HomeChurch OnlineLive StreamingLive Stream Your Church Services for Almost Nothing

Live Stream Your Church Services for Almost Nothing

-

A couple of months ago I started live streaming on my site five days a week.  Like many smaller churches, my budget for all this was pretty much nothing.  I’ve since talked to a couple of churches that are in a similar situation, but really do want to live-stream their services for shut-ins or military personnel stationed abroad.

So how do you live-stream with almost no money?

Live Streaming Equipment

So, what’s the bare minimum that you need in order to pull it off?  That depends on what you’re trying to do, but if you’re looking for the absolute minimum, it really isn’t as much as you’d think.

For any live-streaming system, you need a streaming computer, a camera (or video feed from a switcher) that can connect to your streaming computer, a reliable broadband connection, and good audio that can also connect to the streaming computer.  This connects to your streaming video provider, so you’re uploading one stream and no matter how many people watch, your internet connection isn’t affected.

Computer System

How basic can all this be?  The streaming computer doesn’t need to be a $5,000 workstation.  I wouldn’t rely on a donated Windows 98 box, but a modern multi-processor computer dedicated to running Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder (which is free by the way) should be able to handle the job.

For the camera, I recommend HD to churches for projectors and IMAG (image magnification), but for streaming, since the video is likely to be embedded into a web page and surrounded by a chat client, schedule, and old recordings, a 640×360 (half the vertical resolution of 720p) can be enough, at least to start.

Camera

You can do it with a webcam, but you need to get that close to the pastor to make it work since they don’t have zoom lenses.  Make sure you have good enough lighting and can get the camera high enough that it doesn’t look like the pastor is towering over the people watching, but not so high that the people watching are looking down on the person preaching either.

A better alternative is to use a camcorder.  Purely from an optical perspective, camcorders have a distinct advantage over webcams — a zoom lens.  Webcams are designed to work up close.  If you need to put a cam more than a few feet from the pastor, a camcorder is the right choice.

If you’re sticking with SD, you could capture via Firewire (aka IEEE 1394, DV link, iLink).

HDMI camcorders are trickier.  Even though HDMI is a digital signal, HDMI ports on computers tend to be designed to send video out, not take video in.  In that case, you’ll need a capture card of some sort to pull the signal in.

Internet & Streaming Provider

Probably the biggest expenses are the ongoing expense of a solid internet connection (dial-up won’t cut it here and an unreliable cellular connection won’t either.  Ideally, you’d want multiple dedicated connections, but in reality, DSL or Cable Modem will probably be okay.

You can use free services like Ustream.tv or Google Hangouts, but realize that you’re paying with frustration and lack of control instead of money.  If you have no budget, free is better than nothing, but ads might interrupt or you might be unable to get rid of the bar on the bottom for “other contributors.”

Dedicated services like WorshipChannels.com and ChurchStreaming.tv are somewhat better, but not free choices. ChurchTechToday also posted a great list of live stream providers here in with a helpful feature chart. I’ve worked with both of them for my site and they’re both responsive, but neither is perfect, so see what works best for you.

From my experience, I can say that live-streaming is definitely something worth trying.  The traffic on my website has tripled from when I started this just a couple of months ago.

If reaching more people is what you want to do, give it a try and upgrade each piece of the puzzle until you get the right solution for your church.  Never before has the cost of entry been so low.

What has been your experience with live-streaming?

Paul Clifford
Paul Cliffordhttp://trinitydigitalmedia.com
Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div. is the creator of ChurchTechU and LearnProPresenterFast.com where you and your team can learn church tech through self-paced tutorials on your time-table. He is also the author of Podcasting ChurchThe Serving ChurchChurch Video School, and other church tech books. He releases free tech training regularly on TrinityDigitalMedia.com.

39 COMMENTS

  1. thank you so much about the information and on my case am having my laptop and my camera plus the modem(internet) wat else do i need to start live streaming?are the ones i have enough?? your help and giude please
    am in UGANDA(africa) willing to start live steaming for our ministry TRUE PROMISES as the way to spread the gospel
    God bless you
    thank you!

  2. I am new to this.Are the free sites for Mass streaming reliable and worth the effort ?If so can you list a few?Thank you.Also a few of the least expensive sites for Mass streaming.

