Helping Your Church Live Stream 2.0 *Updated*
- Live Stream a Professional Production
Live Stream a Church Event
Schedule Sunday Streams
- Basic computer skills
- Ability to install computer programs
- Access to a live streaming account (Facebook or YouTube)
Live streaming in your house of worship is likely already on your mind. You’re probably wondering if it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. A guide by Livestream stated that 3,000 religious organizations used their solution alone in 2015 to broadcast services. Our company also has over 100 house of worship customers, and that number is quickly growing. There may be quite a few reasons your thoughts are leading you towards broadcasting your services. Do you need to create a platform for those that can’t attend your service to participate? Is there a group of students away at school who want to stay involved? Do you need to provide a stream for an overflow space? Or maybe you just want to show your congregation and the world that you are progressive and embrace the demand for technology integration in the world. For any of these reasons and more, there’s a solution.
Other common reasons for live streaming in places of worship:
§ Using your live streams to advertise your church
§ Streaming as a paid service addition for weddings, baptisms, or funerals, so distant family members can be included in the moment
§ Embed link for donations directly into live streaming so those that cannot attend the service can still provide donations
1. Over 10+ Live Streaming Courses (ability to give you a great overview of the entire industry)
2. Over 4,000+ students!
3. Over 50+ 5 Star Reviews!
- Pastors of church
- Church Volunteers
- Multi-Media Co-Ordinators
- AV Production Teams
Congratulations! You have felt God’s calling to get more involved with the church’s technology used for audio and video production. God works in mysterious ways. Maybe you have been a technology whiz-kid ever since you first started using computers. Maybe you are still trying to figure out how to use your very first smartphone. Either way, your church is interested in spreading the message of God and catching up with the times using live streaming. Everything on this earth and in our path is part of an intricate plan. You should be honored to serve God with your vocation, using the gifts he has given you to help others find faith through your church. Today more than ever before people around the world are connected online. Our world is changing rapidly creating new challenges and opportunities for ministry leaders. God has built a tremendous distribution network on the internet connecting the world like never before. It’s an exciting time in history for ministers of the gospel to leverage advances in technology for good.
A friend of mine, Andrew Haley, the product evangelist for Wirecast, explained to me on a recent podcast how important technology has been to Christianity over the past 600 years. Haley explained “One of the main reasons why western religion has succeeded so greatly to this day, is because it has always taken advantage of emerging technologies… The medium isn’t the message; it’s the medium that you use to communicate the message. In the 1500s, we saw the printing press emerge, and bibles were being printed for the first time in history. We saw an explosion of what was being made available in written form, with new translations that were suddenly available all over the world… Over the past one hundred years, we have churches moving on to the radio with the early evangelical churches that have now moved into TV and televangelism… and now today we are moving into a new form of communication, where you can distribute your message on digital platforms using social media. The churches that are the most successful and most resonate with people are the ones delivering their message in the places that people are listening. Those who are producing content in a form that is consumable and makes sense in the day and age that we live in, we be to prosper from the fruits of new communication pathways.”
After working with hundreds of churches, I have set out to create an easily digestible reference guide for ministry leaders who want to leverage the power of live streaming to embolden their message. This book will include a high-level overview of live streaming that answers the foundational questions and concerns about video production and live streaming inside the church. It will also include resources for online learning, a glossary of technical terms, and a narrative that provides perspective for volunteers, pastors and tech-geeks alike. After reading this book, ministry leaders will have a better understanding of the vocabulary, workflow and growth strategies for spreading the word of God with live streaming and digital media.
Attracting new members is a top priority for most churches. So, how will live streaming your church services online help attract new members? If our church services are available online, won’t people just watch from home?
I think that Seth Haberman, better known as the “Digital Pastor” put it best when he sarcastically said “Ever since Grace Church started live streaming… I don’t have to go to church anymore. I can stay home and literally just watch church from my chair… and I don’t have to go through that stupid greeting… go and find three people and give them a fist bump. How about I give myself a fist bump?” (Haberman, 2017).
I love the context that Seth Haberman jokingly brings into the introduction to his video “The Basics of Church Streaming”. For good reason, many churches have been worried whether live streaming will keep members from coming into the church. Is it possible that your church’s current members will stay home instead of attending church in person? Yes. This is a question almost every church brings up when they start to think about live streaming.
These were legitimate concerns in the infancy stages of live streaming adoption only three to five years ago. Ever since social media websites such as YouTube and Facebook have started to allow organizations to live stream their original content for free, churches have been scrambling to figure out this new technology. Could live streaming be used to spread the message of God? Will our online viewers feel compelled to come into the church?
“Live streaming has recently become popular… super popular… not only in the church but also on social media” Haberman explains. “Live streaming can be an incredibly powerful tool for the use of the church. Churches can now reach people outside the four walls of their church in a way never before possible.” Haberman goes on to explain that “you don’t need a half a million dollar budget anymore to start live streaming” and “through live streaming, your church can reach people that are not Christian… maybe someone who is intimidated or nervous about coming into your church or church members who are simply out of town on vacation… they could be elderly members who cannot physically make it into church, or they could even be people who are looking for a church online that have come across a link to your live stream” (Haberman, 2017).
