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Broadcasting Your Parish: A Comprehensive Live Streaming Guide

Internet Connection | Streaming Service | Video | Audio | Camera Mount | Encoding Device | Software

The goal of providing a live stream of your parish’s liturgical services is to allow the faithful to stay connected and experience the liturgy to the extent that they can over the internet. While it will never be a replacement for being physically present at the service, there are many instances we face where it is not possible to be in attendance. Because of this, you should strive to provide the best quality stream that you can to help the faithful be as immersed as possible. Nothing will be more distracting to your viewers than choppy/broken video and unintelligible audio.

The goal of this guide is to provide you with starting points for each of the items you will need to consider. To provide the best possible experience for your parishioners, you will need to make sure you have each area covered. If you are interested in a specific topic, click the links above to jump directly to that section.

Internet Connection

The first thing you will need to secure when setting up a Live Stream for your parish is a fast, reliable internet connection. The most important metric is your Upload speed, which is the speed at which your broadcast can be sent from your parish to your streaming service(s). You can find your current Upload speed by running a speed test using a website such as https://www.speedtest.net.

To calculate the amount of bandwidth necessary for your parish, you’ll need to have an idea of what quality video/audio you plan to broadcast. Your required upload speed can be calculated by adding your video’s bitrate to your audio’s bitrate. The following table can be used to ballpark your potential usage, but know that many factors can come into play so they may not be exact for your situation. Specifics such as encoding software, compression, and video/audio quality will all change the bitrate of your stream. These numbers will also be multiplied if you are streaming to multiple sources at the same time (Such as the GOA Server and Facebook)

Rough Bandwidth Calculations

Resolution

Video Bitrate

Audio Bitrate

Total Bitrate

480 (SD)

1150kbps

128kbps

1.278Mbps

720 (HD)

2025kbps

192kbps

2.217Mbps

1080 (FHD)

4050kbps

192kbps

4.242Mbps

It is a good practice to only use a small portion of your available bandwidth and not try to push the limit. If any other devices are in use on your network, they will be sharing the same bandwidth that your live broadcast is using. Keep in mind, your audio and video is basically bits of data that are sent from your parish to the internet where your parishioners can see it. If your audio and video combined is more bits than your internet connection can send out at any given moment, you will have streaming problems. To make sure your stream can withstand changes in network conditions, target utilizing no more than 50% of your available bandwidth, 25% or less being ideal.

One other important consideration for a reliable broadcast is the way in which you connect to your network. Hardwired connections will almost always be the most reliable option if available. If not, a wireless or cellular network can work but make sure you test these options while your network is experiencing average to heavy traffic to make sure you do not experience any latency issues.

Suggestions:

(Single SD Stream) 5Mbps Upload Speed
(Single FHD Stream) 20Mbps Upload Speed
(Multiple SD Streams) 15Mbps Upload Speed
(Multiple FHD Streams) 50Mbps Upload Speed

Streaming Service

In order to broadcast your liturgical services, you need a server which can take your audio and video and make it available in the form of a live video to your audience. There are many options to choose from and in some cases, you may choose to use multiple (if you have the bandwidth and encoding hardware to allow it). The following are some of the more popular options, but there are a lot of providers available if you want to do more research:

  • Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America - The Department of Internet Ministries has been providing Live Streaming to parishes since 1997 to help make liturgical services more accessible. At a cost of $900-1400 a year (depending on usage) we provide parishes with multi-bitrate streams on one of the largest CDN Networks in the world along with an embeddable player for the parish website. In addition, the broadcast can be featured on our Smart TV Apps (Roku, FireTV, Apple tvOS) to add visibility and make your service more accessible than ever. To learn more, visit: https://support.goarch.org/live-streaming
  • Facebook Live - If you have a Facebook page for your parish, you can broadcast directly to your followers using a mobile device or computer. This is especially powerful for parishes who are looking for an extremely simple setup and want to broadcast directly from the Facebook app on their mobile device. To learn more, visit: https://www.facebook.com/facebookmedia/solutions/facebook-live
  • YouTube Live - In addition to pre-recorded videos, YouTube Live allows you to broadcast to your account through a mobile device (requires a minimum of 1000 followers) or a computer. YouTube provides proprietary streaming software for free and is a good option if your parish is already using it regularly. To learn more, visit: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2474026

Video

One of the most obvious requirements for Live Broadcasting a service is a camera. While some parishes have multiple cameras that can be controlled from a single location and switched on/off throughout the broadcast, others simply use a smartphone camera that has been stabilized and placed in an ideal location. There are many ways to approach the video requirement and much of your decision will depend on your budget, how much work you want to put into each broadcast, and your desired quality. There are thousands of options to choose from, but we’ll break it down into four basic categories to help you choose the direction you want to go.

