Deciding whether to live-stream or pre-record your virtual event can be difficult - both options offer specific benefits, and often, there is no ‘right’ answer. In this article, we’re focussing on pre-recording. We’ll start by comparing pre-recorded and live-streamed events so you can really get your head around it, and then we’ll look at the best online and offline solutions so you can produce a stellar (pre)recording.
By the way, at the end of this article, you’ll find some bonus tips on how to look and sound your best during your recording. Thank us later.
Pre-Recording vs Live Streaming
What does ‘pre-recording’ your virtual event mean?
Pre-recording means that you record your virtual event before it goes ‘live’. You record you and your guests speaking using either a software solution or a more traditional camera-mic set-up, edit your recording, and only then do you publish it. There are a variety of ways that you can pre-record, and we’ll be looking at these in more depth later in this article.
Advantages of pre-recording
#1 - Pre-recording means you have more creative freedom to add your personal touch in post-production:
- You can insert additional supporting content such as graphics or sound effects.
- You can play with how you structure your recording - cutting between speakers, graphics, and so on.
#2 - Post-production capacity often translates to a far more polished and professional final recording, this added ‘wow’ factor will help you to impress your audience.
#3 - Pre-recording alleviates the pressure for the delivery of your session:
- Stage shy participants don’t have the added pressure of a live audience.
- Retakes mean that you can keep recording until you get it just right.
- There is no risk that unstable internet or unwelcome disruptions will adversely affect your session because you can just wait it out.
#4 - Scheduling is easier:
- You don’t need to consider peak times for audience engagement.
- All you have to do is find a time that works for you and your guests.
- Pre-recording means you can include international guests because you are able to work around time-differences far more easily.
Disadvantages of Pre-Recording
#1 - Pre-recording requires a larger investment of time and energy: Preparation, set-up, recording, and post-production editing can be labor-intensive compared to live-stream set-ups.
#2 - Pre-recording can be costly: The costs associated with equipment hire or purchase, production costs, studio hire, and post-production processes can add up.
#3 - Audience interaction is limited and you are unable to gauge their reaction as easily: Your audience will only engage with your virtual event once you’ve uploaded it. Compared to a live-stream where your audience reacts in real-time, it can be harder to see what reception your recording receives.
#4 - Pre-recording can result in a less ‘human’ or ‘organic’ feel, the addition of effects or graphics in post, as well as the seamless feel you can achieve through retakes and editing, can make you feel less ‘authentic’
What does live streaming your event mean?
Live-streaming means broadcasting your virtual event in real-time to your audience. There are a number of platforms with which you can do this. Amongst the most familiar examples are Twitch, Instagram Live, and YouTube Live.
Advantages of Live Streaming
#1 - The direct and immediate nature of live-streaming fosters a sense of atmosphere and community:
- This is especially salient through the organic engagement and interaction possible through question and answer sessions, games, and audience participation.
- As we all know, during the pandemic this sense of live interaction is especially coveted after.
- For many, live-streaming is a more ‘authentic’ and ‘human’ experience - as similar to in-person events as we can get at the moment.
#2 - Live-streams often garner higher engagement on social media. Your followers will be notified of your session, and you’ll often get inadvertent viewers who may stumble across your stream!
#3 - Live-streaming is time and cost-effective:
- The equipment required to live-stream is very minimal and therefore can be low budget.
- There is no need to invest time in post-production.
Disadvantages of Live Streaming
#1 - Scheduling can be difficult. Accommodating for you and your guests’ schedules whilst also balancing optimal streaming times is no easy feat!
#2 - Your creativity can be limited and it can be difficult to break away from traditional formats - especially within the constraints of most streaming platforms.
#3 - Feelings of stress and pressure can run high during your live-stream.
- There are no do-overs, so you cannot edit out any mistakes or disruptions.
- Keeping talking points to time can be difficult.
- For those who suffer from performance anxiety, the pressure of a live audience can be intimidating.
#4 - Vulnerable to technology problems: Weak internet connection, unforeseen disruptions, and hardware issues can jeopardize your live stream.
So, should you live stream or pre-record your live event?
Like we said earlier, there really is no right answer. In fact, it all depends on what you want to get out of your virtual event. If your main priority is the number of views and audience interaction, live-streaming is probably the better option. On the other hand, if you’re intent on broadcasting your event with everyone looking and sounding their best, pre-recording is for you.
If you’re still indecisive, you may prefer to opt for a hybrid option: a live-stream with interspersed portions of pre-recorded content - the best of both worlds!
Another great option is to record your live-stream, edit in post, and then offer it across your social media for those who may not have made it to the live event. Many software solutions, such as Riverside.fm, allow you to do both.
Best Solutions to Pre-Record Virtual Events
#1 - Ubiquitous meaning it’s familiar and easy-to-use.
#2 - Affordable: the only caveat is a 40 minute limit for free users.
