Video streaming is hot right now. Facebook still boosts live videos at the time of this writing, and people are getting used to the idea of joining, and interacting with a live stream. For this reason, churches are really starting to capitalize on live-streaming services and events. My church live streams mini-episodes of us walking through new construction, and giving missions updates, etc. To enter this world of video streaming at your church there are at least 3 pretty different price points, at least in terms of quality of production.

Video Streaming Pricepoint #1

The cheapest way to live stream is to take your smartphone, and go live. On facebook you can live-stream at 720p and the video will actually look decent. Sound quality is merely OK when you take this approach though. Nevertheless, this sort of live-streaming has its strengths.

video streaming iphone

You can easily use your smartphone while walking around, because it is highly portable. We love using this method when shooting on-location type of videos such as building updates or announcing an event from the location where it will take place. The great thing is that you don’t have to be next to a separate computer or video switcher, you just need a decent internet connection. That connection can be your wifi, or a strong LTE connection.

Basically any church can get to this level. It doesn’t matter if you have nearly no budget, because you can make use of the equipment that people likely already have.

Variations to this method

The biggest step up at this price point would be to add in better sound by attaching an external microphone (using something like this) or even your sound board (using something like this). Those sort of adapters are about $30. So at this point you can have your church’s sound board mix the audio for your live stream – a pretty sweet accomplishment.

video streaming external microphone

Another variation would be to use a gopro or other action cam, like the Yi. You can use them to get up close to the action. You could mount it up front by the person speaking, while having your phone next to the audio board. Then you could have a close-up view of the action while still getting great audio. Assuming you bought a Yi action cam, you’d be spending about $300 total for both of these steps of improvement.

Video Streaming Pricepoint #2

Now you step into a world of more possibilities, and more difficulties. At this pricepoint you would be reliant upon a computer to function as a video switcher and encoder that sends the video to facebook or youtube or whatever. You can spend as much as you want on a computer, but a PC (laptop or desktop) can handle this at about $1000. Chances are you aren’t using your computer during services anyway, so you could spend next to nothing. I say next to nothing because you will want to add a few usb video capture cards to handle your incoming video signals. We had an HD camera available to use, and odds are someone has an HD camcorder with HDMI output that they aren’t using. If not you can get them for under $500, especially used. We bought two usb capture cards for about $300 total from amazon.

video streaming usb capture card

The heart of this method involves using OBS to run your live-stream. OBS is a free, open source production software. It has a bit of a learning curve, but has a robust user forum to answer your questions.

At this point my church was able to use 2 cameras, switching between them, with basic lower thirds. Production looked pretty good at this point. In fact, I would say at this point you have begun to see the law of diminishing returns kick in. This price-point really depends on the stuff you have available, but in our case was about $300 plus cables to get signals to the computer. If you need a computer, and cameras, it could be more like $2000-4000. If that is the case, you may want to skip this step entirely and move to the third point.

Variation #1

Get some great cameras. Everyone has their preference, but I just recently bought a Canon xf300. We use cameras from a position where we can talk between each other rather easily, but you might need to use a radio system in your situation.

Variation #2

Use an on-line campus instead of Facebook Live. I’m looking into using the free resource from lifechurch called the church online platform. Why do this? Mainly because you can point ads to your online campus and stream. As of the time of this writing, you cannot do that with facebook live. With an on-line campus you control the platform that people use, and that space is worth more than a space that someone else (like facebook) controls. With some tutorials from someone like Steve Fogg you can possibly build an incredibly large on-line campus for not a lot of money.

Churches of over a few hundred to about 700 in weekly attendance will likely be in this price range. If researched and trained, you can achieve quite a lot at this level.

Video Streaming Pricepoint #3

The main differentiation at this point is the use of a video switcher. At my church we got a great deal on a quality a/v switcher. Some of the entry level choices are the Roland v1-hd, the Black Magic TV Studio HD, and DataVideo SE1200MU. These choices start at about $1,000 and go up. You’ll plug all of your cameras into one of these (or another) switcher, then have a preview monitor of some sort, plus send the program to a streaming device (possibly a computer running OBS, or something like this). Personally I would pick an ecosystem and go with that brand for all of your monitors, switchers, etc. That way everything will be compatible and is guaranteed to work together.

video streaming roland v1-hd

video streaming black magic atem television studio pro

You’ll still need to buy a camera system to go with the switcher. Some people will want a video switcher that controls Pan, Tilt, Zoom cameras remotely – like this. You’ll have to decide if you want a manned camera system or a remotely controlled one. Both have their strong points.

The main upside is that at this level you get professional looking effects, transitions, and lower thirds. Keep in mind that you will still need to make sure that your lighting is upgraded to the “awesome” level to make these cameras and switchers look their best. If you are at this pricepoint then you are likely willing to spend lots of money to get the results that you really want. I won’t spend much time describing things because you’ll be hiring a consultant anyway.

Conclusion about Video Streaming

So there you have it, three pricepoints for live video streaming at your church. Hopefully your church can use this blog entry to get an idea for how to start streaming at your church. I’m always available to talk via email about church streaming. If you have any comments or suggestions please leave a comment below!

If you’re interested in Media Ministry, check out my post on How I Use an Intern, and How I use Social Media.

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