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Now that everyone is going to be getting access to Hangouts on Air, I thought I'd re-share this. I wrote this guide a few months ago explaining all the tips and tricks we've learned about Hangouts on Air. Go ahead, learn from our mistakes.
 
Tips and Tricks for Hangouts on Air

+Felicia Day just asked for some advice on running Hangouts on Air and I jumped in with some suggestions. But now I'm thinking I'll just make a public post, to let more people see the suggestions.

In case you weren't aware, Hangouts on Air are like regular Hangouts, but any number of people can view the Hangout as a live broadcast. It essentially emulates a television station. Right now access to this feature is in a limited beta, and I have no idea how to get access to it.


Gear
- The quality of the video camera and microphone matter a lot. Get a good webcam like a Logitech 910C and a headset microphone. Don't settle for crappy embedded webcams.

- You want to run your hangout on the fastest computer you have at your disposal. That will make the video as smooth as possible.

- Every participate should use a wired line (not wireless) to maximize your upload speed.

- Everyone needs to wear headphones or earbuds to reduce echo. No exceptions.

- You want to avoid backlighting, which will make a person dark in the video. Don't have a bright window behind your back. Get some kind of light pointing at you.

- Try to have an interesting background behind you. A plain white wall is really boring. But a big living room can look really great.

Initial Preparations
- If you're going to have a lot of people participating, start the Hangout early to get everyone in and settled, with the right devices, etc. Remember that the Hangout is secret until you actually hit broadcast.

- You can only invite people in your circles into the Hangout, so make sure you have all the people you want in a circle beforehand. It's very difficult to invite people specifically if you don't have them in circles.

- You can't invite the "Public" into a Hangout on Air. If you do need to do that, you can always copy-paste the URL to the chat, so people can join it directly.

- Minimize the amount of programs running on your computer. You might want to screenshare various parts of your computer during the Hangout, so make sure you're not going to be broadcasting anything private. Strip down your browser toolbars, turn off chat programs, etc. Autohide your dock/start menu so people don't see it if you need to screenshare.

- Think about copyright/intellectual property before you start streaming. Make sure you own the rights to anything you broadcast, or there'll be hell to pay, with angry lawyers.

- You can join a Hangout twice from two different devices. This will let you put up screenshots, videos, etc in another pane.

- Queue up all your other methods of promoting the Hangout, like Twitter, Facebook, etc. When you go live, you'll be able to copy-paste the URL and multiply the number of viewers.

- To maximize the viewership, try to stick to a regular schedule. We record Mondays at 2000 GMT and Thursdays at 1800 GMT.

- Create an intro screen graphic beforehand that introduces the Hangout. You'll run this in your hangout for the first 5 minutes before you actually get started.

Running the Hangout
- The Hangout doesn't go public until you actually click "Start Broadcast". Your YouTube recording starts after that point too.

- When you do hit broadcast, the Hangout will appear in your stream, so you'll want people to link directly to the post that contains the Hangout. That way you can get people to post comments, give feedback, etc. You want to corral people into this single location.

- You can get the permalink to the Hangout by right-clicking on the timestamp of the post that contains the Hangout.

- For the first 5 minutes of your Hangout, run a graphic that explains that the Hangout is about to start. Get all of the participants to mute their audio/video so it's all black screens. You can't talk to each other, but you can coordinate through chat. This will give your audience a few minutes to join in, and settle down. It also gives you time to Tweet, FB share and embed your Hangout in all your websites.

- You can get the embed code for the video in the upper right-hand corner of the window. You can put that into websites.

- Your live video will also be broadcast over on YouTube. People will be making comments over there, so make sure you watch for comments on both Google+ and YouTube.

- People find typing and background noises really frustrating, so encourage people to mute their microphones when they're not talking

- You're the director. This means that you can override the camera switching that Google normally does. If you click on a person's pane and make them the focus, the viewers will see that too. But you can also just let the Hangout handle the switching on its own. Just don't forget to click the focus off again.

- It's okay to be casual and make mistakes. Viewers appreciate that it's real and they're not seeing some overly slick production. But try to create the highest production quality you can.

- During the course of the Hangout, you'll see the total number of viewers listed in the upper right-hand corner of the Hangout. Yay!

- If you want to let the public into your Hangout and join the broadcast, you can post a link to the Hangout into the comments. Anyone who clicks that link will appear in the Hangout. Once publicized, though, it can never be un-publicized. You're stuck with anyone who jumps into your public show.

Afterwards
- The output video dropped into your Youtube account is pretty low quality, so you'll want another way of recording it if the quality is an issue (something like Screenflow).

- That output video is set to public by default. It's also embedded into the original post on Google+ where you hosted the live show. And there's no way to remove it, without deleting the whole post.

- The trimming tools on Youtube take 6+ hours to render, so it's better to just post the whole hangout if you're happy with the quality and didn't say anything embarrassing in the beginning. You'll want to practice minimizing the initial preparations, so you don't need to even trim it.

- Make sure you embed the output video somewhere accessible after the fact. We find we get about 20x the viewership afterwords than what happened live. People will expect to be able to see what happened in the hangout.

P.S. Make sure you have verified your YouTube account. You want to make sure your account can handle videos longer than 15 minutes, otherwise, your Hangout won't get saved.
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Aaron J. Courtney's profile photoAndrew Ive's profile photokyle pitts's profile photoFraser Cain's profile photo
22 comments
 
I was about to ping you for some tips before we do some demos from the ISRU lab. thanks for the tips.
 
