How To Live Stream Using Your iPhone Or iPad Camera

How To Live Stream Using Your iPhone Or iPad Camera

It’s your first triathlon, but your best friend couldn’t make it. Or maybe a local nonprofit is holding a public event that you’d like to share. It could even be that your local dog shelter wants to set up a temporary puppy cam to promote adoptions.

Times like these are ripe for live streaming, but not everyone is fully outfitted with a video camera and an encoder. Don’t let that stop you! That nifty iPhone or iPad sitting right next to you will do the trick in a pinch, and you can live stream anything you want, anytime.

Broadcasting a live stream from your iPhone camera is pretty much as simple as everything else you can do with your iPhone, which means it’s pretty darn easy—no camera add-ons or extra microphones required. Read on to find out what you need to have and what you need to know to get started.

What do I need to have to live stream from my iPhone or iPad camera?

A Mobile Live Streaming App

There are a number of apps that enable live streaming for mobile devices. Some live streaming platforms have their own apps (for example, Ustream has a mobile app and so does Facebook), which can only be used to stream to that particular platform. There are also a few that are compatible with several different live streaming platforms.

Want to take your mobile live stream to the next level? This free checklist covers everything you need to do—and when to do it—to pull off a more professional live stream.

Whenever we’re asked about how to live stream from mobile devices, we recommend GoCoder from Wowza. If your streaming provider uses Wowza, this handy app delivers your live video and audio content to any device. It’s simple to use—just configure the live stream settings once after installing the app and save them for future use, and you’re ready to start live streaming.  Your streaming provider may also have their own application for streaming live video from a mobile device. Ustream, Livestream, and YouTube, to name a few, allow you to stream directly from their mobile applications.

A Tripod

Treat your iPhone like a traditional video camera and get a tripod. (Yes, we hear you saying, “But it’s an iPhone!”) There are tripods for iPhones and iPads, and trust us—you’ll need one. Despite its wild success in theatres, most viewers do not want a Blair-Witch-Project-esque viewing experience on a live stream.

A tripod also allows you to put your phone in places you couldn’t normally otherwise, introducing different perspectives that will potentially increase the quality of your live stream.

In addition to a tripod, you’ll need a mount to hold your iPhone or iPad in place. But before you set it all up, here’s a quick tip: To avoid the dreaded black bars on either side of your video, place the phone horizontally, not vertically.

What do I need to know before I start live streaming with my iPhone/iPad?

Although the picture quality of a live stream from your iPhone/iPad camera will be relatively good, it won’t be on par with that of a traditional video camera. It has a fixed lens, for one thing, and you just can’t get the same subtleties or nuances that you would get with a traditional video camera that allows you to change lenses, adjust settings, and control depth of field. You’re also reliant on autofocus, which can be a challenge if the phone thinks you should focus on something other than your intended target.

Because of its limitations, mobile live streaming isn’t the best choice in the long term. It is a good temporary solution, either as a way to test if your live stream is a viable product or as a secondary setup if you’re trying to stream two events simultaneously.

Also, beware of data charges, which can get astronomical if you’re streaming for more than a few minutes, multiple times a week. If you are connected to a Wi-Fi network, however, you won’t need to worry about this.

Get In On The Live Streaming Action

The best thing about mobile live streaming is that anyone can do it, anytime! Even if you’ve never thought about live streaming before, it’s now easier than ever to spontaneously capture and share those worthy moments—anything from vacation greetings to soccer games to family reunions.

Here at Stretch, we’d love to help you share those moments. If you have any questions about Wowza’s GoCoder app and how it works with our live streaming platform, give us a call. Our dedication to providing outstanding support means you’ll never be left wondering what to do or how to do it—we’ve got your back.


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Creative Ways To Improve Your Live Streaming Broadcast

Creative Ways To Improve Your Live Streaming Broadcast

Fellow live streamers: Let’s make 2017 the year you up your live streaming game. The year you try something new. The year you get creative.

The start of a new year is a great time to experiment with ways to improve your live streaming broadcast. You may have already been live streaming for a while and think you’ve got it covered, but there’s always room for improvement.

