I know I haven’t shared any new posts in a long time. But with the current COVID-19 crisis, I have been busy helping several local churches start livestreaming and set up their online giving solutions. I wanted to share a few tips for churches starting out. My goal is to help churches who have never even thought about livestreaming. There will be a lot of information in this post, so, I’ll walk you through some options, starting with simple and working your way up.
I want to encourage you that your goal is not to be slick and polished and produced, your goal is to communicate effectively. I was reminded of this while watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon which was recorded from his phone at home. Don’t compare your livestream to larger churches, but also know that it’s amazing what you can accomplish on a small budget.
1) Option 1 – Livestream using a phone.
This can work fine if you mount the phone on a tripod and keep it close to the person speaking. You can buy a moment telephoto lens for phones, but I don’t think it would work well to mount the phone in the back of the sanctuary for most churches. And, the big key to using a phone for streaming is audio quality. I really recommend getting the audio for the livestream from the soundboard. You can connect the audio from the soundboard into your phone using a trrs to trs adapter, or a device like the iRig Pre, Smartrig, or Tascam iXZ. If you want to use a microphone with your phone, then check out your options from my last post.
2) Option 2 – Use a streaming device like the Mevo camera.
This is a unique little camera that can be controlled from a phone or iPad. It streams directly to Facebook or Youtube without a computer. You can read my review here which shares the pros and cons. It does need to be very close to the front of the church and you do need good wifi in the building. Our church used this when we first started but quit using probably 2 years ago because we wanted better quality. You can hook up the audio from the soundboard to the iPad that is controlling the camera using the same methods as above. It works pretty well, and I know several area churches that are using it with good results.
3) Option 3 Use Switcher Studio.
SwitcherStudio is the program/platform that we now use at our church. Basically, you can use multiple iPhones as cameras, and you can switch between them using an iPad. Like Mevo, you don’t need a separate computer and you can hook up the audio from the soundboard to the iPad controlling everything. We use cheap prepaid iPhones and remove the sim card and use them over the wifi network. We have a low ceiling and poles in our building that work well as mounts. The phones are small enough that they are not too obtrusive. One thing I really like about Switcher is that you can use your worship computer lyrics (Mac or PC) as a camera feed using the Swithercast program. If you have seen any of our recent livestreams, this is what we use. I even use it at home when we have had to cancel services for snow. SwitcherStudio is a little expensive for smaller churches, but I feel it is still a great value for the simplicity it provides. It currently costs around $30 per month, but we got in earlier when it was much cheaper. Here is our latest livestream to show you a few possibilities. To do lower thirds, we cropped the picture-in-picture vertically and moved it to the bottom of the screen.
4) Option 4 – Use a camcorder or DSLR and computer.
This gives you the most flexibility and power, but it also costs the most money. You will need a camcorder with HDMI or SDI output, a capture device to receive the input the video into the computer, and a video mixing application on your computer.
If you can’ place a camera close to the stage, this is your best choice. Here is an excellent video I found earlier this week explaining the basic setup.
You would take the HDMI feed from the camera and input it into a computer using a video capture card like the Elgato Cam Link 4K. There are more advanced capture cards that let you bring in multiple HDMI or SDI inputs. Then you would use a program like OBS (which is free), or Ecamm Live(on mac), or VMix(on windows). These programs let you mix the various feeds live, and you can also add in lower third graphics for lyrics, and incorporate your worship computer graphics. As you can guess, things can get complicated quickly, but you do have a lot of options
There are many more options I haven’t discussed, like using a hardware switcher like the Roland VR-1HD AV or the Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio HD Live Production Switcher. With a hardware switcher, you can bypass the mixing software on your computer. I also didn’t mention using a Robotic PTZ camera like the PTZOptics-20X camera. These can be controlled from a joystick, from a mobile device, or even through VMix. These cameras work well for hard to reach mounting areas.
So, that’s a lot of info to research and think about. But for the best quality livestream you will need …
1) a good internet connection. For 720p quality, you will need about a 4Mbps upload speed. You can test using speedtest.net If you have a lower speed, you would probably need to stream at standard definition instead of HD
2) good audio. This is what really makes a livestream go from just ok to amazing. We not only take the audio from our soundboard, but we mix a completely different mix using an aux mix. We do a mix using headphones to customize the sound for our livestream. We have a digital board so we do a few other things like EQ and compression to help the livestream. Here is a great video to help with the livestream audio.
Here are a few products I mentioned in this blog post. Disclaimer, some of the hardware and service links are affiliate links. I only recommend products that I use and like, and the affiliate links help cover the cost of running this blog.
It is so good to hear from you. Your posts are always filled with very valuable information. I was asked to start live streaming our church services, due to the lock down a couple weeks ago, and due to people seeing the value in it and how the gospel can be extended outside the walls of the church, was asked to establish a long term plan for continuing the live stream. I completely agree with your recommendations and comments. Keep it simple. Audio quality is more important than video quality. Another learned experience.. audio is different in an empty church. LOL
I also aligned with your recommendations based on budget. Thank you again for the insightful information. Chris