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Live Streaming Advice for Churches

live streaming

Among the many challenges I’m sure you’re wrestling with in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is how to keep teaching and shepherding your flock as people self isolate, and when meeting together becomes impossible.  I’ve had lots of requests this past week for advice and tips on streaming services or sermons online, and so have been sending the following info out.  If this is something you’re looking for some information on, the following info may be useful for you or someone in your church who can investigate streaming.

As it happens, I had recently bought some equipment to help with streaming training events, and we already had a variety of other gear, so our situation might be a bit different to how you might begin.  So here are some useful links, some tips for a basic setup using a mobile phone, and then a brief explanation of our setup using a video camera at Dundonald.

USEFUL LINKS

www.hackingchristianity.net/2020/03/covid-19-lockdown-creating-live-streamed-worship-in-3-days.html

www.streamsoflife.thunderquote.com

www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/livestream-church-service-practical-guide/

BASIC SETUP

A very simple live streaming set up is to use the Facebook app on your phone.
YouTube requires over 1000 subscribers to allow you to stream from a phone. FB allows anyone to. The challenge with using just a phone is getting decent audio into your stream. If you were filming a preacher in their front room because church is cancelled, that would be less of an issue, but in a hall or something, it would be hard to hear.

YouTube may require you to create a “Channel” in your account and then verify it, ie wait 24 hours, prior to giving you the ability to live stream.  Both Facebook and YouTube allow you to schedule a stream in advance, and people can elect to get a reminder before it begins.

You can however buy a microphone like this to plug into a phone which will increase the quality significantly, or a Rode VideoMic Me.

And a clip like this will hold your phone on any camera tripod. Bear in mind you may need to power your phone while you stream, depending on your battery life!

In the FB app, on the page for your church, one of the options for a new post is “Go Live.” It’s as simple as that!
You can increase your capability with extra kit.

USING VIDEO CAMERAS AND PA SYSTEM

A better quality live stream can be produced using a video camera that will output a signal over HDMI.

At Dundonald we used a Blackmagic ATEM Mini switcher (the piece of kit I happened to buy a month ago) to connect a single video camera with HDMI out into a laptop running a piece of software called OBS Studio (more on OBS Studio below). You will need a video camera with a “clean” HDMI feed, ie no battery indicators, minutes remaining, etc, on the picture that gets sent over the HDMI cable.

I believe if you’re using a Mac you could use this Blackmagic UltraStudio Mini to connect an HDMI camera to your computer via Thunderbolt and feed it into OBS Studio.

You could use a USB web cam instead of a video camera, and then you wouldn’t need the piece of kit that connects the video camera to the computer.  USB web cameras tend to be very wide angle, so in a hall you’d get the back of all of the congregation, and the preacher would be a tiny dot in the distance. Again, if you were filming in someone’s home, this wouldn’t be much of an issue.

We took an audio feed out of our sound desk that went into the ATEM Mini also. This will require different cables depending on your equipment.

We made up some separate slides/images to throw up at different times, ie before and after the service, and when we wanted to change the camera zoom. These were running on a separate laptop that went into the ATEM Mini also via HDMI, although OBS allows you to have other images that you add into your stream.

Putting songs into the stream is complicated when it come to licencing, though we are now using songs with words and tunes that are out of copyright or are public domain, and our musicians are producing their own arrangements, so we can include the songs in the stream and reproduce the lyrics as well.

I own a couple of 7 inch monitors which made it easier to see what we were doing, but they are not essential.

We are streaming from hired facilities which means we have challenges with things like internet access, so we’re using an EE 4G USB access point. We use about 3Gb of data per service, streaming at 3000kb/s. We dropped this down to 2000kb/s to save data!

We decided on live streaming to Facebook as we already had significant online engagement there. Though we are starting to use YouTube from this week to make it easier for people who aren’t on Facebook to access it. We’ll be able to embed the stream on the website and share a link, ie  dundonald.org/live-stream so anyone can see what’s live.

OBS Studio is free software. I downloaded it and had a fiddle around and picked up enough of how it works to make use of it. If you have someone with a bit of computer knowledge willing to spend an hour on it, they’ll figure it out.

The key things in OBS Studio seem to be:

1) Setting up the stream (in Settings) with the “key” from FB or YouTube. When you click “Go Live” in either your YouTube channel or your FB page, you’ll be presented with a string of digits. Paste this into OBS Studio before you start streaming.

2) Getting your head around “Scenes” which contain one or more “Sources”.

Create a “scene,” then in your scene add a “source”.  OBS Studio allows you to switch between multiple scenes.
So you might create a “Scene” called ‘Video Feed’.  A webcam plugged in to the computer could be a source within that scene.

You might create another Scene that contains an image of a “Welcome” slide as the source. Or one with a church logo to put up when you need to do something to the camera and you don’t want it going online!

When you’re ready, click “Start Streaming” and you can also click “Start Recording” so you end up with a copy of your stream on your computer.  Then in your YouTube or FB page, click “Start Streaming.”

If someone from your church can interact in the comments of the FB or YouTube feed, that’s really great. Paste a link to the Bible reference on Bible Gateway, welcome people who join, etc, etc.

I’m happy to chat more to someone in your church if you want some specifics. Just contact me.

In Christ

Clayton

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