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Livestream or prerecorded?

When creating virtual theatre, you have two options for how to deliver your content -- livestream, meaning the actors are seated at their computers and performing at the same exact time as the audience is watching, or prerecorded (also known as Video-On-Demand), where your production is basically like a movie in a virtual video store.

Which route is the better way to go? It depends on what you're trying to do, what your budget is, and how much time you have to dedicate to it. Each have their pros and cons, so here is a quick breakdwon of them to help you decide.


To me, livestream feels more theatrical than the alternative. The actors are performing just as they would in a playhouse -- and that may mean there are mistakes on display too. It heightens the sense of excitement for some (nerves for others), but it also has obvious drawbacks for that same reason.

Additionally, due to the heavy reliance on technology working as it should, you can bump into problems if the director/actors have bad bandwidth, get ill, or any number of reasons that might impact a live show. These glitches can mostly be avoided with proper planning -- don't connect wirelessly, but directly into your router, for instance. But the pressure of hoping that the Internet gods favor you can be more than some people would like to risk.

In my experience, livestream offers fewer choices to have special effects. While there are platforms and software that you can tie in to a livestream broadcast to, say, create lighting effects or other interesting visuals/sounds, due to the technology still be in its early stages, it's trickier to do these without an already-deep knowledge of programs like OBS and the like.

But, if your production is a simple, straightforwarded, no-frills show, then livestream can be a quick and much less time-consuming way to go.


Video On Demand (VOD) requires the show to be uploaded to one of the various hosting sites and tured into a short- term rental. This allows the viewer to start, pause, and stop the video as they please, whereas with Livestreaming, if you gotta go to the bathroom, you either bring the computer with you or miss out on a few minutes.

Other bonuses for VOD is the ability to edit the show as much as you want; you can add interesting effects or transitions between scenes, depending upon your knowledge of movie editing software, not to mention, clean up any mistakes. However, for some, this is a steep learning curve, not to mention requires expensive software to buy if it doesn't already come with your computer (like iMovie on most Macs).

VOD also avoids one possible pitfall of livestreaming: internet connectivity issues. You don't have to worry that an actor's signal will cut out mid-show, since you've created a finished video where you've adjusted for such blips during the rehearsal/recording process.

When it comes to comparing costs, both are fairly comprable. Most hosts will have a flat fee for streaming, ranging from $50 to $150 depending upon the show you're doing, ticket prices, etc. A few places will grant you access to their video editing software ( hooks you up with Switcher, which is only available on iOS devices), but others won't, so you need to see if paying extra is going to be a worthwhile investment for your production. Some license houses require a "closed network" (i.e. each ticketbuyer gets their own, unique link to view the show in order to avoid multiple people seeing it on the same ticket link), while smaller/independent productions can broadcast for no extra fee on YouTube or Facebook Live. And don't forget: licensing houses may charge more for a Video-On-Demand show than a one-and-done livestream due to the possibility of getting more viewers due to the longer run of a production.

Whichever route you take depends on what your skillset, needs, and time are. There's no wrong way to do a virtual show.

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