And it’s not as hard as you think. In fact, many of our suggestions for how to improve your live streaming rely on good ol’ creativity. That might surprise you if you’ve been thinking that the road to improvement is paved entirely with dollar bills. That’s not to say that money won’t help, and we do have a few ideas about that… but our favorite ideas for producing a better live stream are free of charge and only require additional thought and experimentation.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” (Thanks, Tony Robbins.) So give your viewers something a little different this year by trying one or more of the ideas listed below. You’ll likely discover that a little extra effort goes a long way.

5 Creative Ways To Improve Your Live Streaming That Don’t Cost A Thing

1. Use your secondary camera to experiment with new shots.  

If you’ve been live streaming for a while, it’s likely you have more than one camera at your disposal (even if it’s not currently in use). But it’s not always easy to determine where to position them both for maximum impact. Rather than let the second camera languish, try something new. If your primary camera is typically positioned higher up, place your additional camera at a lower angle for at least a portion of the event, to give viewers a different feel.

For instance, church broadcasts are typically pretty similar from week to week. Viewers who physically attend can change their seat for a different view, but those who are watching at home can’t—your camera represents the only position available. It helps viewers feel more at home if you occasionally show things from a variety of angles.

Put your secondary camera in a new spot for a week and mix it up a little. If the shot looks good, incorporate it into your broadcast going forward. If not, you always have your primary camera focusing on the action; have the camera operator try something different next week. Even a slight change creates a different experience for the user.

2. Use your secondary microphone to capture new sounds.

The same advice we gave for the camera holds true for your microphones. Moving a second mic to a new location can capture entirely new sounds that will enhance your broadcast.

At a basketball game, for instance, you might usually place a microphone near the announcer to capture sounds from the crowd, but for a portion of the broadcast, why not take it closer to center court so you get the whistle or the sound of the ball bouncing on the floor? Or, at a choral performance, try placing a mic farther away. A different arrangement of sound will enhance the performance. No matter what the event, incorporate audio more thoughtfully to add context.

3. Freshen up your look with new graphics.

The graphics you’re currently using are probably fine. But fine is not what we’re going for, remember? Graphics play a major role in the overall aesthetics of your on-screen presentation, so they shouldn’t be overlooked. Introduce new graphics or upgrade the ones you already have to create a noticeable change in your broadcast. Any change you make—whether it’s font, size, color, placement, or content—will be appreciated by viewers. (Just be sure to follow a few basic graphic design rules no matter what: Contain elements in the safe zone of the “lower third” to avoid blocking the action, keep the text simple, limit font selections to one or two that are easy to read, and choose aesthetically pleasing, complementary colors.)

4. Change the way you go in and out of commercial breaks.

An often-overlooked broadcast element is the way you transition in and out of commercial breaks. Just like on-screen graphics and the content itself, these transitions affect the feel of the presentation. Review your current transitions and see if they can be improved. Are they consistent and tight every time? Even the simplest details add polish without adding to your bottom line.

5. Spend just a little more time preparing.

If your live streaming process typically starts the minute you set up a camera in your usual spot and hit record, this one has real potential for you! Even investing a small amount of prep time well ahead of the event allows you to add elements of interest. For instance, some of our sports clients have three or four production meetings before a big game where they time everything out, including pregame and halftime shows. They also decide on topics to cover in the commentary (including contingency plans—i.e., “If this happens, let’s talk about it”), note which players are coming close to making milestones so they can keep track of it throughout the broadcast, and more. Churches can do the same. Find out ahead of time what the sermon is about and build elements into your live stream to enhance it. Get key quotes or passages before the service starts and have those ready for the broadcast—don’t try to do it on the fly. A little bit of preparation pays dividends.

Want your live stream to go off without a hitch? It’s all about preparation. Download this free Extensive Live Streaming Checklist to learn the steps you should take every time for a worry-free broadcast.

How To Improve Your Live Streaming Broadcast—Cash Required

Money isn’t everything, as you can see from the suggestions above, but it does help. Even moderate cash investments can do wonders for your live stream. Depending on your current situation, one of the suggestions below—in combination with one above!—might be just the thing you need to produce a more professional-looking broadcast.

1. Invest in an updated camera.

Any discussion about how to improve your live streaming usually includes upgrading your equipment. It goes without saying that a newer, nicer camera will increase the quality of your broadcast. But upgrading is also a good way to expand your resource pool. Buy a new primary camera and pass the original one down so that your secondary camera becomes your old camera. Your primary camera should always be the best because it’s used the most. But if you continue to upgrade and spread them out, you’ll increase the quality of your secondary and tertiary cameras very quickly. Remember to always vet the camera ahead of time to make sure it is compatible with your current streaming workflow (or chat with your friendly live streaming provider to be sure!).