Seth Haberman is a friend of mine, who I have spoken with at great length about churches using live streaming to enhance their outreach capabilities. We both agree that the number one reason churches fail to start live streaming is out of fear. Many churches are afraid that current members may stay at home and watch the services online instead of attending in person. While this is a possibility, almost every church I have spoken to about this says that its live video program brings people into the church. “In my experience, this has not been an issue with churches I have worked with,” says Haberman (Haberman, 2017).
When we are considering the power of live streaming, we are also talking about the massive reach of social media. With the right strategy put into place, your live videos can turn online viewers into lifelong supporters of the church. New technologies are allowing churches to accept digital donations both through their websites and social media pages directly. Your influence online can now become a bridge for new members giving them the nudge of confidence they need to walk through your church’s front doors. We all must remember that watching a church service online will always pale in comparison to the real thing. The ultimate value of a church service comes from an authentic experience with God, and the community inside your church enhances those moments in a way that cannot be replicated inside an online chatroom.
While live streaming experiences like these may transcend the barriers of your church’s four walls, the heartbeat of your community will always be inside your church’s brick and mortar location. To be clearer, I believe that your church services may have a profound impact on viewers around the world. These viewers may or may not be Christians. These viewers may have spent years looking for faith in all the wrong places. With the right strategy, your online video content should have the ability to help people realize what they are missing each Sunday and prompt them to take the next logical step toward becoming closer to God and your church.
Let’s assume that the goal for your live streaming program is growing your community, accepting new members, and spreading the message of God. Accepting contributions online may become a major revenue stream to help support and grow your church. Most churches that I have worked with prefer the term “digital contributions” over “digital donations.” The words “contribution” and “contributor” generally hold higher esteem than “donations” and “donor.”
There are multiple ways to get started accepting online contributions. Perhaps the easiest way to get started is to put a button on your website. Most churches will use a PayPal account to set up a contribution button on their website, but I highly recommend Pushpay.com as well. Having a digital donation service dedicated to worship giving can have a transformational effect on your church’s fundraising capabilities. Once your donation account is all set up, you can have a simple button put on your website by copying and pasting the custom HTML code into your website editor. This button will allow your members to make financial contributions directly to your PayPal or Pushpay account. You can then transfer the funds directly to your bank account. Think about all the time you could be saving every week!
Services such as Pushpay and Tithe.ly make it easier for churches to set up recurring giving. Pushpay says “Recurring givers are the lifeblood of every church. Not only do these donors give 42% more annually than one-time donors but they also help churches maintain a steady budget during the ups and downs of giving throughout the year.” Digital giving services can help increase giving overall with online tools that include mobile giving, text giving, and membership giving management. Steve Murray, the Pastor of Real Life Church, says “Sunday morning is no longer the main place that people give. We are starting to see people giving while they are on vacation and giving on a Sunday that they are not at church. People can give directly from their seat before the buckets even get around. Young people have even started to give” (PushPay, 2018).
Kevin Johnson of the Dare to Imagine Church, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania said “We had this blizzard that came out of nowhere that just wrecked the entire east coast. Initially, we were a little concerned with what we were going to do. So, we had worship via a conference call and I’m happy to say that we did what we normally do on a regular Sunday. We couldn’t have done that just one year ago.” PushPay estimates that a church with 200 members that generally raises $250,000 per year can increase annual giving by roughly $20,000. This can come from new first-time giving, new recurring giving migrated cash-and-check givers, and the reduction of lost donations (PushPay, 2018).
It’s a good idea to put a digital contribution button right next to your live video stream on your website. You can now accept digital donations directly through major social media such as Facebook and YouTube, which I believe may be the #1 way churches can increase first time giving. Many churches embed their YouTube live stream video players on a specific page of their website. But at the same time, the live stream will also get distributed on social media networks automatically by default. I suggest putting your in-house digital donation button right next to the live video on your website with a short explanation of the church. At the same time, you will likely find that Facebook and YouTube are generating online donations for you as well. Starting in 2018, Facebook and YouTube both started making it easier for non-profit organizations to accept donations directly through their social media pages during live streams. These new features are powerful, easy to use, and incredibly scalable.
Let’s start with accepting contributions on Facebook. The first thing you will need to do is make sure that your church is registered with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) as an authorized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. You can find the official application process here (https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits). Once your church is officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) you can set up your Facebook page as a “not for profit” in the category area of your page settings.
Once Facebook approves your new page status, every time your page gets mentioned on Facebook, users will be prompted with a question about whether they would like to include a donation button for your organization as part of their post. This process is so intuitive and wide-reaching my team was able to raise $90 for a local non-profit in West Chester, Pennsylvania by accident! We were live streaming a local fashion show where the Family Lives On Foundation was involved. Simply because we “tagged” this organization in our Facebook live stream post, it prompted us to include a donation button. We raised $90 for this charity without even planning on it!
Armed with this knowledge you can empower organizations that want to support you by collecting donations online on your behalf. You can also include a convenient button for your viewers to donate with directly inside the Facebook platform. Facebook does a fantastic job collecting donations, potentially sharing your events with connected networks which can promote others to join in on the giving. For example, when you donate, you can select whether others will be able to see your donation in the stream chatroom. You can also request that your donation remain private as well.
