By Andrew Ng
Right now, a large denomination is mobilizing more than 3,000 live streaming units — one for every one of its churches across America.
They’re sharing content on their individual churches’ webpages and at local church events … but that’s not nearly where it ends.
All 3,000 churches are also streaming content to a single, nationwide “hub.” It’s then delivered to an app available on streaming devices such as Apple TV and Roku. Essentially, this denomination has created a traditional broadcast channel, but at a technologically advanced, but efficient, level.
It’s perhaps the most sophisticated streaming setup our company has ever seen in a church environment.
But, don’t worry: what we’ve described above is far from the norm. Plenty of churches — maybe yours among them — are doing a great job with their live broadcast; they just want to “take things up a notch.”
Sound familiar? Say no more!
The first step towards advanced-level live streaming is to know what it looks like. To get started, let’s talk about the common characteristics.
Production quality. It’s something viewers of advanced-level streamed content expect; not quite TV-quality production, but with some of those elements. This means multiple cameras and nicely placed images — maybe one camera delivering a wide shot, another capturing a close-up, and another providing a detail shot of the choir. This usually requires a switcher or some kind of video mixer.
Organization and consistency are also key in advanced streaming setups. Content is prepared and planned. (And it’s painfully evident to viewers when it’s not both these things.)
Really good audio. Audio is a huge deal in broadcasting and streaming, in general. When audio is good, the audience won’t notice anything in the background. Clean audio is good audio.
Effective scheduling and communication. It’s really important that viewers know when the next stream is scheduled. At what time? What might it cover?
Widely accessible content. Many churches stream to one central location — often an online campus or a Facebook Live group or page. In more advanced setups, the broadcast might be streamed to various places, from the cry room to a church plant across the country.
Video-on-demand. Where does content “go” after the live stream? It’s a question the most advanced-level streaming churches ask themselves. Many maintain video archives where viewers can look up past services and events. While this can be accomplished using YouTube or other hosting platforms, these above-and-beyond churches often have their own unique workflows.
All this sounds within reach for a forward-thinking, outreach-oriented church, right? So, let’s talk about what needs to be in your “toolkit” for stepping up your church’s streaming game.
Truly advanced streaming requires …
A champion. In many churches with advanced-level streaming setups, at least one individual “owns” the process. By this, I mean he or she is aware of the different technologies available, vets them, and specs them. Usually, this person has an interest in and knowledge of “what’s next” in technology. What do we need to update first? Do we need to upgrade our switcher, or do we need to update our audio board? What tools will get us that next level of streaming?
A realistic budget. In most churches, budget is a key consideration for live streaming. They might want to “step it up,” but they can only afford to do so incrementally. In other churches — where a healthy fund is set aside for upgrades — the question isn’t so much, Where do we start? Rather, it’s: How, exactly, should we spend those funds?
Here again, the importance of a live streaming champion in the church is evident. He or she can not only determine which new technologies to invest in, but also what equipment fits in the budget — and fits for the desired production outcome. (After all, what’s appropriate for one church might not be appropriate for every church.)
Solid supplier support and communication — before and after a purchase. Part of getting to the advanced level of streaming is enlisting professional expertise when necessary.
You want to purchase technology from a company that will back you. They should provide support and constant communication so, when you’re ready to take the next step, you’re not left with a device you don’t completely know how to use … and can’t ask anybody about.
In our own company’s case, the ability to offer this level of support is the reason all our operations are centralized in Irvine, Calif. We manufacture, support — do everything, really — from one location so we can maintain a high level of customer service.
It comes down to a very human level; you can approach us on Facebook, send us an email, give us a call, or hop onto the website and chat with us. We believe this accessibility is really important. It’s a consultative approach.
Andrew Ng is Director of Marketing at Teradek in Irvine, CA.