Howto: broadcast a hangout

By | May 25, 2012
Excellent set of instructions on how to run and broadcast a hangout. Not to mention, looking forward to what +CogSai has to say – this has been in planning for some time now, and I just hope my kids will let me watch when the time rolls around!

Reshared post from +Sai

The first episode of +CogSai will be going up today at 9am Eastern time. Get ready!

In prep for CogSai Live, I did some experiments with G+ Live Hangouts just now and found a few interesting behaviors that y'all may find interesting and hopefully helpful if you plan to do them yourself, and some recommendations based on them for how to run your live hangout (as well as how to link a Page to its own YouTube account).


1. Before the host starts broadcast, they should get the youtube link in the hangout using the 'embed' link next to 'start broadcast'. They should then post this as a normal share with attachment, either as themselves or as their hosting Page (as applicable), and write in the description that this is live starting at X o'clock, + mention who's participating, etc.

The only link that should be shared by anyone should be either the direct link, or a link to the post the host just made. Do not share the URL of the hangout window.

2. Just before starting broadcast, the host should lock the screen on themselves by clicking their thumbnail in the bottom. Optionally they should also switch to a screenshare of some sort of intro picture (not video) with branding for the youtube channel etc. Mind that any UI of the app hosting the picture will be visible, so be sure not to mouseover it (use alt/command tab instead) and use something without GUI surrounding it.

Unlock the screen to switch by voice, by clicking again on the (blue-border) locked thumbnail.

3. Just after the host starts broadcast, they should immediately delete the autoposted post. It has several bad properties that you don't want (e.g. it can't be edited) and the self-shared post (from #1) is better.

4. The hangout is live about 2 seconds after the countdown ends, immediately when it switches from saying 'sharing' to 'live'. Only the host can see this. They should have everyone else shut up (or mute themselves) so they can do the intro.

5. Do not use any hangout plugin at all. They will look like they work, but they do not go to stream. Screenshare does work but has low framerate, so smooth video via screenshare will look ugly.

Do use the chat sidebar. It is private between the hangout participants and will not be visible in any way on the broadcast version. Good for whatever backchannel comments you want to make live during broadcast without saying them to the audience.

6. If you want to post to a Page like +CogSai, and to the Page's YouTube account (rather than the host's personal account), you have to use a workaround:
a) Use the top right multiple-sign-in user switcher and switch to the Google account whose email address is the same as the youtube account you want to post to
b) Make a google+ personal account for that user. Name it whatever you want and make it not show up in search. This account won't be visible anywhere, but you do need it. Don't post as it etc; it's just a placeholder.
c) Switch to your personal user account, and add the fake user account to the Page's managers by its email address.
d) Switch back to the fake user account. Then switch to acting as the Page — i.e. you will be signed in to Google as the fake account, which is acting as the Page.
e) Now if you click 'start hangout' on the Page, if you set it to be live on air in the hangout window, it will go to the Page's youtube account rather than the host's personal account. Also, it will now be possible to link the Page to the youtube account in the Page's YT account settings, letting it be shown as a big G+ icon on the Page's YT channel.

It's a pain in the ass, but it's what you have to do. Hopefully G+/YT fix this at some point.

Gory details:

The URL of the hangout itself (as participants see it) is an invite to join it. It must not be shared.

The hangout host is the only person who sees the 'embed' link at the top right. If they click it, they get the youtube link for the streaming hangout. This is the link to share. It will show as working to the hangout host but not to anyone else until broadcast starts.

The link can be posted before the broadcast starts. If you do this, you can also edit the post and so forth like any normal G+ post with a YT attachment. The attached video will will have a broken thumbnail both before and during the broadcast, but will have the actual thumbnail of the video after broadcast is done and video is processed.

When you hit broadcast, there's first a confirmation button. When you hit it, there's a 10s countdown; then it takes about 1-2s while it shares the 'hangouts on air' post on host's stream saying 'sharing'; then it is immediately live and says so.

The autoposted post shows the fancy black 'live on air' thumbnail, but the post is not editable in any way, neither during nor after broadcast. After broadcast the thumbnail changes only to remove the red 'on air' at top right; it does not update to the actual thumbnail of the processed video.

Reshares of the autopost will preserve what the thumbnail looked like when it was shared. If you reshare when it's live, the reshare will still say 'live' in its thumbnail even after it's stopped broadcasting and the original doesn't say 'live' any more.

The video does not show up in the host's youtube video manager in any way until the broadcast is over and it's mostly done processing. Only the direct youtube link works. The host looking at the youtube page sees edit info, annotations, etc links on the video — but they are all broken and will generate error 500s if you try to use them. The YT video page cannot be edited in any way until it is fully processed. The only thing you can set is the title of the hangout.

Once the post is fully processed, the video can be edited by the host on youtube in all the usual ways. During processing, the video will have a 'still processing' image for everyone; afterwards, any share of the live stream will now be one of the recorded video.

The host's screen lock controls are the only ones that matter. Click a participant and they get a blue border; this forces them to get the main video. Click the one with blue border a second time and the border goes away, going back to the default state, where whoever's last loudest gets the video.

The host can force mute a participant. This takes two clicks – once on the mic icon on their thumbnail, and then again at the top to confirm. The host cannot unmute them though, and it doesn't even show that they are muted. The participant has to unmute themselves w/ the control at top right.

There are only two hangout plugins that work: screenshare, and video effects for the person using the video effect plugin (i.e. face-tracking silly hats and the like). For all other plugins, including the chat sidebar and the youtube plugin, it will show to participants but it will not show to the broadcast.

The broadcast ends immediately without confirmation when the host clicks 'end broadcast'. There's then an info dialogue for the host; clicking 'ok' on it closes the host's hangout window. However, other participants are still in the hangout and can continue the conversation — it's not broadcasting. The host can rejoin the hangout by opening the hangout's URL in a new tab, but they no longer have any of the top-right host controls. At this point it's a normal non-public hangout.

There are only two indicators that a video is actually live. In the original autopost (not reshares), the red 'on air' indicates that the hangout has either not yet started or is ongoing. In the actual youtube interface, there is a red dot and 'Live' text next to the bottom right volume control; this is the only actually reliable indicator that something is live.

Videos are posted to the youtube channel owned by email address of the google user that the host is acting as. If the host is acting as a Page, the Page's own youtube links are completely ignored.

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