Review: Live Streaming with Livestream
If you’ve been reading along you know that recently I cut my ponytail off as part of my 50th birthday “celebration.” Being kind of a tech guy and 5000 miles from most of the people who know me I thought I’d see if we could live stream the event for folks back in the states. I found a way, but not where I expected; it was better.
Hello Google, Anybody Home?
My first stop was the Google. I knew we’d be streaming using an iOS device, and given my google/YouTube/Google+ account I figured there’d be a way. After traveling through the 30 or so apps that make up the Google infrastructure (I exaggerate, but only slightly and it’s no better on Android) I couldn’t find a way. I could set up a Google Hangout and have up to 9 people join, but that wasn’t really what I wanted. So unless I’m missing something (perhaps an Android device) the Google did not have the simple ability to set up a live broadcast with a unique URL that anyone could visit to watch.
Is There An App For That?
My work with Google wasn’t quite done, though. That’s right, I actually used it to search for something, how about that? A quick search turned up two likely candidates, Livestream and Ustream. The former has a 4.5 star rating and the latter a 3.5, which made my first stop in the App Store easy. After reading the description and a few reviews (and seeing that beautiful Free button), I pulled the trigger on my big free purchase and downloaded Livestream.
There Is No Step Three
We’ll there is, but you get the idea. Getting up and running with Livestream really could not be easier. It’s available on the desktop as well, but I decided to try doing it all in app. Many services still have trouble when you try and set up an account and get going purely through an app, so this was also a little test.
I’m pleased to report that setting up an account is doable and ridiculously easy with the Livestream app (and I assume in a browser as we’ll). You give them a name, an email address and a password for your account and you’re done. You’ll get a confirmation email, and if you click the link in the Mail program on your iOS device it will ask if you want to visit in the app if it’s installed (another thing not every app does). And you’re done and ready to start working. Actually I had gotten started even before the confirmation email, but I’m giving you the proper order to do things because I’m good that way.
App Interface: Everything But the Camera
Livestream’s iOS interface is pretty straightforward. You have a home tab which will show you streams you’re following if you are following any, and if you aren’t it will encourage you to do so. If you’re looking for things to watch, tap the magnifying glass to search. Once you find something you can either watch it or tap the green Follow button in the upper right to have the stream added to your home screen.
To the right of the Camera tab is your Profile screen, the top of which shows you Your account name and description, number of followers and number of streams you’re following. Below that you’ll see your events listed, both upcoming events and completed, or archived, events. Tap on an event and your taken to a details screen where you can make edits. If it’s an upcoming event you can edit the start and end times, if it’s a completed event you can edit the description and the status. For now, as far as I can see, there is no way to trim your video clips in the app, although you can on the website using your computer. The final tab is for additional account and streaming settings.
Your Profile screen is also where you can add a new event by tapping Create Event. This is a three step process: 1. Give your event a name; 2. Add a start and end time; 3. Add a poster image by either taking a picture or using one from your Camera Roll. At that point you are given the option to share your event to the major social networking sites; you can type a description and the post will include the event title and a link users can use to watch. As with everything else in the app, it’s very straightforward and easy to use.
Recording: The Camera Tab
In the middle of the row of tabs there’s a big camera button; tap that and you’re switched to the recording screen with a view from your device’s camera. As with the rest of the app, everything here is pretty straightforward. If you have an event set up it will default to adding any video to that event. You have controls for switching between front and rear cameras, muting the microphone, turning on the flash and applying a one of four basic filters.
Along the bottom you have options to share to popular social networks, which will include your description and a link to the stream. To the right on the bottom you have options to take a picture, type a comment that followers will see, and finally, the main event, the big red Record button to start recording. You can stop at any time, and if your still within your schedule event time you can start again and all clips will be included in your archived event.
While your event is going on, viewers can send you comments to which you can respond, and this is also possible with your completed events. Clearly Livestream, while providing plenty of links to existing social media sites, wants to be one on their own as well. This commenting was easy to use, and during my broadcast I did receive a few messages to which I could easily respond by clicking the Comment button on the recording stream. This happens, of course, while recording is occurring, so if you’re using the front facing camera you’ll get some nice shots of your hands while you type your responses.
Pros & Cons
I really liked Livestream for many reasons. First and perhaps most importantly, is ease and speed of use. From opening the app to having my event set up to broadcast and shared to Twitter & Facebook was less than 10 minutes. That’s pretty amazing, especially for what the app does. I’ve worked with technology for years, and know from experience that it’s crazy to be using something new, for the first time, on an event that can’t be repeated. Yet that’s exactly what I did and it worked perfectly. My son was the camera person most of the time, and he had no problems and even played a little with the filters, I believe.
The free (and ad free!) account is also a bonus. As you might expect it comes with some restrictions, like video archives expiring after 30 days, but what you get for free is better than I expected. Livestream has several pricing tiers depending on your needs, and their pricing page is straightforward and easy to figure out. I really liked this app, and moved back and forth between my iPad, iPhone & laptop while using the service.
I did have a couple of issues using the service, though none obviously were deal breakers. I did find the Profile page a little difficult to figure out on my phone once my event was over. It was a little confusing with two videos from the one event trying to understand what I was editing at different times, and what I was publishing or not. I’m sure a little more time will make it completely clear, as I’m already getting a better handle on it.
Bigger problems I have are with the saving and editing functions. In the settings tab there’s an option to save the video to your device’s media library when you save. I did not see any way to make this work even though I have it toggled on. Neither of my videos have appeared in any of my phone’s media collections (Camera Roll or Video app are where I’ve looked). This is a bigger concern because apparently this video is going to go away after 30 days, so I’ll have to check and see if I can get it from the browser using my laptop.
Another issue I had was the inability to edit the finished video on iOS. I wanted to trim down the video to show just the hair cutting part, a few minutes out of over 20, but there was no way I could find to do that in the app. I was able to do that online in the browser, so I suspect that’s a limitation of the app, possibly to be addressed later. It would be nice and doesn’t seem like it would be difficult to implement as they have online, a simple selection of in and out times.
I needed an app that made it easy and quick to set up an event to stream live, and Livestream more than fit the bill. Incredibly easy to set up your account and your events, worked with no flaws, no ads, built in commenting and sharing to major social networks, what’s not to like? Despite the few gripes I had, which are more suggestions and observations than complaints, there really isn’t anything not to like about this app. If you’re looking to live stream events from your iOS device, Livestream is the way to go.