Since we have been living in quarantine we have had to made a lot of adjustments to our personal, professional and entertainer lives which has honestly been a very interesting challenge. Our monthly waffle events, Sacramento Audio Waffle, had been converted to a YouTube live page and we did the same for the NorCal NoiseFest in 2020.
Many other events across the world have gone virtual. When it is safe for all of us to see each other in person and play as loud as possible I honestly do hope we adapt to what we’ve learned during this ‘at home’ time to start virtualizing live events.
This blog is going to go over the various settings and prerequisites necessary to ensure that your performance in the festival or the monthly waffle events is peak representation of your work.
Additionally I will also cover how to stream your own shows by sharing what I’ve learned here. Personally speaking this is really great because I have been wanting to virtualize my own performances for many years and this pandemic kicked me in the pants to get the project going.
Recording your set!
I’m not entirely going to flesh out in this blog how to build a home recording setup. There are many tutorials online on what is needed and MANY home recording groups on social media platforms where you can discuss what you want to complete with the limits present of recording at home. Additionally, by now I would also like to think that a lot of artists, noise artists specifically, have adapted some sort of home recording methods.
Audio Recording Interfaces
I will recommend purchasing an audio interface for your computer. I personally have been using the Steinberg UR44 for a lot of my home recording needs which features 4 XLR and Phono jacks on the front and 2 more phono inputs in the back. There are other interfaces that have more or less inputs. This is something I recommend putting a lot of research into before purchasing for yourself.
Additionally the Tascam DR40X (the upgrade of the DR40) added an interface feature to their new version. This means that it will pass audio from the built in microphones or the XLR/Phono inputs on the device to your computer. If you’re only working with 2 lines, stereo from your mixer, then this is a really good product to pick up because you also have the portable recording capabilities that it has to offer.
Audio quality should be at least 16bit WAV 44.1khz. Do NOT encode your final track into an MP3 format. MP3’s are compressed so they take up less disk space but audio quality is lost in the process.
For video there are A LOT of options for you. And if we’re talking specifically video for the Noise Fest or waffle, I will recommend contacting a video editor friend to put together some fancy edits if you do not have this ability yourself. Many performers so far have been using this time to stretch out their video editing capabilities and have been submitting quality music videos and art pieces to accompany their audio works.
If your only camera available is the one on your phone check the manufacturer site to confirm if the video quality will output a resolution of 1920×1080 and 25-60 fps (frames per second).
If you have a DSLR or Digital Camera with video capabilities double check the documentation to ensure the video quality matches the standard for 1080p.
And BE CREATIVE with your submissions. Usually when playing live in a venue we don’t think of the visual aspects of what we’re doing and what people can and can’t see because everyone is in the same room as us but in video the audience perspective is very limiting. Have a friend or family member do some camera work and move around the room to liven up the performance. Get valid lighting for your room so the audience can see what you are doing. Review our YouTube page for previous Waffles to see what other artists have submitted. You can have a static shot of your performance, edit in other video or effects.
Also I realize that times are very rough right now financially for a lot of people. If you are unable to purchase or borrow new equipment we will accept any video work that is submitted. Additionally, if you have no video capabilities at all we can play an audio track with a graphic of your choice.
Finalizing the video
Before sending us the video. Make sure that your video meets the quality for 1080p standard:
-Aspect Ratio: 16:9
-WAV or AAC 44.1khz
When it will be streamed over YouTube some quality will be lost. Providing us with the highest quality will ensure it looks best to the audience tuned into the stream.
Please ensure that the audio is embedded in the video. If the audio is separate it will be rejected.
When I prepare the video for the stream I will be tagging the video on the bottom left with something similar to this:
This tag will only be present for the first 30 seconds of the video. This ensures viewers know who you are, where you’re from and where to find you online. (At the time of writing this my script will only do the first 30 seconds; I’m reviewing how to do the last 30 seconds as well).
Each month on the Waffle and for the Noise Fest we have a small number allowed for live performances. This is to ensure that the experience for the viewers is top notch. I have personally been on other virtual performances where the performer would have a weak internet signal or be using a web cam microphone which will grab room noise and the meeting client would compress the sound.
If you have expressed interest in performing live during a stream your home setup will need to meet the following:
-An broadband internet upload speed of at least 5mbs.
-An audio interface to capture audio (PLEASE DO NOT USE THE BUILT IN MICROPHONES ON YOUR LAPTOP OR PHONE)
-A wired microphone into your interface or mixer
-A webcam that can capture 720p or 1080p
-A Discord account and the Discord software
Additionally, if possible, please have your streaming computer be hard wired to your internet router. This will ensure we will get the best connection speeds.
For our setup we will be using a Discord server for the video performances. You will receive an invitation to the server before the event.
Within Discord’s settings navigate to Voice & Video.
–Input Device: set to your audio interface
–Automatically determine input sensitivity: OFF, then manually set a good level, start at -100db which will allow all sound to pass through to discord server.
–Advanced, Noise Reduction: OFF
-EXPERT: For better audio performance capturing we can utilize Reaper and NinJam instead of Discord*
–Camera: set to your webcam or camera of choice, click preview to ensure you have signal coming from the camera
When performing live with other people please be courteous and turn off your camera and mute your audio when it is not your turn.
