BlueJeans Blog

With Only Cell Phones and $50, We Live Streamed the Sister Marches to the World

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with permission.

They marched under umbrellas in Paris and under palm trees in Rio. The sun beamed down on the crowds in Oaxaca while the fog rolled over the speakers in downtown Reykjavic. From Vienna to Phoenix they marched, and I marched alongside them, digital citizens of one, globalized, connected world.

In solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, last Saturday, January 21st, millions of marchers participated in more than 600 sister marches, spanning every continent. In partnership with the fantastic Sister March/Women’s March team, I spent more than 15 hours producing a single global event that consolidated many of those historic marches into one celebratory live-stream. Our global live stream reached millions of viewers on Facebook and solicited hundreds of thousands of shares — helping to spread the story of a LIVE Global movement across social media, and the world.

Why a Global Live Stream?

By consolidating marches from all over the world into one live-stream we could more effectively tell the story of a global movement, reach more people collectively than individual marches might be able to do, and help keep the Women's March front and center on social media from 6am to 6pm.

I came across this idea when I was trying to figure out how to create a Facebook Live event with experts across the country for the Unite For America/Hamilton Electors movement. I live stream for a living and usually work with fancy equipment and sometimes with pretty large budgets. But coming from a theater background I knew there had to be a grassroots version of the far more expensive live events we see published by major news sites. A few friends recommended BlueJeans—a browser-based conferencing app that includes Facebook Live integration. In testing the app in December, I discovered that app users could join a video conference with their cell phones… and voila! A grassroots sister march global live stream idea was born.

I’ve done a ton of Facebook Live streams for all sorts of clients, from brands to musicians, and I know how important it is to understand your audience when streaming to Facebook Live. What most people don’t understand in the midst of all the Facebook Live excitement is that the vast majority of your facebook live “viewers” are people who scroll past your live- stream in their newsfeed. Translation: Those viewer numbers at the top left-hand corner of your stream? Those are really “impressions” of viewers who have “watched” for about 3 seconds.

At best only 20% of your viewers will be interested enough to actually turn on the sound. Disappointing information at first glance, but knowledge is strategy. If you want all those “viewers” to receive your message and even “take action” via their three-second scroll, graphics are your friend and need to be an integral part of your Facebook Live strategy.

Being a video conferencing app, BlueJeans doesn’t supply graphics functionality, so I adapted the app for our grassroots use.

Our “Studio” for the day (left), and Geoff, one of my co-producers (right)

Our Method

Our tools included four computers, 1 Tricaster, the BlueJeans application, and the Tint app. I bought a membership to BlueJeans. The app worked exactly as promised, and the tech support could not have been better. They even called me back on a Saturday. All our live-streamers across the world had to do was download the free app and join my event at their scheduled time. Over and over, nervous live-streamers emailed me to tell me how easy it was to use BlueJeans.

Tint provided the Women’s March with multiple beautiful ways to display social media posts from all around the world. The Sister March social media team created a special, simple slideshow for the live stream, as that would read best in the small Facebook video player.

I brought the computer that was displaying the BlueJeans app into my Tricaster (professional multi-camera, media production equipment/switcher) as if it were a camera source so that I could add lower-thirds to the video, and kept the lower thirds up during the entire stream. That way the online audience always got the message that there were sister marches happening all over the world, even if they only scrolled by for three seconds.

I had another computer playing a Women’s March Tint slideshow, created by David and the spectacular Women’s March/Sister March team. I brought that computer in as a camera source as well, so I had something to cut to when we didn’t have any content because of lack of connectivity at the marches.

I used a third computer to monitor the live stream. A fourth computer was manned by my co-producers (thank you Geoff, Lindsay and Camille respectively) who managed the BlueJeans app and communicated with the live-streamers while I manned the Tricaster/switcher.

Was It Perfect?

No way. This was cell phone footage from very crowded marches. Connectivity was sometimes awful, and because BlueJeans is a conference app, when we lost a connection with one streamer it would immediately replace the main video with whatever content was available, which meant before I could switch a lower-third or switch to the Tint slideshow viewers sometimes saw a BlueJeans branded screen.

As our live-streamers connectivity faltered, the video would sometimes change in size. Some streams had no audio (I don’t know if that was a connectivity issue, a phone issue or an app issue), and during our first New Zealand stream there was a mic open, either in NYC or New Zealand, that caused an awful echo. And of course, video quality wise, it was cell phone footage.

Was It a Success?

YES! From Paris to Phoenix, our live streamers blew me away with their energy, their commitment, and their personal stories. We saw thousands of marchers make their way to the shores of Vancouver and the squares of Vienna and heard personal “Why I March” stories in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

I will always remember the moment when Lorraine and marchers in Paris began chanting, “This is what democracy looks like,” with the Eiffel Tower rising in the background. Geoff and I looked at each other, in astonishment and gratefulness, for the global solidarity we were experiencing in real time with citizens from all over the world.

Thank you to the incredible staff at the Sister Marches and the Women’s March for being a joy to work with. Thank you to each and every one of my intrepid, dedicated live-streaming reporters, in New Zealand and Copenhagen, in Lima and Brussels, in London, in Alberta, in Little Rock, in Montreal, in Birmingham….. I could go on and on.

Thank you to Matt, Dan, and Ben who helped me suss out technical glitches. And thank you to Geoff, Lindsay, and Camille who sat in my office with me and facilitated this live stream instead of marching themselves.

And to all, the ACLU, the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, to all of you out there, my live streaming door is always open because we are truly, globally, all in this together.