Smartphone/Tablet

This is a good option for parishes looking to get up and running quickly. Smartphones and Tablets come with built-in cameras and can be used as an all-in-one device to do your capturing, encoding, and broadcasting. The Video quality these days can be very high, but keep in mind the lenses are typically very wide and are best suited for closer video capturing. If you plan to set the camera up in the back of the church, you may have a hard time capturing the details happening on the solea. In addition, since smartphones are so compact and light even small movements can have a major impact on how shaky the video appears. Make sure to mount any smartphones/tablets on tripods while they are broadcasting.

Consumer Video Camera

Many consumer video cameras that can be purchased  at big-box stores will give you a good combination of video quality and zoom range. For a parish looking for the flexibility to place a camera further away from the ‘action’, consumer cameras are a great option. Video Cameras also have the added benefit of being able to record, so they can always be moved and used in other locations where you want to capture video. Look for a model that has the ability to add an external microphone or audio source to improve your audio quality. It’s important to note, going the consumer video camera route will require you to have an encoding device that can connect to the HDMI/AV Output from your camera.

Suggestions:

($249.99) Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder
($599.99) Panasonic HC-VX981K 4K Ultra HD Camcorder

Streaming Cameras

A newer option to consider is a dedicated streaming camera. These devices are built to capture video and then transmit it directly to various streaming servers without the need for additional hardware. This option is great if you are looking for a more dedicated solution without needing to purchase multiple items. Keep in mind, since streaming cameras are self-contained, these cameras typically rely on built-in audio capabilities which may not produce a high-quality audio experience for your service. Many have solutions for this, but they may require purchasing additional adapters or products.

Suggestions:

($299.99) Mevo Start Live Streaming Camera
($399.99) Mevo Plus Live Action Camera

Mounted PTZ Camera

A PTZ or Pan-Tilt-Zoom Camera is one which is mounted on a wall or ceiling and then controlled remotely. This is typically the most expensive option (although there are lower-end PTZ Cameras available) and should be installed by an AV Professional who can run the necessary cables to your encoding device. They can help you make the right decisions based on the encoder, parish layout, and audio availability. Going with a professional will ensure all of your equipment will work together and that your entire broadcasting system is designed to fit your parish needs.

Example Camera:

($2,199.00) PTZOptics 30X-NDI Broadcast and Conference Camera

Audio

An often overlooked piece in the Live Broadcasting puzzle is the audio. Many people put their efforts into getting the best picture quality possible but that will only take you so far if your audio can barely be heard or is so distorted that your viewers cannot follow along with the service. It may be tempting to simply use whatever on-board audio you have but most cameras don’t come with the right microphone to capture all of the audio sources present in a liturgy. You have many options to choose from:

Dedicated Microphone

If you are looking for an integrated audio/video solution, a microphone might be a good option for you. Most all microphones you buy will provide a boost in quality over a smartphone/tablet or video camera. Keep in mind using one microphone in a large open space will make it difficult to capture sounds from separate areas in the church and can introduce echo.

If you have decided that a smartphone is the best option for your parish, you don’t have to settle for the built-in microphone which will almost always produce suboptimal audio in a liturgical setting. Many devices such as the Rode SC6-L exist that allow you to plug an external microphone (or audio source like a sound mixer) into your iOS Device.

Suggestions:

($149.99) Rode VideoMic Camera-Mount Shotgun Microphone
($278) Rode Wireless GO Compact Wireless Omni Lavalier Microphone System Kit

Utilize the Existing Sound System

If you already have microphones in use in the parish, hooking into that system is a great option. Most parishes that use microphones will have a mixer somewhere through which all of the microphones are combined and then output to speakers. If your sound mixer has an available output channel, you can connect that to your encoder and use the fully mixed audio in your broadcast.

This has the major benefit of minimizing the cost of new equipment while simultaneously providing the same audio that you are presenting in the parish through speakers.

The big question you may have is: How do I get the audio from the sound system into my phone or streaming device? There are both wired and wireless options available to you! Wired connections are preferred if you can accomplish that. If there is too great of a distance from your sound mixer to your encoding device, a wired connection may be out of the question. If that’s the case, there are plenty of wireless microphone systems that could be used for this connection. If you go the wireless route, don’t forget to turn the transmitter and receiver on before each service!

As a note, adding wireless microphones to your parish could possibly introduce interference with other systems already in use. Make sure to consult the person who installed your audio system to ensure compatibility.

