Updated: Jun 18
Livestream your online jam with these tips. With the reality of social distancing, online jams and livestreams became a reality for thousands of musicians. Well one day we can go back to a 'new normal' - whatever that is, but I believe there is no returning from this, as the possibilities that it opens are immense.
So while we had articles covering online jams and Jamulus in particular, in this article we will look into a more advanced setup so you can send your online performance on Jamulus out to a livestream such as Facebook or YouTube.
Tools of the Trade
The tools we will be needing for the job are as follows:
· Jamulus, with is free open source software
· A computer running MacOS, preferably Mojave or Catalina
· An audio interface, such as the Focusrite Solo
· A video-conferencing tool such as Zoom
So the first step is to configure your audio interface. The sample rate has to be set at 48kHz which is the only sample rate supported by Jamulus. Jamulus takes up to two channels so you can map these channels into Jamulus from your interface for uses such as:
· A stereo instrument such as an electric piano or guitar with effects
· A guitar and a microphone for singing or chatting
· Two singers with two microphones into the same computer and interface
Of course you can stick with the simplest and just route one channel with one instrument to Jamulus and that is it.
A more advanced use would be to route a whole mix of instruments and sounds into a virtual auxiliary channel pair and then route that into Jamulus. I use this technique to route a guitar with effects, a microphone and a stereo backing track to jam with my band.
Next is Jamulus, where on a Mac it does not require anything special (on a Windows computer using ReaRoute the setup is a bit different), you can route the input and output to your audio interface as you would normally on a jam session (check the Jamulus article mentioned above for more).
Loopback then is used to 'tap' Jamulus output as a source. You create a device, select Jamulus as the app you want to listen to and delete the bypass block that is added automatically.
The mute when capturing is recommended if you plan to monitor the audio coming out of OBS. I found that to be unreliable, so I'd rather disable any monitoring on OBS and un-tick that box - this then enables me to monitor the Jamulus session via my audio interface.
Since my instrument is also included in the session, I prefer to turn off direct monitoring on the interface and get used to the sound of my guitar with a bit of a delay but in sync with the band. Others may prefer the opposite, especially drummers. I've discussed this in more detail in a recent podcast episode.
On Zoom or equivalent, the setup is rather simple: just video and no audio. Gallery mode for the video will give you the now famous 'multiple little windows' aspect seen all over the web since the pandemic started. The audio is interesting, clients I helped with this setup reported it is more effective to 'leave the meeting for audio' then muting their audio in Zoom. So once the meeting is running, musicians can just opt out of audio for the meeting and leave just the video running.
OBS for the win
Finally OBS will be in charge of broadcasting the audio and video you select, so what you want is:
· 1 audio input, where you will select the virtual device created on Loopback - I called mine Jamulus session on the example
· 1 window capture, where you will select the Zoom window
To make sure I had no other interference I've disabled any other audio 'devices' in OBS settings.
Adjustment of the OBS encoder is a bit beyond the scope here (plenty of specialised articles over the web cover this in detail depending on the video resolution you want) but normally the default settings will be sufficient for a decent Facebook or YouTube livestream. OBS covers a plethora of others such as Vimeo, Twitch, etc.
Finally, an important fact. Zoom and Jamulus don't know about each other... so audio and video unlikely to be in sync. If you don't care about this you can stop reading now. But if you do, please be aware that OBS has a sync offset settings under the advanced audio properties for each audio stream. So you could use this to adjust the audio so it matches the video more closely.
With the caveat that this is a moving target, you could set up the encoders and start your jam session recording on OBS instead of streaming, and then 'clap' on your video and measure the offset between the visual and audible clap using video editing software.
A more realistic test would be to do a dummy livestream and have someone record the output (most social media outlets will record for posting after the fact) and then use that to measure. It will vary during the session (you have little control over the techniques employed by Jamulus or Zoom for their streams apart form a few settings in each), but if you get an 'average' and use that it may be decent enough.
The set-up of a livestream from OBS is quite intuitive, select the platform you want to use and it will provide a link from where there will be step by step instructions on how to get a stream key and start your show !
We know it's coming. With online jams and livestreams becoming a reality for musicians, I'm sure big companies have an eye on this and the 'iStream 2021' is just around the corner.... meanwhile, this array of cleverly arranged tools are a feasible way to take your performance live on the web while social distancing.