“You should do a DJ set from your balcony,” said Steve, our scratch tutor. “Might as well, while this lockdown is going on.” So it was that this weekend I dug a few tunes out, and experimented with ways to do just that, out of doors – at least, on our balcony at home.
I am used to livestreaming (I do it several times a week teaching lessons in our Digital DJ Tips courses, from our permanent production studio), but I’d never played a DJ set from my home before. What could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot, as it turns out! So to help you if you’re thinking of hiking your DJ gear into your garden, onto your balcony or terrace, or just trying to do it from your living room or bedroom, here are a few pointers, based on what I learned.
Note that this isn’t an intro to livestreaming – check out our other articles for that, including How To Livestream DJ Sets – 4 Ways To Do It From Anywhere.
So before we get started, below is the livestream recording on YouTube, so you can see what we did. (If you want to be notified when we do more, just make sure you’re subscribed/following us on our socials, because we’ll let you know that way: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitch.)
5 DJ livestreaming tips
1. Best to keep it simple…
At first I had ideas of three cameras, plus a live feed from a camera on our roof at the World Trade Center in Gibraltar, the latter slowly circling giving an awesome view of the country. Oh, and maybe a bit of “inserted” video of our our deserted streets. And of course me, DJing, taking requests, giving dedications, and all the rest.
All good – until I tried to set things up. Then reality dawned.
When you’re performing, where anything could go wrong anyway, and doing it all on your own, turns out that the simpler you can keep things, the better – at least at first.
Read this next: 2 Ways to Get Great-Sounding Audio On Your DJ Livestreams
I remembered it took me years to get our production studio to a position where I could handle three cameras, two audio feeds, and on-screen graphics and teaching aids, all on my own, while also presenting – and even there, I’m absolutely still learning (and regularly messing up).
So if one thing overrides everything I am writing here, it is just that: The simpler, the better.
2. …especially if you’re only using one laptop
I wanted to use a single laptop for both my DJ computer (I chose to DJ on a Reloop Mixon 4 which I had at home already, using Serato) and as my “broadcast” computer, running my choice of video switcher software (Ecamm Live).
The thinking was that if I could find a functioning set-up that only involved a single computer, I’d avoid fuss setting up, the need for an audio interface to make the audio sound good (as I could route it inside the computer itself), and also engender a zen-like feeling of simplicity and harmony that would bode well for a relaxing sunset DJ set.
That’s all cool, but one computer has its limits, as I found out.
Even though I have a half-decent MacBook Pro, in testing, it was clearly struggling – fan whirring, and at one point, it literally went into “two screen updates every five seconds”, and there was no choice but to reboot it.
Read this next: 10 DJ live streaming mistakes
I was using an Elgato Cam Link to route my DSLR camera into the MacBook (more about livestreaming cameras here), an IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD2 digital mic, also plugged in via USB, a Logitech C920 webcam via USB, that “stream from the roof” remote camera feed over the internet, and Serato DJ Pro.
And it didn’t like it.
I realised that if you have any other software open, especially browser windows running video (in our tests, I had Restream.io‘s site open so I could check our stream was going live, as that is who who we stream through), it contributes to the issue hugely.
The solution was to ditch the DSLR camera feed, stick to just the one webcam (I’ll try adding another next time, if I can find one in time), close all other apps, and reboot just before going live for good measure. It actually all worked flawlessly, but the lesson is definitely “less is more”, especially when you’re trying to stream and DJ from the same computer.
3. USB-A to USB-C adaptors suck
My MacBook Pro has only USB-C, the newer type, of input sockets – four of them. Nearly every single accessory I own has USB-A type plugs or leads. I have a USB-C lead for the controller, but the Elgato Cam Link, the Logitech C920 webcam and the IK Multimedia mic are all the “old” style.
A while back, I bought a pile of cheap converters that clip over USB-A plugs and turn them into USB-C. The trouble is, if your laptop is on a stand, as soon as you add one of these to a USB-A plug, the whole thing becomes wobbly.
Read this next: Which Camera Is Best For DJ Set Livestreaming?
“Precariously balanced” is the best way to describe the webcam connection to the laptop, where just a wobble turned it off (and you had to have the whole thing plugged in one way only – turn the plug and adaptor around 180 degrees and it failed). The Elgato Cam Link was a non-starter with the laptop on the stand. And I actually had issues with the mic on the broadcast due to the lead and adaptor.
