I’ve had several people reach out to me in recent days asking for suggestions on how to live stream. Some had nothing, while others had a camera.
If you don’t have a camera but need to get a live streaming plan together quickly, then I suggest you check out my blog post earlier this week on live streaming:
However, if you have a camera or want a camera and need a list of additional equipment and software, here’s my suggestions:
There are hundreds of cameras out there that will work. The one you should pick can only be answered by knowing where it will be used, lighting conditions, distance from the camera to the subjects you intend to show on camera, etc. For the purposes of this discussion, the camera simply needs:
- HDMI output
- External audio input(s)
Most cameras will have HDMI outputs and either a single 3/8″ microphone jack or two XLR jacks, which is important for getting audio into the camera and both video and audio out of the camera into the
If you have one camera, then you need a good tripod. Something sturdy enough to allow you to gently pan and tilt the camera without it looking jerky as people are watching. There are lots of great tripods out there, including this one:
The key here is to get a tripod that will elevate the camera high enough so that it is eye-level with the people speaking and be fluid enough to pan and tilt the camera without it looking shaky as people are watching.
Microphones(s) or audio mixer
If your congregation already has an audio mixer, then you could simply run an audio cable from the mixer to your camera. Everyone has a different audio setup, so there are multiple ways to get audio out of your mixer. Whether it’s XLR or 1/4″ stereo jacks, you need to either use a spare audio output or split the audio coming out of an existing audio output. If both are available, I recommend XLR, but you could even use the mixer’s headphone jack in a pinch. Consult your mixer’s user manual for best solutions.
On the other end, you need to convert the audio into a format your camera can accept. Again, consult your camera’s user manual to determine what size connector you need.
In between the mixer and your camera, you will need an audio cable or a wireless transmitter and receiver. The length depends on the distance between your mixer and where you intend to set your camera. If you want wired (which is usually more reliable) then I recommend you visit websites such as monoprice.com, sweetwater.com, bhphotovideo.com or amazon.com to purchase the cable you need.
If you want wireless, I’m a big fan of Sennheiser’s XSW-D XLR Base Set:
It has great range, rich sound, automatic audio leveling and is easy to use.
If your camera video looks grainy, it’s a sign you don’t have enough light.
Most cameras don’t perform well in dim lighting. Therefore, the more light you can shine in the room and on the stage, the better your video will look.
Also, don’t stand in front of windows or other bright lights. The more light behind the person you are showing on camera, the darker their face will look.
Hardware and Software
At this point, you have two options to get video and audio out of your camera to your online destinations: you can either purchase a hardware encoder or purchase a computer and software.
If you want a hardware encoder, there are several options, including the Vidiu Go HDMI (standalone) by Teradek:https://teradek.com/collections/vidiu-go
I’ve used Teradek products for several years with good success. This device would allow you to record as you stream, bond the video (which is helpful when one internet connection isn’t fast enough) and you can use Teradek’s cloud service (Teradek Core) to send your video to multiple destinations simultaneously, such as Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and/or a private CDN like sermon.net.
If you would rather use a computer and software, then I recommend you get:
- a Windows gaming laptop
- Elgato CamLink 4K
- vMix (Basic HD license)
As of this writing, live streaming works better on Windows computers than Macs. I’m a Mac guy and love my Apple devices, but for the live streaming I do and recommend, a Windows computer built for gaming works best. Detailed computer recommendations for the software I’m about to suggest can be found here:
To get the video and audio into your computer, I recommend the Elgato CamLink 4K:
This will let you input the HDMI signal (including audio) to your computer (your computer will need a USB 3.x port to capture the live video and audio.)
Get the $60 vMix Basic HD license for your computer:
This software is awesome. It’s what I use for streaming at work, church, etc. You can add the camera feed, then stream and record your broadcast. There are lots of fantastic tutorials available on their website to get you started.
If you want to stream to multiple destinations, vMix will let you stream to three simultaneously:
If you want to stream to more than three destinations simultaneously, or you don’t have a fast enough internet connection to stream to all of your desired destinations, then I would recommend you consider a service such as Vimeo Live or restream.io. This is very similar to the Teradek Core service listed above that allows you to send one live stream to the cloud, then pay the cloud provider to restream it to the destination(s) you choose.
You need a solid (fast) wired or wireless internet connection. Wired is usually more reliable than wireless.
The download speeds don’t matter as much as the upload speeds. I recommend a minimum of 10 Mbps upload speed to increase your chances of a successful broadcast. You can go to speedof.me on your smartphone to check your speed.
Put the camera as close to the “action” as possible and eye-level with the speakers. The more the camera has to zoom in, the worse it will look (because the lens won’t be able to let as much light into the camera.) I also don’t want to look up your nose when you are streaming.
You’ve got to crawl before you can walk and walk before you run. All of us make mistakes, even the pros, because we’re human.
Don’t be nervous about quality. Just be honest with your congregation. Tell them we’re going to try this, learn from our mistakes and keep working to make it better every week.
Ask questions. I am a member of several Facebook groups, such as Streaming Idiots and CMG | Visual Church Media, who are filled with lots of helpful people willing to answer your questions.
Don’t put it off. Give it a try today because tomorrow never comes.
Test it out. Make sure it works, then test it again.
Don’t be the only person in your congregation to know how to do this. One day you will be on vacation or sick.
Teach others what you know. Leave the world around you better than the way you found it.
Dennis Washington is a multimedia communications specialist for Alabama Power in Birmingham, Alabama. In his spare time he helps church leaders develop successful communication strategies and growth plans.
*Note: I do not receive any commission or endorsements for the equipment suggestions listed on this website. I simply suggest equipment I have used or would purchase if needed.