Will People Stop Coming To Church If You Offer Live Streaming?

Will People Stop Coming To Church If You Offer Live Streaming?

You’ve been a pastor (or otherwise engaged with a church body) for several years now, and you know your congregation inside and out. Things are going well, but you understand that in order for the church to continue to be successful, you need to keep moving forward. You’ve thought about the idea of live streaming your church services, but not everyone is on board. You’re all wondering:

Will people stop coming to church if you offer live streaming?

You’re right to reflect on this. It’s certainly a valid question, and you’re not the only one thinking about it. We currently work with a number of churches that live stream their services, and most went through a similar thought process before taking the leap.  

The fact is, some people might stop coming to church. But churches that use live streaming successfully have found that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different, and, in many ways, very good! As the change leader for your church, isn’t that what you’re looking for—positive changes to sustain your church community well into the future?

If you do start live streaming, it’s realistic to expect changes in physical attendance. But pastors who are currently live streaming their church services tell us they’ve seen other kinds of changes as well. Take a look at the list below and see what resonates with you. The effects of live streaming might not be exactly what you expect.

Looking for a progressive way to reach more people with your message? Find out everything you need to know about church live streaming.

The Surprising Effects Of Church Live Streaming

Attendance may potentially increase.

Wait, we just said that people might stop coming to church, right? Right. But in today’s world, we need to reframe our concept of “attendance.” Live streaming makes it possible for people to attend church services either physically or virtually, lessening the impact of the physical limitations of your building and increasing the potential audience size overall. Let’s be real: Not everyone will leave their homes to attend church every Sunday morning, but they might be inclined to watch the service from the comfort of their living room. In addition, live streaming leaves a wide-open door for potential new members who may be initially reluctant or anxious to attend in-person.

Engagement levels increase.

Sunday service lasts for an hour, but live streaming provides content that’s available 24/7. An archived history of your broadcasts or sermons is a wonderful resource for parishioners who, for example, feel a connection with a particular pastor and want to see more of his or her services any day of the week. Other parishioners may be looking for guidance or inspiration and can search the archives for sermons on particular topics whenever they choose.

More participation options are welcomed.

Mothers with young children, individuals who are traveling, people who are ill, and those who prefer to worship privately are just a few of the congregants who will appreciate having the opportunity to participate in the service without having to go to a church building. Making things easier for them makes your church more attractive.

Volunteer opportunities expand.

Live streaming your church service comes with a new set of responsibilities, many of which will be eagerly snapped up by tech-savvy youth. Boosting your tech profile also makes you more attractive to this group, who will see the church as forward-thinking and not stuck in the past.

Sense of community is enhanced.

No more is it just about who lives nearby; church attendees may live anywhere! Depending on how you set it up, live streaming your church services may allow viewers to see where others are watching from, and in some cases, also be able to chat with one another. Such options strengthen human connections—and therefore the foundation of your church.

Connect More With Church Live Streaming

All this is to say that, while physical attendance may be impacted as a result of live streaming, the change might not be what you’d expect. In fact, in most situations, virtual attendance often fosters a desire to participate in person, leading to a better physical turnout at Sunday services!

And remember, being willing to adapt to change is key to survival. Your message doesn’t need to be flexible, but the way you deliver it does. Stick with it, and you’ll ultimately see the change you’ve been hoping for. 


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Broadcasting Live Sports: 3 Unique Tournament Challenges

Broadcasting Live Sports: 3 Unique Tournament Challenges

We stream a lot of live sporting events here at Stretch, all of which (in our opinion) make for awesome and thrilling entertainment. But the mother of them all—the most intense and epic sporting event around—is the tournament. From our point of view, not only is it the ultimate test of skill from the players’ perspective (“Go forth, good knight, and crush the competition!”), it also proves your chops when it comes to broadcasting live sports.  

While every type of live streaming event has its challenges, sports tournaments are a unique beast. Such massive events have so many moving parts that they can easily get hectic. Compared to a typical game or program, there are legions more people involved and an extensive list of details that need attention. Organizing participants, fielding questions, delegating last-minute tasks—there’s no end to the number of things an event organizer has on his or her plate on such a big day. It’s the number of things the organizer usually has to take on… times ten.