Facebook says this about fundraising on the platform “Before making your ask, build a strong Facebook presence. You’ll want to post 2-3 times per week to tell your organization’s story and the impact you’ve had. When you’re ready to make your appeal to donors, do so in a thoughtful way. When you post, include a call to action that makes it clear what you’re asking for and what your organization’s priorities are.” If you are live streaming your Sunday services, this is the perfect place to deliver your value and make a compelling pitch (Facebook, 2016).
YouTube offers a similar feature called “Super Chat.” Super Chats are highlighted messages inside the YouTube Live chatroom that include a monetary contribution to your organization. Again, your organization will have to be registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit with Google to accept tax-free donations. Once you are all set up, other YouTube channels can elect to send donations from their channels to live stream directly to your organization as well. This is a great way to enable other organizations to sponsor your church and accept donations on your behalf. Does someone in your church have a large following on YouTube? Do you have an event that might attract a large audience? These are perfect opportunities to raise funds on social media.
Note: YouTube is currently in the process of implementing a new feature called Super Chats for Good. Currently, YouTube requires channels to have 1,000 subscribers to use the Super Chat feature. Super Chat for Good allows any channel with Super Chat enabled to direct funds to a charity of the owner’s choice. 100% of all donations are given to the charity selected (YouTube Help, 2018).
Another great way to start accepting donations through YouTube is through a feature called cards. Cards show up in the top right portion of your video as a little circle with an “i” which stands for more “information.” These cards can include information about where the donation is going, and you can select any 501(c)(3) non-profit in Google’s registered database. This is a great feature to include in all of your YouTube live streams and videos. You can add cards to your existing live streams and video using the YouTube video editor in the creator studio.
As you can see, connecting your church on social media can significantly increase the number of online contributions your church can receive. It will also make your church more visible to outside organizations that want to help. Getting your social media accounts up and running will make it easier for others to make contributions to your organization.
To get the most out of these tools, a little strategy can go a long way. Taking a moment to explain the tools you are using to your church members and your online audience will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your fundraising. When it comes time for collections at your church, simply mentioning that there is an online contribution option should suggest to your live stream viewers that they can donate online. Making it a part of your regular routine should pay dividends in the future. Remember to mention the new tools you are using, and your digital contributions will flourish. Acknowledging your online audience's requests for prayers and other comments can also go a long way.
Houses of worship are unique spaces that require special attention to design and detail throughout technology upgrade projects. When it comes time to designing a live streaming system for your church, it’s important to think about your organization's goals. If your media team is currently recording and editing videos of your services to upload to YouTube or Facebook, live video production may become a huge time saver. Bryce Boynton, the Audio Director for Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette Colorado, says “I am very excited that Flatirons is now live streaming services to the web. This has been a large undertaking because we have always post-produced services for the web. We have spent a lot of time contemplating how to maintain quality, but now in a live setting. The goal in this is to have a post-produced quality service by the time the last chord is played.” Your church’s online videos may very well be the first impression many potential members will see when they are “church shopping.” A well designed live streaming system can eliminate tons of post-production work, while at the same time provide an experience your online viewers will love (Boynton, 2018).
The ideal church live streaming system should be simple enough for volunteer operators to use, but robust enough to create an engaging experience for online viewers. Putting yourself in the online viewer’s shoes for a moment, the online experience should prompt a positive action such as sharing the video on Facebook or emailing a link to friends and family. When a viewer shares a live stream from your church, this opens opportunities for digital donations that can spread throughout their social media network.
Let’s consider building the ideal church streaming system in 5 easy steps.
1. Leveraging existing equipment in the church
2. Selecting a video production switcher
3. Selecting cameras
4. Working with volunteers
5. Considering Christian music copyright law
Working with volunteers is so essential to most church streaming projects that the entire system is often designed to support them. This means that everything needs to be straightforward. The
KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) principle says that we should only add as much complexity as is needed to get the job done. You should only add additional equipment and production capabilities once your team is comfortable and ready for new challenges. Simply having members of your team read through this book can help jumpstart their understanding. Consider having your team listen to the audio version in the car on their way to church. This is a great way to increase their capacity to do more for the church when it comes to video production.
Now that we have come this far, I want to make sure we talk about some basic audiovisual principles, devices, and cables. Perhaps the most important basic principle of audiovisual is that audio is the foundation of everything. If your audio is somehow not in order, there is no amount of amazing video that will save your video recordings or live streams from complete disaster. The great news for most churches is that the in-room audio system you already have installed will work perfectly when connected to your live streaming and video production system.
Let’s start with audio since it is so very important. The audio board is essentially the heart of your audiovisual system. Someone from your church generally has a good understanding of how it works. Most churches label every input of their audio mixer allowing operators to quickly identify which audio input they are working with at any given time. These inputs range from gooseneck microphones on the podium to wireless microphone receivers which correspond with microphones given to the pastors and on-stage talent. Audio mixers also include many audio outputs that may be used for powering speakers inside the church, sending audio to remote locations, and sending audio to your live streaming computer. These audio outputs can be used with either XLR or quarter inch (1/4”) audio cables which can be either stereo or mono. If they are stereo outputs, this means that they have left, and right channels separated, and you will need to use two cables to get a balanced audio signal. If they are mono outputs, this means that both the left and right audio channels are paired into a single cable.