#1 - Optimized for users who have an account and have downloaded the application. This can add extra hassle to those who have never used the software before.
#2 - Sub-optimal quality of recording:
- Zoom relies on a stable internet connection, meaning if you or one of your guests is suffering from weak wifi, your recording is likely to be adversely impacted.
- Although there are HD recording options, these are very negated by internet connection anyway.
- It is not possible to record each individual participant in full HD.
- Zoom recordings are formatted as mp4 and m4a, both of which are compressed, lossy files. This means they sacrifice quality for compact audiovisual files.
#3 - Your creative scope is limited: As you are unable to record separate video tracks, your editing capabilities will be limited by what you chose during your session.
#4 - Zoom recordings are vulnerable to data loss: The recording of your Zoom session will only download to your computer once you have concluded your meeting. This substantially increases the risk of data loss or corruption.
Riverside.fm is a browser-based software that allows you to record video and audio in studio quality from anywhere.
- Studio Quality recording. Riverside acts as a double-ender - locally recording each video track. This means that the quality of your recording is not dependent on your internet connection. The only limitation is your equipment.
- You can record each individual participant in full HD which means each of you will be looking and sounding your best.
- The ability to record each participant individually gives you greater creative freedom in post-production.
- Recordings are automatically saved as WAV audio and 4k video, which are lossless file formats. This means there is no loss of quality between recording and saving.
- Riverside progressively uploads your recording during your session, as well as automatically backing up your files to the cloud - all of this protects against data loss.
- Your recordings are automatically uploaded to your Riverside dashboard where they’re accessible whenever you want them.
- Optimized user experience. As Riverside is browser-based, there is no need to download additional software or sign-up.
- You can brand your Riverside greenroom, where your guests wait before your session.
- Just like on Zoom, you can share your screen. So if you’re counting on shared graphics or resources, no worries. These are recorded as a separate video track, so you can choose how to include it in the final recording.
- Riverside is integrated for a number of platforms for live streaming your session. Even if you’re pre-recording your virtual event, you can invite an audience to watch. They’ll be placed in the ‘audience room’ where they will not be included in the recording.
- If you have a producer on your team, they can join the session in ‘Producer Mode’. They’ll be able to toggle the settings and monitor the session and they’ll automatically be excluded from the recording.
- Riverside is optimized for Google Chrome, which may mean some of your guests have to download the application.
vMix with Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams’ inbuilt recording capacity is rather lackluster. By way of example - when you view a Teams meeting recording, you’ll see no more than 4 people’s video streams at once… not too helpful.
Microsoft has compensated for its limited inbuilt recording capacity by integrating Network Device Interface (NDI). This allows you to broadcast audio and video streams to your local network, meaning you can add your video calls into vMix instead of capturing your screen and importing it later.
- Microsoft Teams is very familiar, having become a household name during the pandemic.
- If you or your company already have a Microsoft 365 subscription, there is no additional cost.
- With vMix you can add multiple cameras, videos, images, audio, web streams, powerpoints, etc. to enhance your production.
- Overlay and multi-view features make it very easy to mix together multiple audiovisual sources.
- vMix works on a one-off payment structure as opposed to a subscription fee. The basic edition starts at $60.
- vMix is ‘fault tolerant’ meaning even if you lose power you can still recover your video recordings.
- vMix allows you to choose the type of file formats you want, meaning you can opt for ‘lossless’ files which preserve quality.
- vMix is designed mostly for live productions, and like Zoom, is dependent on internet connection. This means that if your internet is unstable, your recording is likely to be affected.
- vMix is not very user-friendly. Their interface can feel overwhelming, and their website is not very navigable, meaning it can be hard to understand the product.
- Setup is difficult and time-consuming, and it is essential to ensure you’ve executed everything perfectly in order to prevent double audio recording.
- This vMix-Microsoft Teams set-up requires you to be running several applications simultaneously, this can be intense for your computer.
- You have to ensure you have the latest version of Microsoft Teams and vMix, as well as the NDI tools, pack to run this configuration. If you need to update your applications, this can delay the start of your session.
- Recordings can take a huge amount of disk space, which means you may have to make space on your computer for the recordings.
Hopin is a dedicated virtual event platform designed to replicate in-person live events.
- Hopin is a browser-based platform, meaning there is no need to download a new application.
- Hopin allows you to brand your event interior, meaning you can personalize the interface and align the visuals with your brand aesthetic.
- Hopin is optimized for large live virtual events with various different sessions happening simultaneously. As such, its interface is not really designed for pre-recording.
- Hopin is expensive with the cheapest plan starting at $99/month.
- It’s not possible to record individual audio and video tracks, meaning your editing capabilities are limited.
- Hopin is reliant on a stable internet connection, leaving your recording vulnerable to glitches or disruption.
- There may be a 1-2 second gap between every 2-hour recording block.
