live Q&A sessions, Google hangouts and even live builds on YouTube. For example, here's a few Live Q&A's on YouTube:

Matt Cremona Ask Matt live #6
Matt Cremona, Jay Bates, Nick Ferry QA experiment
Bob Clagett BrainPick - Live Q&A with Matthias Wandel
Marius Hornberger live Q&A with Jeremy and Kriss

And some have also done some live builds. Here are a few:

Bob Clagett Twitch live builds
Matt Cremona working on bassinet live stream
Matt Cremona dovetailing drawers
Steve Ramsey making a trivet and Q&A

I had been thinking about doing one of these myself for some time, and this past weekend finally experimented with how to set one up. I used YouTube live streaming, because it's a platform that I'm already familiar with and already have a following on. This way, I don't have to deal with another social media platform. The whole thing is still in "beta" as of now (August 2016). I found it quite confusing to set up a live stream. I guess this is where a dedicated platform such as twitch.com would probably be more intuitive. I ended up streaming using Open Broadcast Software (OBS) on my PC, partly because I already used that program for the occasional computer screen recording, such as for my SketchUp tutorials and the occasional video segment showing me using my Gear generator program or BigPrint program.

But I managed to get it working, going live from the living room. I did this on my Odds and ends YouTube Channel, which doesn't have as many subscribers. But I figure anybody who cares enogh to watch the live stream will have found that channel by now.

Rachel wasn't so fond of the idea of broadcasting live from the living room, so I ended it only 40 seconds in. But it worked!

So I installed OBS and set it up on my laptop computer in my laundry room office, and two hours later I was ready to do another test. This time, I stayed online for half an hour answering various questions. This worked quite well. It was fun to do.


A few days prior to this, Kuldeep had sent me the latest version pantorouter that he sells, and I thought assembling that would be a cool thing to try doing live on YouTube.

Thinking it through, I realized the best time to do it was a weekend, so people could watch. But Rachel and I already had a trip planned for the following weekend, and I didn't want to push this too far into the future. This was on Saturday (August 20), so I decided to do the live stream on Sunday, August 21. I even set it up as a scheduled event on YouTube (again, I found it confusing to get that set up).

Pantorouter assembly live stream

I set up my laptop computer in my workshop, with a webcam on a tripod, another webcam overhead, and the laptop's built in webcam pointing at me. I would have set up a third external webcam, but I only have three USB ports on the laptop, no spare hub, and I needed one port for the external keyboard to allow me to switch views easily. I suppose I could have put the laptop computer more within reach, but then the laptop's camera wouldn't have been in an unusable spot.


I did the live stream on Sunday, August 21 at 2:30 pm Eastern time. Actually, I was a few minutes late fighting the technology, but I was close.


I managed to get the pantorouter assembled in about an hour and a half, despite some confusion about how a few parts went together. But, focusing on assembling the machine left almost no time for interacting with the viewers. I had been thinking about doing more of a Q&A after assembling it, but our baby Harriet was going nuts and Rachel was trying to get stuff done in the kitchen, so my help was needed upstairs. We don't have any childcare on weekends.

In retrospect, the live Q&A after assembly would not have worked well. Half an hour after I "finished" the broadcast, I checked the video to see how it was doing, and saw that it was still "live". I had set the bit rate too high in OBS, and after 1.5 hours, the live feed buffered by half an hour on the computer because my internet uplink speed is too slow.. So the "live" feed was actually not live at all. But because I had no time to interact with viewers except for briefly at the start, I was unaware of this. Fortunately, after signing off, I left the computer on, so it was able to upload all of it eventually.

Fortunately, the buffering only happened for live viewers. If you view the video now, it plays smoothly and at the same rate I recorded it at.

