Live Streaming on a Budget
In light of recent events involving churches closing down shop for a few weeks, I found that it may help to share some of the things that our team at the Long Beach Church did to generate a stream from free and cheap equipment. In the process, we were able to produce a fairly decent stream. You can find that here:
This post is primarily for leaders who are still going through the live stream research. It's for the pastor who has no clue how all this stuff works and want to still connect with your church family. For those of you with solid production, we salute you. Unfortunately, most churches out there with about 50-60 people in attendance, and even lower, would like to live stream but can't necessarily afford the professional projects.
Keep in mind that what we're sharing here is essentially how we developed our recent semi-HD livestream (and I say "semi" because of the fact that there's still some issues we're working out) with the tools we already had. The tools we use are fairly inexpensive and incredibly easy to setup. So for those in our boat, here's our paddle.
The first thing to know is that there are many other programs to choose from. One of our staff members is a professional artist and live streamer (you can find him at https://www.twitch.tv/spactana). He uses OBS. So we decided to use the same system. We've been using the same system for another online Bible Study-ish stream for young people called, Epic Bible Time.
OBS is free to download and free to use. You can buy plug-ins for additional resources, however, the basics of what every streamer really needs is already stocked. OBS runs great, especially on PC. Macs currently are beta-testing, so it comes with some streaming issues. You may find that there are still so many limitations with it when you begin the streaming process. We recently ran into those issues at our 11AM stream because of the Mac app. It ended up pushing us to a 12:15PM start time. Luckily, it wasn't in front of a crowd, so we had a bit more grace to work with. The point of the story is actually to say that when the PC was brought in to run OBS, it saved the day!
In terms of recording, it's solid on both platforms. What we recommend is to get a pretty recent PC with at least 8GB of memory and, preferably, a solid state drive. With this setup, you'll most likely have a smooth process. Most processors that come in PCs nowadays are fairly good processors.
OBS has great tutorials that you can find on YouTube. Here's one in particular for beginners https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAvQfjpZncY. But we do recommend people to do a search through Google and YouTube to find out exactly what you're looking to do.
OBS will run multiple inputs (audio capture, visual capture, screen captures, etc.) in one single scene. You can even setup different scenes to transition in between, using the studio feature. It's like having a switcher that you can auto-take right on the PC. Seriously, this is a really easy and basic program. Yet, you can still customize it to fairly complex as well.
All in all, we're extremely grateful for this app.
The Canon 60D is discontinued by Canon, yet, you can still find this badboy on adorama or b&h for >$300. While we used this camera, I will admit that you can use almost any DSLR and get good quality as long as you have good lighting. So ask around your church or friends of church members, because chances are, someone has a DSLR in their backpack.
In terms of setup: we honestly ran the DSLR on auto and straight up recorded with its settings and it came out great! And that's because of one key factor for streaming...
If you need some help with setting up lighting, I would recommend searching through YouTube. But really, all you need to do is get it close enough to make sure that all your patrons are well lit. If you don't have a well lit stage, I can't necessarily help you there. But in the current situation, most people are streaming for with their bare bones crew, so a simple studio lighting setup with an acoustic band can be lit with our studio lighting from Amazon.
In this link, you'll find a number of options to choose from. I'm not gonna go into them in detail, because this isn't a review post. I'm just letting you know that you have price ranges to work with. Any of these could pop up and get you started for a studio session.
Capture cards are insanely important to this process because you can't connect your camera unless you have a capture card. The capture card operates as a video capturing device to send the video feed from your camera into your PC.
There are many different types around. We chose to use the Camlink 4k because it has an HDMI input and outputs into our PC through USB 3.0. To connect the camera to the capture card, we purchased a mini HDMI to HDMI cable.
If you're using OBS, and your operating system is up-to-date, this whole system should be plug and play.
We chose to use YouTube because of its accessibility. YouTube links are easy to share and once you go through the process is fairly easy to set up a live feed too. YouTuber Nick Nimmin gave us a fairly good tutorial of how to set this up.
Each streaming site will develop a streaming key to attach to OBS. Once you attach that key, save and then click begin streaming at the bottom right of the app, you'll get going. However, before you do that, you may want to setup your scenes first, and then go live. Follow Nick Nimmin's tutorial and you'll be in good shape.
Keep in mind, you may have to manipulate the settings in OBS to get the right setup for your stream. There are many tutorials on that too. One in particular helped us a lot and it came from Epos Vox.
Facebook Live is fairly simple. Twitch might be a tad bit more complicated. To find the right one, you'll have to assess if many of your congregation are on a social media platform or not. If they're not, setup a YouTube channel and use that. You'll be able to share the link and text, email or post that link up to communicate it.
For lyrics, all we did was utilize ProPresenter onto a separate screen, using a separate monitor. OBS will be able to capture that specific screen that you're outputting your ProPresenter with, and you can have someone tickling the keyboard to get the lyrics up and running on your stream. We resized the screen and placed it on the bottom to create a good karaoke effect.
P.S. If you don't have ProPresenter, which I'd highly recommend for any church really, you can do the same thing with PowerPoint.
All in all...
The total of all of our purchases came out to ~$350-450. For those who don't necessarily know about the cost comparison. A solid professional setup is $50k+. Of course, if you're a master at it, you can get away with a very good HD setup for $20k. A friend of mine did that with his church at Bolingbrook, IL.
Fortunately, I already had these tools lying around in my office, so I was able to pull them together and get them going. However, it's likely that if you're reading this you may not have heard any of these terms and products in your life. So I commend you for just getting to this part of the post.
My goal here is to make sure that you are, at least, introduced to these tools so that you can begin asking your congregation and team for help to utilize their resources and maybe even knowledge. Yet, if you follow these specific products, get them on a table, watch the tutorials, and really sit to learn, it's likely you'll be able to create a fairly decent one-camera (or if you can 2-3 camera setup) setup for your live streaming needs at your local church without breaking the bank.
I hope that this was helpful. Please comment below if you have any questions or suggestions. For those who have been practicing already and came to judge our setup, share with us your setup and tools. We'd love to learn more about budget-streaming!