    • The two big players in the free live streaming space are YouTube and FaceBook. There are others, but they all monetize in annoying ways (interrupting mid-stream, preventing you from embedding the video on the church site, etc.). The problem with both YouTube and Facebook is copyright. I want you to follow the law and get licences from either Church Copyright Association or CCLI, but neither YouTube nor Facebook allow you to whitelist your stream as one using copyrighted music with permission. As such, they tend to do things to your account as a result of streaming music. You might get away with it for a while, but it can be troublesome after they figure it out.

      For paid solutions, look at boxcast (dead simple with a $500 encoding box), churchstreaming.tv (pretty simple with their encoding box that can be used on other platforms), etc. They’re both around $100 a month.

      • Vmix has a free software that works great and you can live stream to tons of sites and record your service at the same time.

        • A lot has changed in the 4 years since I wrote this article. That said, Vmix is a fine alternative. I’m generally recommending hardware encoders like the teradek vidiu now because they’re cheaper than computer/capture card combos and they don’t get malware/viruses. If you use software like Vmix, make sure that the machine isn’t used during the week by people who might do things to endanger the weekend live-stream, though.

    • Thank you Paul.You mentioned that you use the Logitech C615 webcam.I am wondering if it would be applicable for our church situation.Our camera would be set in the choir area approximately 25 feet to the altar.Would I be able to zoom into the immediate altar/lectren area or am I looking at a stationary wide shot of the church ?I was told by salespeople that this camera should only be used for “closeups” within a few feet.Our camera would be used primarily for streaming church services approximately 5 hours per week,nothing else .Thank you for your help and God bless !

      • The only zoom on most webcams is a digital one that degrades the quality of the image. I’d either move the camera closer or use a different camera, like a camcorder captured into the computer.

  3. Thanks for the information, it has been of great help…
    What am trying to accomplish is being able to capture video from (webcam, camcorder) and being able to input audio to it from an audio mixer, which has the mic up close to speaker… That way avoiding as much as possible audio from ambient.
    I did a search query for webcams with audio aux in but perhaps none have this available or its just the wrong search parameters. Any suggestions..?

  4. Thank you so much for your help.. I have some queations if you can help me with them?!
    So i’m more thinking about live streaming though youtube!! I already bought a camcorder and thought that this will be will be the answer.. But seems its more complicated!
    So i figuered that i will need a capture card between the camera and the laptop! What do u think are the best options?! And the cheapest of course.. Someone recommended blackmagic minni recorder?! What do you think?
    My other question is do i need a broadcasting software when live streaming.. Or not?? Or is it necessary??
    do you think i’ll be surprised with other stuff that i may need.. Please let me know !!!
    Thank you so much
    Btw im from nazarene church in jordan.. And im starting media ministry here .. And i believe that the good news will be spread around the middle east through media.. keef us in your prayers

    • It depends on the computer. The BMD mini-recorder is great for computers with a thunderbolt port (like macs made in the last 5 years, with the exception of the newest macbook).

      For software (which you will need if you are using a computer to encode), you have three choices. Open Broadcast Software (free), Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder (free), or Wirecast $500+. Adobe FMLE is very processor intensive, so make sure you’ve got a beefy computer if you go that direction.

      Praying for you. I know the region is hostile to the good news.

      Paul

  5. Hey Paul-
    I was wondering if you have ever checked out Media Fusion for church streaming? Full disclosure, it’s my company so I am not impartial. However, our target market is small and medium sized churches who want to start an online ministry that grows with them. We use Akamai as our CDN which guarantees stability, set up wizards that help the “less techy” get started as well as archive video management. Another cool feature is integration with the pad caster/ go coder app so that you can stream directly from an iPad with great quality. I’d love to talk to you more about it. We do service big churches like Hillsong and Community Bible Church but our pricing is set for small churches. Check us out: http://www.mediafusionapp.com

  6. Paul,

    Our church has started live streaming with an archive.
    http://www.sundaystreams.com/go/eastrichlandfriends

    Many of us are not happy with the service. Since our church has a school associated with it, we have two of the fastest comcast connections available to feed out the stream. I think the online service we are using is just not cutting it. We are not using their free plan.