2. Turn one of your cameras into a wireless camera.

Any camera can be turned into a wireless camera, but you might spend upward of $2,000 to do it, which makes this one of our more expensive suggestions. However, the capabilities of a wireless camera jive with some of the creative ideas above, like getting shots from different places you might not otherwise be able to go. That opens up a multitude of options for what you can actually do during a broadcast.

3. Upgrade your design elements.

Enlist the help of a graphic design firm (like 99designs) to come up with a unique identity for your broadcast. This doesn’t have to cost much; a little cash spent here goes a long way toward creating a more polished feel. A professional can help design custom logos, graphics, backgrounds, and your lower third, all of which help build your brand and enhance your presentation.

4. Invest in the right live streaming platform.

If you’re really interested in how to improve your live stream, make sure your platform has features you can grow into as time goes on. For instance, if you hope to eventually stream multiple events at once, make sure your platform supports multiplayer viewing. Additional features you might want to consider include on-demand viewing and the ability to integrate social media or live data for your viewers. Assess your needs and your current platform, and make sure it will continue to be a good fit well into the future.

If you’d like to talk to us about how our platform could work for you—or about how to improve your own live streaming—drop us a line! We’re always working to add new features and love to hear what live streamers are currently doing. Best of luck with your live streaming in 2017!

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Live Streaming Trends & Predictions

Live Streaming Trends & Predictions

We don’t have a crystal ball here at Stretch (or maybe we do… in storage somewhere?), but what we do have is a keen understanding of the live streaming industry. All of us are passionate about our trade and make it our business to keep a finger on the pulse, so to speak. Knowing what might be coming around the bend helps us serve our clients better, and drives our business forward. (Plus, we admit it—we just can’t get enough.)

Based on our observations of live streaming trends already in the making, here are our musings about what we think is coming down the pike.

Live Streaming Trends & Predictions

First, we think the live streaming process will become more standardized.

The soaring popularity for live streaming as of late is a testament to the fact that there are certain things that are just better to watch live: that wedding you couldn’t afford to fly to, that sporting event that sold out before you could get a ticket, and that business conference you wished you could go to but couldn’t find the time. As a result, live streaming can’t be ignored. People are starting to expect it, and they want it to look flawless—like video on demand (VOD).

Not live streaming yet? Prepare your organization for the future with this extensive guide to live streaming—it includes everything you need to know to get started!

But compared to VOD, live streaming is harder to pull off correctly. It will never be as easy as VOD, and while it might never reach the same level of simplicity, there’s plenty of room for improvement. With both demand and expectations skyrocketing, this is where we’ll be seeing huge progress in the near future. As more companies enter the live streaming space, their research and work will help set the standard for best practices that make live streaming easier. This leads us to our second prediction….

Live streaming providers will turn to middleware solutions to make live streaming production easier.

End users want excellent live streaming video quality—period. To make that happen, companies will have to look to outside vendors and solutions for help.

We expect that big companies experimenting with live streaming will realize they need to be just as agile as small companies, which means that sometimes they will have to step outside the box and partner with a small company, or take advantage of alternative solutions (like open source software) that help them solve a specific problem.

Similarly, small companies hoping to compete in the same space as larger companies may need to partner with larger players who can help reduce their workflow. Why create something new on your own when someone else’s solution will do the trick? Streaming provider Wowza, for instance, offers organizations the ability to deploy its streaming engine using servers built by Amazon. We’ll see more of this sharing economy as companies of all sizes realize they don’t need to build everything themselves if someone has already done it well. Partnerships like these will propel live streaming forward.

As live streaming progresses technically, other issues will become more important. This leads us to our third prediction…

Live streaming providers will increasingly put more emphasis on differentiating features.  

History repeats itself. VOD has advanced to the point where a video on its own is no longer enough—there has to be some additional value-add. The same will happen eventually with live streaming as it becomes more commonplace. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are all entering the live streaming space, and people will inevitably demand more. Simply providing a live streaming solution won’t be sufficient in the future, so providers will have to be creative to stand out from the pack.