Check out the must-have equipment for live streaming and steps you need to take before, during, and after your event.

With all those hats to wear, live streaming isn’t always top-of-mind. In fact, it may fall to the bottom of the priority list after initial setup. Sometimes people assume the stream doesn’t need to be checked; more often they simply forget. Meanwhile, as the day goes on, the probability that something will go wrong increases with every passing hour.

Our advice: Respect the tournament. You need to give your live stream the attention it requires. Below you’ll find a few pearls of wisdom we’ve gathered as a result of our own experiences. Heed them, and you just might find yourself in the esteemed company of the live streaming elite when it comes to broadcasting live sports.

Challenges & Solutions of a Live Sports Broadcast: Tournament Edition

1. Challenge: Tournaments run long; your equipment may not.

Solution: In contrast to a single game, tournaments may go on for an entire day, so it’s important to check your equipment periodically for potential problems. For the computer in particular, best practice is to check it between each game and, if possible, even shut it down between games to give it a rest. Make sure it’s not running hot and that the CPU is within a healthy range. As a safety measure, prop the computer up or use a bay station with a fan to nip ventilation problems in the bud. It goes without saying (OK, we’ll say it) that all of your equipment should be plugged into power and not running on battery.

2. Challenge: Scheduling can’t always be controlled.

Solution: Don’t try to tame the beast; just play along. If the first game goes long, it affects every game for the rest of the day, turning what was once a nicely planned schedule into a logistical nightmare. To address the fact that live sports broadcasting is unpredictable, use a good provider who can help you with scheduling. You can’t forecast everything. At Stretch, we tend to set game schedules earlier rather than later. If the dominoes fall and the games get behind, at least your audience has access. Also, be sure to let your provider know when games end, so they can close the event access from their side (and keep your archives nice and tidy if that’s a service they provide).

3. Challenge: The battle will take place on unfamiliar territory.

Solution: Because most tournaments take place on neutral (read: unfamiliar) sites, it’s important to be prepared. Find out ahead of time if the venue has an IT contact you can call if disaster strikes. Even better, talk to that person ahead of time. Confirm what type of internet they have, what speeds you should be getting, and if there are any restrictions to be aware of. Even with proper testing, we’ve seen networks get “choked” with too much data during the actual event. In cases like that, having a resource who’s familiar with the site’s internet structure is invaluable and could mean the difference between success and failure.

Prepare Like A Champion

Broadcasting a live sports event has its challenges, but simply being aware of them is half the battle. Now that you have some idea of what to do on the big day, why not get another step ahead with this extensive live streaming checklist? There’s plenty more you can do to ensure a victorious live stream, and most of it happens in the days leading up to an event.  

Go forth and stream, comrades!


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How To Broadcast Live On YouTube (And Will It Work For You?)

How To Broadcast Live On YouTube (And Will It Work For You?)

Did you know YouTube has over a billion users, which makes up nearly a third of everyone on the internet? As staggering as that is, it’s true! And what’s more, YouTube reaches more 18- to 34-year-olds and 18- to 49-year-olds than any cable network in the U.S. (So it’s no wonder you’re trying to figure out how to broadcast live on YouTube!)

There are many awesome benefits of broadcasting live on YouTube. For one, it’s very flexible. It offers a “Stream Now” mode so you can simply turn on your camera and stream live immediately and an “Event Mode” that allows for prior scheduling and previewing. Also, it’s free! So if you don’t have the budget for a streaming platform and are just looking for a simple, straightforward stream, YouTube may be a great solution.

But in order to know what you’re getting out of a YouTube live stream, there are some things you need to keep in mind. Check them out below.

4 Things To Consider Before Broadcasting Live On YouTube

1. Be prepared to jump through some hoops when it comes to equipment.

For example, some encoders integrate easily and automatically with YouTube. But if not, you’ll need to configure your encoder, which can be time-consuming. We suggest walking through YouTube’s live streaming tutorials or watching third-party YouTube videos on how to live stream so you understand the functionality before moving forward. (P.S. YouTube also has some verified devices and software they recommend for streaming—so before you actually start the process, you may want to go through and see if any of those products will work for you.)