To bring these audio output cables into your live streaming computer, you will need a device called a USB audio interface. You can purchase these for under $50, and they take your main audio mixer’s XLR or ¼ inch audio cables and convert them into USB. Now you can bring in the audio from your USB audio interface directly into your live streaming software in the same way that you would connect a USB webcam. In an upcoming chapter, we will cover audio in more depth. But for now, understand that you can easily work with your existing audio mixer to bring all your audio sources directly into your live streaming computer. Also, know that audio engineering and audio mixing is considered high art in audiovisual technology. Therefore, it’s important to consult a professional when you are setting up a complex audio mixing system for your church. Take care to remember the easy things such as replacing the batteries in your wireless microphones before every Sunday. Once your audio system is all set up, you should be in good shape, and the system will require minimal support.
Churches with a live band have much more complex audio system requirements. The band leader will generally take responsibility for the audio system integration which is shared with the pastor for in-room audio amplification. It is now popular for church bands to use a digital audio workstation software, also known as a DAW, to enhance the band's performances. Popular DAW software includes Ableton Live, Pro Tools and Logic. These programs run on a Windows or Mac OS computer and provide tools for band management such as backing tracks, click tracks, and audio prompts. I have heard nothing but good things about church bands that use DAW software to increase on stage communication and backing musical support.
Ableton Live has become an industry standard for live performances, and many churches throughout the world use it. Doug Lawes from the Keys Vineyard Community Church in Big Pine Key Florida has helped me put together a video about his audio-visual system which uses Ableton Live as the “workhorse” of his system. Doug can program Ableton Live each week for the songs his band plans to play on stage. For Keys Vineyard Community Church, the musical performances made by the band each week are a central highlight for the service. Ableton Live is used to sync up the entire band using a click track to the tempo of the song. This click track is made available to each band member wearing an “in-ear monitor” headset. The in-ear monitor headsets can include tracks of spoken words that prompt the band such as “Chorus One in 3,2,1… Verse 2 in 3,2,1.” Ableton Live is also used to synchronize the lighting system to display the correct colors and light movements throughout the performance. The Keys Vineyard Community Church is even using Ableton to sync up the lyrics that are being displayed over camera video outputs. I highly suggest watching our online YouTube videos with Doug Lawes to learn more about the ways he uses Ableton Live throughout his church services.
Just search YouTube for “Professional Church Streaming | An Interview with a Pro - Doug Lawes.”
The diagram above shows just how essential audio can be to the entire audiovisual system in an interesting way. The music tracks can become the clock which the digital audio workstation uses to trigger other audiovisual systems in time. As you can see here, Ableton is used to enhance the music production by integrating with companies that provide backing tracks for popular Christian music such as MultiTracks.com and the Loop Community. These companies can provide songs with multiple tracks allowing your church band to “fill in their sound” with instruments that they may not have a member available to play. Ableton is also being used to automate song lyrics than can be displayed on top of the live camera feeds shown throughout the worship space, using software such as ProPresenter or EasyWorship. Finally, you can see that Ableton Live is being used to automate the control of church lighting and even PTZ cameras. All of this is quite advanced, but I found it important to note how powerful audio production software can be inside a church where music is so very central to the service.
On the video side of things, I want to familiarize you with many of the cables, connectors, and devices that you may come in contact with as you build out and support your audiovisual system. Many of us are very familiar with HDMI, but a lesser known cable that is equal in importance is called SDI. HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. SDI stands for Serial Digital Interface. These two video cables have been the standard for transporting video ever since I have been working in the video production industry in 2008.
In recent years, a major upgrade in technology known as “IP based Video Production” has been sweeping the industry. IP based video production uses regular ethernet cables to transport video signals reliably over a local area network (LAN). IP technology is so important that I have dedicated Chapter 11 to review this topic in more detail. I also have an entire course that you can take for free on the NewTek NDI available on UDEMY.com for further learning. For now, let’s clarify the different types of ethernet cabling.
Ethernet cabling and CAT(5, 6 or 7) cables are generally words used to reference the same thing. Ethernet cables come in a variety of quality levels which have to do with the maximum bandwidth and distances these cables can be used to support. Cat 5e is the most commonly used ethernet cable for video production. This is because Cat 5e is relatively inexpensive and it supports a full gigabit of bandwidth. A gigabit of data is generally more than enough bandwidth to transfer professionally compressed video signals. For comparison, a 3G-SDI cable can support up to three gigabits of data which is ideal for uncompressed 1080p high definition video at 60 frames per second. Since Cat5e cabling only supports one gigabit of data, it can only be used for 1080p60fps video when it is compressed. With the recent advancements in compression technology, gigabit ethernet has opened a whole new world of possibilities. It’s normal to have slightly compressed 1080p video transfer at bandwidths of just 100-200 megabits per second. A new technology known as NDI-HX is a high-efficiency compression that transfers 1080p60fps video at only 12 megabits per second. This allows you to send multiple sources of HD video down a single Cat5e cable. Let’s look at the details regarding various qualities of ethernet cabling below.
