"I can guarantee this. You'll have a lot of people calling you this week." This is what a pastor told me just a couple days ago. He wasn't wrong. With coronavirus staring the world down, and with massive citywide events like Calle Ocho, SXSW, and Ultra Music Festival shutting down in recent days, churches are starting to wonder if they're next, and how can they prepare now for a world where church may not be allowed to gather, physically. THECHURCH.DIGITAL will be creating podcasts, seminars, and blogs in the coming days to help churches wrestle not only with ministry life post-coronavirus, but also how Church Online can help post-tragedy.
To start the conversation, enter Living As One, arguably one of the top video streaming solutions in the country right now, with a guest blog post on why and how, in this coronavirus season, your church needs to be streaming your services online.
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In light of the coronavirus outbreak, many churches around the world have recently been faced with the urgent task of continuing ministry activities in creative ways. For many, this means that online church live streaming through video has moved from a ministry tool to an essential method for their church to remain connected.
We realize that many of you are in a hurry to get started with online church live streaming, and we're here to help. We've created this guide as a checklist for you to get started.
What makes Living As One different:
With all other options such as Livestream, OBS, or any other vendor, whenever the internet has problems, your users will be watching a pixelated stream or a buffering wheel. After the second buffering wheel, 70% of your online viewers have already left. Living As One has the only protocol to resend and correct data on a 2-minute delay, thus reducing stream complaints by over 85% on average. This provides a stable platform for people to watch that increases viewer retention and the number of viewers over time.
Step 1 - Purchase An Encoder or Streaming Kit
An encoder is a device that sends video data from a video infrastructure (such as cameras and switchers) to online platforms such as your website, Facebook, and YouTube.
Option #1 - Use Living As One's RAY Encoder ($)
Living As One's RAY Encoder provides the full advantage and resiliency of the Living As One Web Platform in a low-cost, portable form-factor. This is a great option to get started quickly with an existing video camera or switcher, or to set up a simple system on a limited budget. The encoder can be used natively with an SDI-output camera or device such as the Canon XF405 or with an HDMI camera along with a $55 HDMI-SDI converter. With this method, you will need to make sure audio is embedded into your input, either through the camera or using an SDI audio embedder or HDMI to SDI converter with embedder.
Option #2 - Buy a Live Streaming Kit with Everything Included ($$)
Living As One has partnered with Portable Church® Industries to provide portable live streaming kits with everything you need to get started, including cameras, tripods, and encoders. These packages are easy to set up, simple to use, and range in price depending on included hardware and features. If you're just getting started, some great options are the NCODE Series 1 Package for 1 camera or the NCODE Series 2 Package for multiple cameras.
Note: Living As One Service Plan
A Living As One service plan enables resilient streaming through the Web Platform and is required along with Living As One's hardware encoders. Along with data for streaming, the plans also include tools such as automated scheduling, proactive monitoring, and phone/email support (yes, even at 5 am on a Sunday!).
Some of these plans include:
- Social Only (streaming to YouTube and Facebook through LA1's cloud simultaneously): $99/mo
- Pro Web + Social: Streaming to your website, social media, apps, etc.: $279/mo
We also have several other plans available to meet your specific needs. Contact us to learn more.
Step 2 - Install Your Gear and Get Onboarded
Many churches think that a fast and consistent internet connection is required to stream reliably. Because of the way that Living As One transmits on a short delay and corrects for errors, high-quality streaming is possible even on troubled networks. 720p video can be streamed on as low as around 5mbps, or 1080p on 10mbps. You can use any wired internet connection, even mobile hotspots with cat5 connection.
Living As One’s checklists make initial hardware setup quick and easy, followed by an onboarding call with a support team member to complete account creation and provide training. After setup, everything is automated through Living As One’s Control Interface, including recurring events and social simulcasting from the cloud (in full 1080p with stereo audio, even to Facebook!). Your events will start and stop automatically when scheduled, so you can set once and forget.
Step 3 - Pick Your Destination(s)
Most churches will prioritize streaming to their website for best engagement. Life.Church’s Church Online Platform provides a powerful way to engage with an online campus and engage with a virtual community that is easy and free! You can also use an embed code to stream directly on your website.
Facebook and YouTube are great destinations to stream to in order to reach viewers that do not come to your website, but keep in mind that these platforms often present many other distractions for viewers. Average watch times from average churches include around 2-5 minutes for Facebook, 15-20 minutes for YouTube, and 40-55 minutes for your website. Clearly, the best way to engage an audience for the most amount of time is to use your website as the primary streaming channel.
Through Living As One’s platform, streaming to these destinations can either be live in realtime, or broadcasted “simulated live” with previously recorded content. This is a great way to engage an online campus throughout the week (Life.Church does this 7-10 times per day) or to re-broadcast events in case of cancellation.
The Free Way:
We understand some churches have to do this for free. We would strongly recommend not, as this has a direct connection on your audience experience, to a group of people that may even outnumber your physical room. Churches regularly come to us after having poor experiences with buffering and video quality that has negatively impacted their church and hindered potential online giving, salvations, etc. A church member that can participate and view services online is much more likely to give while they are watching, so a couple hundred dollars a month is worth not skimping on the experience of everyone online. That said, we understand some of the church not having buy-in or understanding that yet, even after the deepest explanation. So, here’s how to do it as cheap as possible: Use a decent computer that has good internal parts with a good SSD, GPU, and as reliable as possible. Then, purchase a Blackmagic capture card, and download a program called “Open Broadcaster Software.” There are many good tutorials on how to set this up. You will still need camera(s) and an audio embedder if your camera does not do so.
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Jeff here. Thanks Collin! Living As One is a solid solution. Truthfully, I have personally lost countless hours of sleep on Saturday nights because of fear of bad streaming solutions on Sunday morning. Living As One gives peace of mind on many fronts.
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Stadia is getting ready to launch another round of their Phygital Learning Communities. Almost 70 churches right now are learning how to THRIVE, GROW, and MULTIPLY. We want to help your church learn how physical and digital can work together to achieve your mission and vision, meanwhile letting your Church, Online, be authentically you. Phygital Learning Communities are starting soon. Check out http://stadiachurchplanting.org/phygital for more information.