As any video journalist can tell you, it’s easy to go overboard with gear. I’ve used everything from C300 and C100 Canon cinema-grade cameras, down to a simple GoPro on a shoot. When I first joined The New York Times, I was brought onto the Facebook Live team. We had to figure out what technology would work best to live-stream from a phone. Audio was the most important thing for me to figure out in this setup. I wanted to find a way to use the exact same professional audio equipment I use with cameras in a mobile live-stream kit. After lots of testing, this is my kit for mobile broadcasting.
This is my preferred phone for filming live broadcasts. The large screen allows me to watch the comments more easily, as they pop-up in real time on Facebook. I don’t use the iPhone 7 due to its lack of a headphone jack. As you’ll see below, my audio setup is currently dependent on a headphone jack. I always make sure that I have lots of data on my phone plan, because broadcasting live uses up a good chunk of 4G/LTE data. I make sure I have at least 1GB free on my phone as well. This is because I always save the live video onto my phone so that I have the best quality footage to edit later. We do a series of live-streams that we later edit together together at the end of the reporting trip.
In a perfect world, when you’re live broadcasting a non-breaking news story, it’s always good to have a second device with you. Whenever we film Facebook Live videos, we always have a colleague in the office monitoring the segment. This is super important because when you’re live, it’s simply not possible to monitor your audio quality while your broadcast is airing. If I am filming a sit-down interview, I’ll always bring a second device with me where I have a shared Google Doc open with a colleague so I can keep open communications in case there are any technical glitches.
This tool is incredible. It works best with an iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. What it does is it counter-balances movement using a motor inside this handheld gimbal. It allows you to move and walk around while keeping a slow, graceful motion on your image. I’ve used this everywhere, from museum tours, to exploring a farm and even to running from tear gas during the protests at Donald Trump’s inauguration. Even when running at a full sprint, it manages to work incredibly well. It works best when you download the DJI Mobile app on your phone and connect the Osmo gimbal via Bluetooth. Some people use the app itself to broadcast from, but I never do. I just simple use the gimbal as is and then I broadcast from the Facebook app itself. I’ve even used this when I film produced video pieces because of just how nice the motion is. I’ll often use this for b-roll while driving and mix it in with my other footage.
I like this tripod a lot because it’s versatile. It has a nice weight to it and it doesn’t buckle under the weight of my phone or microphones. I’ll use a tripod in a situation where I’m doing a sit-down interview, or I’ll even use it as a microphone holder if I am doing a sit-down interview with two subjects talking. What’s especially nice about this tripod is its flexible legs. I’ve used them to wrap around stop signs and other poles when doing interviews outside. To mount the phone on top of the tripod, I use this iPhone mount — the Manfrotto Universal Clamp. It just screws into the top of the tripod, and with a spring-loaded clamp your phone fits in there securely.
This is what I use to run audio into my phone. It has one XLR input, meaning you can put in one microphone at a time. If you need two audio inputs, you can use a splitter and add in one more audio input. This is helpful if you are interviewing just one other person.
The iRig plugs into the microphone jack of your phone and it has an app, called iRig Recorder FREE. What’s nice about using an iRig and the app is that you can monitor audio while you are live. However, it’s still imperative that you have someone monitoring you while you’re live because Facebook outputs audio / video in a compressed way that you can’t always hear in your headphones. The iRig uses a 9V battery. I swap in a fresh battery after two or three segments.
A note with this iRig is that if the cord going from the iRig into the phone gets tossed around and banged up, the iRig will stop working pretty quickly. I always have two or three iRigs in my kit in case one of them dies.
For audio, this is my go-to. I will run a shotgun mic via a short XLR cable straight into the iRig. This works for interviewing many people in a crowd setting. The only thing to note is that if you move your hand on the shotgun mic while you’re live, the audio of your hand moving around will be picked up. To avoid something like this, I either use a hand-held shotgun microphone holder, or I wear a knit glove on my hand. It looks silly, but it’s the best way to get strong audio. I have just one of these in my kit. It runs off one AA battery. I use rechargeable ones to make sure I have a fresh battery for every live-stream.
I always opt for wired lavaliers as opposed to unwired ones with the battery pack for live-streaming. When I’ve used wireless lavaliers, I’ve found that sometimes, the audio picks up on a kind of signal interference. Because you’re broadcasting live using a 4G signal, and also transmitting the signal from the wireless lav to the phone via a small antenna, the sound can suffer. This is why I stick to wired lavalier microphones for live-streaming — it directly connects into the iRig, taking away the issue of an audio interference. The only thing you need to watch for is the wires. You and your subject will both be wired together and attached to the iRig. Take special care to make sure that no one trips on the wires. I usually have two of these in my kit. These wired lavaliers also run off one AA battery.
Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Warren R.M. Stuart