Welcome to part four of Ang's "How to broadcast your wedding live on the web" series — the conclusion. (If you haven't read the posts one through three, you can check out and read the full series here.) The conclusion brings us Ang's experience with live streaming her own wedding and a how-to guide to avoid all the mistakes she encountered.
This is going to attempt to be a guide where I tell you how your wedding streaming goes off without a hitch. And the best way to illustrate it would be telling you a comedy of errors story. Like my wedding.
I thought I had everything planned. We had made an appointment with the church's IT guy to get my laptop on their network with all their super secret uber codes a few days before the wedding. I had the computer in the "bridal preparation area," and tested it where it performed perfectly. I took the laptop, camera and all the goodies to the sanctuary, where I set it up, and had my bridesmaids parade in front of me to get the best angles. I called friends to log on and make sure all was set on the incredible edible internets. I was brilliant, I was awesome, I was in deep crap…
I …was supposed to be walking out in five minutes when my Blackberry chirped at me… It was a text from a friend of mine, saying the feed was down.
I had my dress on, had stepped into my amazing shoes, and was supposed to be walking out in five minutes when my Blackberry chirped at me. Being the whore to technology that I am, I hiked up my big poofy dress, held my fresh bouquet out to the side so I didn't drip (It was THAT fresh), and picked up the phone. It was a text from Sarah, a friend of mine, saying the feed was down. With FIVE FREAKING MINUTES to my big walk down the aisle. The boys had to go trooping into the backroom of the church, the "pianist of awesome" had to find thirty-five minutes of filler music, the guests had to make small talk with each other, I could hear the Twitter updates going off across the building. It wasn't an option for me to not have the wedding streamed. I had so many friends and family who couldn't make it, and they were so happy that we had offered a way to include them. I called the most tech savvy person in the church at that moment, that I could swear at without comeuppance. That would be our groomsman, Ryan, who is going to work for NASA. He's pretty freaking smart. Unfortunately I was frustrated, I was on the verge of freaking, and our *wonderful* coordinator was chipperly sticking her head in the door every two minutes to smile at me and tap her watch.
I was contemplating going outside through the windows with a complicated umbrella scheme to minimalize hair wreckage, and sneaking back in through another window so I could sit in front of the computer and fix it without ruining the reveal.
My photographer has a picture that I can't wait to get my hands on. It's of me, in my dress, in full out "master of my domain" mode, on the phone, trying to talk someone through the problem when I had no idea what the problem was. I was contemplating going outside through the windows with a complicated umbrella scheme to minimalize hair wreckage, (as it was pouring horrendous amounts of rain) and sneaking back in through another window so I could sit in front of the computer and fix it without ruining the reveal. But between a three-way call with Ryan and Sarah and a bunch of hand waving and death glares at the coordinator, we got everything back online over half an hour later. YAY! Triumphant, I tossed my phone aside, grabbed my dad's arm and strode out the door into the hallway.
The next few minutes were perfect. I got to stare at my husband that whole walk down, I got to see the awe in his face at seeing me in all my glory, saw it transition into a proud smile, the profuse sweat on his forehead, him shifting his hands to make sure that the right one was there to take my hand when I got up front. He and I walked up the stairs to the altar, and just gazed at each other for awhile in bliss. Then I heard the buzzing.
The pastor [asked] under his breath if we could shut it off. I told him no, it wasn't an option and waved at all my friends in web land.
It was faint at first, like the low hum of a really old TV when its warming up. Then it got louder. And higher pitched, to the point where we were yelling to be heard over it. The noise was followed, and it was coming from my laptop. The pastor decided to make jokes about it, and under his breath asked if we could shut it off. I told him no, it wasn't an option and waved at all my friends in web land. We carried on and it stopped for a few minutes when the readings were being done, and the whole church sighed in relief. (It really was annoying and migraine inducing) As soon as the overhead mics came on it started up again. Well the coordinator took it upon herself to close the computer, thus shutting down the feed and ending not only the noise, but blacking out screens all over the world.
So that's my story. And although it sucked, it's not the end of the world, and I can give fantastic advice because of it! Yay me!