    Can you recommend other services?

    Thanks

  7. Hi Paul

    We want to stream our church service for the same reasons you mentioned.

    Would you be willing to provide more detail about your setup? Or can you provide more detailed instructions on how this capability is set up? Seems like lots of folks want to understand how to do this but googling for help doesn’t give any detail. A nice How To with some specifics on how to set up a basic low cost system would be nice.

    PS: My wife & I provide free IT work to our church. We created and manage the website, helped them setup digital internet based phone system, investigated and setup 720p IP security camera system, maintain the audio system.

    Thanks for your article
    Dave

    • Here’s what I use for ChurchTechCast.com:

      MacBook Pro
      Wirecast Pro (although basic would be enough for most churches) or Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder (free)
      Logitech C615 1080p webcam
      Audio from an Audio-Technica ATR6550 to a ZoomH4 audio recorder (used just as a preamp for the mic) out to a griffin iMic audio interface.

      I’ve also got the webcamsettings app that has more granular control of the Logitech cam. It’s well-worth the $9 it cost me to turn off the auto exposure, etc.

      Make sure you get good 3-point lighting, too. You’re trying to mimic the sun hitting the side of someone’s face, but also hitting the back of their head to separate them from the background. Overhead lights aren’t good for this. You want some separation.

  8. Our church was using youtube, but they shut us down because we were streaming copyrighted material. Even though we have permission through CCLI to stream our worship music, youtube still shut us down. So that is something to consider.

    • I was afraid of that. Even though you have a license, YouTube has their filter to be as strict as possible to avoid litigation.

      Have you tried ChurchStreaming (link above)? Their customer service is top notch and they’ve understand churches. They’re not free, but $99/month for churches under 2,000 isn’t bad (and it’s a flat rate, too).

  9. Hi
    Thanks for the post.
    I was wondering if you could help me by telling me what type of laptop you use.
    I’ve got an older tv camera, so I’ve been told I need a laptop that has a FireWire port (500 Hd )to connect laptop to camera I think.

    So can you tell me what you recommend? I know nothing about laptops-computers, so it’s hard knowing what exactly I’m looking for.
    I would like to spend $300 on an used laptop.

    We want to live stream our open air revival service during our mission trip. Any help would be appreciated!

    Thank you
    Janet

  10. We stream with a Canon XA10 with a Blackmagic Intensity on an iMac. We use the paid version of ustream which has been somewhat reliable so far. Little no to customer service from them was disappointing. The streaming YouTube channel is interesting though.

  11. You suggest “almost nothing” in the title and then describe a bunch of equipment to buy. We can’t find a non FireWire video camera that will stream using the free services. Any specifics that cost “almost nothing” which is to say any price below $500.

  12. One thing not mentioned is licensing. If steaming the whole service, you’ll also need a streaming license for the music. CCLI offers one.

    Also, if you use Google Apps for Nonprofit, you can register for a similar YouTube account which allows for streaming.

  13. […] From Church Tech Talk Source- churchtechtoday.com […]

  14. Thank you for your article – we started streaming around a year ago in a similar way you describe. An we also done a lot of test 😉
    Now we use http://sermon.net/ as provider. Good and stable service and low fees for smal churches.

  15. We have a T1. Would that be “reliable” enough, or have enough throughput, for live streaming? During the worship services, there is minimal internet usage going on throughout the rest of the campus. We have no reliability issues with the connection. Just curious if the 1.5 up/down speed is sufficient.

    Great article!! Thank you!!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Featured Posts

LATEST POSTS

4 Top Takeaways for Doing Online Church Services Well

All the leading voices agree — online church services are not just recording church. So then, what is online church? Here are some of the best principles experts agree on about how to think of online church.

4 Ways to Inspire Church Visitors To Keep Coming Back

Most of us have visited a new church for the first time. It’s a unique experience and one that many churches struggle to perfect. Thinking through each step that affects a newcomer can be tricky, especially if you have been part of the church for years and know everything there is to know.

Metaverse Church Summit Online Set For May 18

Leadership Network is hosting the Metaverse Summit on May 18, 2022. The online event is available with free registration. According to event organizer, Jeff...