KnowHOW: Live streaming tips and tricks
KnowHOW: Live streaming tips and tricks
James Cooke details what you need to consider for live streaming, and mistakes to avoid
Live streaming has enabled almost everyone to become a broadcaster. The advent of YouTube and social media channels has resulted in an ever-growing list of unlikely stars, from singers to gamers and everything in between. For houses of worship, the ability to communicate with the world has opened up new ways to engage with a congregation, and live streaming in particular has helped those without the budget or the means to broadcast via traditional television to present services to a global audience. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the dos and don’ts.
Plan and prepare
What is it you’ll be streaming onto the internet? If you’re planning to stream a weekly service or event, you’ll need to figure out when the stream will begin. Will it be just before the worship leader takes to the stage or will it open as they utter their first words of welcome? If the inside of the sanctuary is the first thing viewers see, this is called a cold open. Cold opens are used in plenty of television shows, typically sitcoms, where there’s no introduction. Alternatively, you could prepare a video package, perhaps to some music, as a way of letting viewers that have tuned into the stream know that the service is about to begin. Sort of like an opening credits sequence.
You will have also planned out camera angles, ensured that the audio is working and that the lighting looks good on video. Make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and that all devices have enough power – preferably from the mains.
But, as for the stream itself, make sure your internet connection is working well. Check the recommended internet speed of the CDN (content delivery network) you’re using to ensure a good connection for streaming. Run an internet speed test and see if it’s fast enough. If not, it may be worth exploring alternative internet packages or providers. It’s also worth noting that wired internet connections are more stable than wireless. If you’re running any wireless devices as part of the production or live stream, make sure that they have a strong and stable connection wherever they’re located. If they’re too far away from the router, look into installing a Wi-Fi booster or extender.
Finally, take a look at what your stream will look like to viewers at home. Some of the systems you might be using will be capable of showing you what the live feed looks like on a range of devices, platforms and browsers. A good CDN will also be able to show you this.
Even when everything’s all mapped out and ready to go, keep on testing your equipment to make sure everything works. If possible, run through a full rehearsal with a test stream to ensure everything runs smoothly and that it looks good onscreen. Regularly check that all of your equipment is in working order and always make sure that anything running off of batteries is fully charged. There’s nothing more frustrating than streaming live to the world and then having a camera or microphone cut out, unless it’s a more integral part of the streaming setup that causes the entire feed to go black.
You should also keep a constant eye on the quality of your feed – audio as well as video. During your frequent tests, keep an eye on how the video feed is looking and listen to the sound coming through. Fingers crossed, it’ll all be fine. If, however, there is a dip in quality, check all equipment related to the problem. If, for example, it’s an audio issue, test everything from the microphone to the mixer and all connecting cables and connections until you identify the issue. It might be that something is faulty, or it could simply be time for an upgrade.
Be sure that all of your kit is up to the same standards, such as resolution, so that your content is consistent. And always have backups available where possible so that if something does malfunction, you can act fast to fix the problem when it’s showtime.
When it comes to choosing a method of delivery, do a bit of research and look into what best suits your needs. Facebook and YouTube provide a good, free service for live streaming that is easy for viewers to find and play back. Both are easily accessible on just about all devices a congregant is likely to have, and provide the added benefit of allowing viewers to follow your account. If your house of worship already has a Facebook page, streaming on the social media site will mean those who like the page will see the video pop up in their feed. Depending on their settings, some followers on Facebook may even receive push notifications on their phones to let them know you’re going live.
If you’re looking for something a little more professional without the branding of Facebook or YouTube, it could be worth subscribing to a paid service. Benefits of this include the ability to stream directly via your house of worship’s website and technical support. They also promise reliable, good-quality streams, with added security and marketing services for your money. It should be noted that YouTube and Facebook videos can be embedded onto a website once the stream has ended and they become video-on-demand content.
With all the planning, preparation and hard work that goes into the technical side of producing a live stream, it can be easy to forget to let your audience know that they’ll be able to watch. This is a common problem facing live streamers of all kinds. It can be a little disheartening to put in all the work, only for nobody to tune in to your inaugural stream, but, thankfully, when houses of worship decide to begin streaming video content, they have a built-in audience ready to broadcast to.
Put up posters on the notice board in the foyer and ask the worship leader to let the congregation know that services can be watched online, as well as how and where, or if there is any other upcoming live content. Remind followers on the house of worship’s social media pages, posting frequent status updates to let people know when a live stream is coming up. And word of mouth is a powerful advertising tool – get congregants talking and ask them to share on social media. Promoting a live stream is much like trying to draw in new congregants to the house of worship or attendance for a special event. You have a full licence to get creative in coming up with how to market it.
Have fun and keep learning
The entire process is a creative endeavour, so have fun with it and that sense of enjoyment will stream through to your audience. While you can do your best to avoid errors, mistakes are bound to happen – it's part of what makes live content so exciting. Just be sure to learn from your mistakes and always look for new ways to improve.
This article was first published in the November-December 2019 edition of Worship AVL. Subscribe at www.proavl-central.com/subscribe/worship