- Hopin defaults to compressed file formats (mp4 and m4a) meaning diminished quality in your final recording.
- Recordings are only available once your event is over, this increases the risk of data loss or corruption.
- Further, post-processing for recordings can take up to 24 hours before they’re available for you to access.
Streamyard is a browser-based live streaming platform.
- Streamyard automatically records your live stream, so if you elect one of the hybrid options we mentioned above, Streamyard has you covered.
- Browser-based, so there is no need to download any additional software. All you have to do is click on the invite link.
- Streamyard allows you to play with the layout: who is on the screen, size, format, etc. These templates are ready-made for your perusal.
- In order to download your recordings, you need to be on a paid plan.
- Streamyard only saves your recordings for up to 15 days and it is not possible to recover a deleted recording.
- It is not possible to record separate audio and video tracks. This severely limits your editing capabilities.
- The quality of your recordings is limited to 720p on a Basic Subscription ($20/month), and even then you are limited to 4 hours of live-stream recording per month.
- You can only get HD streaming and recording with the Professional plan at $39/month.
- Streamyard’s reliance on the internet means it is likely that your recording quality will be negatively affected by your wifi connection anyway.
- Your recordings will be saved as mp4 and mp3 files. These are compressed, lossy format files which sacrifice quality for compact sizing.
How to Pre-Record Offline:
With offline pre-recording, you have two options:
- You can hire or replicate (as far as possible) a studio setting.
- You can connect over a video conferencing tool, such as Zoom, and simultaneously locally record yourselves using a camera-mic setup or screen-recording software such as Quicktime.
Advantages of recording in a studio setting:
- A studio setting will always reap a professional quality recording.
- The internet does not play a role which means your recording will be smooth and seamless with no disruptions.
- Sitting in a studio setting with your guests will foster more organic conversation and interaction, which ultimately means your final recording will be extremely ‘authentic’.
Disadvantages of recording in a studio setting:
- Finding an appropriate space can be difficult and time-consuming. If hiring a studio space is out of your budget, you’ll have to invest time and energy into soundproofing and setting up your recording environment.
- If you do choose to hire a specific studio space, this can represent a huge additional cost.
- In the current context, studio hire is not viable in many places due to COVID-19 restrictions.
- Hiring and recording a physical space limits who you can invite to be part of your event. Unlike online recording, internationally based guests can’t participate.
Advantages of recording manually whilst on Zoom:
- Connecting over a video conferencing tool like Zoom is a far more affordable option for obvious reasons: you don’t need to hire studio space.
- Remote guests who are internationally based can still participate.
Disadvantages of recording manually whilst on Zoom:
- The responsibility lies with each individual to record themselves, save their recordings, and send their file over to you for editing.
- Recording using external hardware whilst simultaneously communicating via an online conferencing tool represents a hassle for every person involved.
- If you’re aiming for studio-quality recordings, you may have to send each of your guests the correct equipment. Equipment hire or purchase can be costly.
Bonus: 10 Recording Tips
- Good lighting can make all the difference. If you and your guests don’t have specialist lighting equipment, sit facing the window - the natural lighting will do the trick.
- Your seat can make a big difference - try sitting on a high stool, this will automatically improve your posture and make sure you’re looking your best.
- If you’re unable to hire a studio space, try to sit in a quiet room. This will ensure your final recording is free of unwanted background noise.
- Make sure to warm up your mouth and vocal cords, this will improve your diction and keep you from stumbling over your words. Try tongue twisters - these are a fun and effective way to warm up before recording.
- Although it can be hard, try not to over-rehearse. Over-rehearsing can make your recording feel forced - you want your discussion to feel natural and organic.
- If you’ve opted for a lower budget option and are filming on your phone, make sure to turn off notifications.
- Make sure your microphone is positioned correctly. Ensure your microphone is the same height as your mouth but not too close, this will ensure you record the highest quality audio possible.
- Although you may think this is cumbersome, record with headphones - this will ensure as far as possible that your microphone doesn’t catch background noise or feedback.
- Leave audio cues for mistakes. Post-production is already time-consuming enough - make your life easier by leaving audio cues to indicate portions that can be cut. This will help you navigate your recording. One option is to clap your hands immediately after a mistake.
- Don’t be afraid to give pointers to your participants throughout your session. The beauty of pre-recording is that you’ll be editing those sections out in post, so make your opinion known!
As we’ve seen, if you’re pre-recording your virtual event there are a number of options open to you. Studio recordings speak for themselves, but if you opt for a hardware-based setup, camera, mic, and lighting are crucial to attaining the best quality. Luckily for us, especially given the current climate, software solutions such as Riverside are easily accessible and extremely user-friendly. Platforms such as Riverside exist to make your life easier so that you can focus on getting the best out of your session - see for yourself with our free trial, you won’t regret it!
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