I have included the chart above as a reference tool you can use when you are thinking about running video cables. Churches are generally very large spaces and running a cable to a camera mounted inside the church can require upwards of one hundred feet of cabling. One major benefit of ethernet cabling is its ability to provide data and power over a single cable. This means that you can run a single ethernet cable to a camera which can power the device, control the device, and provide an audio/video stream. Therefore we are dedicating an entire chapter of this book to the power of networking. In the years to come, traditional HDMI and SDI video cabling will slowly start to make way for the world of IP. But the major roadblock to success is usually just the lack of networking knowledge available to the public.
Another benefit to ethernet cabling is how easy the cable is to make. Your volunteer team can easily create ethernet cables at custom lengths for your next project without the need of expert soldering tools. Ethernet cabling can be purchased in standard lengths or bulk boxes for larger projects. Your team can use simple crimping tools at each of the cable for convenient non-technical installation.
Now that we have talked about cables let’s talk about video hardware. I consider capture cards to be one of the most important tools in a video production tool bag. Capture cards come in all shapes and sizes, but generally, these devices take a video signal and convert it to USB. Usually, these devices will take an SDI or HDMI video signal and convert it for use with USB 3.0. This allows you to quickly connect your live streaming computer to another laptop, camera, or other video device and bring it into the computer and software you are using. Capture cards are a great way to get started on a budget because they cost less than $300.
Many churches that want to have multiple cameras will install professional PCIe capture cards inside a custom-built computer. These capture devices are called PCIe capture cards. PCIe stands for “peripheral component interconnect express,” and they allow you to put multiple video inputs and outputs directly inside your very own custom-built computer. Most video professionals know that building a custom live streaming computer is the most cost-effective way to get the best “bang for the buck.” While it may seem daunting to build a custom computer, you will save thousands of dollars by doing so when you compare it to the cost of off the shelf live streaming systems. If you are going to need more than just one or two cameras, I highly suggest building a custom computer with a PCIe capture card. Another way to get started with a multi-camera system is to consider a solution like the PTZOptics Producer Plus Kit. This kit includes a super-fast Intel NUC computer with an external PCIe card solution that supports up to four cameras.
Getting video into your live streaming software is the easy part. Extending the video from your live streaming computer to multiple displays throughout your church is where things can get a little more difficult. A very popular way to distribute video inside a church is an HDMI extender. HDMI extenders usually use CAT 5e cabling to extend HDMI signals long distances with transmitter and receiver boxes that provide HDMI inputs and outputs at either end. There are multiple types of devices used to design a video extension system, and I have prepared the chart below for your reference.
There are so many unique needs for churches to display video throughout their facilities that the above reference chart should be useful. In our chapter on networking, we will also review new ways to distribute video over your local area network which may very well be the most cost-effective way to extend video across your facility.
Finally, I want to mention some of the popular cameras and controllers used in many churches. We already mentioned why PTZ cameras are so popular inside churches. They are discreet, and they provide a powerful optical zoom which is useful in large spaces. Still, in higher end video production systems, you will find traditional “over the shoulder” style cameras mounted on tripods with camera operators. Most PTZ cameras are controlled over ethernet. The simplicity of running a single ethernet cable to a PTZ camera to power, control, and capture video is a real technological breakthrough. This is becoming so popular, most live streaming software companies are including built-in PTZ camera controls right inside their software interfaces. Some notable software providing integrated PTZ camera controls include: OBS, Wirecast, vMix, Livestream Studio, MimoLive, and the NewTek TriCaster. With integrated camera controls your volunteers can view an organized collection of pictures that each represent exactly where the camera will go inside your church when the picture is clicked. This allows churches to cover various locations inside the church with a small number of PTZ cameras. It also allows the entire system to be operated easily by a single volunteer.
Still, many churches like to provide volunteers with an intuitive joystick controller. Joystick controllers are ideal for video production desks because they represent a valuable job for a volunteer. If you are looking to grow your volunteer team, having a dedicated joystick operator can add a lot of production value to your videos. A single joystick controller can control multiple cameras, and with a little teamwork, volunteers can capture an entire church service with relative ease.
Finally, on the video side of things, we must consider our pastor's presentations. I am always surprised by how many churches still use an overhead projector with transparency slides. It’s a distant memory, but I can still remember seeing transparencies used with a piece of paper placed on top to hide the unsung verses. Many churches have moved over to PowerPoint which is great because the software is incredibly straightforward. Unfortunately, I still hear from pastors who say they are spending more time preparing their PowerPoints than they do preparing for the sermon. This is where worship presentation software like EasyWorship and ProPresenter have saved the day. Modern worship presentation software now includes resource libraries full of Christian songs and Bible scriptures available in a searchable database. I enjoy working the drag and drop scheduling features for presentation arrangement that are designed for worship spaces. I find that dedicated worship presentation software will minimize the amount of time volunteers and pastors will need to spend organizing song lyrics especially. They generally make the entire presentation look and feel more professional as well. An interesting feature you may want to check out is called the “Foldback”. Dan Willard from EasyWorship says “The foldback (aka, stage monitor or confidence monitor) is a separate output that comes from the computer to a monitor on stage or at the back of the sanctuary for everyone on stage to see. It includes elements of the presentation that are not on your main congregation display like a clock and the next line or item view.” This is a great way to increase communications between your on-stage pastor and the church media team’s operator. Dan says “It can also include service start and end countdown clocks. If the operator ever gets to the next slide late, it’s okay because you can already see what line is coming up next” (Willard, 2018).
