By Scott Hamilton
Last week I wrote about the impact of COVID-19 on Internet service providers. I had promised an article this week regarding the impact on local churches and their need for live streaming their services. Many of your churches may already be using Facebook live to keep in touch. That seems to be the easiest way for people to gain access to video content. It is also quite simple for the churches to use. However, if you want a more professional look for your online service, I have some recommended tools.
The first software I would recommend is called Open Broadcast Software, or OBS, for short. This is a piece of software that allows you to connect to any IP-based web camera including the one integrated into most cell phones. This will allow you to use multiple camera angles as well as stream content direct from your computer to give your service a more personal feel. The best part about OBS is it is open source software, meaning that it is free. You can safely download it for yourself for MacOS, Windows or Linux at https://obsproject.com.
I downloaded OBS last week and began to play online myself. I discovered it is as simple to use as PowerPoint. You simply set up your cameras, screen capture and audio devices, then drag and drop any of the devices from the list to a display window. You can display one at a time or overlay them with each other. It is a drag and drop, “what you see is what you get” interface for video broadcast. You can stream videos to Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitter or any number of free, online streaming services.
The second thing I would recommend is a high-quality HDMI capture card. This will allow you to use a secondary computer to display lyrics during worship, Bible verses during teaching, or any other text or image content, just like you use on your current projector in the sanctuary. This greatly simplifies the process of overlaying visual content with live video streams of the speaker or the worship team.
The third recommendation is the proper cable for connecting your soundboard directly to the computer. This will create higher quality sound than relying on the microphone on your cell phone, camera or computer. It is probably best to feed the sound signal from a separate channel on your existing soundboard; this way you can adjust the audio levels for high quality broadcast. Otherwise you may pick up background noise, echoes and other acoustical problems arising from the shape, size and acoustical properties of your sanctuary.
Lastly, I would recommend one of the top sites for both supporting and streaming Christian content for churches. Life Church, at http://www.lifechurch.tv, offers free websites and streaming services for churches regardless of denomination; they also offer technical support via e-mail or chat to help you get things going. Head on over and check them out.
I would like to thank all the area churches for the efforts they have put forward to continue the positive message of Christ during the crisis of COVID-19. I especially applaud the churches in the area with very little technical expertise. They have made the effort to learn technology in order to continue reaching their community. In conclusion, I am willing to help if you are stuck with a technological question. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your week and stay safe.