Since then, I have been thinking about the idea of live builds and whether I should do more of these in the future. Here's my thoughts:

Arguments for doing live builds

It's exciting and makes me feel important
It really does, and it was interesting to experience that. But I'm really not into getting myself pumped up and excited over things. It's one of the reasons I have no desire to go to things like VidCon. Ultimately, making good videos is about thinking about things carefully and planning. Feeling important doesn't help that. I should not let my ego get in the way of getting things done. (This is also why I have no desire to write books or print magazine articles)

It's an efficient way to make content
I was able to make a 1.5-hour video in 1.5-hours, though that's not counting prep time. More typically, I would spend 10+ hours making a 10-minute video. So live seems far more efficient. But, fact is, I typically spend an extra hour or two editing the video from 12 minutes down to 10. Ultimately, the shorter video will get disproportionately more views. In terms of watch time, YouTube stats indicate my 1.5 hour live stream was watched, on average, for about 7 minutes. A 10-minute video, if well edited, will get viewed about 70% by the average viewer. But the 10-minute video will get at least ten times the views of a live stream. So comparing production time (including setup) to actual audience view time, the 10-minute video is at least as efficient.

It's a way to interact with the audience
The problem here is, I'm either interacting with the audience or building stuff. I should spend more time interacting and less time building to actually make use of the live`aspect. Watching other's live videos, I much prefer the Q&A format to the live builds. So, a live build would ideally have lots of Q&A and less build, ideally skip the build part altogether. But if I do that, then it's not a live build anymore.

It's a good way to show the whole process, including all screw ups
I show some screw ups in my YouTube videos, but the majority of "screw ups" are just minor things, like putting a piece of wood on backwards, puzzling for a few seconds, then flipping it. Really not that interesting. I think a live stream is good for that, because it makes people realize minor screw ups are frequent and normal.

Arguments against doing live builds

I like to be able to skip the boring bits
So this was an exciting experiment, but I don't think I will be doing it again in the future. Most builds have a few interesting bits, with lots of boring parts in between. I usually watch Bob Clagett's live builds on twitch, but one time I clicked on it while it was actually live. I thought "cool, I'm actually watching this live". But there are a lot of pauses and such, so as I usually do, I wanted to fast forward, but could not, because it was live. So I stopped watching and came back a few hours later when I could watch it at my own pace, skipping over the boring bits.

In fact, I find myself skipping over boring bits in a lot of people's videos. In my own videos, I try to cut out the boring bits so my viewers don't have to skip them. I figure it makes more sense for me to spend a few extra hours than to have a hundred thousand people have to drag the slider to skip the boring parts.

I don't like being bound by a schedule
The next problem was that I had to do it at the time that I said I would. As it was, we had company for brunch, but things went later than expected. So at the announced time I would have much preferred to take a nap. So really, it would make more sense to pre-record these things and play them at the appointed time. This would be much better, except it wouldn't be "live". But then again, my stream fell way behind, and I wasn't interacting with the audience either, so the whole point of "live" was lost. As a viewer of live streams, I also prefer to watch them at my convenience over watching at the appointed time.

I prefer sharper video
My internet connection only does about 600 kilobits per second uplink. That's not quite enough for 360p video. But if I record and upload ahead of time, then it doesn't matter if a 10-minute video takes three hours to upload. Of course, I could upgrade my internet, but that would mean switching ISP, and I really like the ISP that I'm with and the price is good too. Also, filming ahead of time gives me more time to get the lighting and camera angles right. Pre-recording just makes much more sense.

It's not relaxing to film live
It's much nicer filming when I know I can take a break any time, either to think things over for a minute, or to go and check email or have a snack. And if I fumble too badly, I can always re-record that bit. With a live build, I have to do it NOW. On the spot. Not as fun.

Most parts of most builds are very boring
Most builds involve a lot of cutting and gluing, which is often repetitive and just plain boring to watch. Assembling the pantorouter was more suitable for live streaming than most things I do. But it's not what I typically do.

Overall, I think a live Q&A makes sense to do live, and I figure I will do one of those again in a few months time. But at this time, I don't see enough reason to do a live build in the future. I don't enjoy making them, and I actually prefer to watch live builds after they are done so I can skip the boring bits.

Other vlog / livestream related content:


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