For instance, it’s great if you can see this event or that game, but it won’t be long before you start wanting relevant information alongside the live stream. Examples of this and other differentiating features that are already on the live streaming horizon:

We’re curious to know about the live streaming trends you’re seeing, and where you think live streaming is headed! Leave us a message in the comments below.

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The Impact Of Live Streaming Services On New Hope Chapel—An Interview

The Impact Of Live Streaming Services On New Hope Chapel—An Interview

We’re pumped that so many churches around the country are starting to live stream. We’ve already written about the benefits of live streaming your church services, but it’s always more powerful (and interesting!) to hear it from a personal perspective. Phil Grenier of New Hope Chapel in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was a driving force behind his church’s adoption of live streaming and continues to be amazed by its success. He let us pick his brain recently about how New Hope started streaming and how it’s impacted the church’s mission.

New Hope Chapel On Streaming Church Services

Phil, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us a little bit about New Hope and your role there?

Sure. New Hope Chapel has about 700-800 members; it’s a fairly large church for the New England area. I joined in 2011 and got involved with the audio/video (A/V) ministry in 2012. That includes everything related to the sound system, lighting, and the in-house projectors for all of our facilities, covering church services and special events.

How did New Hope get started live streaming its church services?

When I first started attending the church, there were accommodations for two services—a small one in the main building and a larger one in a rented auditorium next to the church for Sunday services. At that time, there were two A/V guys. One ran the sound, the other ran the video projector and the PowerPoint presentation. There was nothing happening yet with video. I felt I had a calling to bring that to the table, so I started videotaping and recording the services, which eventually led to live streaming.

What made you the right person for the job?

I have my own production company, so I do have a technical background. So I guess you could say I had more experience with video than anyone else there. But I didn’t know anything at all about live streaming!

Don’t know anything about live streaming either? Download this free guide to see what it’s all about—and how your church can get started.

Were there any hesitations from church members or leaders about live streaming?

When we first approached the idea, the normal concerns came up: cost, finding enough people to help out, and technical questions. But no one actually objected to doing it. The only caveat was that our pastor, Neil Eaton, wanted to make sure that if we were going to do live streaming, it should be done with excellence. It needed to look right and be appropriate.

How did live streaming play into the church’s overall goals?

Pastor Eaton is an amazing guy. He speaks to people. I felt in my heart that, if he was able to reach me, he could do the same for so many other people—just by the church expanding its reach through streaming. We hoped that live streaming would help us get the word of God out there and give us more opportunities to reach people. The more churches that are doing it, the better. Also, we wanted to create an archive so people could watch sermons at their leisure.

Can you tell if streaming your church services has been working?

There’s no doubt it’s impacting our church. Within the first couple years of live streaming, I started getting messages from people saying, “Hey, we discovered your stream, and it has had an amazing impact on our lives.” Sometimes the messages were from random people. One couple was in town on vacation from California, and they happened to walk by our church and took down the information about our live stream. When they got back to California they hooked into it and have been watching it ever since! They still send us messages occasionally about how it has changed their life. Also, Pastor Eaton forwards me emails from other people all the time saying, “Hey, check this out! They just stumbled across our live stream!” It’s amazing.

It’s also great for our members, who can still participate in services despite having injuries or illnesses, being bedridden, or away on vacation. One of our young members experienced a tough pregnancy and was bedridden for months. She was so grateful that she could stay connected to the church through the whole thing. There are too many of these kinds of stories to count—hundreds of them.

Did you notice a drop in attendance or membership as a result of live streaming?   

Not at all. In fact, since we started live streaming, we grew! Particularly among young adults. This age group loves the fact that we have such a high-tech background, and they want to be involved. When I started, it was only three guys; now, we have an entire crew of people on the tech side—probably 10-15 people serving every Sunday.

That led to an interest in creating videos—video announcements and other projects. We now have a whole ministry devoted to video creation, mostly made up of young people under 21. It’s incredible how it’s taken off—it’s blowing up! And it all started happening shortly after we started live streaming. Once we saw the ways that live streaming was impacting our church, we quickly wanted to develop it and run with it. I had bought all the original equipment myself; we later decided as a church to invest in better equipment. Now we’ve renovated the entire system and handed it off to the younger guys.

Do you have any advice for churches that are considering live streaming?

