The Covid 19 crisis has seen many churches scrambling to put together streaming solutions so their members can participate in church services from their homes. Even if you haven’t been affected by the crisis, it makes sense to get live streaming happening for your service so that members who can’t make it to your service can still be part of it.
Assuming you have covered the things to consider before live streaming your service, you are now ready to choose the actual platform through which you will live stream.
What is A Live Streaming Platform?
The live streaming platform is the internet service that delivers the live stream of your service to your audience. There is more to it than just putting a video up on the web.
Here are some of the things to consider when choosing a live streaming service:
- Bandwidth. Can the service deliver your video to lots of people at once?
- Resolution. Can the live streaming platform handle HD and Full HD and even 4k Streaming and ensure a high quality video is delivered?
- Usability. Is the platform easy to navigate? Can your congregation easily go to the website and find your streaming service?
- Interaction. Does the platform allow for views to interact with the videos by providing comments, likes and other forms of interaction?
- Embed. Some platforms allow you to embed the live stream onto your website. Importantly this keeps visitors on your website and not on live streaming website which could show ads and other content which could distract your audience.
Live streaming services can be very expensive. And while the old adage is true that you get what you pay for, there are some inexpensive options that can be surprisingly effective at getting your video content online.
What Choices Do You Have?
To a certain degree, the decision about which platform to live stream your church service may already be limited or even determined by the equipment you are using. For example, certain capture devices are built to work with certain platforms.
It is also important that you understand what resolution video is coming into your capture device. Typically consumer level cameras will output a 1280p Full HD signal. Once that signal is fed into your capture device, the software used to stream the video may change the resolution so that it streams well over the internet.
Facebook live is one of the most popular first choices for churches to live stream their service. Setting up your live stream using facebook live is fairly straight forward and you can do it quite quickly.
Many churches start their live streaming with Facebook Live due to its ease of use. All you need is a smart phone for a really simple setup. Though your audio can lack clarity when you use a smart phone.
Benefits of Using Facebook live for Church Streaming
- Many people are already familiar with the platform and use it everyday
- It’s free to stream to your Church page via Facebook live
- It encourages people to engage on your Facebook page, where you can share other information, links and material throughout the week
- Facebook rewards live streaming, which means your content is more likely to show up in peoples feeds during the live stream.
- Once the live stream is complete, the video is saved on your page for future viewing / reference
Cons of Using Facebook Live for Church Streaming
- The biggest issue here is that anyone can comment on a video that is being live streamed and everyone watching can see that comment. It means that if a troll posts something negative or distracting, everyone sees it. A safeguard for this is to publish through your Church Facebook Page, where hopefully, most members are vetted, and therefore less likely to post something inappropriate.
- Quality of the stream. While generally the quality of Facebook live is good, there is a lack of control over it. Furthermore, because Facebook users are typically on their mobile, and most camera streams are a 16:9 aspect ratio, the video may appear small on the users phone as they watch it.
- Maximum Length of 90 minutes. This means if your church service goes longer than an hour and a half, your stream will be cut off and your audience possibly left wondering why.
Some Technical Details About Facebook Live Streaming
The Facebook live streaming service allows for the following specifications:
- Video bitrate: no higher 2500 Kbps
- Max Resolution 720p
- Frames per second: 30
To stream live on YouTube, you are going to need to have a verified YouTube account. Your church may not have this, but it is reasonably easy to set this up.
Youtube is the second largest search engine behind Google Search, so one of the huge benefits to streaming on YouTube is that more people may discover your content through searching on the platform for things like “online church service”. If that is important to you, and your church service is particularly focused on reaching new people then YouTube may be the best platform to use.
Benefits of Live Streaming Your Church Service With YouTube
- Your video remains searchable after the live stream on the second highest searched website in the world behind google.com
- You have a lot more control over the quality settings and bitrate settings
- It’s Free!
- You can embed the live stream on your website. This is a huge plus if you want to keep your church members on your website and engage there.
Cons of Live Streaming Your Church Service with YouTube Live
- Without a doubt the biggest drawback to using YouTube live is the fact that ads will appear on the videos. These ads will be determined largely by the search history and demographic targeting of each individual user as they watch your content.
- Not everyone has a YouTube account. While it’s not essential for users to have a YouTube account to watch your live stream, they will need one if they wish to comment, subscribe or like your video. This is not a big deal if interaction is not a huge focus.
Specifications of YouTube Live Streaming
As alluded to already, the specifications for YouTube Live are far superior to Facebook Live. You can set high bitrates and resolutions which means if your audience has good internet, they are going to see a high resolution video of your church service.
How good are these specs? Well for the tech geeks, here is the numbers:
- Max bitrate 51 Mbps
- Max Resolution: 4k
- Frame Rate: up to 60fps
Do These Specs Matter When Live Streaming Church?
While these numbers are impressive, in most cases they are overkill. Church footage is typically not fast moving so you are not going to need hi frame rates and bit rates, which can help to deliver smooth motion when things are moving fast. It depends how animated your preacher is I guess??
Where these specs are going to help is the high resolution. Not so much about seeing your worship leader’s beautiful face (though that could be a bonus), but more so the clarity of text on the screen. If you are looking to add text, titles, lower thirds and bible verses to your video, then a higher resolution such as 4k or Full HD will help to ensure it is clear. Just keep in mind that your audience may be watching on their phone, where your beautiful title design work may be lost so there is a limit to this.
Perhaps Facebook and YouTube are not for your church and you want something with a little more control. There are dedicated platforms out there which allow you to stream but they will cost a monthly fee. While there are many of these platforms, here are a few of the more popular ones, as well as some specs and pricing for their entry level platforms:
This Platform has seen a rapid rise in popularity due to providing a great, accessible service. It is a very affordable service with features only seen on other more expensive platforms.
DaCast provides the ability to create your own Church channel which your members can easily access to see your live service as well as an archive of previous services.
Most importantly, you can fully control if / how people comment on your live stream and who can see them. Unlike YouTube, there wont be any third party ads at the bottom of your live stream window.
The DaCast Starter plan is just $19 per month with a bandwidth of 100GB. This makes it a suitable solution for smaller churches who are looking for a professional, inexpensive solution.
IBM Video Streaming
It seems the video streaming world is constantly changing. This service used to be called Ustream and was one of the most popular services a few years back. We used Ustream for our services and found it an excellent service.
When IBM acquired the service, they changed some of the features. It is now considered a high end professional streaming service. Starting at $99 / month you get up to 1TB of storage and a very high quality system suited to medium and large churches.
This is a live streaming service built specifically for churches. Prices start from just $29 / month for video on demand (not live) and $49 / month for the live streaming service.
What you may like about this service is the integrated backend features you wont see on generic Live Stream services such as sermon notes and small group management. Their website could do with a bit of a polish but the service itself seems robust and it’s worth a try.
As you can see there is a myriad of options when it comes to live streaming your church service. The summary of it is this:
- If you want something easy and can put up with viewer comments, Facebook Live could be right for you.
- If you want a high quality service and can put up with some third party ads on your video, YouTube live could be right.
- If you want something professional and still fairly cheap, then start with DaCast
- If you are happy to pay a bit more for a church dedicated solution, then go with SermonCast
Thats it! feel free to share your experience with live streaming services below and let me know what I missed. Over to you 🙂