Google’s Hangouts are a great way to get a group of people together online to collaborate on just about any project. However, the videoconferencing system is missing two little pieces: allowing others to just watch the session and the ability to record it.
To add those features to your broadcast, you need to switch to YouTube Live Events, which is also known as Hangouts on Air. This page will go through step-by-step how to set up an event and include other people in the recording.
Setting Up The Event
First sign into the YouTube account that will host the broadcast and recording. Click the upload button in the upper right corner of the page.
In the Live Streaming box on the right side, click Get started.
On the next page, click Events in the Live Streaming section on the left side. Then click the New live event button in the upper right corner.
On the set up page, give your event a name, and set the date and time.1 You can also add an end time but that’s not required. All times are in your local zone based on the setting below.
Add a description and some tags. These are not required but will be helpful when people find your recording later.
You can set the visibility of this event to Public, Unlisted, or Private. Unlisted means that anyone with the link can view it but it will not appear in search results. Private means that only someone logged into the account can view it. Probably best to use Unlisted until you have finished with the recording and are ready for the general public to view it.
Type will usually be Quick unless you have a need to use special video encoding software, something that will not be explained in this post.
Click Create Event. If the button says Go live now instead of Create Event, your date is set to Today and the time is set to Now (see the footnote above).
Back on your Events page, you’ll see your Hangout on Air listed, with the starting date and time. The link icon at the far right means your event is unlisted. Use the Edit button to change any of the options if necessary.
Holding the Event
When you are ready to start, come back to your Events page by clicking My Channel in the left column, then Video Manager at the top, and then Events under the Live Streaming section at the left. You can also bookmark and use the URL www.youtube.com/my_live_events.
Click Start Hangout On Air. This will open the Hangout window and you should now see yourself, assuming your camera is turned on. Otherwise, you’ll see your account avatar. Although you have set a start time for your broadcast, you can actually click the Start button anytime.
To invite others to join the broadcast (up to a maximum of ten participants), click the Invite people button at the top of the Hangouts window, to the left of the mute microphone button. Enter their email addresses one at a time in the box and click the Invite button. Or copy the URL shown and send the link to them directly. Sending the link may be more reliable, especially if your participants are not using a Gmail address.
As each person arrives for the event, their picture will appear in a box across the bottom of the screen. This is a good time for everyone to make sure their camera and microphone are working, that their sound is at a good level, and that the lighting in the room is appropriate.
When everyone is ready to go, the host should click the green Start Broadcast button at the bottom of the screen. Everything on the screen and the sounds coming through the microphones are now being recorded.
When finished, click the orange Stop Broadcast button. You will still be able to see and hear all of the participants but nothing is being recorded.
Unless you had set your hangout to private, the stream and the recording will be posted to your YouTube page. You can also get a direct link to the page anytime before starting by going to the settings page for this event (the small globe, link, or lock icon to the far right of the listing), and clicking on View on Watch Page in the upper right corner. You can also right click on this button and copy the URL.
Some advice for a successful Hangout on Air
Although it’s always nice to see everyone clearly, it’s usually more important that everyone be heard. To that end, an external sound-dampening microphone (sound-dampening helps to eliminate feedback and echo) is usually going to work much better than the one built-in to most laptops. A good quality earphone/mic combination works well for individuals.
The main window should always show the person currently talking, although any noise in the room (dogs, kids, loud fans, etc.) could cause the main view to switch. A good practice would be to ask everyone not currently speaking to mute their microphone. The person running the Hangout can also click on any of the pictures in the bottom of the screen to set their image to always be seen, regardless of where sound is coming from.
Remember, if you play any commercial music during your Hangout, you may be cited by YouTube and the video blocked. YouTube has software that automatically screens for commercial sounds (music as well as from television and movies) and it doesn’t understand the concept of fair use.
There are many additional advanced settings for each Hangout, including adding text, graphics, and polls during the broadcast, but you can safely ignore them for now.