Posted on

Live Streaming Checklist for Churches

church conference streaming

So you have been talking about live streaming at your church for a while now and have finally made the decision to get started. The responsibility falls on you, now you start to realize church conference streamingthat everyone (inside and outside of the church) will be watching, and a little bit of panic starts to creep in. You want to make sure you give a great first impression but are a little overwhelmed by the different obstacles that live streaming presents.

Here is a checklist of tips to help make sure things go off without a hitch….or with as few hitches as possible.

 

TEST,  TEST, and TEST AGAIN

This cannot be stressed enough. Don’t rush your first public live stream just because everyone wants to see how it looks. Very often we see churches get their equipment in on Thursday and rush to try to do their first public live stream on Sunday. While this can happen, it is not a good idea to make your first live stream public. Test it many times leading up to your service, and then run a private stream during your first real service with a few beta testers watching for you. This will allow you to see what obstacles may come up during the actual service times.

DEDICATED EQUIPMENT AND INTERNET FOR STREAMING

Imagine this scenario. You are using a computer to live stream with, and after testing multiple times during the week, you have your settings dialed in and things are set up for a seamless Sunday morning. You show up an hour before service to find that all of your settings have been changed and you have to start over. We see this happen often. That is why we recommend the computer or hardware used to live stream is dedicated to the live streaming system and not used for other tasks. Equipment such as a laptop or a device like the churchstreamer have become inexpensive in the past few years and allows almost any budget to afford dedicated equipment.  The same advice goes for your internet connection also. If you have a robust local network, ask the IT person to prioritize the connection used for live streaming so that other traffic at the church does not interfere with it. If you have a small church with a single router, you may want to disable public wifi usage during the live stream or have your Internet Service Provider bring in a second connection that is only used for live streaming..

 

ASK THE AUDIENCE FOR FEEDBACK (BUT NOT WHILE LIVE)

Your best source of feedback is your online audience. You want to tailor your live stream to give off the same vibe as your live service does. Remember that you can’t please everyone, but you can use their feedback to make sure you are creating the look and feel that is best for your church. Just make sure you don’t ask for this feedback during the live stream. If you are using a chat box or social feed with your live stream, asking for feedback during the live stream may create a negative situation that interferes with the online worship.

 

USE CLOSE UP SHOTS OF EVERYONE

As tech enthusiasts, we all want to have the perfectly framed camera angles and a very professional looking broadcast. However, we can tend to get caught up in trying to make things perfect and sometimes forget that a church broadcast should be different than a sporting event or concert. The viewers want to be part of the service the same way they are when they attend. They want to see more than just a stage and a speaker. Don’t be shy about having close up shots of the speaker and of the congregation. Bring the shot back and let them experience it through the eyes of someone on the back pew. Then zoom in and let them see the speaker just like someone sitting in the front. If available, have a camera on the side or in the front that gives them a view of the congregation and cut to it every now and then. The point is to help them get the feel of what it is like to be attending. They will thank you when they attend a service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Live Stream Audio Settings

church audio mixer

If your church is like most, the joy of your new live stream can be overshadowed by some of the technical challenges that arise.  Your streaming provider should help you with most of these problems, but one that is going to fall on your shoulders is dialing in the audio for the live stream.

What you hear on your live stream and what you hear inside the building may be two completely different qualities.  Your sound tech might have everything set up perfectly and make joyful noise during the service, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into beautiful noise once it has passed through the streaming computer or encoder.  The way that your sound is EQ’d is going to be different than you would EQ it for small laptop speakers.  Herein lies the problem with just pulling an audio out cable from the board to the streaming device or computer.

We have seen churches correct this problem a couple of different ways.  If you are lucky enough that church audio mixeryour sound tech can dial in a feed from the board just for your live stream then it is just a matter of trial and error with the settings while testing during the week.  If your sound is run by a simple board and once a week volunteers, your best bet may be to purchase a small inexpensive sound board that can be used just for live streaming.  You can take your feed from your main board and then adjust it on the fly for your live stream without affecting anything in the church.   You can pick one up for around $100 like this https://amzn.com/B00EDRUQXC

 

Posted on

Check your cords and cables

church streaming wires

Church Streaming Tip of the Day October 19 2016:

Check your cords and cables every week

Every week we get at least a few support calls because the church’s live stream just won’t work right and they have tried troubleshooting everything….or so they thought.  By the time they contact us the tech team (or in most cases the weekly volunteer) has rebooted all of the devices, checked all of the settings, and even reinstalled programs.  When our support staff asks “Have you checked all of your cables and cords”, we usually get about ten seconds of silence followed by a slightly embarrassed but relieved groan.

All of us who spend our time dealing with the tech side of a church service have become accustomed to software and devices needing maintenance and updates.  We perform those tasks so often that we church streaming wiressometimes forget to look for the simple solutions, particularly when it is equipment that we only use once or twice per week.