Sure, here goes:

  1. Pray about it. We did that at first—we prayed for months to make sure it was the right thing to do. God will tell you if it’s not. But if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.
  2. Find young people who are hungry for this kind of ministry. It can be very time-consuming, and you will need help.
  3. Just do it! Try it. You can always stop doing it if people have a problem with it. The more your message gets out there… I see that as just such a good thing.

Ready to see how live streaming your services might impact your church? We’d like to help. At Stretch, we stream more than 65,000 events every year, including church services. Give us a call with any questions you have about live streaming for churches, and we’ll give you honest advice based on the needs of your particular church. 

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4 Excellent Web Hosting Options For Churches

4 Excellent Web Hosting Options For Churches

The do-it-yourself trend is great for an awful lot of things—planning a wedding, redoing your bathroom, or making an eight-prop copter with safety issues—but not so much for creating a professional-looking, reliable website (unless you’re already an expert, in which case please go right ahead).

Your website says a lot about your church. If you haven’t made it a priority, chances are it’s not attracting new members, and it may even be reflecting negatively on your organization. That doesn’t have to be the case! Now it’s easier than ever to have a polished and informative site that will make a positive first impression on visitors—with a minimal investment of time, thoughtfulness, and even resources.

There are a ton of church web hosting options available, but not all are a good fit for your unique needs. So if you’re just starting a website or wanting to upgrade, below are the tops on our list of the best (and most affordable) church website hosting options around and the criteria that landed them there.

4 Of The Best Church Web Hosting Options

Our top picks are below, but first, here’s why we chose them:

  • They passed the “eye test.” Their own websites look professional and include a portfolio of sample sites they’ve built, designed, and hosted. We clicked off of a site within three seconds if it didn’t give the initial impression of being clean, professional, and attractive.
  • They emphasize support. Customer support is mentioned prominently and passionately on their websites. If the site goes down or you can’t figure out how to update content, they won’t make you wait around for help.
  • They design responsive websites. They’ll make sure your site looks good on both mobile and desktop.
  • They make online giving easy. Plenty of hosts offer the option for online giving, but these hosts go the extra mile to make the user experience extraordinary.
  • They make it easy to live stream. The hosts below don’t try to do it themselves (good call—it’s not their area of expertise), but they do frequently partner with live streaming providers to give you what you need.

Haven’t thought about live streaming your church services yet? Find out why you should be—and how to get started—with this free guide to church live streaming.

And our top four church web hosting options are…

1. Clover Sites

According to Clover Sites, every church is unique, so every church website should be unique. They only do custom designs (no templates), so your website will be reflective of your individual church. You’ll get all the tools you need to manage and update your website, and making edits is easy with drag-and-drop tools and real-time previews. A neat feature here is the use of parallax scrolling, a new (and awesome!) web technology that, when used correctly, can really make a site stand out. They are also happy to work with third-party live streaming providers.

2. Ekklesia 360

Ekklesia 360 is a little pricier than the others on this list, but they also have the richest features. A particular bonus is their powerful database tool, ChMS, which allows you to create customized member lists and track interactions with your congregants. They also make it easy to integrate third-party live streaming services into your website. And don’t worry about getting things up and running—they have a team solely dedicated to onboarding new clients and getting your site off the ground.

3. Ministry Designs

Ministry Designs gives you all the tools you need to design a great site, including a broad selection of attractive templates—no tech expertise necessary. Or, you can enlist the help of their experts to build a custom design exclusively for your church. A drag-and-drop website builder makes it easy to update the site yourself, and they also offer Parallax scrolling technology as well as custom add-ons like database configuration and e-commerce options. The initial setup fee is $1,000; after that, it’s $20 per month. One of the coolest things about Ministry Designs: Each of their team members has extensive background in church ministry, so they get it.

4. ChurchDev

Like Ministry Designs, ChurchDev also offers a wide range of beautifully designed templates. They offer to customize any template with whatever features you need; you can also order a new custom design for an additional fee. Unique features include the Prayer Wall, which connects congregants with prayer requests, and a secure church member directory. All of their offerings are included in the standard price—there are no add-on fees or services. Live streaming is supported in all designs, with the help of a third-party provider. They’re also big on support: The average response time to inquiries is less than an hour.

