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Using livestreaming to uplift worship services

Using livestreaming to uplift worship services
Livestreaming at Immanuel Baptist Church in Arkansas

Using livestreaming to uplift worship services

Thomas Chang, assistant vice president in the Consumer Product Center at ATEN International, discusses how livestreaming solutions can help houses of worship reach wider audiences with higher production quality

The ongoing pandemic situation has put a strain, or complete halt, on in-person attendance for many houses of worship around the world. Just as it seemed that the era of “virtual congregations” was coming to a close and worshippers could regather in person, new waves of the pandemic struck in various countries and governments issued new lockdown orders and halted public gatherings. For houses of worship that in recent years had already been facing the challenge of low attendance, the Covid-19 crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Thomas Chang
Thomas Chang

But not all hope is lost. Technology in various forms has helped to keep worship services running, and chief among them is livestreaming. However, rather than simply rely on using a smartphone to stream on a single platform, today’s houses of worship need to be more tech savvy to keep pace with viewer expectations. Doing so can be complicated, expensive and require extra manpower to control cameras, switch between them and create graphical overlays or other effects. However, new livestreaming devices have hit the market recently that make the process much easier, faster and cheaper for end users. With solutions such as these, houses of worship can create professional level livestreaming content on the fly and ensure their worshippers can take part in an uplifting service, no matter where they are.

The ATEN UC9040 StreamLIVE PRO is an all-in-one four-port HDMI AV mixer
The ATEN UC9040 StreamLIVE PRO is an all-in-one four-port HDMI AV mixer

Create better livestreams with a few tools

Communities of faith have a lot to contend with these days: depending on their state or national laws, they might be operating under a hybrid model or not have any in-person gatherings at all. What applies today might be different tomorrow, too. In the US, for example, most states have limited in-person worship services, and 10 states have prevented them altogether. Only a handful of states, such as Texas, deemed in-person worship services to be essential.

In-person gatherings must follow social distancing, cutting down indoor capacity to something between 50% or even all the way down to 20% of pre-Covid attendance. One workaround has been for houses of worship to also hold drive-in services, but this cuts down attendance numbers even more. In addition, drive-in worship services are also not future-proof as governments can issue stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders at a moment’s notice.

Worshippers gather outside and practise social distancing at St Andrews Lutheran Church in Illinois
Worshippers gather outside and practise social distancing at St Andrews Lutheran Church in Illinois

Houses of worship have largely, though, turned to the internet to get their message out and hold worship services. Everyone, from the smallest church to the Office of Campus Ministry of Notre Dame, has been holding online services and even virtual retreats. For most, this means using video conference platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Teams and more. It also largely means a one-camera setup with no transitions and no overlays or other effects, and even poor audio quality, to grab viewers’ attention. Yet certain devices can bypass these issues and, unlike before, are relatively simple to use and won’t break the bank.

“Rather than using a single smartphone or camera connected to a laptop and simply outputting a raw stream feed to one platform, houses of worship could be streaming to two platforms at the same time, and with some fairly advanced effects like picture-in-picture,” says Ethan Yu, product manager in the Consumer Product Center. “You can also easily switch between up to four cameras with transition effects and add overlays. What’s more, you can connect certain devices to an audio mixer board and use quality mics to record sound in better quality. What all of this does is give your worship service a pro-level and your audience will never know that you’re doing it all without a bunch of expensive, hard-to-use equipment.”

ATEN’s 3022 has two HDMI inputs for connecting two cameras
ATEN’s 3022 has two HDMI inputs for connecting two cameras

Implementing a next-level livestreaming solution

Picking the right livestreaming solution can be tricky: many houses of worship might only be familiar with streaming from a webcam or their mobile device on a single platform and with their device’s built-in microphone. Taking a livestream to the next level of production values doesn’t need to be extremely expensive, but it will take more than the aforementioned tools. An all-in-one AV mixer device can do this and while some can get pricey, not all are. By integrating a device such as this, houses of worship can connect multiple high-res cameras for different camera angles, an audio mixer board with mics and even create overlay graphics for logos, title cards and more. These can even be saved as scene presets that can be easily customised, so there’s no need to create brand-new graphics for every stream.

In addition to the former, certain streaming devices can also stream simultaneously on two platforms, such as Facebook, Livestream and YouTube, something that simply can’t be done with a mobile device using a single app at a time. This allows you to reach a wider audience based on people’s viewing platform preferences.

Ethan Yu, product manager in ATEN’s Consumer Product Center
Ethan Yu, product manager in ATEN’s Consumer Product Center

Depending on the device, as well, you can control the entire stream from a mobile app, including scene switching and editing graphics. The end result is that a pro-level stream can potentially be done by just one person using their cameras, mic, and either a tablet, smartphone or laptop. No need for a crew or large, expensive mixer boards, and you can potentially use any camera, from a DSLR to an action camera, camcorder or point-and-shoot one.

Staying connected with your congregation

“Streaming your worship services doesn’t need to be overly expensive or a chore to pull off,” says Yu. “In fact, once you start streaming in better quality, with effects and on multiple platforms, it becomes a joy and your congregation will no doubt appreciate the step up in quality.”
Streaming out your content to congregations is a big, but important, step towards staying together and future-proofing your services. It’s also good practice on staying flexible with your AV solutions in the face of constantly changing situations and regulations regarding social distancing and in-person gatherings. Despite these issues, houses of worship remain places to uplift and bring people together, and the right streaming solutions can help you do that for less, and more easily, than ever before.

This feature appears in the March–April issue of Worship AVL. Subscribe at www.proavl-central.com/subscribe/worship



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