Low Budget – High Impact Live Streaming Equipment for Worship

Many churches are hoping to get back to in-person-worship this fall, but are aware of the need for live-streaming worships in the future, for those that are unable to attend any gatherings due to COVID or any future reasons. In other words, all churches need to recognise that live-streaming is unavoidable for most of them.

For the last few weeks I have been working with a congregation assessing the best way to have a decent live-streaming without the need for a complex tech or a commitment from too many volunteers.

Tripod for Your Phone ($24.99)

There is always the possibility of live-streaming with a phone through Facebook or Periscope. The equipment is already in our pocket and by putting the phone on a decent phone tripod (https://amzn.to/35zL7xE) you are good to go. The only cost apart from the tripod being a decent WIFI or a 5G on the phone. The sound might not be optimal and the image is not the most exciting, but it works.

A Camcorder with Your Computer ($347.96)

A slightly more expensive way would be to use a decent camcorder and connect it through a laptop. I would recommend Canon Vixia HF R800 as the best inexpensive option that allows clean HDMI. You also need a tripod. AmazonBasic 60-inch is a great choice. It is super stable and extremely lightweight, making it easy to move around if needed.

In addition to a camcorder and a tripod, you need a HDMI Capture Card which costs from $20-$200. I would start with something like GOODAN Audio Video Capture Card for $20. It might be wise to add a 10 ft HDMI-mini to HDMI cable or even a longer one to connect the camcorder to the computer. A cable comes with Canon Vixia HF R800, but it is kind of short.

If the congregation uses a sound system, you might consider getting the sound directly from the sound system to use in the live stream. To do that you might be able to use a 3.5 mm to 6.35 mm Audio Cable 50Ft.

The video will be decent, the sound will be better than with your phone and it might work out fine. You could add a standalone microphone to the setup (I am a Blue Yeti fan, but that might cost you an extra $200).

So now we have without the microphone:

Canon Vixia HF R800$249.00
AmazonBasic Tripod 60-inch $25.99
GOODAN Audio Video Capture Card$19.99
10 ft HDMI-mini to HDMI cable$11.99
3.5 mm to 6.35 mm Audio Cable 50Ft$40.99
TOTAL COST:$347.96
This does not contain the cost of a computer with an internet connection and a USB port.

Two Camcorders, Your Computer and Some Production Value ($1,003.05)

The solution that I decided to go with for the congregation is a bit more expensive but something that would still be considered a low-budget option.

I got two camcorders (with an option of adding at least two more later). I still go with Canon Vixia HF R800 and two AmazonBasic Tripod 60-inch. I don’t use a HDMI Capture Card, but a Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini HDMI Live Switcher with an option of four HDMI input signals and two audio input signals. To connect the camcorders to the switcher I opted for HDMI Extender 196ft HDMI Over Single Cat5E/6/7, Cat6 50 ft Ethernet Cable, and a short HDMI cable. To connect the Blackmagic Switcher to a computer I use USB C cable.

Again, I plan to get the sound directly from the sound system and to do that I use a 3.5 mm to 6.35 mm Audio Cable 50Ft.

Finally

It was difficult to decide between Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini HDMI Live Switcher ($295) and Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro HDMI Live Stream Switcher ($595). The Pro version has an option to stream directly without a computer through Ethernet connection and the option of connecting a monitor to see all inputs simultaneously (multi-view). I decided not to spend an extra $300 for the PRO, and may regret it later.

There are still questions about sound in this setup. Especially regarding audio from musicians, the choir, and congregational singing and responses. One option is to use use mics on the camcorders as a background noice in addition to the sound from the sound system, be attentive to it during the worship and mix the sound according to what is going on. This can be done with the Blackmagic switcher but might be a bit complex.

Finally, to livestream from the computer, I will use Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), an open source software. I will be using Youtube as the platform as it is free, but would prefer Vimeo PRO.

This was an overview of the equipment needed. I might write a post later on, how to set it all up.