There are a couple of different ways you can incorporate your presentations into your live streaming software. The easiest way is a simple PowerPoint import. vMix supports this type of simple integration but some software, like OBS, does not support PowerPoint imports. EasyWorship and ProPresenter support NDI outputs which can easily become an input into your video production software. In some cases, you will have to use a “Desktop Capture” to pull in your presentation from a secondary monitor on the same computer. To do this you can use a desktop capture input inside your live streaming software. Using this option, you can choose which screen you want to capture. This will bring in a video input into your software that will mirror whatever you have currently on the selected display. To do this, many churches will dedicate an entire screen to PowerPoint. As the church service switches focus from the PowerPoint slides, the video production team may decide to switch to live camera feeds and other video sources that are available to them.
I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Pastor Johnson of The Olivet United Methodist Church in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. I have helped train his media team on the live streaming and audiovisual systems they have installed. The system uses much of what we have talked about in this book and puts it into the context of a real church. Let’s start with the live streaming system they have installed and then we can review how they use the projectors and LCD monitors throughout the facility for image magnification.
It’s time to review how you can tune your audio and video gear inside the church for optimal performance. Many times, churches have amazing lighting and beautifully colored stained glass. It’s also common for churches to have lots of hard surfaces and challenging acoustics. When you start to build out an audio-visual system with multiple cameras and microphones, you need to make sure that each camera matches the entire set and your audio mix for each input is well balanced. Let’s start by reviewing some camera basics and then we will dig into a high-level overview of audio mixing.
The first place we want to start with any camera is exposure. In order to get the perfect camera exposure, we need to work with a few core camera settings which include Iris, Shutter Speed, and Gain. Ideally, we want to keep gain (also known as ISO) as low as possible. Start by setting up the cameras in your space with the lighting you plan to use turned on. Try your best to perform your testing during the same time of day that you plan to live stream and record your video at. Churches often have a lot of natural daylight that could significantly alter your manual settings if you set up everything in the evening. Start by referencing the 180-degree shutter speed rule which says that your shutter speed should be double the frame rate that you are recording or broadcasting in.
For example, if you are live streaming in 1080p @ 30 frames per second then your shutter speed should be set to 1/60. The 180-degree shutter speed rule helps to keep your video looking realistic and smooth to viewers. If your shutter speed is too fast than your video starts to look artificial and object movement looks too crisp and overly detailed. Humans are used to seeing a certain amount of blur when we see an object move quickly in front of our eyes. I highly suggest setting up all your cameras in manual mode when you are tuning your camera's exposure. In this way, you can lock your camera's shutter speed and adjust the iris until you capture the ideal exposure.
The iris of your camera is the opening of the lens which lets a controlled amount of light shine on your camera’s sensor. The aperture, also known as the f/stop, controls the opening of the iris. A large aperture (small f/stop number), will create a shallow depth of field. A small aperture (large f/stop number), will create a large depth of field where everything in view is in focus. For recording and streaming live video, our most important goal is to make sure the video looks realistic. With a slow shutter speed that is too slow, objects on camera will look blurry as they move. With a shutter speed that is too fast, moving objects will look un-realistic.
Depending on the lighting available in your church many cameras offer additional features for enhancing the quality of your image. To get the most out of your camera's sensor you will want to create the ideal exposure erroring on the side of slighting under exposed versus over exposed. Photographers call this technique creating a “flat” image because an over exposed image will lose some details as the black and whites are crushed before the image reaches its final destination. For a photographer the “final destination” is generally a photo editing software such as Photoshop. For a live video production, the “final destination” is your video production software and the CDN you are streaming to. If you can create the perfect exposure with a slightly flat image, you can enhance the overall video quality in your video production software using color correction tools to create the best possible live video feed.
You should have a good quality picture coming into your live streaming software before you start tweaking additional camera settings such as contrast, luminance, gamma and hue. Once you have your exposure set properly, it’s time to set the cameras white balance. Some cameras support an auto-white balance option which allows the operator to zoom into a white sheet of paper and press a button that adjusts the camera’s white balance automatically. Some cameras, like the PTZOptics cameras, support color balancing based on the Kelvin scale which is a scale of color temperatures used in modern lighting. Many churches have older tungsten lighting which puts off a very yellow 3000-3400 Kelvin color light. Other churches have plenty of daylight which is more in the 5500-6500 Kelvin range.
Once your white balance is set properly, many professionals will use a color checker card which is a physical card with every color of the rainbow displayed. You can zoom your cameras into this card to cross reference each video feed and make sure every camera is representing each color identically. Here is a step by step guide for tuning your cameras:
Set up your lighting. Light the room or subject you plan to use.
Set the exposure of your cameras to a slightly underexposed flat image.
Use a white balance card to make sure your white balance is set up properly Adjust your white balance to get a perfect scale of whites to blacks.
Now use a color checker card to make sure your camera’s color are being displayed accurately
Use your video production software tools for color correction and final tuning.
One of the key mistakes with color correction is trying to make all the adjustments inside the camera. Many times, the highlights can be blown out before they even get into your video production software. Using a vector scope and waveform monitor can help you see exactly what you are working with. Looking at professional tools like this can help you bring down the range of your camera to make sure that you are not clipping your sensors capabilities. These tools make sure that you are not crushing the blacks or overexposing the whites with the settings in your camera. The waveform monitor specifically allows users to stretch the exposure to the perfect white and black settings.