Im not one to do Hangs much, i face for radio, but i know when i do join one it nice to be help out to make the hang out better
 
Wow, that was quick, I only found out about Hangouts on Air last week. Excellent stuff - thanks!
 
has anyone integrated broadcast gear (either HD-SDI or HDMI) into hangouts? do any of the viewcast osprey cards work? we need to get the switched multicam output of our BMD ATEM tv studio box into the pc...
 
Not yet, but it should work. You can use something like Webcam Max to create a virtual webcam in your computer.
 
It's my rule, not Felecia's. She can have all the echo she wants, but I won't stand for it.
 
If you mute your mic, there's no feedback, but also, you can't talk. People keep their mics unmuted so they can participate, but then they get feedback.

Trust me, if you run a public Hangout, you'll spend a lot of your time trying to get rid of the echo. So encouraging people to put on headphones right at the beginning will minimize your pain.
 
hallo sir.. i'm going to have a session in hangout on air.. and planning to use a multiple camera . do you have a tips and trick of what kind of switcher and camera that  i can use?
 
Hello all! I'd like an earlier question answered please...we're looking to buy an atem television studio for use with hangouts, does anyone have experience of this?
 
+Simon Terrapinn Google (including YT) is what I consider stuck in "amateur hour" in the whole professional multicam, HD live streaming space.  The plug-in does not recognize our ATEM TVS as a valid input device even though it labels it Blackmagic Design Decklink in the device area.  It just stays greyed out.  I have read where something like an Ultrastudio Express works via Thunderbolt.  But the whole idea of using a second device for uncompressed in via Thunderbolt only to have the plug-in crunch that video feed into oblivion when our TVS already spits out perfectly fine H.264 via the USB port (which is what programs like MX Lite and Livestream Procaster derive their streams from) seems unnecessarily redundant to me - which is why I refuse to go that route.

The TVS works out of the box with Livestream's Procaster platform - very, very well in fact.
 
+Aaron J. Courtney Thanks a lot  - that's what I'd come to conclude. I like the  ATEM, was considering running thru DarkCrystal HD Capture SDK card, do you think this "double processing" would notably degrade the quality? Excuse my ignorance. We may go the route of Livestream, tho, any idea on how it compares with ustream as a service? It's the google+ youtube link that is appealing for marketing reasons, but if we're able to capture the recording locally anyway, then put up on our channel a couple of hours later then beyond keeping google happy what's the difference!
sorry, loads of questions! It's first thing in the morning here and my macchiato is kicking in...
 
I'm looking for a solution to broadcast religious services from a balcony in the back of a church.  I wanted to know if someone has assembled a solution for Hangouts for large venues?  The webcam are designed for video chatting and I'd like to put together a solution that would work for broadcasting.

Thanks for your help.
 
+Simon Terrapinn Yeah, the TVS is definitely the killer "app" at its pricepoint - simply untouchable.  As soon as I realized the "plug and play" functionality of Livestream Procaster with the TVS, I pretty much discounted all other streaming options.  I really like the ability to customize the encoding options on that platform and the freebie option looks really, really good on the iPad - as much as I despise Apple.

As far as re-encoding degrading quality of hangouts, I wouldn't worry about it because the quality is already pretty bad IMO.  I don't think the plug-in has moved to the WebM codec yet.  That may help improve things, but there's only so much bandwidth available to manage all of these bidirectional streams.

Having said all of the above, i just wonder if the reason the G+ plug-in doesn't work with the TVS USB out-of-the-box is because the H.264 stream is not DirectShow based (which is why it won't work with FMLE either) - in which case Google certainly isn't to blame...
 
+Dave Lalande That's what many of us are trying to accomplish with our existing HD-SDI infrastructure - get it ingested into the G+ plugin without having to buy a bunch of extraneous hardware just to duplicate functionality our existing gear already provides.  Thus far, Google appears to be catering to the consumer/webcam crowd and not the professional market because they refuse to address plug-in issues that should not be occurring with professional gear.

I'm not complaining though because it's a freebie service, so that's their prerogative.
 
+Aaron J. Courtney Once we can connect up higher end gear, this thing will get serious adoption from more professional broadcasters.
 
+Fraser Cain No debate on my end with that statement!  The problem I have with Google, and generally with the company's suite of other services as well, is that it's impossible for technical professionals such as myself to interface with the back end folks who make the decisions that affect the functionality with our pro applications.

Again, I understand I don't really have a leg to stand on here because most of the applications i'm complaining about are freebies.  But there are situations where many of us would be willing to send money Google's way just to access commercial support as long as we were assured that what we're trying to accomplish should and would function as intended/designed because we are now paying for the service.
 
The Samsung Galaxy Android camera is interesting. If Samsung or someone else were to release a camcorder that used Android and had an Ethernet port, we'd be there.
 
I think I'm doing something wrong...when I screen share either a keynote or powerpoint presentation on Google Hangouts - it sees the slides in outline mode but when I press 'presentation mode' in keynote or powerpoint - Google Hangouts doesn't recognize that I've gone to that mode. So people can't see the presentation I'm going through. Very strange. Is it something I'm doing wrong?
 
Hi. Any HD camera compatible with Linux (Debian)? Maybe Logitech?
 
Good article, any chance you might know if G+ will see a AVerMedia  C027 HDMI capture card as a video source for a live stream?
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