What would your congregation do if Facebook stopped working this Sunday morning?
I am a meteorologist and live in Alabama, a state that has experienced lots of destruction and death from severe weather over the years. When I talk to people about severe weather preparedness, I always encourage them to have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings. Your cell phone may work great – until a storm crashes your cellular network, or your NOAA Weather Radio may wake you up – until the transmitter is knocked off the air.
Simply put: to improve your chances of safely protecting your family, you must have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings.
A similar analogy applies to live streaming. Your congregation needs more than one way to watch your worship services, for two reasons:
- One platform could suddenly stop working
- One platform may not be an option for everyone
Take, for example, Facebook. This may come as a surprise to you, but not everyone uses Facebook. Some refuse by choice and a few others don’t know how, but in the end the why doesn’t matter – the platform is not a universal option.
Plus, let’s return to my original question: what would your congregation do if Facebook stopped working? What is your backup plan?
Here are a few options to consider.
First, let’s discuss a list of places you could send live or pre-recorded video for viewing. There are lots of options, including:
We at Deerfoot Church of Christ use Facebook and YouTube, but I know a number of people who successfully stream to the other platforms.
As you can see, some of the platforms on the list above require payment. I list them here because paid platforms can provide you additional features that make it easier to accomplish your goals, such as private streaming, smartphone apps and easy-to-use website embedding. These paid platforms also don’t employ the automated content copyright algorithms that may occasionally (and erroneously) claim copyright infringements on your YouTube and/or Facebook videos.
Internet Speed Bandwidth
To live stream to more than one location, you need to have a fast internet connection.
When streaming 1080p HD video, a high quality live stream will encode approximately 5-6 Mbps per destination. So, if you are streaming to two destinations, you will encode at an upload speed of 10-12 Mbps.
By a rule of thumb, I always recommend your available upload speed be double your need. So, if you need 5-6 Mbps, then I recommend your upload speed be around 10 Mbps. If you need 10-12 Mbps, then I recommend your upload speed be around 20 Mbps. This gives you enough headroom in the bandwidth to continue to stream if your internet connection temporarily loses some of its capacity.
You can find out your internet connection upload speed by visiting speedof.me.
Simulcasting in the cloud
So what if you need 20 Mbps upload speed but only have 10 Mbps available?
At this point, I would recommend you look at paid services that allow you to simulcast your live stream in the cloud. Here are a few suggestions:
All of these services allow you to send a single HD video stream to their server, then replicate it and distribute it to multiple platforms simultaneously. I know several people who use restream.io with great success. I have also used Vimeo and Wowza for several years to do the same. I encourage you to compare the options and select the one that best fits your needs.
Simulcasting from your computer
If your internet connection is fast enough to stream to multiple destinations without the use of a simulcasting service, then you simply need software on your streaming computer. My favorite is vMix, which allows you to stream to three destinations simultaneously.
[RELATED: Live streaming with vMix]
vMix is currently offering a 90-day free trial of their software, at the Pro version level and with no watermarks. I will warn you, though: after using it a few times, you will be ready to purchase the license.
If vMix isn’t your cup of tea, then you can also look at Wirecast.
Words of caution: streaming to multiple destinations requires a computer capable of handling lots of real-time video processing. In general terms, you want a PC computer or laptop configured for gaming because gaming computers are designed to do the same thing you want to do.
Regardless of what option you choose, I encourage you to test it thoroughly before you attempt to live stream a worship service. Get comfortable with the process and make sure others in your congregation know the process in case you suddenly become unavailable. The continued success of communicating with your congregation depends backup plans and a team effort.