Article

Jake Ward
Jake Ward 1 March 2018

The Future of Live Streaming

Video content is currently booming in popularity – we watch 100 hours of Facebook videos every day. But it’s live video that really stands out, with the best engagement and viewer interaction. In 2016, Facebook found that users watched live content three times longer than pre-recorded video. After only a few years since its transition into the mainstream, we’ve seen some huge brands using live streaming to increase audiences, grow awareness, launch new products and so much more.

Video content is currently booming in popularity – we watch 100 hours of Facebook videos every day. But it’s live video that really stands out, with the best engagement and viewer interaction. In 2016, Facebook found that users watched live content three times longer than pre-recorded video. After only a few years since its transition into the mainstream, we’ve seen some huge brands using live streaming to increase audiences, grow awareness, launch new products and so much more.

Every year the technology behind live streaming seems to come on in leaps and bounds, and 2018 looks set to be the same. In fact, it may turn out to be one of the biggest years in live video history yet. This is because huge companies are recognising its worth, investing big and seeing results. So, what are the recent trends and what does the future hold for live streaming?

The Chicken or the Egg  

Whether it’s AR, VR or 360°, there are a number of big advancements in technology on the way. Facebook recently announced the launch of a new, more affordable VR headset called Oculus Go, dubbed “the most accessible VR experience ever” by Mark Zuckerberg. In fact, it was at the Oculus’s annual conference that Zuckerberg declared: “I am more committed than ever to the future of virtual reality”. Naturally, as with most technology, gradual improvements in quality and viability will see the likes of live VR and 360° formats grow in popularity.

4K resolution is key to good quality 360° video content. At the moment, there’s a dichotomy between viewers who say current 360° footage is the most immersive they’ve experienced, and producers who worry that the quality of live 360° is holding the format back. In 2K resolution, the image may be 2,000 by 1,000 pixels wide, but since viewers can only see 90 degrees of the image at a time, they are really viewing an image that’s only 500 pixels wide.

In a ‘chicken or the egg’ style debate, it is difficult to predict whether the push for 360° will accelerate improvements in 4K tech or vice versa. What we do know is that Facebook now supports 4K resolution for live 360° streams so viewers are able to watch live 360° streams in 4K using the Facebook 360 app for Gear VR. Big companies like Facebook are getting behind 360° like never before, and they’re also committed to getting it right; Groovy Gecko is a member of Facebook’s live 360° Ready Program, a list of hardware and software providers vetted by the Facebook team designed to simplify the process of going live.

The 360° format is also in the process of evolving from single-cam shoots to multi-cam. As this suggests, multiple cameras are placed in the location in different positions and angles, rather than one single camera. When the footage is stitched together using a vision mixer, the result is a 360° video offering a significantly more 3D view. This is also what allows the viewer to click on different sections of the video and look around. So as multi-cam becomes the norm, you can expect live 360° content to become infinitely more immersive for the viewer.

Hybrid Live Experiences

It is my hope that improvements in VR and 360° video will trigger a gradual progression of content becoming more engaging and interactive. Live video on social media already receives around ten times as much engagement as regular video content, and this doesn’t even account for the fact that this engagement is more meaningful (consider the difference between a like and a comment). With so much content aimed at consumers nowadays, it’s easy to see why they are ‘switched off’. But we’ve seen many simple tools refined over the last few years which look set to open up new realms of creativity, and shift audiences away from passive viewing to active participation. In this sense, live streaming may become even more effective when compared to pre-recorded video.

EscapeRoom-Screenshot2-(1).pngWhether it is polling features, Q&As, or comment moderation, if there is a reason for the audience to engage with a stream it’s more likely that they will do so. Hybrid experiences are set to grow in popularity in the foreseeable future, whereby the audience watches the stream and participates at the same time. We at Groovy Gecko have been involved with augmented dramas of the same nature, such as this one which featured a live murder mystery viewed in first-person.

Hybrid live experiences are also effective at extending access to events. Earlier this year we lived streamed a 360° element embedded within a 2D feed from a well-known motor racing event. When the presenter was speaking, one portion of the viewer’s screen was 2D, while the rest was a 360° feed from the grounds of the event. Viewers could look around the grounds and even experience what it felt like to drive a car around the racetrack in 360°.

Painting a Positive Picture

If you take one thing from reading this article, it should be an understanding of how big live streaming looks set to become. For one, the cost of live streaming is shockingly low, due in part to the support of social media platforms. Secondly, these platforms afford instant access to massive audiences regardless of geographical location.

Because of this, live streaming is and will continue to become an integral component to both big and small brands’ marketing strategies. In fact, 50% of marketers say they plan on using live streaming. And the best part? With live streaming technology looking to advance even further in the coming years, becoming cheaper but more effective at the same time, the risks are falling and the benefits are growing. All in all, we can’t help but paint a positive picture for the future of live streaming.

 
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