2. Think about what you’re streaming—and beware of copyrighted material.

If you’re planning to live stream a discussion or group conversation, YouTube could be a great outlet.

But if you’re planning on using or interacting with copyrighted material—even if you have ownership rights—you may want to stay away from YouTube. They are very strict when it comes to copyright laws, and it isn’t uncommon for streams to be taken down because they infringed on YouTube’s copyright rules. Depending on the situation, this could include live streaming anything from choral performances in a church service to live streaming a video game.

3. Remember that promoting your live stream can be a bit complex.

We mentioned previously that YouTube Live is fairly flexible—and allows you to go live right away. This is great for spur-of-the-moment streams, but remember that you’ll generate a new, unique URL each time you use this function—so you’ll need to consider how you’re promoting your live stream. For example, it will probably be too time-consuming to put the link on your website after you start streaming—but you could simply tweet out a shortened URL to express that you’re now live.

4. Know that you’ll only learn more with each live stream you try.

We can’t emphasize this point enough! Once you go live on YouTube, you’re in it alone—unfortunately “1-800-YOUTUBE” doesn’t exist, so you can’t call and chat it up with a support specialist. So while you should try to troubleshoot any issues as much as possible before you go live, simply remember that there will be some trial and error involved.

One More Thing

How to broadcast live on YouTube isn’t really the issue—but rather, should you be broadcasting live on YouTube? If your live stream is a bit too complex for YouTube, let’s chat! At Stretch Internet, we stream more than 60,000 live events every year with an emphasis on providing outstanding support and memorable experiences. 

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How To Broadcast Your Church Services Live

How To Broadcast Your Church Services Live

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • “We want to spread our message to a broader audience.”
  • “We want to connect to members of the community who don’t usually attend church services.”
  • “We want to allow congregants to attend church virtually—even if they are on vacation or out of town.”
  • “We want to provide an opportunity for the sick, injured, or elderly to hear the message without any hassle.”

We’ve heard all of these things (and more!) from progressive churches that want to use technology to expand their outreach.

If you want to begin broadcasting your church services live, we’re here to help! This checklist will give you the basics so you can get started today.

7 Steps To Broadcasting Your Church Services Live

1. Acquire your video source.

If you’re going to stream your church services live, you have to first select the video camera you’d like to use. Depending on your wants and needs, you could choose from:

  • A single camera and tripod.
  • A tablet or smartphone.
  • Multiple cameras and multiple sources.

2. Select an encoder.

Video encoding refers to the process of converting a given video input into a digital format for playback on various devices. In order to stream your church service live, you’ll need to select either a hardware encoder or a software encoding program that runs on your computer.

Download this detailed, step-by-step guide of everything you need to know about live streaming your church services.

3. Get a high-speed internet connection.

You’ll need a strong internet connection to get your video stream online. Depending on your church setup and venue, you’ll either need to select from hard-wired internet (ethernet), wireless internet (Wi-Fi), or cellular internet (Mi-Fi).

4. Select a streaming provider.

The next thing you’ll need to decide on is which streaming provider to select. This vendor will help you get your church services live. Before you select this provider, you’ll have to determine the answers to the following questions:

  • Should we get a free or paid provider?
  • Does the provider require a specific encoding device or can I choose the one that is best for me?
  • What viewer experience do we want to offer?

5. Configure your encoder.

Next, it’s critical to configure your encoder properly so it knows where to send the video signal and the quality it should be sent at. The quality will be determined by the equipment you’re using and your internet connection.

6. Test the live stream.

Days before you stream your first church service live, you’ll need to ensure your new setup works correctly! Forgetting (or ignoring) this step could lead to frustrated end users who can’t access your video stream.

7. Support your live stream.

About 30-60 minutes before your church service is live, you’ll want to get everything set up and have your cameras rolling. This will be your final chance to check your equipment and ensure everything is working as it should.

Download Now: Everything You Need To Know About Live Streaming Your Church Services

You now have a good working knowledge of the steps you’ll need to take to get your church message on the World Wide Web—but we know how daunting this task can feel. If you’d like a more detailed, step-by-step guide of everything you need to know—from the pros and cons of each internet connection, to the top hardware and software encoders, to steps you should take to test your live stream—we have you covered!

Download this free guide, and you’ll be broadcasting your church services live in no time.


