Live streaming is a rapidly growing niche in the digital video world. While gaming is the dominant player, vlogs and live podcasts are starting to make headway. There are quite a few streaming platforms which include Twitch, Periscope, Facebook Live, and YouTube.

Of all the platforms, YouTube's streaming platform is by far the most versatile. You can stream casually from your phone from anywhere in the world, or you can put together a more professional looking stream through a laptop. If you're considering streaming, our helpful guide will teach you how to get started!

Getting your channel ready for a YouTube live stream

First, you need to activate the feature through your account. Head to the Live Streaming page and accept the terms and conditions. Your account will need to be in good standing with no active copyright strikes. Optionally, if you have monetization enabled, you will be able to activate fan funding cards from the Features page. The live dashboard may be a little overwhelming at first, but you'll find some similarities to your video management page.

Choosing a software

The next step to your live stream is selecting an encoding software. Streaming software helps you to control the look and feel of your stream. They allow you to create scenes, put images over the video, play music and much more. There are many services that work with YouTube Live including XSplit, AirServer, El Gato, OBS, Gameshow and Wirecast. These are the same kind of services you would use to stream to Twitch as well. Selecting the best for you becomes a matter of expertise and streaming style.

Setting up the software

Once you have selected the encoding software you want to use, it's a matter of connecting it with YouTube. On the live stream page on YouTube, you'll find an area that says "Encoder Setup". That section has two important details in the Server URL and the Stream Key. Those two allow your software to send video from your computer to the YouTube live streaming servers. You will also need to configure the video quality to YouTube standards. 60FPS is ideal for games, while 30FPS is a good standard for video streaming. You can read more on YouTube's encoding settings here.

Planning your stream

Once your software is connected, you can now start planning out the live stream. Within the YouTube dashboard, go through each setting and decide what's best for your stream. First, you need to name your upcoming stream as well as add a description of what you'll be covering. You'll want to schedule the event between 12-24 hours before you go live. Any longer and people may forget to tune in, and any shorter and people may not know you're going to stream at all. There are many other settings including:

  • Enable DVR - This allows people to select where in the stream they want to watch from. It's useful if people show up late or want to hear something again. Ideally, you'll want to keep this option enabled UNLESS you really want it to be an exclusive one-time thing.
  • Make Archive Unlisted - Live streams are generally not as 'professional' looking as edited videos. Making them unlisted hides them until you have a chance to edit.
  • Stream Optimisation - Low latency means that the viewer sees the stream in real-time but the quality may be reduced. Less buffering adds a delay but there is no quality loss.
  • Monetization - You can choose whether to run ads during your live stream. By default, it is turned off.
  • Cards - Allows you to link off to other content, the exact same as Cards on uploads.

Streaming live

Now, it's time to go live. To do so, you'll need to activate the stream from the encoding software. Keep an eye on the YouTube live page and wait for the indicator to show that your stream is up. If you are playing music or video clips be aware that ContentID is always active. If you do not have the rights to the video or audio, it may shut your stream down.

During your stream, monitor for dropped frames (it will usually say it within the encoding software). If you are experiencing them, try closing tabs and anything else that may be using bandwidth. You should also keep an eye on the live chat and interact with viewers. Ultimately, that interaction is what makes a lot of live streams special to the audience. Lastly, have fun!

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