Over the last 8 years I have set up 3 different live streaming systems for churches I have been a part of or have pastored. In all of these systems, I have encouraged the churches to use PTZ Cameras. PTZ means Pan, Tilt, Zoom and they are the most versatile camera available for church live streams.
I am confident that once I share with you all their benefits, you will see why purchasing PTZ cameras for your church is the most cost effective way to set up a professional looking live stream.
Why Live Stream Church Services?
My friends over at PTZ Optics have put together a great video on why your church should consider live streaming.
Key Takeaways From The Video
- 1/3 of all people say the net was the first place they learned about their church.
- 46% of churchgoers say that the church website was an important part of their decision-making process when picking a church.
What Does A PTZ Camera Look Like In An Actual Church?
Here is a video of a new PTZ church camera installation in a pretty typical church I think You will like it.
After watching those videos it becomes pretty obvious that having a PTZ Camera in your church is a powerful tool for you to use to make high-quality videos and send out powerful live streams. Not only will they blend in with your church decor, but they do not need a volunteer and they can be pre-programmed for multiple shots.
We use one PTZ Camera in my church and have it programmed with 6 shots. One of the flat screen TV that we use for lyrics, One of the worship leader, One of the back up singers, One of the pulpit area, a wider shot of the pulpit area, and one of the entire platform. All of that without the need of a camera operator.
How To Choose The Best PTZ Camera For Your Church
There are 3 things to consider when determining what is the best PTZ camera for your church.
- The quality of the camera itself
- The capability of the camera
- The cost effectiveness of the camera.
The Quality Of The Camera
Quality Of The Lens
When looking at the quality of the camera you need to think about 2 things. The quality of the camera lens and the quality of the signal that it sends to your live streaming computer or station. There are 3 basic levels of lens quality out there. They are SD, (standard definition) HD, (high definition) and 4K (4,000 pixels across). A HD camera puts out 1920 pixels across. A 4k camera puts out 4,000.
Now before you assume that 4k is the best, consider this. You cannot live stream to Facebook in 4k. They only accept HD. You can live stream to YouTube in 4k but it takes a lot of bandwidth to upload and maintain a live stream using 4k.
It is my opinion that the extra clarity you might get live streaming in 4k is not worth the price at this time. Maybe in the future the prices will go down and 4k will become the industry standard but currently it is not.
One thing you do not want to do is settle for SD. Nobody streams in SD anymore and the picture quality will not satisfy you or your viewers.
The second thing you need to consider is signal quality. You have 4 types of signal that these cameras will use to send to your live streaming station. They are called NDI, SDI, HDMI, and USB.
NDI is the latest technology that allows you to power, control, and receive signal to or from your camera. It is the direction that the industry is heading but it does increase the cost of your camera.
SDI and HDMI are both great for sending a good signal to your work station but HDMI is limited. When you get HDMI running over 30' or so, you need to boost the signal otherwise the signal degrades and will eventually be lost. I had this happen to me when I ran 100 feet of HDMI signal to an projector unit displaying lyrics. We had to boost the signal with an HDMI signal booster.
SDI and HDMI cables will not power your camera or send signals to control it. Only NDI does that. So you will need to use either a remote control to control your camera, or you will need to run an RS-232 cable to your camera that controls it. You will also need to power your camera with an electrical outlet and a power supply.
Stay away from USB cameras. Unless you are going to mount the camera at your live streaming station, this is not the way you want to go. USB cameras are more designed to be webcams or conferencing cameras, not production cameras.
The Capability Of The Camera
The next thing to consider is the capability of the camera. Will it be able to give you a good shot from where it is mounted. This will primarily depend on the distance from the camera location to the subject you are capturing on video.
For sanctuaries or rooms that are smaller, I recommend a 12x camera for a distance of up to 40 feet.
For medium sized churches or halls I recommend a 20x camera for distances of up to 65 feet.
For larger cathedrals, auditoriums or large event space, I recommend a 30x camera for a distance up to 100 feet.
This is a topic that is quite subjective but I believe it is important to bring up since we are all trying to be good stewards of the Lord's money. Cheaper is not always stewardship and more expensive is not always necessary. The is a balance to be found.
You can buy PTZ cameras that are over $5,000 dollars a piece. However do you need to? You can buy cheap Chinese copies of PTZ cameras for under $1,000 dollars. But will they last and perform like you expect? So make sure you are taking all things into consideration.
Best PTZ Cameras For Churches And Houses Of Worship
Here are my recommendations for cameras that qualify for all these considerations that I listed above. All of the cameras have a HDMI output if you would like to use HDMI instead.
12x PTZ Cameras - Under 40 Feet Distance
20x PTZ Cameras - Under 65 Feet Distance
30x PTZ Cameras - Under 100 Feet
NDI PTZ CAMERAS
SDI PTZ CAMERAS
Final Thoughts On These Cameras
Each church is different. We have different goals, needs, and budgets. I have tried to give you some options that maintain a high level of quality yet help you accomplish your goals.
Yes there are no cheap cameras on this list. I can't recommend in good conscience some of the bargain basement cameras. These are the best I am trying to recommend to you.
Personally, at my church we use the PTZ Optics 30x SDI. We love it!