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From his column Church Tech

church-tech-05-14-1We’ve all been there, we’re reading an Internet article about a fascinating topic like John Wesley’s Tips on Horsemanship, when, over in the margins, we see someone jumping up and down with joy. Upon closer investigation, we find they have either found a minus-2.0% mortgage rate, or discovered a way to trim 12 inches from their waist—without dieting! Despite our lack of interest in such things, our eyes keep flicking away from “Reading While Circuit Riding” and back to the joyful jumper. Then the thought occurs, how can I create videos? 

If your church has older or invalid congregants who are no longer able to attend church, one way to reduce their sense of isolation might be through video streaming. With streaming, you can broadcast your events over the Internet and your shut-ins can browse to your church’s channel via smartphone, tablet or PC. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s the next best thing. Today, let’s review the simplest way I’ve found to use video to broadcast live events over the web.

How To Do It

The essential elements for providing simple live broadcasting of events are:

  • A video camera to take it in,
  • An Internet service to make your video available to many viewers, and
  • An encoding method to connect the camera to the service.

Most modern video cameras can be used to capture an event. The most important aspect of using the camera is to mount it on a tripod so your viewers at home don’t get motion sickness.

Encoding is the component most people are unfamiliar with. If you have someone who is confident with a PC and willing to setup each event, you can use free software with a computer and connect the camera to the Internet this way. If you choose this option, then YouTube is a good first option for distribution. Once you create a YouTube account, download Wirecast for YouTube and learn the software. Then, at event time, connect your camera to the PC, start the software, and feed your service directly to YouTube. You could even broadcast church board meetings, but then again, you might not.

If you’re willing to invest a small amount of money and want a simple setup with no PC or complex specialized software to learn and use each time, then I recommend Livestream.com and their Broadcaster device. The Broadcaster is a little red box about the size of a pocket Testament. For each service it will take about 10 minutes of prep time, but no ongoing monitoring or adjustment is necessary during the event.

The first step is to setup a Livestream.com account. There are a few price levels for this service, I think the basic service provides what most churches would want and makes it easy for parishioners to watch. Next, order the Broadcaster. While you’re waiting for this to arrive, go ahead and schedule your events through their website. This involves setting up the name, description, date, and time of each broadcast.

About 30 minutes prior to each event, place the video camera on a tripod. Connect the video camera to the Broadcaster with an HDMI cable. Next, connect the Broadcaster to the Internet and power it on. You’ll see the list of events you created earlier on Livestream’s website. Choose the appropriate event, and you’re ready to go. A minute or two prior to event launch, press the Go Live button on the Broadcaster and your home viewers will experience your service as if they were right in a pew.

At the close of your service, press the stop button. You may then choose to have the service automatically archived on your channel for those who could not watch it live.

So that’s it, with a few hours of preparation and setup, you can broadcast your church services live over the Internet. Just be sure to also create a virtual offering plate in case more of your regulars choose to become armchair congregants!

Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Views and opinions expressed are strictly his own.

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