By Jeff Chaves
If we learned anything last year, it’s that the church live stream is an important tech tool. For many of us, the live stream is here to stay.
If you’re like most church techies, you aren’t content with using the basic tools. You started looking months ago for new live stream tools. Maybe you’ve been stunned by the streaming equipment prices.
The good news is that you can improve your church’s live stream without spending a lot.
The place to start is the three L’s.
The 1st l for church live streaming: light
It doesn’t matter if you’re using an expensive pro-level camera or an off-the-shelf model from your local big-box retailer. Better lighting will improve any video. Conversely, poor lighting will make any image worse. Fortunately, lighting prices have come down to affordable levels.
LED lights are relatively inexpensive and come in small sizes. Many have adjustable color to match your current lights and can be placed strategically to fill in the dark spots. A flat panel on either side of the stage can do wonders. We’ve even seen churches place a micro fixture right on the pulpit. Because they don’t emit as much heat, that is a possibility.
However, your current building and setup might not work for placing a light on the stage. Or maybe that would be frowned on by staff.
Consider completely readjusting and rethinking what you already have. Are there a lot of open bulb or spotlight fixtures? A few sheets of diffusion material will make a big difference. Diffusion lowers the overall intensity of the light, so you’ll need to readjust the focus. It is always best to have a camera turned on while you adjust the lights; you’ll notice things you don’t catch with your eye.
Suggested light gear for your church’s live stream
• GVM 800D-RGB LED Studio Video Light
• Quasar Science Q-15X Crossfade Linear LED Bi-Color Light
• Rosco E-Colour #215 1/2 Tough Spun 48” x 25’ Roll
The 2nd l of church live streaming: look
Speaking of cameras, another way to improve the look of your live stream is to invest in a better camera. If you’re currently live streaming with a phone, an action cam, or fixed-lens camera, it’s time to step up your game.
This may not sound like a budget-friendly step, but, as with lighting, prices have come down while quality has gone up.
If your leaders are convinced that video is the way to go, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince them that spending money on a camera is a good option. Even though your live stream resolution is 1080 or 720, you should consider a 4K or better camera. This will ensure you’re getting the best resolution. Plus, soon your streaming service will probably support 4K.
Part of the purchase of your camera is the lens. In fact, a good lens can cost more than the camera itself. Educate yourself on lens functions.
You’ll need a longer lens if there’s a long distance between the camera and your subject. If you can get the camera close, you can use a smaller lens, but that can mean a “fisheye” look like you get with an action cam.
Lens selection is important. With a video switcher and two (or more) cameras, you can support a variety of angles and shots.
Suggested camera gear for your church’s live stream
• Canon EOS M50 Mark II
• Sony FDR-AX53
• JVC GY-HM180 Ultra HD 4K
• Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro (video switcher)
The 3rd l of church live streaming: listen
As Paul says in Romans 10:17, “faith comes by hearing,” right? A huge part of what viewers get out of your stream is based on what they hear. Take a few minutes to listen to your live stream.
Is there echo, hum, ringing, or is the volume just low? How’s the mix on the music?
You may want to invest in the sound equipment that feeds the stream. As a rule, there should be a separate mix for your live stream. Your house mix is not the same. The best way to accomplish this is with a sound board that has a sub-mix.
You can also purchase a smaller mixer. Ideally, the second board should have direct inputs from the main board on the most important channels like your speakers and singers.
Suggested sound gear for church live stream
• Behringer XENYX Q802USB Premium 8-Input 2-Bus Mixer
• Yamaha MG10XU 10-Input Mixer
• Allen & Heath ZEDi-10 Compact Hybrid Mixer
Certainly, a sizable investment can be made in your online presence, but with a few simple upgrades, you can improve what you already have.
As with most things, if live streaming is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
This article is adapted from the February 2021 issues of Ministry Team magazine.
Jeff Chaves is the chief creative officer of Grace Pictures Inc., which he co-owns with his wife, Peggy. He got his start as an Army broadcaster in the 1980s and spent over 12 years in broadcasting. Jeff is also the pastor of CHRCH Online (chrchonline.com) and has more than 27 years of ministry experience.