Performing a regular show has its difficulties but set design might not be one of the first considerations for an emerging artist; so often the team is so small that managing ones musical equipment takes up the breadth of ones attention – livestream comes with certain comforts, as well as a set of new challenges!
Being able to perform from the comfort of your home studio is a huge plus for anyone that’s ever had to move and set up a drum kit, but just as home studios have a certain make-shift quality to them, they might not be incredibly visually appealing and the kind you want to host a show out of. Here are some fundamentals to consider that will help you when hosting a livestream, to organize a beautiful set with what you have, and just a little bit of vision.
First of all, lighting is king. If lighting can make or break films, music videos, restaurant ambiance etc., do not take this stage lightly. Having all the best equipment in the world can’t make up for a badly lit scene, and being creative with your lighting has let many an amateur sit with professionals with means that far outclass their own.
First consider what lighting sources you have. Are you reliant on built in light sources like wall lights and overheads, or do you have designated lights you can use like a ring light? This will determine how much flexibility you have and if there’s anything worth investing in, it’s lighting. For $200, you can get an assortment of LED devices with controllable colours and temperatures, as well as a handful of reflectors. If you’re reliant on wall lights, you will have to organize your set around them, whereas with designated lights you will have flexibility of location, placement, harshness, colour amongst other crucial considerations.
Think colour! Some of our favourite shows feel so bright and vibrant because of the range of coloured lights that are incorporated into the set – our favourite movies make use of colour-grading as an atmospheric tool. If you have trouble picking colours, there are a number of websites that can provide palettes with beautiful combinations. Picking colours you can work with, and then deciding set pieces around it will also add a lot of visual harmony to your set.
Then there’s also harshness of lights! Harsh lights feel like an FBI interrogation scene and soft lights have a dreamy romantic feeling to them! Where you place the lights will make all the difference as well, so try a number of things out till you find something that excites you!
The room is dimly lit, but attention is brought to Phoebe using the fairy lights spun around her bedpost – then how at 1:29, she uses the light from her Phone to illuminate her face! She later uses a smoke machine to soften the colourful lights that spill out from her kitchen! This is her real life bedroom and with some creative direction she’s turned it into a set for a late-night TV performance.
Knowing how many cameras you have will also play a large part in your set! If you are only working with one mounted camera, then setting up good lighting should be easy enough, but you may struggle with maintaining a viewer’s attention because there is little movement and if their eyes aren’t given a number of things to focus on, they will get distracted. Even having someone move around while you perform will do wonders for maintaining view attention, but if that’s not an option for you, consider setting up 2 or 3 different camera angles and then learning how to switch between them! We have a guide here on how to achieve this when broadcasting through OBS.
Additionally, lens types can bring a lot of visual intrigue to a limited set! A fish eye lens is a drastic effect and places focus directly on one thing so for DJ sets or solo performers, this can be a great idea. Fish eye lenses tend to also be convenient and small, so they can provide interesting vantage points, like over the shoulder of a drummer, or off to the side of a keyboard player! Wide-angle lenses have an interesting curvature to them that that brings the audience directly into the scene!
What’s interesting about this video is the use of an old hand-held camera as a camera effect! It brings nostalgia as well as more visual intrigue than say if just the high-quality cameras were used. There are plenty of phone apps that can recreate this effect, and have a huge variety of other options, so get creative!
After considering what kind of cameras you can set up, how you can light specific areas and learning how to create movement – whatever kind of set you create will just be the backdrop to an already visually exciting experience. If your lighting is limited and your camera movement is limited as well, then it’s worth going all out on the set with what you have.
With even such a minimal set, but having 4 different camera angles, exciting strobe lighting for parts of the performance, and a good outfit, Ichon effectively maintains viewer attention throughout his performance. Getting a hang of lighting and camera movement can be an incredibly powerful tool in your arsenal.
Setting / Props
A tried-and-true set item is a backdrop! Any interesting wall paper you have, or a blanket you can hang strategically will go a long way to cleaning up your scene! Knowing your field of view is crucial when building your set which is why we encourage you to understand your lighting and your camera limitations first!
Once you know those, it becomes a matter of organizing your space to give the energy you wish to convey! Churches that regularly livestream might want to create a welcoming and warm environment, so they’ll stick to soft but bright and warm toned lighting, simple seating like chairs or a couch, carpets and plants. Thinking of your field of view like a ‘stage’ might help you rearrange things – move clutter out of the image, and bring simple and clean props in. You’d also be surprised how many solid set pieces you can get at the dollar store, from fake plants, painting tools, candles – get creative! Get on Pinterest and scope out ideas that can make use of the furniture you already have!
Remember to consider the visual depth of your field of vision! If you have one camera, one light source, and a flat background, it will look and feel like an instructional video and no amount of talent will make people want to stick through the entire thing. Attention is a fickle thing and it is no surprise that TED speakers who come with visual aids will have a more engaged audience, even with all the lighting and camera movement of a professional crew. You may be a musician, but make sure the audience has plenty to look at – even if that’s just the bookshelf behind you.
Notice how the bookshelves are covered in exciting colours and shapes and gives viewers more things than they could ever hope to look. In terms of lighting and camera work, it is simple and clean. A ‘less is more’ attitude has worked well for Daniel Caesar’s music!
With just some lighting direction, Tyler is able to change the entire energy of the exact same set Daniel Caesar used. The use of pink and blue in the first half and then changing the lighting colour schemes makes the space feel entirely different with no real changes to the set.
Just because you can broadcast off of your phone with little consideration doesn’t mean livestreams have to be haphazard - you should bring some intention into what your viewers will get to see! The broadcasters that know this will always attain a more engaged audience than someone who treats a paid show like an Instagram live performance.
We hope this has brought you some clarity! From us at Happin – happy streaming!