It’s a weak point, something that you want to avoid. A better solution is to get converter leads, not adaptors, of which I have one (but can’t find it…) so at least you can have the conversion going on away from the laptop, with a clean, simple plug/socket where your cable meets your laptop – but again, in truth I don’t want this complication or point of worry at all.
Next time I will definitely try to get the proper leads, or in the case of the webcam, get either a converter lead (rather than an adaptor), or – better – a new webcam with a USB-C as standard.
Copyright and the platforms we used
We broadcasted this on Twitch and YouTube. We didn’t even bother with Facebook. The stream wasn’t taken down in either place, although we received multiple YouTube copyright advisory warnings which always worry me, and just because Twitch isn’t apparently enforcing copyright control, its TOCs are clear that DJ sets are technically not allowed.
Maybe the current lockdown situation will see the record companies and media platforms putting a universal licence in place for livestreaming – maybe with a “premium” or “creator” account. We’d definitely pay a fee to be able to do this reliably, and would dearly love to stream to Facebook too.
4. The best microphone input to use is the one on your DJ controller, but…
I do have a microphone for DJing, which I haven’t used for ages, and – typically – I can’t find. So instead, I used a digital mic, the iRig Mic HD2 as mentioned above, which is handheld like a DJ mic but which plugs directly into the laptop.
Aside from the USB adaptor issue as mentioned above, though, turns out that doing this has two disadvantages.
Firstly, you’re asking your computer to do more, whereas if you just had a mic plugged into your DJ controller, its output would be part of the single audio feed.
Secondly, it’s tying up a USB socket. I have four on my MacBook, and as I want to try adding a second webcam next time, that means I need to free one of them up (power, controller, mic and webcam currently means all four are used).
And no, I dont want to use a powered USB hub to solve this, because as I said, I want to make the most simple set-up I can. I don’t want to have to remember to bring things from studio to home and back again; I want a really simple set-up that I can get running fast, to make it more likely I’ll actually stick to this new way of “gigging”.
Read this next: How To Livestream DJ Sets: 4 Ways To Do It From Anywhere
Plugging an analogue mic into the controller would seem to be the solution, but there’s a big “but”. As mentioned above, the way I sort the audio is by routing it internally in my MacBook (I use Rogue Amoeba’s Loopback to achieve this).
But microphone audio in Serato controllers is never routed to the computer – it simply goes to the analogue outputs. So there would be no microphone feed onto the livestream this way. (Traktor does let you do this by the way, not tested Rekordbox or Virtual DJ yet.)
Of course if you were using something like the Roland GO:MIXER or the iRig Stream to route your audio via USB from your controller into your laptop, that wouldn’t be an issue, but I am trying to avoid that extra complication.
Next time, I think I’ll use the combi headphones/mic socket on the MacBook to route an analogue microphone in. I’ll use the Rode SmartLav+, which I already own (although the cable is pretty short), or I may even splash out for a handheld mic that already has the right plug on it to go directly into a MacBook (a TRRS 1/8″ minijack). There are a couple of relatively inexpensive ones on Amazon: They lack an on/off button which would be useful, but I may yet try one – the’re this ChenFec mic and the Comica HRM-S.
This way, I also free up the USB, for that second webcam…
5. It’s important to lock down your webcam settings
So I realised that if you go down the webcam route for your video, those little cameras have an annoying habit of trying to refocus every once in a while (you can see it throughout my livestream).
There’s an app from Logitech for its cameras that has just come to Mac on beta called Logi Capture (also in Windows) that lets you fix focus and other things, that it is definitely worth using (I didn’t) – although it is an open question how this will impact on processor load.
Of course it would be the same with any camera, but it’s just not so easy or obvious how to get to manual settings on webcams against, say, DSLRs.
If your particular brand of webcam doesn’t have a control app, all is not necessarily lost though, because there are several “generic” control apps available in the app stores for Mac and Windows that’ll probably do the trick for you.
The plan was to set up my gear and go live for an hour – to rise to the challenge basically! It worked well. The audio was almost perfect (only a couple of glitches), and the only real tech issue was the mic cable failing once, meaning I was speaking into a silent mic for a short while.
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I definitely need to work on a microphone solution, on improving the quality of the video, and adding another view (controller close-up), but for me the overriding thing was keeping it so that setting up is fast (anywhere), making sure that whole thing is ultra reliable – and being able to clearly document how it’s done, so the other Digital DJ Tips DJs can do exactly the same thing from their gardens, balconies, compounds and studios, too.
I have a sneaking feeling that this is going to become a bit more regularly for us and an awful lot of DJs from now on.