The Covid-19 crisis has meant that many churches, charities and businesses have had to re-think how they operate. In one sense this has opened up a new door of opportunity via live streaming.
Overnight, many people suddenly had to become au fait with various kinds of live streaming technologies and options. Many questions previously unheard of sudeenlty became very pressing! How are we going to get our church service online? Which kind of streaming service do I need? What technology is needed? How can we be creative and authentic without overloading our 'techy' people?!
So let's think of some of the various options to livestream first of all.
Streamyard – this is web-based (rather than an app) and is the best solution for a church who wants things to look professional quickly. It uses its own system for video and audio (all you need is a device with a webcam) and it includes overlays (adding words on top of images), the ability to play back mp4 videos, to add different people on screen. Around $25 a month for the basic version (if paying monthly) https://streamyard.com – on MacOS you need Chrome and on iOS or iPadOS you have to use Safari.
Ecamm – in many ways, this is my preferred choice and is an app you download. Again if you pay monthly the fee is $25 for the Pro version (highly recommended you use this). The advantage of this is that it is a tool designed for livestreaming and gives lots of options but in a very user-friendly way (like you’d expect good Mac software to be). You can bring people in on Skype calls or Zoom calls, decide who comes in and when. You can set up ‘scenes’ so that you can livestream various things with the click of a button. You can play back words from Pro Presenter (worship software) and use NDI (playing back other sources over a network – e.g. over your internet connection) and plug in separate cameras. A much more professional product than Streamyard but not quite as simple. https://www.ecamm.com/
OBS Studio – see the ton of information below. Strength are it offers lots of options but is a fairly steep learning curve. One thing to be aware of is that the virtual camera option within OBS is PC-only. For Mac you can use other options such as NDI. A virtual camera allows you to show anything on your computer - it's a bit like having a webcam that shows what's going on inside your computer, not outside of it like a wbcam does! Great thing about OBS is that it's also free! https://obsproject.com/
There are other options - some people use the churchonlineplatform which brings in your livestream so you can chat and have the live stream 'within' your wesbite - https://churchonlineplatform.com/
Smaller churches simply choose to use web conferencing software like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams (paid for). These services give you various services but you will get what you pay for. Zoom has a time limit of 40mins for its free service and others will offer paid-for options that may be helpful. Some are simpy uploading videos to YouTube or using Facebook Live.
There are higher-end paid-for streaming options that you may want to investigate if you have more complex needs. These include wirecast, dacast, vMix (PC-only). If you have creative ideas these may help.
Finally you need to think about the technology needed for delivering these services. Your Mac or PC will need to be fairly competent as livestreaming gets quite intensive for your processor and graphics card. If you want to take the 'load' off one computer, you can use more than one computer. Use one to handle the 'live streaming' side of things (for example) and another to do things like words and videos. This is where things like 'NDI' come in. NDI means you could (for example) send words or another webcam over your internet connection from one computer to another, rather than using a cable. Or you will need a video converter that brings one computer's signal into another (HDMI-USB video converter) and these are in short supply.
You will also need a good internet connection, prefereably a very good one (as will any 'guests' that you use). Ideally you will want to be on an ethernet connection and not on WiFi as it's more reliable and faster.
If you're recording anything on your computer, it is always good to disable any kind of sound processing on live streaming software. The sound processing is there to stop feedback (loud squealy noises) but it also means your sound is poorer quality and you sometimes can't have more than one person speaking at a time. To avoid this, you will need to have headphones plugged in to your computer - as will every guest that appears. This stops the high-pitched squealing sound!
If you want to use more than one camera, or eventually have livestreaming from your church building and use more than one camera, then something like the Blackmagic ATEM Mini (or prfereably the Pro version) would also be ideal.
So just a few ideas for live streaming. Any questions please ask!