If your church isn’t online yet or hasn’t been in the past, you might be scrambling to figure it all out now. The terms COVID-19 and “social distancing” have entered our vocabulary. Gone are the days that your church could hide behind “we’ve never done that before, so we won’t do it now.”
The solution to this problem for a lot of churches has been to prerecord services or live stream from a single smartphone or tablet. That’s fine when no one is at your church building, but what about when some people start coming back in, but others are still watching from their homes? How do you get better production with limited resources when people will be sitting in seats that you used to be able to shoot from?
That’s where a multi-camera live streaming production comes in. In the past, multi-camera live streaming production has been very expensive. SwitcherStudio for iOS changes all that.
SwitcherStudio Multi-Camera Live Streaming Platform Overview
First, you don’t need expensive cameras connected with either SDI or expensive wireless video devices. You just use iOS devices (iPhones and iPad, up to 9 at a time) with wifi.
Second, you don’t need a video switcher. Switcher studio handles the basics of switching in the app itself.
So, is this a game-changer for churches? Should large churches abandon their expensive live production systems in favor of an iOS app?
Yes, and no.
First, let’s set expectations. This is not a system that would completely replace a professionally installed multi-cam set up. It has its set of challenges, which stem from the fact that iPhones are not studio cameras. They’re good, but you can’t make all of the same shots that you could with a studio camera, pulling focus precisely between subjects or smoothly zooming while dollying or trucking. But, it’s nowhere near as expensive either.
So, what makes Switcher Studio a better option than just using a single phone…for free?
#1 – Improve Your Production with Multiple Cameras
The first answer is obvious. You can use two or more cameras to exponentially improve your production.
With one phone, if something started happening on the other side of the worship stage, you’d have to zoom out and pan over to get it. You could potentially miss part of what happened.
With two or more, you can just cut over to another camera and show it instantaneously.
What if the pastor puts up a picture on the screen for the in-person congregation to see or referenced a Bible verse? With one phone, you’d have to take a shot of the screen, which might be too bright. You’d either deal with it or change the exposure, only to readjust when you went back to a shot of the pastor.
Maybe you have two phones and an iPad. Keep the iPad with you and switch shots from it. Start service with one camera straight on to the worship team, but another closer so you can get shots of guitars and drums up close.
#2 – Wi-fi Connected Cameras – No Need for Cables
Since the cameras connect over wi-fi, set up for events outside your normal sanctuary is a breeze. You might want to connect the phones to lightning cables to keep them charged. Also, put them on tripods for a good stable shot, but that’s it. No need to run cable and plug-in converters.
In fact, you might even want to connect the phones to power banks, so that you can move tripod and phone as a single unit for different placement during different parts of the service.
In fact, since switching is done on an iPhone or iPad, you don’t need to restrict yourself to the tech booth at all. Maybe you want to sit with your spouse or head backstage to troubleshoot other equipment, Switcher Studio gives you that flexibility.
#3 – Remote Control of Cameras
What if you’re short on camera operators? Are you stuck with shots set at the beginning of service? Not necessarily.
Switcher studio includes the capability to add a DJI Osmo Mobile (or Mobile 2 or Mobile 3) that you can control remotely from the Switcher Studio interface, turning your iPhones into PTZs (robotic) cameras.
Since they’re not traditional PTZs, you’re not stuck with using them only at church in a permanent install. So, you could have the $120-140 Osmo Mobiles for other uses, like taking smoother shots while you’re walking or following more dynamic content.
App Navigation and Functions
When you fire up the app, you need to login and tell it whether that device is a camera or the switcher. Then, you hit the big “+” button on the device you’re using as the switcher and add the other cameras. Now, just tap on the camera thumbnail you want to take as the source and it’s up. It’s pretty simple.
Want to take the output of your worship software? Tap on that.
Want to change the transition type? No problem. There’s a transition button at the bottom of the interface that you can use to change to a cross dissolve, cut, or something else.
One nice feature of Switcher Studio is the ability to do what they call a “multiview.” An example that you might be familiar with is a picture in picture (or PIP for short), but that’s not all. You can also have two sources side by side or even put one on the lower third of the screen while having the other in the top two thirds, kind of like a partial wipe.
Can Switcher Studio overlay graphics from worship software via NDI or use chromakey to remove the background? It doesn’t appear to.
With Switcher Studio, you can dissolve into a full-screen image of what’s on-screen, captured with their free Switcher Cast app (which works in MacOS and Windows).
It does have the ability to have premade graphics that overlay with transparency, though. This feature would be great for an opening title or to add a name label for your pastor or worship leader.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a one-time purchase like a multi-camera system typically is. Switcher Studio is a service. You’re not buying the app for a fixed price; you’re subscribing to it. This allows you to use Switcher Studio as a switcher, recorder, and encoder.
Starting at about $30 (non-profit pricing) a month, it’s not necessarily for the church with the mandate to not spend money at all. But, when you think of it as $1 a day or about $7 a week, it’s a fine option, even if you have to skip a couple of trips to Starbucks every week to make it happen.
Is Switcher Studio hard to use then? No.
So, while Switcher Studio isn’t perfect, it’s a great solution for churches that want to up their game to more professional quality. It’s also great for live-streaming from remote locations, where taking a whole production setup is cost or time prohibitive.
If either of those is your situation, give it a try. As long as you have iOS devices, the 14-day trial they offer makes it a no-brainer.