Best software for church live streaming

Choosing to live stream church services is easy. What’s more difficult is understanding the myriad options and approaches that must be considered to make live streaming church a reality—at least that was the case until recently.
Empty alter at a modern church
Due to Covid-19 many houses of worship have now begun to stream their services online

However, video production tools that leverage the public cloud, such as AWS from Amazon, to produce, format and stream services to those worshipping from home have made things a whole lot simpler.

Not only is a cloud-based solution much less expensive than a traditional video production and streaming setup, but it also is far easier to use. That means churches won’t need to hire someone or incur the expense of training a member to produce the live stream.

Knowing a little about the various options available to live stream church services offers a basis for understanding the advantages of cloud-based video production and streaming and helps to put the whole undertaking into context.

 

Option 1: Hardware-Based Production and Streaming

Typically, the video and audio hardware needed includes a video production switcher, audio mixer, mics, monitor(s), multiviewer controller (sometimes integrated in the production switcher) camera cables, which will vary depending on the type of cameras in use, and other devices like character generators and graphics systems, depending on production requirements.

Man sitting in front of a video production switcher with mask on
Using physical hardware (such as mixer/switchers) to produce your live stream can be expensive and requires a lot of upfront investment

Probably the biggest upside to a hardware-based approach is reliability. These devices are well-known, widely used and dependable. The other major benefit is a control surface specifically designed for live switching.

However, hardware production switchers come at a relatively high cost – not simply the dollars needed for purchase, but also the outlay for installation and integration, the valuable church real estate that must be set aside for their use, operator training and replacement expense as a string of new formats is sure to come along and demand successive generations of hardware.

There are also other practical limitations, such as signal transport from cameras to the production switcher, the effort and expense of hiding cable runs or concern that a churchgoer might accidentally kick and possibly trip on a cable taped to the floor.

 

Option 2: Software-Based Production and Streaming

Software-based production may be a bit of a misnomer because there obviously will be some level of hardware involved, even if it is simply the Mac or PC on which the software will run. In many instances, video input cards will be needed as well to input camera signals, such as the SDI video output of cameras.

The benefit of a software approach is lower cost, a feature set that can range from adequate-to-impressive and the ability to upgrade to a newer, more fully featured version without the expense of replacing a hardware switcher.

Man using a live production switcher on a laptop at an event
A software approach requires resource-heavy programs to be installed locally on your PC or laptop

There are some caveats, however. First, because it’s software running on a computer, there will always be that nagging concern about security and the possibility of bad actors maliciously hacking in to cause disruptions.

Second, if more video inputs are needed over time as the production of services is upgraded, more input devices will be required. That opens up the possibility of a once stable system experiencing hiccups if the new input card doesn’t play nicely with the existing cards. Lastly, there is always the possibility that the latest version of the operating system or a software update may create unexpected problems.

 

Option 3: Cloud-Based Video Production and Streaming

The newest of the three options, cloud-based alternatives to hardware and software simplify the production workflow, maximize setup flexibility, replace substantial hardware outlay and software expense with a pay-as-you-go approach and make it possible for multiple people to collaborate on producing a service regardless of where they are located as long as they have an internet connection.

TVU Producer being used to live stream a church service
A cloud-based system requires very little upfront investment and utilizes external servers to do all the heavy lifting

Many churches are already familiar with cloud-based solutions. For instance, cloud alternatives to software running locally on a computer exist for church management to handle tasks ranging from accounting and maintaining membership records to managing church events, tracking contributions and handling other record keeping chores.

Cloud-based video production is similar. All of the computationally heavy lifting needed to switch between video sources, create graphics and layer them in, mix audio and perform all the other standard video production tasks is done in the cloud.

Video is transported to the cloud via the internet –wirelessly from a smartphone or computer tablet for maximum convenience—and the video producer and anyone else involved with the production takes control of the production in the cloud via a home or church computer.

One of the best things about leveraging the cloud to produce and stream video is the ability to be mobile, which makes it easy to take production outside the four walls of a church building when needed, just as the Media and Public Information Ministry (MPIM) of the Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of Aranzazu in the Philippines did for the Feast of Santo Niño de Cebu.

 

Case study: Santo Niño de Cebu Parade

Each January, a parade is held through San Mateo in the Philippine province of Rizal to celebrate the feast day on Jan. 19.

The media and public information ministry in 2020 decided to stream the annual parade via the Facebook page of the Dioceses and Parish of Nuestra Señora de Aranzaz. Video from the parade route was captured using TVU Anywhere, TVU Networks’ mobile broadcasting app, running on smartphones and streamed to the cloud.

Man in a crowd using TVU Producer recording Santo Nino de Cebu parade
TVU solutions being used at the annual Santo Niño de Cebu Parade

Media and public information personnel used TVU Producer, TVU Network’s live cloud-based video production solution, to switch between incoming TVU Anywhere video sources contributed from the parade route and stream live coverage to the world via Facebook.

Combining the high-quality video capture available via smartphone video cameras and the powerful video production capabilities available in the cloud, production of the live stream of the parade underscores just how much video production power is available to churches—whether used in a house of worship to live stream services or taken into the field to cover other important aspects of church ministries.

As houses of worship look to serve the changing needs of existing members and attract new ones, streaming services and celebrations offers a powerful means to amplify awareness of existing ministries. For churches desiring high-quality live video streaming and a flexible video production workflow, cloud-based video production offers a low-cost, simple-to-use alternative to more traditional approaches that will exceed expectations.

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