A vector scope is a tool that represents the color of your camera’s image. It’s an x and y graph that represents the color accuracy of your live video feed. At the top of a vector scope you have red, toward the bottom you have cyan and there is also a green like what you may have seen in color correction software. The vector scope graph allows you to see the balance of colors coming from your live video camera. To accurately tune your camera, you can put up a color chart in your space and zoom into it with your camera.
The waveform monitor is the counterpart of the vector scope used to handle brightness and exposure. With a waveform monitor, you can easily see if your image is clipping at the top or if the blacks are getting crushed. The waveform monitor will allow camera operators the ability to adjust the image preferably in the camera first to ensure your image has a good exposure. Using the waveform monitor to influence your camera settings adjustments, you want your camera’s image to be within the range of your monitor.
It’s a wise idea to purchase good quality monitors for your video production team. Trying to color match multiple cameras with a low-quality monitor is an impossible task. Using tools like the waveform monitor and vector scope will make the job easier. Do yourself a favor and purchase at least one good quality video monitor.
Now let’s start our high-level conversation about mixing audio by looking at a frequency range chart above. This chart includes all the instruments of an orchestra next to the human voice. Audio is measured in hertz which is the “derived unit of frequency in the International System of Units (SI) and is defined as one cycle per second” (Wikipedia, 2019). I know this sounds incredibly complicated but essentially each instrument above will produce audio in the ranges shown on the chart above (Netcom, 2019). As you can see, understanding the difference between each instrument and how they should sound in your church’s audio mixing board should be considered a high art. In this book, we are simply going to review some high levels suggestions to improve your church’s audio mix and refer you to an amazing book by Dr. Barry R. Hill called “Mixing for God”. Mixing for God is the best book I have found on the subject which truly is a “Volunteer’s Guide to Church Sound.”
As you create the audio mix for your church’s sound, you want to listen to each instrument individually. Don’t make the mistake of only listening to the instruments through your audio mixer. The job of an audio engineer is to understand what each instrument sounds like in real life and then tune the audio board appropriately. You should ask performers to play their instruments for you so that you can listen for sonic qualities. It’s a great idea to ask each instrumentalist and singer to play a scale for you so that you can get an idea of what they sound like in the space without the microphones and audio mixer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Maybe you can ask performers if they have a specific microphone they like to use. Some performers may even have experience using an EQ and they can give you advice on which frequencies to cut in their input.
Once you have a good idea of what each instrument should sound like cataloged in your brain, you are ready to move over to the mixing board. Now you will want to use the “solo” feature of the mixing board to listen to each instrumentalist individually through your audio mixer. Make sure that you have high quality headphones that allow you to hear each instrument and the entire mix when you need to without distraction (don’t use ear buds). A well-trained audio engineer should be able to pick out each instrument just by listening to the entire mix. But if you are just getting started, try using the solo button to hone in on one instrument at a time. A great tip for volunteers interested in audio production is pick out a favorite DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software and create recordings that you can take home with you. If you take home a 16-channel multi-track audio recording, you can spend time during the week, creating a mix that you can bring back to church the following Sunday.
Once you have listened to each instrument individually it’s time to create an overall audio mix. Looking at a chart that helps you reference each individual instrument frequency ranges will help you equalize each input. Simply knowing that the human voice has a range of 80 Hz- 8,000 Hz can help you significantly when you are mixing your audio. If you have a singer's microphone picking up frequencies above 8,000 Hz you can bet that they are not coming from the singer’s voice. If you are picking up low end frequencies below 80 Hz then you know they are also coming something other than the singer’s voice.
The picture above shows a parametric equalizer used to equalize the voice of a singer. After listening to the singer and knowing that human voice cannot go below 80 Hz a high-pass (same as a low-cut) filter, can be applied starting at roughly 80 Hz. On the other end of the spectrum you can see a low-pass (same as a high-cut) filter used to remove noise on the high end of the frequency spectrum. Using simple high and low pass filters are a great place to start cleaning up your audio mix.
Once you have cleaned up the audio with filters, it’s time to enhance the audio’s “texture” with the EQ. Often, I find that churches have the audio mixer EQ knobs adjusted to what seems like random positions. Start by setting all your frequency knobs back to the 12 o’clock position. From here you can start to enhance the sound of each instrument. You may find it helpful to put words to each category of your audio mixers equalization section. Using these words can help you try to visualize the way you are sculpting each input with your EQ.
There is so much more to learn about audio mixing. If you have the passion to learn about audio mixing on behalf of your church I highly recommend reading, Mixing for God by Dr. Barry Hill. Dr. Barry R. Hill is professor of music and director of the Audio & Music Production degree program at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. One of his students now works with our team helping us tune our audio systems both in studio and on site when we setup live video productions.
The purpose of this chapter will be to provide a basic understanding of how IP networks are set up as it applies to video production. To help churches start at a crawl and eventually make it to a run, we will be focusing on the NewTek NDI (Network Device Interface) IP video production standard mentioned throughout this book. NDI is a paradigm shift that will increase what is possible in all things live video. In this chapter, we will think outside the box about how to plan out live streaming and video production systems in the world of IP. Using standard networking infrastructure, NDI will enable you to do more with less. Together we will uncover new possibilities for low budget streaming and high-end video production systems alike as we move toward the future of broadcast video over IP. If you want to get started testing out NDI right away, you can download a free set of NDI tools at newtek.com/ndi/tools.
