Are you thinking about starting to live stream your church services but don't know where to start? That is where I was just a few months ago. I had no clue where to start my church live stream setup.
I pastor a small church and didn't have a $25,000 dollar budget to hire live stream consultants or buy the premium setup. I didn't even have a $10,000 dollar budget. My budget was $1,000 dollars.
Not much I know, but that is the reality of being a small church pastor. Can it be done? You bet! I did it and I am going to show you how you can set up a church live stream for under $1,000 dollars!
Why Live Stream A Church Service?
Before you go off and spend money on live streaming, you need to know why you are doing it. It is not wise church leadership to just do something because other people are doing it or that you heard that it will increase your attendance.
If you do, and the expected outcome doesn't happen, then you will stop and will have wasted precious time and resources in the process.
Here are some of the reasons I decided to set out on this adventure called live streaming.
5 Reasons To Start Live Streaming Your Church Service
- To show people what a service is like at your church
- Provide an alternative for those who cannot normally show up for services. (Elderly, Sick, Working, Ect.)
- Provide the means for extended family members to watch special events. (Grandparents watching grandchildren in the Christmas play.)
- To stream the service in other parts of your building. (Nursery, overflow, or even another campus.)
- Most importantly: To spread the gospel! (Acts 1:8)
What Type Of Live Stream Do You Want To Produce?
Production Live Stream
Raw Live Stream
You need to decide what type of live stream you want to produce. Some churches value only producing highly professional content, whether it is video, audio, or print material. There is nothing wrong with that.
Other churches value authenticity and transparency. They wrestle with the concept of putting on a show. Those values are valid as well.
The fact of the matter is, most small to medium size churches cannot produce a production level live stream. They do not have the budget or the manpower to take on such a project.
In my case, I have 1 volunteer who does the sound, video projection and the live stream all at the same time. They are a champion in our church!
How To Start Live Streaming For Under $1,000 Dollars
There is some basic equipment you are going to need in order to live stream your church service. You may already have some of this equipment at your church so you may be able to even cut the cost of setting up your live stream.
I had to buy all of this equipment because what we had available was so antiquated it wouldn't work with today's technology.
This is what you will need.....
Choosing the right computer is important. Your 5 year old Apple Or Windows 7 machine is probably not going to cut it. You need something with at least 4 GB of RAM (8 GB is preferred.) You need at minimum a 2Ghz Dual-Core Processor. (Intel Core i7 Processor 3Ghz+ is preferred.)
You will need a DirectX 10 Compatible graphics card..The speed of the graphics card will determine how many HD cameras, inputs and simultaneous recording, streaming and outputs are possible.
When deciding which type of computer to use, thought should be given to what type of computers your congregation is familiar with. Apple makes great computers but the average person usually is more familiar with a Windows based PC. No sense adding the task of learning a new operating system on top of learning the video recording software.
One of the first mistakes I made was listening to a person who told me we could use a couple of Logitech camcorders to live stream our church services. I ended up wasting almost $200 dollars because of this.
A webcam is not designed to record things from a distance. It is meant for objects or people just a couple of feet away. Unless you want to clip a webcam to your pulpit and stand still, don't use a webcam.
Avoid using a security camera as well. They are not designed to give a good picture. They are designed to help the police get a description of someone suspicious. It is not the right tool for live streaming.
At the very minimum you need to get a consumer camcorder that has a clean HDMI output. What that means is that it will send just the video feed without the touch screen overlays found on the view finder.
This is very important because unless you have the ability to hook up the camcorder via wifi, you will not be able to use the camera to stream. You need a live video out of the camera at the time of the recording.
HDMI to USB Connection
HDMI To USB Dongle
What's a dongle? Sounds strange doesn't it?
A Dongle is a connector that captures your HDMI output from your camcorder and transforms it into a signal that will run down a USB cable to your computer. Without the dongle, your computer will not recognize the HDMI signal unless it has a HDMI input port.
(Warning! Don't try to use the HDMI output port on your computer for a HDMI input port. It could harm your computer and camcorder!)
These Dongles are sometimes called HDMI capture cards. It took me forever to figure out that I needed one of these to make the system work. There was not a lot of information about them.
Live Streaming Accessories
There are a few accessories that you will need.
- You will need USB cables to run from your Camcorder/Capture Card to your computer.
- You will possibly need a tripod and external microphone mount.
- Cases Or Bags.
Many churches use an auxiliary output from their sound system to provide the audio feed for their live stream. This is a very viable option. However you can also use one or more external microphones instead.
My church is going with the unplugged sound. We are small and do not need a loud PA system. On the camcorder we chose, the sound quality is good enough that we don't feel the need for an external microphone.
We did try both and I have included some options in case your situation needs an external mic. I listed this as optional and I am not including it in the total price of setting up a live stream system.
There is different types of software that you will need to live stream your service. The two types of software is proprietary and stand alone software.
I recommend that you purchase stand alone software. Proprietary software forces you to use the live streaming service provider that has developed the software. You cannot use it without using their paid service.
If you buy stand alone software, then you can stream to YouTube, Facebook, and many other platforms that you may want to use. You can then embed your live stream from YouTube or Facebook to your church website for free and do not have to have the expense of storing the video on your website or pay for the bandwidth used when people watch it.
Setting Up Your Live Stream
The actual set up for your live stream system is quite simple once you have all the equipment.
- Power up your computer and launch your live stream software you chose.
- Power up your camcorder and put it on the record setting.
- Connect the HDMI cable from your Camcorder to the input on your HDMI capture card/dongle.
- Connect the USB cable from the output of your HDMI capture card/dongle to the USB port on your computer. (USB 3 is preferred, but UBS 2 works. USB 3 has a blue inner piece on the computer where USB has a black one.)
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to get your computer to recognize the HDMI capture card. Most are plug n play but not all of them are.
- Set up your live streaming software so that you see both the video and the audio.
- Connect to Facebook or YouTube and go live!
Live Streaming For Under $1,000.00
Well there you have it. A basic church live stream setup package to live stream church services for under $1,000 Dollars. Just follow the recommendations and you can do it too. All of our purchases we made for our live stream are in the recommendations.
Happy Live Streaming!