Live Streaming is very popular nowadays. With only a mobile phone in hand, many are streaming their lives for the world to see through social media platforms without thinking twice. Certainly, you can do the same, and perhaps an inexpensive / free set up is what will work for your parish. There is a place, too, for having a more robust solution with mounted, functional cameras, wired audio, a control center, and more to present your parish and liturgical services to the world in a professional way. There are a number of things to consider when going this route:
1) Internet Connectivity
This is one of the most important aspects of live streaming. Along with equipment, internet speed determines the quality of your stream. We recommend having at least 2Mbps upload speed for standard definition streaming and 6 Mbps for higher quality or multiple streams. You can check your internet connection speed at http://www.speedtest.net/. If your existing internet connection is sufficient, great! If not, check with your ISP, for what the added costs may be to upgrade. Be sure to ask about Upload speed, not Download speed.
2) Video Camera(s)
Consider your parish's need for a camera. Will you have one or more? Some parishes have just a single camera mounted on the West wall of their Nave (on the choir loft), while others have chosen to have multiple cameras (one in the Altar, one on a side wall facing the chanter stand or bishop's throne, for examples).
Though you could get away with using a consumer grade camcorder on a tripod (less than $1000), we recommend using professional quality PTZ (point, tilt, zoom) High Definition Cameras that can be mounted and installed. Each camera could cost you $1000-$3000 and more, depending on your specific needs (low light settings, zoom capabilities, etc.) as well as controllers to operate the cameras remotely. We have had good success in the past working with the customer support people at B&H video, and recommend asking them for their advice, as they are knowledgable in the current hardware options out there:
You also should factor in any labor costs for installation and wiring. The price will vary depending on the complexity of the work required.
Many parishes have an existing sound system that can be connected to the live streaming system. If not, other options are certainly available, such as using a stand alone microphone or the camera's built-in microphones for over the air audio, though we do not recommend that. Ideally, every important voice should be individually mic'd (lavalier or boom mics for the clergy, microphones for the choir and chanters, one for the epistle reader and announcements, etc.). All of this should be fed through the sound system. From the sound system, there should be an output cable to the broadcast computer. Labor costs for hardware, installation, and wiring should be considered here also.
A dedicated computer for your live streaming is essential. A robust Windows computer should cost you around $1000, though costs will vary depending on your specific needs. Both Windows and MacOS are capable of live streaming, though a Mac computer will be more expensive than a Windows computer.
Another option is to use a product called SlingStudio ($1000 for the hub, $349 for each camera link unit). You then also need a computer device (desktop, laptop, or tablet) to control the broadcast and cameras, but the SlingStudio hub is the streaming device. You can learn more about that here: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/promotion/13047/bh-photo-video-sling-studio.html
5) Video Capture Card (Optional)
If you are using NDI (Network Device Interface) technology, you will not need a video capture card or encoding device. The video signal is sent through your LAN (Local Area Network) and processed with software on your computer.
If you are using another method, such as Sling Studio, for broadcasting your video, you will also not need to worry about a video capture card or encoding device.
If you are using SDI, HDMI, Composite, or Component video as an output from your Camera, your computer should have a video capture card to receive the video signals from your camera(s) and audio signals from your sound system. You could use an external device (especially if you will be using a notebook computer) or an internal device (using a PCIe card). We recommend exploring either Osprey (ospreyvideo.com) or BlackMagic (blackmagicdesign.com) brands. We have had success in the past with Osprey-100e (PCIe - $150), the Blackmagic Intensity Pro 4K (PCIe - $199), and the Blackmagic UltraStudio Express (external, thunderbolt - $500). Of course, the card you choose will depend on the camera(s) and controller you decide to use, as there are differences in the type of output and input each device uses.
Find out the answers to these questions:
- What kind of computer do you have - Mac, PC? Desktop, Laptop?
- What kind of slots / inputs are available on the computer?
- Will the capture card have to be internal, external, express, etc.?
- What is the upload speed of your internet connection? This will help determine if your capture card should support HD and/or SD.
- What is the type of output coming from your camera - SDI, HDMI, etc.?
Bring this information to a knowledgeable salesperson to help determine the best card for your set up and budget.
6) Streaming Software
You'll want to use special encoding software to stream your broadcast to the internet. Both free and commercial options are available. We have had success using Wirecast (paid), but you may wish to consider another option. Here is one review of several options:
Software Comparison: https://www.epiphan.com/blog/best-streaming-software-2018/
Open Broadcaster Software: https://obsproject.com/
A diagram showing how the different components work together to broadcast to your viewers.
7) Location for Control Center
Important to consider is where your broadcast computer and control center will be located. Is there room in the sacristy or near the audio sound system to set up the computer and control center? Does a dedicated space need to be created? Perhaps there are costs associated with the construction or renovation of a space. You may want to consider a secure location but one that is accessible to whoever will be assisting with the operation of your broadcasts.
8) Streaming Service(s)
The Department of Internet Ministries offers streaming services at a cost of $900 per year for ad-hoc streaming (streaming only for each service). If you wish to stream 24/7, the cost is $1400 per year. With this annual cost, you get:
- unrestricted bandwidth and length of broadcast
- embedded player for your website with cross-platform capability
- listing on the Goarch website, Dailyreadings Mobile App, and Goarch Smart TV apps
- M-F 9-5 support
All accounts will be pro-rated based on the month services begin. You will be billed when service begins and then every January afterwards for the upcoming year.
Once your hardware is all set up, you need to have a team of individuals who will be dedicated to run the broadcast each week. Who will be responsible for turning the stream on and off? Who will be available to operate the camera - zooming in during the sermon, for example? Who will edit the video file after the service ends for posting of the sermon or other clip on your website? Who will be your on-site technical support person in case something goes wrong? A great team of dedicated volunteers will work for some parishes, but others may have to rely on paid staff to assist with the live streaming work. This may therefore be a factor as you build out your budget.
10) Consideration for Streaming of Other Events at the Parish
Though streaming of liturgical services is the most common consideration for live streaming, you may be interested in streaming Bible Studies, lectures, and other events at your parish. If you are interested in this, you could utilize some of the same hardware, such as the broadcast center, but may need to build out the infrastructure for additional cameras and audio in the other locations at your parish.
Check out the following infographic for a visual of how to get started with Live Streaming: