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Streaming for churches
During a worship service at Rock Springs, a staff member works on controlling the video feeds with the recently installed NewTek system at the church in Easley, South Carolina.

The Essential Equipment to Start Streaming Your Message

Many religious institutions often assume that streaming technology is too expensive and complex for use by house of worship institutions, but that's no longer the case.

How can religious organizations expand their reach, while still maintaining a personal connection? The answer almost certainly sits with audio and video streaming technologies that effectively share the message of a house of worship internally, across multisite locations, throughout local communities, and even internationally.

The first step in hardware is likely as simple as using a mounted PTZ camera, with automated operation and a microphone.

Streaming services provide an unprecedented level of access to worshippers – and, thanks to the standardization of certain technologies, streaming is now an effective and affordable way to achieve a broader audience for a message.

The beauty of streaming sits in its roots as an IT-based technology, using Internet Protocol, or IP, for data transfer.

Many religious institutions often assume that streaming technology is too expensive and complex for use by house of worship institutions, but that's no longer the case. With house of worship facilities often already having some combination of standard wired or wireless networks, they are incredibly close to cost-effectively and quickly bringing a streaming solution to life.

Step 1: The Network

With a backbone infrastructure being already in place, adding streaming solutions is often as simple as working with a manufacturer or integrator, to add in cameras and a live video production system – which provides video switching, graphics and video playout capabilities.

Even for those facilities that do not have a robust enough network to immediately add these devices, adding network connectivity today has become far less complex and costly, than installing dedicated wiring for traditional video and audio distribution.

There are now cameras, production systems, graphics systems, and streaming devices that work entirely with IP protocols for streaming media. And for those facilities with cameras or other equipment already in place, there are affordable conversion options that convert legacy devices to IP signals.

There are a few audio-visual IP standards available for transporting media – but only one is software-based and offers bidirectional, multistream production, with recording capabilities: NDI. A free-to-use standard, NDI is now being used by many manufacturers – including the likes of Sony and Panasonic.

NDI-compliant devices and applications are simply put on the network, discover each other, and are ready to transport media back and forth. This connectivity can be extended across the network to other locations, using streaming even over the public internet.

It is this plug-and-play capability – along with a long list of NDI-capable products – that make it a true enabling technology, for those looking to break into video production.

Professional-grade streaming has never been more affordable, more accessible, and easier to get up and running than right now.

Step 2: Cameras and Microphones

The first step in hardware is likely as simple as using a mounted PTZ camera, with automated operation and a microphone. If existing cameras are in a workflow for recorded services, they can be easily and affordably converted to IP, with simple converters.

Creating more sophisticated programs requires multiple cameras, to capture more action from multiple positions. One common need many house of worship productions find, is the need for image magnification of a camera source. If there are also in-house displays, there is a need to ensure video and audio stay in sync. These aspects require a live production system.

Step 3: Live Production Systems

Live production systems allow for switching of cameras and video sources, transitions, effects, video clip playout, and managed streaming outputs.

A more advanced system also integrates audio mixing, graphics, the use of virtual sets as backgrounds, and control of devices, such as cameras. All of these functions can be done over an IP network. Sending signals around a building or campus to multiple displays and screens, can also be done using IP.

This is often the moment where things begin to seem more complex – but worry not!

A live production system can be as simple or as complex as one would like, to get a job done. Incredibly impressive productions can be created with simple button presses, that switch between two or three cameras. Training on a system can take as little as a few hours with a local integrator. Today, automation software also exists that allow for individuals to write a script in a text document and let the system run itself.

The best part of this is that when individuals feel ready for more advanced production components, they can quickly and easily ramp up. The live production system should be ready and able to scale at your pace – meaning you can get streaming quickly.

Step 4: Distribution

With entire productions being created and shared over IP, it is a simple extension to stream the content out to other destinations. With a live production system, it should be as simple as the click of a mouse to go live on any platform of your choice.

Streaming worship services keeps members involved who are not able to attend in person – and that applies to anyone in the world with internet access. These same IP streams can also be recorded and saved as a file, that can be hosted on a local server, or on to a cloud-based video hosting platform. This allows for on-demand video viewing, after the service has ended.

Events, messaging, and communications can also be streamed out and delivered to social media platforms, and to specific websites used by congregants.

Step 5: Don’t Be Afraid to Partner Up

When making the decision to deploy any level of streaming capabilities, it is important to involve a system integrator who can provide a level of consultancy and expertise to best match specific requirements and goals. They will help select technologies, system suppliers, and implementations to ensure the best results for your budget.

By working with the correct integrator – and the correct manufacturer – you are ensured long-term support and service with your system. Many integrators and manufacturers are ready to partner in your streaming success!

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