Regarding built in microphones and my hatred of them, whether you are using a smart phone or laptop the microphone that is built into those devices are generally not that good of quality for capturing audio with complex frequencies such as anything musical or noisy. They are good for phone calls, Skype/Zoom calls, making a voice memo and that’s about it. Please do not consider using this for recording your performance.
Please have a separate microphone plugged into your mixer or interface on it’s own channel. There will be some interaction with the audience or other SAW mods. “Where can people find you? Do you want to talk about your performance?”
*Audio Capturing, EXPERT MODE:
UPDATE: Due to recent sound checks with some artists over Discord we will be trying a new method for capturing audio using Reaper and Ninjam. Reaper is a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) which is actually a great recording tool. I have been using it for the last 10+ years for all of my recordings. Reaper comes with a plugin called ReaNINJAM, which allows people to connect their recording sessions with others over the internet and jam together using a synced metronome.
I will be running a Ninjam server which the performer will connect to. During our stream, I will capture video from Discord and Audio from Reaper/Ninjam with OBS.
Here I will break down what you will need to do on your end.
For additional reference, here is a YouTube video that goes over configuring NinJam.
If you do not already use Reaper, please download and install Reaper for your operating system. When you first launch Reaper please be sure to have your recording interface hooked up to your computer and powered on because Reaper will try to locate the supported hardware.
- Create a new project
- Create track one and label the track NINJAM. This will be the track that will connect to my NINJAM server.
- Click the FX button to add effects and search for ReaNINJAM
- Add additional tracks and select inputs from your audio interface
- Convert the NINJAM track into a folder by clicking the folder icon on the bottom left of the track
Also make sure that record monitoring is turned ON for the channels, otherwise no audio will be passed through to the NINJAM track.
Next we will configure Ninjam to connect to my server
- Click FX to open the FX window for Track 1
- With ReaNINJAM selected, click the “Show ReaNINJAM Console” button
- Mute the metronome as we will not be using it
- In the ReaNINJAM console window click the “Connect” button on the top left
- I will provide the server connection information when we meet for sound checks.
On my end I will confirm if I am receiving audio. This Reaper session can be saved as a project. Please save this layout so we will not have to go through the steps again at the time of the live performance.
I am new to NinJam but I can see where there is a lot of opportunity to link recording sessions together.
During the live performance the performer will stream their video over Discord and audio over Reaper and I will capture both on my end. There will be latency so the audio and video will not be synced. This is to be expected, however capturing audio this method provides a better quality and does not receive the compression that Discord or Zoom does.
And if there are other complications where Reaper and Discord cannot be run together from the performers computers we will solely use Discord for capturing both video and audio and tweak the settings to get as best of results as we can.
Here is a basic diagram of the hardware and software setup by how I’m describing it above:
Streaming your own show
I’ll use this section to combine items I’ve discussed above and wrap them in how to utilize them for your own YouTube or Twitch show. There are many different streaming software suites out there, but I will be doing a broad overview of OBS as that is what I am familiar with. OBS is a free and open source software that is available on all operating systems and the community offers a lot of plugins and guidance.
I will really only cover a very basic overview of OBS. There are many tutorials and guides on YouTube and on the sites documentation pages that go into greater detail.
Obtaining your stream key.
When you sign up with Twitch or YouTube (or any other streaming site) you will receive a stream KEY. This key is unique to your account and should not be shared or made public.
In OBS, click the Settings button on the far right and navigate to the Stream section. Here you can choose what service you’re using and drop in your stream key. Review the documentation on the streaming service side for proper configuration.
If you have different accounts with different services, or say you want to use Twitch one night for games and Youtube another for a poetry reading, then different keys can be saved by making different profiles by reviewing the Profiles menu.
OBS Window Overview
On the main OBS window you will have access to all the controls you’ll typically need during a stream.
- Create and title the scenes according to what is being captured.
- Think of the scene as a container for what is being captured.
- The items that are being captured in a Scene.
- Sources can be shared among different scenes.
- A source can be a camera, an audio interface, a video file, an image, on screen text, and so on
- The audio from each source
- Volume can be adjusted or muted accordingly
- Scene Transitions
- This section controls the fades or cuts between scenes
- Creating a smooth transition between scenes does change the viewer experience
- Start Streaming will push your stream to your streaming service
- Start Recording will create a local video file
- Studio Mode changes the mode that OBS is running in
- Settings, goes to Settings
- Exit, quits
For Noise Fest and the Waffle I plan out the blocks of time that will be live, pre-recorded, or a waiting period. Before the shows begin we have a slideshow running with music which allows people to congregate and get settled in the chat. Creating slideshows with music is fun and also creates a buffer for the audience if you need to set the stage for the next performer.
The live scene is capturing the Discord window and the desktop audio. A similar effort can be done with a Zoom call.
Pre-recorded videos, commercials, bumpers, and any other fun videos are put in a video playlist. A source in OBS is created for the video playlist.
There are services like Restream.io which can push your stream to different platforms. Say you want to hit a broad audience and have your stream hit Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and your own custom server, then OBS is configured to use the Restream credentials key and Restream is configured with all the keys for those individual platforms.
Everything I listed here was a very high level review of processes and methods of streaming your own show, and submitting a high quality recorded video for our shows. I’m documenting these steps so other festivals and events can utilize this information.