Being an excellent steward of your church’s financial resources is important. However, we’ve all experienced situations where what seemed like a great bargain ended up not being a good deal. Real savings can be a delusion if the result doesn’t match expectations. For example, the promise of cheap church live streaming using a software encoder often doesn’t add up.

We hear from lots of people who’ve chosen a software encoder for their church live streaming solution. They tell us it’s complicated and unreliable. Unanticipated problems can quickly change your joyful noise into frustration with a stream that’s dropping frames and frozen software. In the end, a dedicated hardware encoder can solve many of the problems encountered with software encoders and simplify church live streaming for volunteers.

Here’s how to avoid the church live streaming software encoder blues:

Step #1 – Choose the Right Computer

It’s better to use a desktop computer that has a separate GPU for live streaming then a laptop. Although you could use a laptop with a minimum i7 processor for basic live streaming, you still risk background processes kicking in and consuming the CPU power during a church live stream. Without enough CPU power to handle all the processing, you end up with dropped frames or worse. Your live streaming software can freeze and drop your stream.

It’s best to offload all video encoding from the CPU and let the graphics card handle it. A desktop computer lets you make wise choices about where to spend your money so you can invest in a better graphics card that can handle video encoding.

Step #2 – Don’t Forget the Capture Cards

For each video source, you need a capture card to get the video into your computer. A decent video capture card isn’t cheap. However, cheap capture cards can have compatibility issues with your live streaming software encoder as well as behave unreliably – especially after a Windows update.

Step #3 – Software Encoder Costs

Sure there’s Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), which is a free open-platform streaming software. Unfortunately, that doesn’t offer technical support, any documentation, and it’s not easy to learn. Other popular live streaming software like VMix are more intuitive, but the cost can be expensive. Remember that when comparing live streaming software encoders, not all costs are as obvious as the amount listed on the bottom line.

Step #4 – Using a Hardware Encoder

The simplicity of a hardware encoder is that it does all the video processing so you don’t need an expensive computer or live streaming software. They come in various price ranges depending on the features such as:

  • The number of video inputs
  • Whether it streams to one or to multiple destinations
  • If it has a custom layout editor to create interesting scenes and overlays
  • Whether or not it supports the connection of microphones or a feed from your church’s soundboard

When compared to software solutions with similar features, hardware encoders for church live streaming can save you time, money, and frustration.

A hardware encoder like the Pearl Mini from Epiphan is an all-in-one system that switches, records, and live streams to multiple destinations and is like a TV station in a box! It has a surprisingly small footprint and packs in a lot of features, like volunteer-friendly one-touch start/stop streaming and recording, professional quality multi-streaming, and a custom layout editor.

For more video inputs, you can check out the Pearl-2.