- Make sure the powers that be know how important it is to you. I say this because I told the coordinator I don't know how many times that this was a priority. We mentioned it to the pastor too, I remember distinctly because it was on my list of questions for both of them. Apparently though, they didn't really fathom it, because they were constantly glossing over it. If it's that important to you, be adamant about it. Don't let them brush off questions, be direct and firm and business like.
- Have an Apocalypse Plan. OK so worst case scenario the streaming somehow is interrupting the wedding. (Ala' Moi.) Make sure that all parties know when the cut off is, if the stream is to be shut off and under what circumstances. If you want the officiant to forge ahead regardless, make sure they know you don't even want them to mention it, even though they might think it's comedic gold.
Worst case scenario, see if you can get a wireless card/USB adapter from a friend, co-worker, or family member, in which case, make sure there's reception there.
- Have a dedicated connection. What screwed us the first time is that other people were using the connection. Streaming takes up a LOT of bandwidth. If someone else wanted to log on and visit YouTube, or check Facebook, it'd make your video skip and get laggy. If someone, just for instance, decided to log onto a vacant computer in the church office while waiting for their parents to pick them up, and start playing WOW, well then your streaming would implode, much like mine did, and go offline. So you need to check with the venue and see what kind of connection they have and how fast it is. If it's LAN (direct connection where you plug something in), make sure they have a port that's convenient to where you want to set up your camera. If it's wireless, get the log in info, find out how many other devices are sharing that connection. Worst case scenario, see if you can get a wireless card/USB adapter from a friend, co-worker, or family member, in which case, make sure there's reception there.
- TEST IT OUT. The rehearsal is a good place to do this. Make sure everything will be IDENTICAL to the day. Our problem was when I was testing the connection the mics weren't on, and the feedback from those is what made that awesome ringing sound. So make sure all mics/lights/everything are on and working the exact same way they will be during the wedding. Have a friend you can call to check the stream on their computer and help you with angles.
Granted for the rest of the ceremony all you saw was my butt, however I was OK with that. My butt and I made peace a long time ago… I really wanted the people watching to feel like they were there, not that they were hacking into security camera footage.
- Picking your angle. Depending on your venue it might limit where you can set your camera. And you might have to choose your poison. For me, the most important part was coming down the aisle, so I positioned the camera so that's what you saw. Granted for the rest of the ceremony all you saw was my butt, however I was OK with that. My butt and I made peace a long time ago. You could still see the candle ceremony, the pastor and Matt, so it was a compromise. Another option would have been to set the camera up on the balcony and get an overhead shot, but I really wanted the people watching to feel like they were there, not that they were hacking into security camera footage. We also wanted to make sure that the camera wouldn't move. So we took a mic stand, and Zip Tied the camera to it. It was great because we were able to adjust it a billion ways from Sunday, but it was still stable.
- Make sure someone else knows how to deal with it. Nine times out of ten, logging out of Ustream and FME and back in will fix your problem. But odds are that you and your intended are going to be a little too busy to mess with it. So find a tech savvy little cousin who you can trust not to download massive quantities of porn onto your computer, or a friend's significant other who would be more than happy to sit back and handle the technical mumbo jumbo if the need arises. The last thing you need, is to be in a situation where five minutes before you make your entrance to be told that the 150+ people who RSVP'd "no" on your invites are going to miss out on one of the biggest events in your lives.
- Computer maintenance. Might sound trivial, but make sure your computer is in good working order on the big day. Don't depend on batteries, plug it into the wall. Shut off your screen saver, disable your sleep/hibernation mode, mute your speakers (That can add to a feedback loop). If you are nervous about your computer being in the open, you can make an additional user, and only give it access to the UStream site, FME and the camera, and delete it after the wedding. (Parental controls for the win!) Make sure your passwords for UStream are available, either by having the browser save them, or having them written down, so if someone has to log back in they can.
I guess that's about it. I hope that the dramas and epic fail-ness of my streaming (which, coincidentally, I've done a ton of times before without incident) will help you guys avoid similar experiences.