At Stretch, we’re happy to partner with your church web host to help you get the most out of your new website. Live streaming your church services has a number of benefits, and we can get you started, even if you have a small budget and a small staff. Together with your new website, you’ll soon be reaching more people—and making more of an impact—than ever before. 

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6 Fundraising Ideas For Small Churches

6 Fundraising Ideas For Small Churches

Our clients—from churches to community organizations to businesses—count on us to help them share important events through live video streaming, which helps to expand their reach. But we know there are a lot of elements that contribute to an organization’s success. Churches, in particular, often look to good, old-fashioned fundraising to keep the doors wide open every Sunday.

While fundraising is usually seen as a way of making money, a well-executed fundraising event has plenty of other benefits. For example, participants feel more engaged in their church communities. Also, the best fundraising events bring people together—and may even attract new members.

Below is a list of fundraising ideas for churches of any size, but they have the potential to be especially effective for small churches. Why? Because they focus on community, and that’s where small churches have a leg up.

6 Small Church Fundraising Ideas That Work

1. Host an auction.

With the help of church volunteers and their connections, reach out to community organizations like farms, vineyards, restaurants, or attractions and see if they’d be willing to partner with your church in donating items for auction. Or, to keep it small, have church members sign up to contribute a signature dish or teach a special skill. You could even have church members donate items to put up for auction, and have a town-wide tag sale.

2. Highlight the talents of your congregation.

In every group of people there’s always a few who have an unusual hobby, a unique talent, or an oddball interest. Take advantage of that by coordinating an event that features one or more of them. Get creative—charge admission, charge for dinner, drinks, or snacks, or ask for a donation for attendance. One church held two very unique and successful events to fund their building maintenance: a snake show organized by a local snake breeder, and a psychic medium!

3. Use live streaming to host a marathon special event.

Ideally, try to host a presentation related to the program that needs support—like a motivational guest speaker, a choir presentation, youth talent performances, or a weekend-long sermon—and request a small fee from viewers to tune in. If you can’t make a direct connection between the marathon event and the program in need, simply provide an interesting mix of speakers and performers who would be appreciated by a good portion of your congregation.

Not live streaming yet at your church? Download this guide for advice on how to get started.

4. Create a “Help Squad” made up of young church members.

Ask these younger church members to be part of a volunteer group that helps out as-needed around the neighborhood for a small fee. Have students work in pairs, and sign up for jobs they’re interested in. Place a community sign-up sheet online, in the church, and elsewhere around town to attract more interest.

5. Design events that involve the surrounding (non-member) community.

A fun event that embraces the entire community has the potential to raise more money and stir up lots of goodwill, especially when the resulting funds are donated to another organization besides the church. Christianity Today says one small church raised thousands of dollars for local volunteer emergency medical services by sponsoring a “pumpkin hurling” around Halloween. The event was so unusual that it not only drew a huge crowd, it also caught the attention of a major TV network!

6. Use social media and the Internet to drum up support.

Facebook and Twitter reach broad audiences, and can help you stay top-of-mind for a greater number of people. Use these tools to spread the word about your church’s activities in town or show support for a local cause. Millennials, in particular, are more likely to donate if competition is involved, and seem to respond to the philanthropy of people close to them. That’s why social media campaigns are such an effective fundraising tool among this group.

All of these fundraising ideas will work for your small church—in the right context. Before choosing one for your next fundraiser, consider your audience and the cause you’re trying to promote, and tailor your fundraiser accordingly.

What are your favorite small church fundraising ideas? Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know! 

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How To Live Stream Using A Camera You Already Own

How To Live Stream Using A Camera You Already Own

There’s an event coming up that you’re itching to live stream. You also happen to have a video camera stashed in your electronics drawer (or in the backseat of your car, under your couch, in the attic…).

The only problem is—you’ve never live streamed before!

Wondering if you can use that camera to broadcast your event? Chances are good. Read on to find out how to set up a live stream camera using the equipment you already own!

How To Set Up A Live Stream Camera

You need at least these three things to live stream: a video source (usually a video camera but it can sometimes be a mobile phone or tablet—check!), an encoder, and a high-speed internet connection.

We already know you have a camera. Follow these three steps to transform your camera from a recording device (or dust collector) into a live streaming machine:

1. Determine what kind of video output your camera has.

If you have the camera manual, you’ll find this information there. If not, look up the camera make and model online to determine the output. Most consumer-level cameras made within the last several years output an HDMI signal; professional-level cameras might also include HD-SDI connectivity.

