Church Live Stream Setup Guide
Church Live Stream Setup
Have you been thinking about starting the journey of live streaming at your church or house of worship? Are you struggling with knowing where to get started?
That is the position I found myself in a few years ago when I had the bright idea that our church should start live streaming. I didn't have a clue where to begin or how to even envision a church live stream setup.
I was the pastor of a small church and we didn't have the size of the budget that larger churches have. In fact, I had to start with a very basic setup that cost less than 1000 dollars.
That is not much money, I know, but that is the reality of pastoring a small church. Was I able to accomplish our goal? Absolutely!
And in this article, I am going to show you how you can set up your own live stream for under 1000 dollars.
Why Live Stream A Church Service?
Now before you start your journey into live streaming you need to understand what your goal is and why you are doing it. It is not wise leadership to just do something because the church down the street is doing it or that you heard it would cause more people to come to your church.
If you don't understand your goals, then you won't know if your live stream is successful or not. You will get discouraged and will stop streaming and will have wasted a lot of time and resources.
Here are some of the reasons I started live streaming and I have to say, we met most of these goals.
5 Reasons To Start Live Streaming Your Church Service
- To give people a feel for what a service is like if they decide to attend.
- To give people another option to stay connected when they are sick, are elderly and shut-in, have to work on Sunday, or other reasons.
- To serve your parishioners extended family members so they can watch events where their family is involved like grandparents watching their grandkids in the Christmas play.
- To broadcast the service via CCTV to other parts of the church like the nursery, or even stream the service to satellite campuses.
- And the biggest reason is to spread the gospel to the unchurched via social media.
What Type Of Live Stream Do You Want To Produce?
The first thing you need to do is decide what type of live stream you are going to produce. Some churches place a high value on producing high-quality content in everything they do. No matter if it is video, audio, or printed material, they want to put the absolute best out there.
Other churches value authenticity and transparency and see value in producing reality TV types of productions where it is not so polished. They wrestle with the idea that they are putting on a show or performance.
Both of these are valid values and I would not make a judgment as to which one is best. Both have their place in the church live streaming community.
However, the reality is that most small to medium-sized churches do not have the budget or volunteers that it takes to put out production level live streams.
In my case, being the pastor of a small church, I had 1 volunteer who does the sound, displays to the front of the church, and the live stream all at the same time. They are a champion! But that meant that we needed to keep our live stream setup simple.
How To Start Live Streaming For Under 1,000 Dollars
You are going to need some basic equipment if you are going to live stream your church service. Some of this may already be available to you at your church which will cut the cost of getting set up.
I had to buy all of our equipment since we didn't have any spare gear just lying around and what we were currently using for other areas was quite antiquated. It didn't have the power or capability of being used with today's technology.
Here is a list of what you will need to start getting set up to live stream.
Choosing a computer that will work for your church is extremely important. Those 5-year-old Apple or Windows machines will probably not do the job for you today.
You need at a minimum a 4 GB of RAM although 8 is much more preferable. You should have at least a processor that is a 2Ghz Dual-Core but should seriously consider upgrading to at least an Intel Core i7 with 3Ghz processing speed.
Your graphics card needs to be DirectX 10 compatible. The speed of your graphics card will determine how many camera inputs and video inputs like slides shows you can have along with how many outputs or recordings you can have going on at the same time.
When deciding on your computer you should take into consideration your volunteers. When I was putting together our system I asked my volunteers what type of computer they use at home. Almost all of them were PC users. You might want to avoid making your PC users learn how to run an Apple machine and learning how to run the software all at the same time.
The first mistake I made when I started trying to determine a camera for our live stream setup was listening to someone that recommended we use a couple of Logitech webcams. Webcams are great for sitting in front of your computer, but they will not do the job when trying to live stream church service.
A webcam is not designed to capture things happening at a distance. It is meant for close up shots. Unless you want to put a webcam on your podium and stand stationary, don't use a webcam.
Stay away from using a security camera also. They are designed to give law enforcement a basic description of someone. They are not meant to give a quality picture to be streamed over the internet. You will not be happy with your video quality.
The bare-bones minimum you should use is a consumer-grade camcorder with a clean HDMI output. A clean HDMI output is where the camcorder will send a signal out that does not have the overlays that are found on the touchscreen display.
This is extremely important because if it does not have a clean HDMI output then you will not be able to use this camcorder to live stream. You need a live video feed output while recording.
HDMI to USB Connection
HDMI To USB Dongle
What is a dongle?
A dongle, or adapter, or converter, is a device that captures the HDMI output from your camcorder or video device and transforms it into a signal that your computer can read through one of its ports, like a USB port. Unless your computer has an HDMI input port, you will need a dongle to connect your camera to your computer.
(Do not under any circumstance try to use the HDMI output port that you connect a monitor to. This could fry your computer and camcorder!)
Sometimes these dongles or adapters are called HDMI capture cards. We have a complete line of these cards in our store. It took me forever to realize that I needed more than just a cable to connect my camcorder to make my computer see the camcorder. There really is not a lot of information about this on the internet.
Live Streaming Accessories
There are a few accessories that you will need.
- You will need USB cables to run from your Camcorder/Capture Card to your computer.
- You will possibly need a tripod and external microphone mount.
- Cases Or Bags.
Many churches use an auxiliary output from their sound system to provide the audio feed for their live stream. This is a very viable option. However, you can also use one or more external microphones instead.
My church is going with the unplugged sound. We are small and do not need a loud PA system. On the camcorder we chose, the sound quality is good enough that we don't feel the need for an external microphone.
We did try both, and I have included some options in case your situation needs an external mic. I listed this as optional and I do not add it in the total price of setting up a live stream system.
There are different types of software that you will need to decide upon in your church live stream set up to live stream your service. The two types of software are proprietary and stand-alone software.
I recommend that you purchase the stand-alone software. Proprietary software forces you to use the live streaming service provider that has developed the software. You cannot use it without using their paid service.
If you buy the standalone software, then you can stream to YouTube, Facebook, and many other platforms that you may want to use. You can then embed your live stream from YouTube or Facebook to your church website for free and do not have to have the expense of storing the video on your site or pay for the bandwidth used when people watch it.
Setting Up Your Live Stream
The actual church live stream setup is quite simple once you have all the equipment.
- Power up your computer and launch the live stream software you chose.
- Power up your camcorder and put it on the record-setting.
- Connect the HDMI cable from your Camcorder to the input on your HDMI capture card/dongle.
- Connect the USB cable from the output of your HDMI capture card/dongle to the USB port on your computer. (USB 3 is preferred, but UBS 2 works. USB 3 has a blue inner piece on the computer where USB has a black one.)
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to get your computer to recognize the HDMI capture card. Most are plug n play, but not all of them are.
- Set up your live streaming software so that you see both the video and the audio.
- Connect to Facebook or YouTube and go live!
Live Streaming For Under $1,000.00
Well, there you have it. A fundamental church live stream setup packages to live stream church services for under 1,000 Dollars. Just follow the recommendations, and you can do it too. All of the purchases we made for our live stream are in the recommendations.
Happy Live Streaming
If you are in the market for church live streaming equipment, then you might want to check out our complete inventory of church live streaming equipment here.