One of my favorite college memories was borrowing a video projector from the AV department, inviting all my friends over, making a bunch of food and watching the Super Bowl on the big screen. When I say big screen, I mean…BIG. This was way before 80” LED flat panels. The biggest TV at that time was a large, fuzzy rear projection monstrosity. There is nothing like everyone getting together to share in a live event like that. Imagine, though, if we all gathered on Monday to do the same thing. It would not be live. It would not be as electric. The excitement would be somewhat diminished.

The DVR Generation

We live in a world now where the lines between Live and video streaming, or Video On Demand (VOD) are starting to blur. With the proliferation of DVR, do any of us actually watch Live TV anymore? Let’s take a look at some differences in Live and VOD applications to better understand the impact in churches today.

Defining Terms

For our purposes, we are going to define live video as event based productions delivered to our viewers in real time. This would be services, sermons, conferences, concerts, or other event made available via television or internet live streaming as it is happening. We will consider VOD as the same type of production but delivered after the fact, whether an hour, a day or even a month later.

Where Are You Now?

You may be thinking about what your church is doing currently. The question is, are you creating maximum impact based on your production goals and the resources you have? Some of you may be stretching yourselves so thin because you are trying to accomplish a live production that is beyond your monetary, time and equipment resources. Others may be missing a golden opportunity to reach more people with your content because you are settling for an VOD only option.

Live Video

The great thing about live productions is they are a collective experience. When you see a stadium filled with people ready to watch the big game or even just a living room crowded with friends, it is all about sharing something together. This has incredible implications for the church. Since the church is about being together, live services have been the center point of our collective experience for millennia. When we deliver our church services live, we are allowing those who cannot attend in person to share in a collective experience. Even in the case of a satellite or campus model, those in the overflow, second campus or simulcast are able to experience something together, in the moment.

Pros of live video:

1. Shared user experience – as I stated before, this intangible is the essence of what the church is designed to be.

2. Real-time experience – the audience is experiencing something as it is happening. The content is fresh, new, hot off the press.

3. Urgency of experience – when something is presented live, there is an urgency to be aware of when it starts, be there on time, and to not want to miss anything. If you miss it, you may not hear it again.

Cons of live video:

1. Creating live broadcasts is high stress. All of the elements must be prepared beforehand. Everything must be ready to go and there are no second chances. Planning from all departments must be coordinated prior to the event.

2. Oftentimes, delivering content in realtime means you need higher bandwidth. If 1,000 people will be accessing the content at once, you need a bigger pipeline to deliver it when it comes to the internet. And bigger pipelines means higher costs.

3. There is a greater potential to miss your target viewer. When something is delivered live, the chances of someone not being available to watch at that specific time increases.

Video Streaming or Video on Demand (VOD)

On the flip side of things, VOD can let you breath a big sigh of relief for a second. When delivering content on demand, there is much more time to prepare, double check, edit and make sure the end product is exactly how you want to deliver it. However, VOD is a much more individualistic experience. While it provides the convenience of watching when you have time, it means that you are much more alone in the experience.

Nevertheless, when it comes to VOD, here are some pros:

1. VOD allows you to craft the message at your own pace. It gives you time in post-production to adjust or fix any errors that may have gone out to air otherwise.

2. This delivery method increases the chances that people will watch your content because they can fit it in their own schedule and not have to adjust their time around a specific time and date.

3. Because the bandwidth may be lower, there can be lower costs associated with VOD. In addition, you may not need expensive switching equipment if you will be using a non-linear editing system (like Final Cut or Adobe Premier) to assemble your production.

However, there are some cons associated with this method:

1. Increase of time. Because of the post-production process involved with VOD, there can be a significant increase in time when it comes to editing and finishing the production.

2. Expectation of higher quality. When something is not live, there is often an increased viewer expectation of quality. For example, the live local news has much different production value than an episode of “The Blacklist.” It is just a difference in expectation based on how live and pre-recorded content has been presented to us since the the early days of television. And that’s not even taking into account the motion picture experience. This means that people will expect any blips and “live” mistakes to be edited out. They may also expect a pre produced introduction to your sermon or live content that you are serving on demand.

3. Finally, VOD has decreased relevancy. Like my example at the beginning of watching the Super Bowl on the Monday after, when we try to present live content after the fact, it loses its punch.

Decisions

Maybe you are trying to decide if live streaming is an option for your church? Maybe you are wondering if you will have the time to edit all the sermons for VOD? Maybe you are trying to decide if budgeting for live production equipment will allow you to stream and broadcast live while decreasing the post-production time needed for VOD (Simulated Live)? Keep in mind these pros and cons as you move forward.

What other pros or cons have you experience with Live Video and VOD?