Suggestions:

(Variable) Match the Output from your Soundboard to the Input of your Camera/Encoder
($199.99) Rode Wireless GO Compact Digital Wireless Microphone System

Camera Mount

When you attend a liturgical service, you don’t typically bounce your head up, down, and side to side the whole time. Likewise, your parishioners will not enjoy the experience of your broadcast if your camera is constantly moving. It is important to make sure your camera stays steady throughout the service. In order to do that, the camera should be mounted in some way for stability.

Tripod

The easiest option for stabilizing your camera is to use a tripod. There are many available on the market so you will need to do some research to find one that fits your needs. Keep in mind the space you have available in the parish, as well as the attachment methods you have available for your camera. Most cameras have standard screw threads that make them compatible with any tripod you choose. If you are using a smartphone, you can use an adapter such as Square Jellyfish Jelly Grip Tripod Mount for Smartphones to make it compatible with standard tripod mounts. There are also many tabletop/flexible tripods available which can allow you to place your camera in tight spaces.

Suggestions:

($34.95) JOBY GripTight ONE GorillaPod
($36.99) Manfrotto PIXI Smart Mini Tripod
($37.98) Polaroid 72" Tripod w/3-Way Pan/Tilt Head
($69.88) Manfrotto Compact Action Aluminum Tripod

Wall/Ceiling Mount

If you decide to go with a professional PTZ Camera(s) they will typically come with the ability to be wall or ceiling mounted. This is a great option in parishes to make the camera less distracting and keep it out of the way. Consult the manufacturer's manual to find the proper mounting point and install it to the proper specifications.

Encoding Device

You will need computer hardware to take your broadcast and push it to the internet. This can come in the form of a smartphone or tablet, an all-in-one streaming camera, a computer, or even a dedicated streaming box. Your audio and video sources will need to be connected directly to your encoding device, so keep that in mind when you are making your choice. There are many options available depending on the needs and goals of the parish, but the following table of pros/cons will help you understand the options available to you:

Encoding Device
 

Pros

Cons

Smartphone

  • Compact Form Factor
  • Typically include a video camera/microphone
  • Easy to operate/familiar to many users
  • Few options for external audio/video equipment
  • Mostly confined to the proprietary streaming software
  • Can only broadcast to one streaming service at a time

Streaming Camera

  • All-in-one solution
  • Single-purpose device, designed and optimized to stream
  • Easy to use
  • Limited audio options for combining external source
  • May have limited streaming server options
  • May be locked in to single camera setup

Computer

  • Very flexible
  • Can accommodate multiple streaming services
  • Can accommodate most audio/video devices with encoding hardware
  • Can be expensive with additional necessary encoding hardware
  • More complicated initial setup
  • Large footprint

Streaming Device

  • Simple setup
  • Single-purpose device prevents resources from being taken from the broadcast
  • Many are compact and battery powered for flexibility
  • Typically confined to select streaming services
  • Fewer options for stream customizations without extra apps
  • May require a new purchase if audio/video equipment is upgraded

Once you’ve decided on the best option for your parish, you may need to select software to use.

Software

In order to take your audio and video and convert them into a format which can be streamed, they will need to be encoded. This can be accomplished in many ways and it is usually done with software. If you’ve chosen a Dedicated Streaming Camera/Device it will come with its own software. In addition, depending on your Streaming Service it may also provide a proprietary program to use (such as Facebook and YouTube). If your encoding device and streaming service do not provide a solution, you will need to download dedicated Broadcasting software. Choosing a dedicated program provides many benefits such as:

  • Ability to stream to multiple services at the same time (If bandwidth permits)
  • Ability to fine-tune your audio and video source(s)
  • Ability to control and use multiple cameras
  • Ability to include multiple overlay graphics and full-screen graphics

There are many options that exist, but two of the most popular non-streaming-service-specific options are:

  • (Free) Open Broadcaster Software - This program is available for free and provides a lot of functions to customize your broadcast. It is moderately easy to use and has some documentation available but does not provide direct customer support. Since it’s free, you can always download and try it to see if it is the right fit. To learn more, visit: obsproject.com
  • (Premium) Wirecast - This program has been used by many parishes throughout the country and provides all of the functionality from OBS plus more. While Wirecast does cost money, it comes with an easy to use interface, simple to understand guides, and technical support to help with any issues that may arise. To learn more, visit: www.telestream.net/wirecast/

Final Thoughts

Our goal with this guide is to make you feel comfortable with the process of Live Streaming so that you can make the right choices for your parish. There are countless options and solutions available to you depending on your parish’s specific needs and we simply can’t create a single “Best Setup” guide for every scenario. In addition to the above starting points, make sure you take a look at other parish broadcasts to get ideas. You may find one that is doing something very similar to your goal, who you can connect with and ask for suggestions or advice.

As always, the Department of Internet Ministries is here to help you. Please reach out to us here with any questions you may have.