Streaming is the latest and greatest thing that churches are jumping into.
And some churches are jumping right into streaming without having any prior video production experience. So, for the next few articles, I thought I'd do an introduction to the basics of video streaming, what it takes to produce a quality stream, and the ramifications of producing a poor quality stream.
This isn't going to cover every aspect of streamingit's meant to be an introduction to the topic to enable you to ask good questions when you decide it's time for your church to start streaming.
Just like any other technical production system, you can view a video streaming system as a chain of components. Here's the basic flow:
[ Video Camera(s) and Audio from Mixer]—>
[ Optional Video Switcher ]—>
[ Video Encoder ]—>
[ Your Internet Connection ]—>
[ Content Delivery Network ]—>
[ Your Online Audience ]
At the beginning of that chain is at least one video camera.
If you're not looking to be fancy, you can get away with just one, however, this tends to get a bit boring on the viewing side of things, because the view never changes, and that's very different from every other video watching experience. But, it can be a start.
The camera needs to be of sufficient quality to produce a good image for your typical lighting conditions. (More on this later.) It should be capable of fully manual controlyou don't want the camera to decide to change what it's focusing on by itself, or change the expose settings automatically.
Cameras generally do a poor job of making decisions like thisif your pastor moves too far from the center of the frame, the video camera's auto-focus may re-focus on the drum kit 15 feet behind him, and possibly delay in refocusing (or never refocus) on the pastor when they wander back.
Likewise, if you're using auto exposure and someone from the audience manages to stand in front of the camera such that the camera is mainly seeing a black blob, it will open the iris wide to try and get a brighter picture, causing the stage to be completely blown out when they move out of the way. Both look pretty bad on the viewer's end.
If you are using multiple video cameras, or want to cut between the video camera and graphics, you will need a video switcher to select between the various shots. Ideally, you want a switcher that can cut between the cameras and graphics seamlessly.
Less expensive switchers always dip to black before switching to the new input; this would look very bad on a video stream.
You want a switcher that will synchronize between the various sources so it can immediately switch between them, or even better, invest in a system that "locks" each video input to the same point in time, so that instant switching is possible.
Next upaudio for streaming.