Thinking of Live Streaming your church service? There are a host of things to consider. To be honest the whole world of live streaming is overwhelming. From the technical jargon, expensive equipment and various methods you can take.
Hopefully this article gives you a bit of clarity.
What is Live Streaming?
First off, let’s just be clear on what exactly live streaming your church service is. Live streaming is providing people a live video of your church service as it is actually happening. The live stream is provided through an online live streaming service that people can use to watch your service through their computer or smartphone device.
Live streaming is not be confused with video on demand, where you provide a pre recorded video that is published at a specific time. During the Covid 19 Crisis, many churches are opting for the video on demand option which, we will soon explain is an easier option to deliver.
Do you need to live stream?
It may be a better option to pre record your service earlier in the week and then schedule it to be published to your Facebook / Youtube channels on the weekend. Many churches are taking this option because it eliminates the stress of having to coordinate recording and live streaming simultaneously.
It also eliminates the pressure of having to get everything right on the day. For example if audio fails you can just re record and still get it out on the weekend.
Another option here is to record the church service and provide it online after the service. This helps those who perhaps couldn’t make it to church but doesn’t create the added pressure of having to get the live feed right. With this approach you can always edit the service if any part of the recording did go wrong or there was some components you didn’t want to put out there on there on the web.
Things to Consider Before Live Streaming
Ok so lets jump in with some things you may need to consider. There can be a lot of cost and time involved with live streaming, so going through some of these things will help achieve a better outcome for you and your church.
How is Your Camera and Audio Set Up?
The first thing to consider is your current audio and camera system setup.
You don’t necessarily need a multiple camera set up, but you do need to ensure the scene you stream is well lit and most importantly, the audio is clear. It is possible to live stream from a smart phone, though there are limitations in terms of how well the visual and audio can be captured.
The questions to ask around the production of your service is:
- Single fixed camera?
- Single roaming camera?
- Multiple fixed camera?
- Multiple roaming cameras?
- PTZ cameras? (remote controlled pan, tilt and zoom cameras)
Of course if you are starting out then a single fixed camera is your likely starting point. You are going to want to make sure that that camera is a good one that can sufficiently capture the scene. There are better cameras more suited to streaming your service that you should consider.
Do You Want to Include Titles, Announcements and Lower Thirds?
Most churches want to the ability to include text on their screens. Whether it’s the bible verse, song lyrics or other information, there is ample need to include text on the live feed.
These words can be either be inserted or mixed in with the video feed using a computer and presentation software such as Pro Presenter.
Option 1 – Mix Camera and Graphics Into One Computer
If your Pro Presenter computer is beefed up it may be able to handle overlaying the Pro Presenter slides over a video stream. If you have one camera with a capture system that feeds video into your PC that is also running the presentation graphics, then this may be possible.
Option 2 – Full Video Mixer Setup
Most of the time you are going to need a separate video mixer setup. The good news is these mixers used to cost at least $10k. Ouch. Now they are less than $1k for some amazing systems. And the price is going down all the time.
Option 3 – Use Your Streaming Software to Overlay Graphics
If the whole mixer thing is something you’re not ready for, inserting text can also be done later (further down the stream) if you are capturing your video feed into a computer. The software used to live stream may have the ability to insert text and graphics just prior to pushing that video through to the streaming service.
Is your Video and Audio Sources Close Together?
To stream, you need to capture both the video and audio into a capture device. If you have cameras in one part of the church building and your sound desk somewhere else, you are going to want to be able to get these close together.
Transporting HD video over a distance can be problematic, so ideally you are going to want to have your cameras and sound desk close together so this is easy to do.
I have seen many churches trip up with this one. They have bought a couple of cameras, and assumed that they can run HDMI over a distance longer than 5-10metres. They then wonder why their signal drops in and out or flickers. It’s because HDMI doesn’t run well over long distances.
To get around this you are going to need to convert your video signal to run over SDI. This is broadcast quality and what commercial stations use to transmit videos over large distances at live events. So you are going to have to either use SDI or put everything close together.
How is Your Internet Connection?
Streaming video requires a good internet connection. It’s best if you use a local area network cable (Lan Cable) rather than rely on the Wifi Connection in your church building.
You are going to make sure your facility has a good data plan with your internet service provider. The good news is that Church usually happens on a Sunday Morning, which is often off-peak for many localities. It means that your internet performance is more likely to be fast and available at this time.
How Will You Capture the Video / Audio and Stream It?
Assuming you are not going to rely on streaming on a smart phone, but streaming through some sort of audio / video source you are going to need a capture device. This is a device that takes audio and video inputs and turns it into an encoded internet ready stream.
The type of capture device you get will depend on how you intend to stream your service. Here are the things to consider:
- How will the video and audio stream be supplied? Most of the time it will be sent via HDMI
- Will the audio be embedded in the HDMI video feed? Depending on how you integrate your audio and video feeds, you may need a capture device with audio input ability
- Do you want to stream straight from the capture device to your streaming service? Some devices are built to talk to Live Streaming services such as YouTube Live which means you don’t need a computer to do this for you.
- If streaming from a computer, what inputs will the computer take? Capture devices can have a range of output options such as USB, USB3, and thunderbolt. Make sure the caputre device will be able to talk to your computer.
What Resolution Do You Want to Stream?
In most cases, a HD stream 720p will be sufficient quality for your church service streaming. If you really want to stream Full HD 1280 or even 4k, you are going to need a good quality computer and internet connection.
Video streaming is resource intensive and often the actual delivered quality is not full resolution as experienced by the end user. Therefore it makes sense most of the time to simply stream at HD 720p, which makes for good quality viewing, providing the lighting and audio quality is good.
If you intend to use a lot of graphics in your live stream, then you may want to use at least full HD. Text can become unclear at HD resolution. Just keep in mind that some people will be watching your service on their phone and may not be able to see small text very well so there is a limit to how much text you can use on a screen.
Ok hit me up. What have I missed? What did I get wrong. This topic is seriously massive and I realise that it’s changing all the time. I am speaking largely from helping my own church do live streaming. Hopefully this has helped you avoid some of the mistakes I made in the process!