Upgrading your church’s streaming
You’re not a big church. You’re also not a high-tech church. But you’ve been streaming your church service for the past few weeks and you realize that this is something you want to keep doing for the long haul. Streaming from a cell phone has worked up until now, but it’s time to upgrade to make the experience better.
To do basic streaming, all you need is to prop a phone up on a bookshelf and stream directly. It helps if you have a strong Wi-Fi. In some areas of our Conference, where Wi-Fi is weak, it’s better to broadcast using the data plan from your phone. If that’s the case, think about getting an unlimited data plan through your cell phone or cable provider.
Before you purchase a lot of equipment, what do you have that you can utilize? It might be possible to save money by tweaking or repairing what you can access right now.
These are the basics that many churches have already that can provide a good backbone for streaming:
- A sound board
- A wireless microphone
- An ethernet cord (either a Cat 5e or Cat 6)
The Next Level
When you’re ready to take the next step in streaming, here are some ideas:
If you’re more than four feet away from your camera or microphone, you’ll need to figure out how to capture the audio and channel it into your computer. One way is to get a sound capture card ($20-$200). If you want to record both audio and video, use a game capture card, like video gamers use. Elgato is an example and will run you about $200.
For more about what a capture card does, click here: https://www.hotrate.com/articles/what-does-a-capture-card-do/
USB Audio Interface
Simply said, an audio interface is what gets sound into and out of your computer. “This is probably the most important piece to our process,” says Mike Bechtold of First Covenant in Red Wing, when asked about his church’s streaming process. “I noticed when I plugged straight laptop into my computer, I had either looping issues or a lot of white noise feedback.”
When it comes to input, an audio interface allows you to plug in XLR cables for your microphones, or a wireless mic. You can also connect it to your church sound system output, which allows you to use your church’s microphones and band plug ins. The output of the audio interface is a USB which plugs into your computer.
To read more about audio interfaces, click here: https://www.musicrepo.com/what-is-an-audio-interface/
Bechtold recommends Focusrite (available from Amazon for about $159).
You’ll want either a web cam or a digital cam that can plug into a computer. This will give you a higher quality image. A decent camera will cost you from $150 on up. Note: the prices have increased during the pandemic. If that’s out of your price range, check around for a good used one. If you’re buying a new one, you want one that has at least 1080p resolution.
Inexpensive: Logitch C920s is a good option if you’re just entering into streaming.
Midrange: An example of a good choice for this next level is Zoom Q8 2.3K HD Handy Video Recorder with Interchangeable Mic
High end: Vaddio RoboShot 30E Elite Series camera (around $3600+). This camera allows you to easily move from panorama shot to a high definition close up. It also allows you to operate it remotely, which means you can place it on the ceiling if need be.
To read more about choosing a web cam, click here: https://www.lifewire.com/before-you-buy-a-webcam-2640480
There are several software programs available to help you produce your service.
OBS: OBS stands for Open Broadcaster Source. It’s a free, open source software designed for video streaming. It helps you design and produce your services. For example, if you pair it with Easy Worship (which is what Bechtold uses), you’re able to post song lyrics, then seamlessly switch to the Scripture reading, then switch to the preacher.
Sling Studio: This program is at the high end at $1000. It’s a portable system that can be used with multiple cameras. According to its website, it allows you to monitor, record, switch, edit and stream live HD-quality video wirelessly.
Facebook Live Producer and YouTube Studio are software programs that help you produce your live stream directly from those two sites. Tony Ducklow, president of Church Wrench, recommends going with YouTube.
“YouTube is easier to manipulate afterwards and people are going to specifically look for your account (versus randomly scrolling through Facebook),” Ducklow said.
There are also several presentation software programs to consider: Easy Worship is the one First Covenant in Red Wing uses. Others use ProPresenter. These presentation software programs provide a way for you to stream your camera source through the software first, making it much simpler to use OBS.
As you think through what you want to invest in, it’s good to ask the question if you think you’re going to do this for the next month or the next 10 months? Your answer to that question will help you decide how much time and money you want to invest in streaming.
Many thanks to Mike Bechtold (Associate Pastor of Youth, First Covenant Church, Red Wing, MN) and Tony Ducklow (Church Wrench) for their willingness to share their knowledge and experience.