There’s lots more to live streaming than a camera. Find out everything you need to know about pulling off a successful broadcast with this extensive live streaming checklist.

2. Purchase a video encoder.

Your camera records the action, but not in a format that works well for transmitting over the internet. (Most cameras are simply built to record.) The encoder essentially optimizes the video for online transmission.

There are different types of encoders. Software encoders run on your laptop or desktop computer; hardware encoders are separate, dedicated devices made for video streaming. Do your research before buying an encoder, as there are a number of options available.

If you decide to go with a software encoder, make note of whether you have a Mac or a PC; this will be important for the next step.

3. Purchase a capture device.

By now you have a good handle on the components you’re working with—the camera output, the encoder, and, if you’re using a software encoder, the type of computer you’ll be using. The last component you’ll need is a capture device—usually only required if you go the software encoder route. This piece of hardware captures the live video feed from your camera and delivers it to the encoding device.

Magewell’s USB Capture HDMI and the UltraStudio Mini Recorder from Blackmagic are two commonly used capture devices for HDMI outputs that connect to either the USB 3 port in your computer (for PCs) or the Thunderbolt port (for Macs).

To Complete the Process…

Hurray! With the completion of the steps above, your video camera is ready to roll! But now that you’ve mastered the process of how to set up a live stream camera, there’s still one ingredient missing. What’s a live stream without a live stream platform where people can watch?

For small audiences, budget-minded broadcasters, and those just starting out, there are several good options that are either free or very inexpensive. But as your audience grows you may want to find a live streaming partner that not only guarantees a high-quality broadcast, but also offers production advice and streaming support. At Stretch Internet, we stream more than 60,000 live events every year with an emphasis on providing outstanding live support and memorable experiences.

Until then, grab that camera and get live streaming! 


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Before You Set Up A Live Stream On Your Website, Read This

Before You Set Up A Live Stream On Your Website, Read This

It’s five minutes to go time and you’re all set up to start live streaming on your website—your cameras are strategically placed, your encoder is ready to go, and your internet connection is clocking in at warp speed. You’ve directed all your viewers to your organization’s site, where any minute now the live feed will begin streaming into hundreds of computers (you hope). You’re feeling pretty confident that your level of preparedness is about to pay off nicely and that your viewers will be impressed.

This scenario sounds great, but is the resulting live stream getting the attention it deserves? The user experience is just as important as the production, and unless you’re paying it equal attention, you may be shortchanging your audience. Even a well-produced live stream is only as good as its viewing platform.

Before You Set Up A Live Stream On Your Website…

It’s tempting to want to embed your live streaming video on your own website—we know! Directing viewers to a familiar place and keeping everything under one roof, so to speak, definitely has some advantages. There’s no confusion about where to watch, and you have complete control over the stream and where it appears.

Want to streamline your production process? This live streaming checklist includes every step needed to produce a top-notch broadcast.

There are also some caveats, however. If you plan on using your website as the viewing “portal,” here’s what you should know before you commit:

  • A live stream on your website can get “lost” among the site’s other content, living alongside the rest of the information on the site like a sidebar. In other words, the live stream is clearly not the star of the show.
  • It’s challenging to make sure every viewer can watch given the multitude of devices your audience will undoubtedly be using. If your site isn’t equipped to deliver the video in a variety of device-appropriate formats, you may leave some viewers out in the cold.
  • Unless you have analytics tracking already configured on your website, you’ll have no way of knowing how many users came to watch your stream. Some video players may provide some level of viewer data, but many will not.  
  • If you want to have people pay to watch an event, it’s difficult to put the content behind a paywall.

Advantages Of A Custom Live Stream Portal

Rather than streaming that live video on your own website, distribute your feed through a special domain-branded web address. A live streaming provider can create a portal specifically for your organization’s live feed, with an appearance that matches your existing website. There are several advantages to a portal, including:

1. Built-in analytics. Your live streaming provider can build in analytics so you’ll know how many people are watching and what devices they’re watching from.

2. Cross-platform compatibility. No matter what device a viewer is using, the portal delivers the proper stream, every time.

3. Paywall options. If you want the option of people paying to watch an event, a portal makes it easy to construct a paywall.