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Wirecast 6.0 has Twitter Integration, But Why Stop There?

twitter

One feature we’re really excited about in Wirecast 6.0 is Twitter integration. This new feature allows you to take Tweets in real time and overlay them during a broadcast. And there are plenty of ways you can use this during a broadcast, whether it’s interacting with fans during a pre-game show or making halftime more interesting than just a shot of the middle of the court… unless you hired this guy for your halftime show. Nothing is more entertaining than “The Amazing Christopher.”

So, how do you get your hands on those sweet, social media interactions? It’s quite simple.

Continue reading

Podcast Episode 2

We’ve cut another track (read: recorded a podcast)… have a listen below and let us know what you think. In episode 2, Tony, Jordan and Kyle discuss their own unique broadcasting backgrounds and the challenges faced in various sports. We also discuss some personal pet peeves and even delve into a discussion of national broadcasters that we find hard to stomach!

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Listen closely to the sound of our voices

Below you will find our first foray into the realm of podcasting, as we give you episode 1 of the Stretch Internet podcast (don’t worry, we’ll come up with a better title).

Starting up a podcast is something we’ve planned on doing for a while and our hope is that it evolves into something that’s informative, educational and at least flirts with entertaining. We have some pretty solid ideas for content down the line, so stay tuned to see what we have in store.

With that said, please enjoy and post your comments below (and remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say… lie).

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/142530751″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

 

High Definition, Three Camera Inputs, One Laptop, $3,500.

Hi all.

I am the director of multimedia and production at Harvard University Athletics. Last year, I wrote a couple of posts on this blog regarding two types of video streams that we broadcast during my time at Northeastern University: A large $150K control room production and a medium $10K fly-pack production based on the Tricaster 40.

Large Setup at a Harvard Hockey Game

As I started my new position as Harvard, which features 42 division I varsity teams, it became clear to me that I needed to come up with a third type of production, one much smaller than I had used before. We still plan on putting together large and medium-size productions for football, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and softball games. However, with so many sports, and a wide range of facilities, a smaller production type was needed.

Medium Setup at a Harvard Soccer Game

I wanted to take this opportunity to share my plan with all of you, in case you were also looking for a way to produce games without a hardware switcher, and have tight limits on equipment cost and quantity.

This smaller production type is based around a Macbook Pro laptop, with Telestream’s Wirecast software, which luckily Stretch Internet provides to all its clients.

In general, Wirecast can support as many camera inputs as you can plug into your computer. However, up until now, Wirecast laptop users often used only one live camera, due to bandwidth limitations. Additionally, if a camera was plugged in directly to a laptop using a firewire cable, it was limited to a distance of no more than 15 ft. from point to point.

The only way to get uncompressed digital HD non-firewire video into Wirecast was by using a tower computer (such as a Mac Pro) with PCI inputs cards. That process is both expensive and cumbersome.

Luckily, Apple’s new Macbook Pro with Retina Display, with its fast processor, large memory, and advanced input ports, can support 3-4 independent HD camera sources. This new Macbook Pro has two new Thunderbolt ports and two USB 3.0 ports, both of which are fast enough to support live digital HD video input (as opposed to the older USB 2.0 ports).

The question then remains – how do you get three cameras into the Macbook Pro?

Some of you may be familiar with Blackmagic Design, a company known for its many converters and other video and audio gear. Earlier this year, Blackmagic came out with two new products:

1. The UltraStudio Mini Recorder – This device allows you to take a HD-SDI or HDMI source, and connect it to the Macbook Pro using the new Thunderbolt connector. When I saw the press release about this device a little while ago, I was blown away. Other HD-SDI converters can cost up to $10,000. I couldn’t imagine ever getting something like this for less than $150. I’m seriously considering getting another one of these recorders and just keeping it with me at all times. Who knows when I’ll need to import HD-SDI/HDMI footage…

Anyway, since the new Macbook Pro has two Thunderbolt ports, you can purchase two of these mini recorders, for two camera inputs. Both sources would be displayed in high definition, and would include embedded audio with them.

Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder

 

2. The Intensity Shuttle USB 3.0 – This device is similar to the Mini Recorder, but uses the computer’s USB 3.0 port instead of Thunderbolt. Additionally, this device can accept component video feeds, as well as HDMI (but not HD-SDI). Therefore, you can use this device for the third and fourth camera inputs into the Mac, for $200 each. Alternatively, if your cameras only support component output (and not HDMI or HD-SDI), you can get  four Intensity Shuttle devices (two for Thunderbolt and two for USB 3.0, as the device is offered with either connectivity). (Editor’s note: The Intensity Shuttle’s support on Mac OS is currently in beta phase, but all reports are that testing has gone very well. The beta version of Blackmagic’s Desktop Video is currently available to the general public here – http://www.blackmagicdesign.com/us/support/detail?sid=3947&pid=4042&os=mac.) 

Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle USB 3.0

 

To help explain this setup a bit, here is a photo of three cameras connected to the Macbook Pro using the equipment I described above:

Our three-camera Wirecast Setup (with no additional audio)

 

The total cost for all equipment in this photo (excluding cameras) is:

1. Macbook Pro 15″ with Retina Display – $2,800
2. Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder – $145 (x2)
3. Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle USB 3.0 – $200
4. Thunderbolt and HDMI cables – about $200
5. USB to Ethernet Adapter (since the Macbook Pro does not come with an Ethernet port) – $25

Total –  $3,515

Wirecast Sources Window

Therefore, with about $3,500, you can easily set up a three-camera production. Wirecast allows you to switch between the cameras, as well as add lower third graphics and a score bug. With Wirecast’s newest version, you even get a live preview of all your video sources in the bottom part of the window, which makes lives switching much easier.

You don’t need a switcher, preview monitors, program monitor, video router, or a large staff. All you need is someone to operate your Wirecast software, and as many camera operators as you’d like.

As for the graphics, you can either use Wirecast’s built-in graphics, or create your own custom ones (like we did at Harvard).

Wirecast Preview Window

I think this 2-3 camera setup is a great solution for a small school or organization looking to put together a multi-camera shoot, but at a limited cost and with limited equipment.

The last remaining point relates to cameras. The cameras that I showed in the photo above are made by JVC. For these smaller setups, we use one JVC GY-HM600 camera, one JVC GY-HM100 camera, and one JVC GY-HM150 camera. We like their flexibility and functionality. All together, these three cameras cost $8,500. However, you can easily use less expensive cameras for this setup.

I would recommend looking for cameras with HD-SDI outputs, as those allow you to carry a digital HD signal over the longest distance (without using fiber optic cables). However, if you decide to purchase cameras that do not have HD-SDI outputs, I would just recommend two things:

1. If the cable run from the Macbook Pro to your camera is relatively short (less than 50 ft.), I would use a HDMI output and cable, as it best maintains the digital video quality.

2. If the cable run from the Macbook Pro to your camera is longer (more than 50 ft.), I would use the component output and cable. It is an analog signal, so the quality is not as good, but it is HD, and does support almost 1000 ft. of cable length.

I hope this sample setup is helpful. There are many variations you could do, including using different cameras, a slightly different laptop or a different mix of converters. However, I think this setup provides the lowest cost for the best quality.

Please feel free to reach out with any follow-up questions.

Imry

Mic check mic check. 1,2… 1,2. Is this thing on?

Can you hear me now? Good...

 

Pre-event testing – it is one of most essential/tedious/borderline annoying things that should be at the top of every SID’s list of things to do before their live event begins (albeit a very long list).

We recommend giving us a quick shout about 30 minutes before any event just to make sure we are receiving a clear, sharp and steady video stream. It helps ease the mind of both parties and solidifies that everyone is on the same page. Here at Stretch Internet, our support staff loves answering calls for some pre-event testing (OK, so our lives are a little dull) because there is no better way to make sure everything is running smoothly. Of course, testing the day before or a week before is great, but there are certain variables that may change once everything is set up at the actual venue on any given day. Anything from the internet connection on site, to overlooking a setting selection in Wirecast, to making sure the audio is coming through clearly can go wrong. Whatever the case may be, it is always nice to know everything is working as it should before the event begins.

As all of our clients know, we place a heavy emphasis on the support we provide, and our job is to make the streaming process as pain free as possible.

Looking forward to doing some testing this year!