When printing out your streaming checklists always make sure to start with “check cables and plugs” to avoid this problem.  Often, the computers or cameras used for live streaming church services are also used in other areas of the church during the week.  Multiple hands may have touched it since last week when you live streamed with it.  Also, we have found it very helpful to use color coded stickers for any cables that are regularly unplugged to help you quickly identify if they are connected in the wrong place.  Just place a small sticker on the end of the cable that matches the color of a small stick on the port of a device that the cable should be connected to.  Then when moving stuff around the staff can just match up the colors and know that everything is connected correctly.

 

Happy Streaming, and remember to check your cables first!

 

 

Posted on

Should Your Church Stream in HD

all devices video streaming

A no-nonsense guide to streaming quality without all of the tech specs and data sheets.

I have been wanting to include the content below in many of my past blog posts but never have found a good fit for working it in.  So I decided today’s post would be all about helping people understand the varying qualities used in live streaming.  If you are looking for all of the charts and data sheets on which bitrate is best with each frame setting and size then you are in the wrong place.  If you looking for a basic opinion on what general qualities you should set your live stream to, then continue reading.

Why shouldn’t you stream at the highest quality possible?

One of the most common problems we see from broadcasters is that they try to live stream at a higher quality than their internet or equipment allows and sometimes even higher than any of their viewers can watch.  Most everyone is streaming multiple bitrates now so the viewers still get to see the stream, HD Church Streamingbut many of them will be watching the low resolution versions if you set your other streams too high.  One recent example we had was a church that was streaming 1080p with a bitrate of 6000 kbps through our system.  Their equipment could handle it and their internet connection was great.  However, when we checked the viewer stats we found that of their 224 live viewers only 2 had watched the 1080p version.  All 222 of the others had connected to either their medium (720p/1500kbps) or their low (360p/350kbps) feed.  This church had spent valuable resources on better equipment and a better internet connection and it only increased the quality for 1% of their viewers.  There is also a very good chance that those 2 viewers were watching on a normal size screen and would never notice the difference in the 720p and 1080p qualities.

What is a good setting for HD quality?

For a guide on which quality would best serve your viewers for your HD bitrate lets take a look at a company that handles many live streams each week with millions of viewers, ESPN.  In most cases ESPN sets their highest live streaming quality at 720p/2500kbps.  We feel like this is a very good example of real world HD when live streaming.  If you decide to stream at this quality then you would also want to include 1 or 2 additional lower qualities for viewers with slower internet connections (I will address this below).  If you do your research you will find that some services like Netflix will have bitrates as high as 6000kbps for their Ultra HD movies.  What you have to remember is that Netflix is serving up replay files and not live streams.  It is much easier to have a seamless streaming experience from a replay file that only has to go from the server to the viewer than it is from a live stream that has to be ingested, processed in real time, and then delivered in real time.

So what settings should I have my streams at?

What I am offering here is merely general suggestions and each broadcaster’s situation can vary.  However, here are the most common scenarios we see our broadcasters choose after testing their equipment and viewership.

  • Scenario 1:  Very good equipment and very good internet connection
    • Stream 1 – 720p/2500kbps
    • Stream 2 – 480p/800kbps
    • Stream 3 – 216p/350kbps
  • Scenario 2: Good equipment and good internet connection
    • Stream 1 – 720p/1500kbps
    • Stream 2 – 360p/500kbps
  • Scenario 3: Fair equipment and fair internet connection
    • Stream 1 – 480p/800kbps
    • Stream 2 – 216p/350kbps
  • Scenario 4: Borderline equipment or internet connection
    • Stream 1 – 216p/350kbps

 

Ultimately, you should consult your streaming provider and run a series of test before deciding your final settings.  But hopefully these scenarios give you a good starting point.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Choosing a Live Streaming Platform for Church – Customer Support

all devices video streaming

When choosing a live streaming platform for your church there are many important factors to consider.  In this post the focus will be on Customer Support.

customer supportYour viewers rely on your live stream to be on time and uninterrupted each week. Pricing and features do not matter if your stream has a problem and you can’t get it back online.  There are a lot of moving parts with live streaming – all of which can fail at any time. The stream starts at your computer or hardware encoder.  Then it travels through your internet providers network.  It then arrives at your live streaming platform where it is then sent over multiple networks to your viewers.  Throughout this workflow you are depending on your staff, your ISP, and your streaming platform to all work correctly.  If something goes wrong, you need someone to help identify where the problem is immediately.

When selecting a provider, verify they have technical support staff that have experience with your type of setup.  Make sure they are familiar with your streaming software or encoder.  Ask them about your particular local networking.  Make sure they are familiar with the type of website (embedding) you have. Confirm they respond quickly – especially on Wednesday night, Saturday, Sunday and Holidays such as Easter and Christmas. During the free trial period (which they should also offer) open a support ticket before or during a live broadcast and start your stopwatch. If you don’t get a response within 5 minutes cross them off the list.  Assuming you do get a fast response, verify they can remote in to your computer using commercial support software and properly diagnose the problem.You will have many other tasks during a live broadcast and need to make sure someone from the service provider is ready the moment you need them.