Virtual gig with a green screen!

Turning live streams to live shows – Jimmy Becker, Los Angeles based entertainer, tells all!

Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and versatile entertainer Jimmy Becker gives us a ‘Behind the Scenes’ look into his set up for virtual shows – and yes, we mean shows.

Jimmy utilizes multi media elements and an audio rig that is dialed in to create a high energy, electrified experience for audiences tuning in on Facebook or Zoom, pushing the boundaries of what many artists think possible… here’s how he does it!

What inspired your approach?

Before putting my show together, I checked out other online videos and noticed most lacked the elements of actually being a “show” and lacked sound quality as well.

For my purposes, I decided to move beyond stripping everything down to a solo acoustic guitar show and instead create a live rock’n roll band experience for folks tuning in, complete with backing tracks and visual elements.

And you started with Zoom first?

Yes – the nice part about Zoom is its integrated support of green screen technology which only further advances the visual options for the performer. 

What about audio with Zoom?

The audio challenge is a bit different since I am playing and singing live with pre-recorded backing tracks as well. 

For one, there’s no way of knowing what kind of audio system the listener is using…. earbuds, airpods, a phone, tablet, or laptop speaker… or wired into something rich and full sounding.

Another challenge is understanding that the mix I was hearing in my studio wasn’t necessarily the same as what was being received on the other end.

How did you adjust to these challenges?

The first step was to do alternate mixes of the album I’m currently working on, tentatively titled “Packing House”. 

Basically, I created Karaoke style mixes… full mix with drums, bass, rhythm and acoustic guitars, strings, and backup vocals, MINUS the lead vocals and lead guitar.

During these mixes, I was careful to balance the high, mid, and low frequencies out of respect to the variety of output and speaker settings of the listener(s).

What was your process for getting these mixes and your live audio to the stream?

I downloaded the new instrumental mixes into iTunes and loaded them onto my iPad.  I connected the output of my iPad to a small Mackie mixing board that I have.  (NOTE: Do not use bluetooth… there’s too much potential for latency).

iPad connected to Mackie mixing board in order to combine Jimmy Becker’s pre- recorded mixes with his live performance audio for live stream.

Next, I connected my Shure SM58 microphone to another channel on the Mackie.  

This enabled me to balance my vocals and the green mix.  The outputs of the Mackie were routed to stereo inputs on my Focusrite 18i20 Scarlett audio module, connected directly to my iMac.

Finally, I routed my Les Paul through a vintage Marshall JMP-1 midi-preamp with a great tube-driven speaker emulator.  The outputs were routed to two more channels on the Scarlett.

How do you know when you have a good mix?

I check the mix with headphones initially instead of monitoring through my main speakers.  The reason is that the vocals will be louder in the room than everything else because they are going through the system as well as filling the room.  This can be deceptive and, once the mix has been set, it needs to be trusted!

How do you hear your mix once you start playing live? Do you use headphones?

You can use headphones, but I choose to monitor myself through the room monitors.  Even though there is a ‘slight’ signal return through the vocal mic, it’s nominal enough not to affect the overall mix on the receiving end.  I keep the volume just loud enough for me to hear what’s going on and, with so much rehearsal, I don’t need much in the way of monitors anyway.

Jimmy Becker firing on all cylinders with his latest single ‘Talk Radio’ in a clip from a recent Facebook live stream. He is positioned in front of a green screen which displays the cover of his 2017 album Barbarian Astronomer (2020).

How often did you rehearse to arrive where you are currently at with the show?

I rehearsed every song day after day.  (Note that I started this process back in March, so I’ve run the album start to finish over 100 times now.)  This enables me to concentrate on the show and not worry about whether or not I remember what to play and sing!

And you’ve figured out how to achieve this experience on Facebook live streams too?

I have found a way to use the green screen technology in Facebook Live with a free software called Open Broadcaster Software (OBS).  OBS enables some complex video/audio presentations with multiple layers including “Chroma Key”, which lets an image or video be overplayed on a green screen (or other solid color through configuration). Then, using a “Stream key”, which can be found and assigned through the Facebook Live section in Facebook, OBS can route directly to the Facebook live session, with full video – including green screen technology and images as well as audio mixes from external mixing devices in addition to the internal audio from your computer if you like.

Singdaptive Quick Tip: A tool we’ve seen used with a green screen is MotionBox and their Chroma Key feature. It’s super simple to use and something you can try out for free.

I’ve also discovered that the FaceTime camera on my iMAC (and probably those on other computers and laptops) is of average quality.
In fact, most of the latest cellphones, including my iPhone XR, have much better cameras which can be used as a substitute for the built in camera on the computer.  

There’s a software called EpocCamHD that costs about $7.99.  A host app is free for the computer and, with the cellphone connected via Wifi or USB, which is quite a bit faster, the video quality is raised substantially.  

Most software including Skype, Zoom, Facebook Live, OBS, etc, allow for the selection of a camera other than the default in the computer.  

So, Facebook or Zoom?

I think it depends on what the presenter/performer wants to accomplish.
For an open ended show where anyone in the intended audience can participate, including settings for Public or Friends, I would choose Facebook. However, for private events involving specific people in the audience, I would use Zoom because of the simplicity.

Using OBS for Facebook is a bit more complicated than what’s already integrated into Zoom, but again the flexibility for audiences to come and go as they like is really cool.  

One thing though, Facebook only recognizes input from Channels 1-2… so, my solution is to run my vocals, backing tracks, and guitar through a mixing board with effects, compression, etc and do the mix there. Then, I route the mix from the mixing board into channels 1-2 of my Focusrite 18i20 Scarlett which ensures I get a mix I am happy with.

Zoom, on the other hand, recognizes input from all 8 channels from my audio interface so there is no need to configure anything other than set levels.

Any advice for other artists looking to up their live stream game?

Your live stream set up can be as elaborate of as simple as you want it to be. Once streaming, just act like you’re in front of an audience and share your excitement as if you were performing live! 

More about Jimmy Becker:

Jimmy Becker is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter/guitarist/performer steeped in the blues, country, punk, and rock n’ roll. He has performed with Thelma Houston, Rita Coolidge, David Cassidy, Yvonne Elliman, David Pack, among many others. In a typical year he can be found performing at various breweries and events throughout California or iconic venues like the Wiltern Theater and The House of Blues as a solo act or as the lead entertainer and Mick Jagger persona in The Ultimate Stones Tribute. As a songwriter, Jimmy is fearless and versatile which you can easily pick out in his album ‘Barbarian Astronomer’ or his recent singles ‘Toxic Planet’ and ‘Wild Fire’, the latter which is inspired by his hometown of Paradise, California that was tragically affected by the 2018 Camp Fire. Find more about Jimmy’s projects and releases at You can also find him on Instagram and Facebook @rockingjimmybecker.

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