Looking for a simple church live stream setup? In the last post, I laid out two DIY setups that can get your church online without breaking the budget. Again, the very best solutions are often found by hiring a company that specializes in live video. But, I understand that sometimes, churches just don’t have the budget. In this series on simple church live stream setups, I am starting at the bottom of the pricing range and working my way up. Keep in mind that all of these are simply examples. You can mix and match or use similar components to put together something that works for your church and budget.
Church out my Church Live Streaming Equipment Guide 2020 for even more equipment ideas.
Simple Church Live Stream Setup Three: Camcorder + Tripod + Capture Device + Audio Interface + OBS
Again, for this setup, I am going to assume you have a computer. Again, if you are using a PC, you will want at least an i5 processor, dual or quad-core is preferred. I recommend as much ram as possible but would suggest you have at least 8 GB. For a Mac, the specs are similar. I would recommend a MacBook Pro. If permanent installation is possible, the new Mac Mini’s can be a great option.
A note about hard drive space: Since SSD (solid-state drives) have become more popular, more computers are shipping with smaller hard drives. Most of them will have plenty of room to run your live streaming software. However, if you will also be recording locally, you may need to consider adding an external drive. Fortunately, these are available at incredibly low prices. Just don’t go too cheap. Drive failures are no fun.
Church Live Stream Camera – Canon VIXIA HF R80
I have an earlier version of this camcorder. Honestly, it is the only camcorder I own. I have recommended it to countless churches. The greatest thing about this camera is the versatility. They work great for live streaming and then can go out of the worship space to record testimonies, events, or any type of video you might need. Even if you end up upgrading your live streaming setup down the road, you won’t regret having one of these around. It lacks some of the features of more expensive units, but the 32X optical zoom is impressive for the price. It also has two features that are important for live streaming. First, it has a clean, high-quality HDMI output so you can capture the video for the live stream. It also has an audio input jack. That means you can plug in sound directly from your soundboard or external microphone.
*Note: In a previous version of this post, I recommended the HF R800 with an incorrect link pointing to the R80. Now I see that the R800 is mostly out of stock except from a few resellers who have packaged them with accessories. The R80 is a very similar unit and does includes the all important 1/8″ mic jack.
Tripod – Magnus VT-300 Video Tripod with Fluid Head
You can use any tripod sturdy enough to hold your camcorder. Still, I highly recommend a fluid head tripod for this setup. These enable you to make adjustments to pan and tilt without the jerkiness of regular tripods. Since this is a one-camera setup, you may find times that you want or need to adjust the shot on the fly. This will help smooth that out. There are several options for fluid head tripods. I have found this unit to be relatively sturdy and smooth for the price.
Capture Device – Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder, Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle for USB 3.0, Elgato Game Capture HD60 S
The capture device takes the signal from your camera, this case via HDMI, and converts it into a format your computer can accept. There are no computers (that I know of) that will take an HDMI or other video source input, so this is a necessity. (There are now some high-quality cameras that connect via USB but more on that in a later post)
For setups like this, you are going to need to know a little bit about computer connections. On modern laptops (we will talk about desktops in a moment), there are three main types of data inputs: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt. These refer to the connection technology. This gets more confusing when we get into the actual connection hardware (USB-A, USB-B, USB-C, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, etc.), but let’s just try to get through this. You will need to make sure that your computer has the right type of connection for your capture device. This gets so confusing that I wrote an entire post on it. Check it out at Church Live Streaming Equipment: Connections – USB, Thunderbolt, and Beyond.
Audio Interface – Focusrite Scarlett Solo
One of the easiest ways to get quality sound for your live stream is through a feed from your church soundboard. In theory, you can buy some cables and adapters and plug into your computer’s microphone jack. That can work, but it can also cause a ton of problems. The better solution is to purchase an audio interface that will take an XLR cable from the soundboard and convert it to USB. This will give you a clear, reliable signal. There are several interfaces on the market, but a lot of inventory got cleared out during the pandemic. Focusrite sells quality devices that should last for years.
Software – OBS (Open Broadcaster Software)
You could just hook up this rig and stream straight to Facebook Live or YouTube. However, since you are upgrading your equipment, you may want to have some more control. OBS is totally free, supported by a giant community of users, and can add many options to your streaming. OBS gives you the power to switch between multiple sources. This is incredibly helpful if you add another camera. However, even without, this will allow you to add graphics, titles, and even run pre-recorded videos over the stream. Suppose you run ProPresenter or some other presentation software. In that case, you can feed that into your computer and OBS. This way, you can switch between that and your camera. You can even show both with your lyrics or other text as lower thirds.
Stay tuned for more simple church live stream setups. In the meantime, if you have a question or are having trouble with your setup, feel free to leave a comment below.