Livestreaming of worship services is growing.  No longer do churches have to buy expensive airtime from television stations for a one-time broadcast.  Streaming allows churches to reach new potential members, seekers and shut-ins with their weekly service and rebroadcast it as often as they like by way of on demand.

But starting a streaming ministry can be intimidating. In this video from the Digital Pastor, you can get a lot of questions answered and some practical suggestions on equipment and companies to help you launch your own livestream.

First, the hardware.

Recommended Computer Specs:
Windows 10
Intel Core i7 Processor 3Ghz+
8GB DDR3 Ram
Solid State Hard Drive
Nvidia GTX 950/960/970/980 or GTX 1050/1060/1070/1080

Reference Computer Systems:
Sapphire (4 SDI or 3 SDI & 1 HDMI Inputs)
Emerald (4 1080p HDMI Inputs)
Ruby (8 1080p SDI Inputs)

When it comes to streaming equipment, churches have two choices, a computer or a dedicated streaming box such as:

The video highly recommends using a computer for livestreaming based on the belief that it is more versatile and scalable as you grow.  In this application, the computer would take the live video signal and send it to your streaming software.

Alan Lockwood the Live Video Director for the Kensington Church has a different view.  He strongly encourages a hardware encoder such as the Teradek VidiU or similar hardware.  

“In my experience hardware encoders like the VidiU are much more stable.  With a computer encoder like OBS or Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder, there is always the possibility that other parts of the computer will fail or get bogged down.  I’ve witnessed forced windows updates derail events, and volunteers are always tempted to use the computer for things other than streaming.  The dedicated hardware encoder is set and ready to go at the push of a button.”

Lockwood also recommends using a hardware-based switcher with a physical control surface.  That used to be an expensive option but he says Blackmagic Design recently released a system called ATEM TV Studio that includes hardware controls for under $3,000.

There are several options for streaming services and video mixing software mentioned in the video with a strong recommendation for vMix.  

The video also references content delivery networks.  CDN’s put your worship service livestream in many places at once, providing superior coverage to your viewers.

The CDN Services mentioned in the video:

The Chapel in Akron, Ohio started streaming almost two years ago. Aaron Bechtel, the church’s Video Director says they’ve used livestream.com for their CDN and he’s happy with its performance. He says they make dedicated desktop apps and mobile apps and even devices that attach directly to the camera. So it’s very user-friendly.  The service also streamed to Facebook or YouTube, which Bechtel stopped because they couldn’t turn off comments.

Bechtel says the only downside is the cost. They’ve since switched to Vimeo to save money but he admits it’s not very user-friendly.

Kensington Church sends its livestream to YouTube.  Lockwood says they use a service called restream.io.  “With this service, we can stream to Facebook and other platforms simultaneously.”

He also recommends multi-bitrate encoding for those researching streaming service providers.  

“I have looked into churchstreaming.tv and their service looks awesome. It will allow users to stream to YouTube, Facebook, ROKU, Apple TV and an embeddable player simultaneously.  They even have a hardware encoder included with their service, and offer a great bang for the buck.”

And one more suggestion from Lockwood for those who are more tech-savvy; Wowza. He says wowza users install the software onto their own server.  He calls it “very robust and affordable but requires technical knowledge to use” and your church has to take care of server maintenance.

Bechtel says the ability to add the stream to your church website or to a variety of set top boxes, like Apple TV and Roku, should not be overlooked because many systems can’t.  He’s looking at one called MediaFusion that claims the ability to send your livestream to a host of devices.

One other topic that Bechtel says should be addressed that is missing in the video is licensing. He told MinistryTech.com, “You can’t just plug your camera into a computer and hit go. You have to buy the license that allows you to do that. We have the CCLI streaming license. But even then we don’t have the license to include the song lyrics on the feed. We just couldn’t afford it.”