Choosing a live streaming software is like buying a tool kit. You need to determine the tools you need today and may need in the future. The follow graphs and subsequent video productions courses will give you a good idea of where the top live streaming software options fit into the market.
In today’s video we are going to demonstrate how you can overlay lyrics and scripture onto your videos in church. We will be using EasyWorship and the NDI output functionality to pull this video into our live streaming software vMix, but we will also be showing how this can work with OBS which is a popular free live streaming software.
There are actually two ways to use EasyWorship to bring in your lyrics and scripture into your live streaming software and/or projected media in your church.
The first way is to bring in an NDI camera feed directly into EasyWorship using the feed editor. In this way, you can use your PTZOptics NDI cameras as the background of your lyrics and send the entire video feed and lyrics into any software that supports NDI. We have a really nice video available reviewing this feature already available on YouTube so today we will be showing off another potentially more flexible way of overlaying your lyrics and scripture using the NDI output of EasyWorship and pulling that alpha channel video feed directly into your favorite live streaming software that supports NDI.
Let’s demonstrate how this can be done first in OBS. This same approach will work with Wirecast, xSplit, vMix and other streaming software that supports NDI. So the first thing we need to do is set up our video output from EasyWorship to be NDI. Once this is done, any slide that we are displaying in EasyWorship will be available in our video production software. Let’s show how we can add this NDI input into OBS. Let’s click the plus button in OBS to add the EasyWorship NDI slides as an overlay onto our video. Here we can add a name for our input and transition our lyrics on and off our video stream as required.
From here we simply need someone to manage when we want the lyrics to be displayed. So we will simply click the “Go Live” button inside EasyWorship for each slide as it goes along with the lyrics of our songs.
Far end camera control via a VPN is basically IP camera control with a Virtual Private Network establishing a connection to your main LAN (Local Area Network). Once you are logged into the LAN which your PTZOptics camera is on, you can grab control from anywhere in the world.
Let's take a look at a real installation compliments of DVEStore! This installation includes a complete SD to HD upgrade for a normal church with a mix-match of various products. The new solution includes vMix, a Laptop, a PTZOptics camera and a HDMI distribution system to power 3 displays. They also tidied up the cabling which was quite nice .
Learn how to bring in video conferencing software inside Wirecast to host a live talk show! This process is the best way to capture a video conferencing software’s video and audio and then live stream out a professional production. The best part about this solution is that you can use any video conferencing software, plus it works with the Wirecast Gear and most other video production / live streaming software systems.
What you need:
Once you have your computer / live streaming appliance all setup we highly suggest using a dual monitor setup. This way you can open Wirecast (or vMix/Tricaster/OBS/xSplit) on one monitor and have your video conferencing software (Skype, Zoom, WebEX) open on the second monitor. This way you can easily perform a “screen capture” to bring in the video. The audio is a little more complicated as always. First, you will want to download the ###a href="http://vb-audio.pagesperso-orange.fr/Cable/">Virtual Audio Cables. These virtual audio cables will be used to send audio back and forth from Wirecast and the video conferencing software as shown in the video above.
Once you have your audio and video set up all you need to do is invite your video conferencing participants to be on your live stream. The return video will provide you participants the ability to view what’s going on during the live broadcast. There are quite a few ways to do this project but we think this is the best / easiest way to host live talks shows using Wirecast and Video Conferencing Software.
The Wirecast Gear features seamless integration with PTZOptics cameras at HD resolutions up to 1080p 60fps which is perfect for live streaming and producing impressive video content. Whether you are capturing a corporate presentation, live sports or a house of worship assembly, Wirecast is a preferred solution for stellar performance.
The beauty of this combination is performance and quality. With only one or two PTZ cameras your team will have the ability to quickly switch between hundreds of possible camera angles. Using PTZOptics free open source control software you can use an IP based control system with buttons customized for your space.
Some users prefer the intuitive joystick controller for operation of multiple cameras. With easy preview windows inside Wirecast, a single operator can control multiple cameras without the need of a second monitor.
PTZOptics cameras support two different joystick controllers. One use traditional RS-232 cabling which allows users to daisy chain control from one camera to the next. This configuration can save a lot of time during installation and provide access to all the SONY VISCA commands professional users love. The second joystick option is the IP Joystick. The IP joystick is great because all you need to do is connect each camera to the network. This is ideal for cameras in remote locations where the IR remote will not reach or cabling runs could be difficult.
Many Wirecast users choose to use a “web input” with PTZOptics cameras capturing low latency video over the network. This is ideal for open scenes but many professionals still prefer HDMI or HD-SDI connections for their main talent video to ensure perfect lip-syncing.
PTZOptics cameras used with the Wirecast Gear are a proven solution for video production. The Wirecast Gear New Blue Titler is included with the system making high-quality titles a breeze to produce. PTZOptics also includes a set of fifteen virtual sets for various markets including: education, house of worship, sales/marketing, and sports. These are perfect for setting up a green screen studio with Wirecasts Virtual Set feature.