By Jordan Sjodin and Mary Jahnke
For Faithlife employee and church volunteer Jordan Sjodin, starting to live stream services came as an unexpected blessing. Sure, there was a lot to figure out (live streaming equipment was a big one!), but the benefits outweighed the effort.
Read his behind-the-scenes live streaming experience below to find out:
- One big way church live streaming will save you time
- What live streaming views Jordan uses for each service
- Which live streaming equipment he wouldn’t want to go without
Why I used to think church live streaming was a good idea
When I first started helping my church with live streaming, it had been something the “cool” churches were doing for the past eight years or so. Pre-COVID, live streams were a great way for prospective attendees to try out your church before visiting and for regular attenders to stay up to date while on vacation. After we started live streaming, I discovered another reason it’s a good idea (keep reading for that).
What we had to do before live streaming
To share videos of our church services before we started live streaming, we had to go through quite a process. Using our Sony XD CAMs to record our pastor only got us halfway. But then . . .
We needed to record the slides along with the camera view somehow, too, and it was important to us that we add the service recording to our website the same day.
- That meant we had service Sunday morning, and the recording needed to be up by Sunday evening.
- I’d spend a good chunk of time after the service importing the recording from the camera, exporting the slides from our presentation software, and manually dragging the slides in over the video at the correct time to produce a sermon recording with slides.
I spent at least two hours every Sunday copying the video from the camera, editing the video to include the sermon slides, and exporting the video.
The hidden benefit of church live streaming (why I think it’s a good idea now)
Making service recordings available on our website was something we wouldn’t give up. It helped visitors get to know our church, and it gave members an opportunity to rewatch and grow through sermons at any time.
Though recording our services was worth the effort . . . it used to be a lot of effort.
I quickly found the less-talked-about benefit of church live streaming was that it provided us with all the tools our church needed to easily produce a recording of our video, audio, and slides. To me, this overlooked benefit makes investing in live stream equipment worth it all by itself!
Because of live streaming, we could share our service recordings without being slowed down by unnecessary extra work.
How live streaming equipment brought the fix we needed
Live streaming’s greatest benefit to my church—or at least to me :)—was getting the video done at the same time as the service. This came about with the addition of a piece of live streaming equipment called a video switcher.
The video switcher we use for live streaming is a Blackmagic ATEM switcher. (I always joke about the brand name “Blackmagic” as it feels weird to say, “I used Blackmagic to make this sermon recording.”)
The addition of the ATEM switcher allowed me to create an excellent-looking live stream of our service. I use these shots during every live stream service:
- Jump from a close-up of the pastor, then to a full-screen Bible verse as he reads from Scripture.
- Move to a picture-in-picture (PIP) view alongside the current sermon slide.
- As the sermon progresses, switch between a PIP view to a close-up of the pastor.
I can do all these shots in real time as the sermon progresses.
We send this output to a software encoder (currently OBS), then send it from the encoder to our stream.
This equipment setup of a switcher and software encoder accomplishes a lot:
- The service “editing” happens live during the service.
- Since multiple camera angles are fed live into the switcher, I can change them at any time.
- I get clean audio directly from our soundboard.
- The video output is encoded live at our stream destination.
- The same feed goes to our foyer, family room, and nursing mothers room—a big step up from the static video feed we had before.
When the service is over, I have to wait only a few minutes to have a 720p MP4 ready to download. It’s a game changer for my workflow! Now I can actually go home and have dinner with my family.
Recap of my favorite live streaming equipment & more recommendations
There are all kinds of ways to set up your church live streaming equipment, but to me these are the top three things that will make life easier for you and your church A/V team:
- A good camera with SDI outputs (e.g., Sony XD CAMs)
- A switcher like my preferred, Blackmagic ATEM switcher
- A software encoder like free OBS or Wirecast
Note: OBS’s free software works great as a software encoder that can send your stream to any destination. OBS also offers software versions of the same benefits you’d get with a video switcher.
Tip: If you only have one camera feed, you can send that to OBS and use scenes to crop the video close for a close-up, and then zoom out for PIP. You can also set up OBS to record to the local computer so you’ll have a backup in case anything happens with your stream.
Of course, you’ll also need a good laptop and speedy WiFi, but you’ve probably already got those.
(And this is a sidenote, but I can’t leave it out since I’m on the team that creates it—you also need a church presentation software that’s easy to use and lets you collaborate from anywhere. Faithlife Proclaim hits those high notes—and many more. It can connect directly to OBS via NDI if you don’t have a video switcher. Plus, you can try it free for 30 days.)
Live streaming today
Live streaming is so much bigger today than it was years ago when we set it up at our church. Our stream went from 20–70 viewers to hundreds as our congregation found themselves confined at home.
Luckily, technology has also improved since we started. Blackmagic has a new line of ATEM minis that look awesome and provide the benefits of a video switcher with an easy-to-use- device at more reasonable prices.
Want to run slides and live stream from the same software? Check out Faithlife Proclaim, and start a free 30-day trial.