“When you live stream your content, it adds an extra layer of authenticity to your brand. On YouTube, everything is stylized and heavily-edited. We want to break down those barriers and create content that’s relatable and human. We’re just 2 people who are really excited about crane machines and arcades, and we want to bring that excitement to all of our fans in the world.” - Julius, YouTuber and half of The Crane Couple.
Arcades have been a dying breed in America since the 90s, but if you visit The Crane Couple’s YouTube channel, you’d think this was a thriving industry. Based in San Diego, California, Julius & Brittani started their YouTube channel out of a mutual interest in Japanese claw machines and amusement arcades, which have seen a big resurgence recently in California and certain areas in the country. As it turns out, thousands of people share the same love for their hobbies. Their YouTube channel now has over 225K subscribers and the number is only climbing!
Like many YouTube creators, Julius & Brittani wanted to offer their fans more than the standard pre-recorded video. In fact, in April, they had the opportunity to travel to Japan - known in the community as the motherland of arcades - with funds completely crowdfunded by their fans. What better way to show their appreciation than to live stream straight from Japan?
The goal was to stream from any many locations as possible, which meant having a solution that delivers live video from anywhere they went in Japan. Here’s how they did it, and why they chose VidiU Go as their streaming encoder.
A Different Style of Engagement
“For a lot of people in the arcade community, Japan is the motherland. In Japan, you’ll see children go to the arcade after school and businessmen who go after work. There are arcades in every part of Tokyo - you can get off at a train station in Akihabara and there are multiple arcades all within walking distance. And a lot of people associate our channel with Japan since that’s where the UFO Catchers were invented. So we wanted to go there to get the proper experience.”
“We’ve always been really good at interacting with our fanbase. We’ll go through the comments in our YouTube videos and respond to as many of them as we can. But in 2018, we thought about taking this a step further and bringing our fans with us in our gaming activities. So our first live stream was from San Francisco. We took our fans through the Pier, engaged with them, and just hung out like a big family. Unlike digging through comments on YouTube, we could answer their questions then and there. The engagement we have with our fans through live streaming is unlike anything we can get through posted videos.”
“So for our Japan trip, we wanted to show everybody as much of Japan as possible. Not just the arcades - which is what our channel’s known for - but also the culture and everyday life. And the thing with live streaming is: it’s a great way to offer different types of content. Exploring the streets of Akihabara wouldn’t be that interesting in our YouTube videos, but perfect for live streaming where viewers want the full experience. On the other hand, going to a themed cafe and waiting for food isn’t something you’d want to live stream because viewers won’t want to wait. At the end of the day, it’s all about the content you want to show off.”
How They Streamed It
For Julius & Brittani, providing a high-quality live stream from both the streets of Tokyo and deep in the arcades was critical. So they used a customized IRL backpack to make it happen. Here’s the setup:
- Sony AS300
- Peak Design Everyday Backpack
- Anker & RAVPower 26K mAh power banks.
- Teradek VidiU Go
- 2x SoftBank SIM cards
- Pocket WiFi from eConnect Japan
At the heart of this streaming setup is the VidiU Go, which not only streams to any live platform, but also provides its own internet connection. It has 2x Node USB modems that connect directly to the unit and supply 4G LTE internet for twice the connectivity, and bonds them into a single, robust internet pipeline for rock-solid streaming. The bonded internet allowed Julius & Brittani to roam freely in Japan while delivering solid 1080p60 live streams.
“We heard about VidiU Go last year from an article we read on B&H. That it had HEVC that would offer a ton of data savings for live streaming. So when VidiU Go released this year, we knew we had to get one. In Japan, data isn’t cheap and connectivity is limited, especially once you start going into crowded malls and rural areas. HEVC let us stream at our normal quality but only using half the bandwidth. So instead of spending 6-7 Mbps, we were only using 3 Mbps. This saved us a lot of money and helped us stream super reliably.”
Streaming From Anywhere
“The more connections you have, the less chance of your stream dropping. On one of our streams, we went all the way out to rural Saitama to an arcade center called Everyday UFO. If you ever go here, all you’ll see is rice fields, small buildings here and there, and then this giant arcade dedicated to the world’s largest UFO Catchers.”
“We were EXTREMELY worried about possible connectivity issues here - during our last Japan trip, we attempted to do a quick livestream here on one of our phones, with pretty poor quality results. The building is large with two floors full of arcade games and other electronics, so interference combined with poor rural cell reception was likely to be an issue again, but we actually had a totally smooth streaming experience.”
“Live stream engagement is WAY better versus regular videos/VODs. We have only been running our YouTube channel for about 3 years and doing live streams for less than 1 year, but we have spent a lot of time building up a good community and it shows in our live streams. Live streams allow us to interact so much faster and more personally than simple comments on a regular video, and our audience loves being able to do the same. We usually do a lot of in-home studio style live streams, but our audience really enjoys seeing outdoor adventures and Japan in particular brought in a LOT more people than we usually see - our home streams average around 200 viewers, while our Japan streams saw around 400-600 viewers!”