When Covid-19 hit and we no longer could deliver our face to face classes we immediate chose to continue online with virtual classes. Initially we thought that we would use conference software like Zoom or Google Meet but each one of these had it's pros and cons.
We initial tried Google Meet as we had heard that the video quality was much better and after our first few tests agreed that this was true and audio was also very acceptable. The problem that we did find with this this option was that we had very limited control over what participates could do. Each time a new person would join our class we had to manually mute them and disable their video if they had not done this themselves upon entering the call. We did find ways to resolve this issue but it was still very cumbersome.
Using ZOOM was much better with managing participates but now we were having issues with video and sound quality. After reviewing more tutorial we found how we could improve the music quality by not using the mic and having it use the system audio. This gave us better audio quality but the also found that we had to make other adjustments if we wanted people to hear our voices clearly.
ZOOM Noise Cancellation
Jenna and I like making a lot of noise when we teach a class. We yell, scream, clap our hands and just have a lot of fun. The problem with ZOOM was that each time we would do that the audio levels would peak and ZOOM would drop the volume level thinking that it was some distracting background noise that views did not want to hear. Here is an article on ZOOM's Noise Cancellation Now again I believe that we could have resolved this issue with more tweaking of ZOOM settings but we found another solution which was to use another app called Audio Loopback by Rogue Amoeba which we started using and solved not only the issue of ZOOM cancelling out our voices but gave us heaps more control over sound levels. If you are a Windows user I'm sorry to say but this is a Mac only application.
This application allows us to mix our sound inputs to get the audio levels the way want. Sometimes we want to speak a little at the beginning and end of our classes with the music levels down. Then during the class we have the music up and our mic low. We've also played around with using the mics on our bluetooth headphones as options which Loopback and do and it's an amazing application. Below is a great video that demonstrates how to use Loopback with ZOOM.
There is a cost with the application but you can try it for free to see if you will get the value out of paying for it.
Video Quality is still not great
Now that we had figured out the audio our next issue was video quality. The picture quality was still not great and that was again a limitation of a couple of factors. One was that limitate of the ZOOM and the other was our internet connection. ZOOM is not designed as a broadcasting video but more for conferencing video where you have multiple people all streaming video at the same time. This means that it continually tries to adjust the quality of the video so that everyone's video and audio plays smoothly. Now again you can adjust some settings but we did more research and decided to move away from ZOOM and made the choice look for a dedicated streaming service.
The other issue was that we were using our wireless network to connect to the internet which limited the strength of our connection. I was able to purchase online from PBTech 20m long network cable that I could get delivered as an essential item. This made an incredible difference to our connection speeds and I would highly recommend that you do this.
Dedicated Streaming Service
There are so many services for live streaming video with multiple options, upgrades and extra services. Prices can also range from $19USD per month to, the sky's the limit. We also considered other free services like YouTube, Twitch and Facebook but the very obvious issue with those services is the constraints we have on using music and contractual agreement as licensed Zumba instructors. In the end we chose to go with Dacast as it was by far the cheapest option and had very good reviews.
We chose to go with the cheapest plan as we knew that we were not expecting to have hundreds of people which at any one time and if we kept the quality level low, but still better than what we got from ZOOM, then we would not blow our monthly data limit. Dacast provides a calculator to estimate the type of plan you should use which was very helpful.
Once we started using it we were blown away by the quality that we could now broadcast at. Picture quality was amazing and audio clear and completely in sync, happy days :). I will warn you that this is not a simple sign-up and start streaming service. It is more technical that other options but with a bit of perseverance we got our account up and running. Our next question was where were we going to publish our stream?
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In our next post we'll explain how we started streaming our classes on our website and also another bit of software we use to add titles to the start and end of our streams. We will also talk about some of the pit falls we've encountered along the way both technically and financially.
Sign-up to our newsletter if you would like to be notified of when this post is published. This article is by far not very comprehensive and we've only just touch some if the main points during our journey, but if you would like to know anymore then leave a comment below and we do our best to answer your questions.