4. An all-in-one experience. You won’t lose out on your organization’s branding surrounding the live stream because the portal is designed especially for you. You can also supply the viewers with ancillary data such as live statistics (for sporting events) and slides or notes for sermons and other types of presentations.

Live-Stream-Portal

5. Social media integration. Viewers can easily interact via Twitter, which may not be possible if you stream on your own website.

At Stretch, we take pride in building every client a custom branded, all-in-oneportal, because we feel that the user experience is paramount. We create a custom landing page with a unique URL that houses all your content. That URL becomes your organization’s digital content destination going forward. Users can easily find links to each event and you can link to your portal from your website and other distribution channels. In fact, it becomes the familiar place you want it to be without some of the things that take away from the overall experience, like ads and surrounding “noise.”

What A Live Streaming Provider Can Do For You

Not all portals are created equal—every live streaming provider handles the viewing experience differently. Make sure you ask prospective providers about the user experience they offer; you’ll be able to tell how much they value it based on their answers.

Beyond that, a live streaming provider should be working hard on your behalf throughout the streaming process. All you have to do is capture the video live. The best providers offer support and assistance with setup, help connecting to the internet, constant monitoring of the feed, and troubleshooting during the entire event. Most importantly—fans should be able to contact the provider directly if they’re having trouble viewing.

We specialize in providing memorable experiences for your fans—and for you. If you have a custom portal in mind and would like to talk more about how to live stream your video over the internet, drop us a line.


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Essential Equipment: The Checklist for Church Live Streaming

Essential Equipment: The Checklist for Church Live Streaming

Our conversations with church leaders usually reveal the following thoughts:   

“I don’t have the staff to live stream.”

“I don’t know enough about tech to set up a live broadcast.”

“Isn’t live streaming expensive?”

These are all valid concerns. But they don’t have to stand in the way of your goal to connect with more people. Whether you’re an established church in a fixed location or a young church on the move each week, live streaming is a realistic and attainable strategy for growth. We won’t deny that it will require some initial effort, dedication, and investment (it’s worth it, trust us), but a growing number of churches are finding that what was once considered an endeavor suited only for the technology-inclined  is now well within reach.

To get the ball rolling, we’ve put together a checklist of live streaming equipment for your church. Actually, it’s two lists—so choose the one that better fits your church’s current setup and needs. Whichever one you choose, you’ll have the makings of a video system that gets the job done.

Portable Churches—A Live Streaming Equipment Checklist

Portable churches, or “pop-up” churches, move around from week to week and need a mobile live-streaming strategy. School cafeterias, local theaters, and even coffee shops may all serve as meeting places depending on the day. With the right video production equipment, live streaming can be an effective, low-cost outreach tool that can help broaden your impact and support your community.

Download this free guide for detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to start live streaming your church services today!

If you’re interested in live streaming your services, the technology is readily available and simple to use. Below is a list of the equipment you’ll need to get started building a video system for your church. This collection can be easily packed up and moved around, so it’s perfect for churches on the move.

1. A single camera.

A consumer-level video camera like this one is fine for church services. You don’t need to spend $3,000 here; instead, spend $400 or $500 to get a fully functional camcorder that gets the job done and is easy to use. You may be attracted to a model with lots of bells and whistles (if so, go for it!), but all you really need is the camera’s basic functionality to get the broadcast out on the web.

2. A tripod.

It might seem like a pair of fairly steady hands would be sufficient, but that telltale, oh-so-slight shake is what distinguishes an amateur broadcast from a serious one. Buy a tripod and don’t think about it again. This one is lightweight and comes with a carrying case.

3. An encoding device.

To convert your video input into a digital format for playback on various devices, you’ll need an encoding device. For this you have two options: either a hardware encoder or a computer with a software encoder. Opinions vary greatly as to which option is better—and it depends on your needs, as well—but either one will do the trick. With the software option, you’ll also need a capture device—an adapter that goes between the camera and the computer so they can talk to each other.

4. High-speed internet.

Internet access can sometimes be a challenge for mobile churches, but it’s a necessity for live streaming. Options include an ethernet connection, Wi-Fi, a 4G network, or a MiFi device, depending on the venue.

For mobile churches—or even for permanent churches without the time, manpower, or finances to be super technical—this list covers the basic video production equipment needed for a simple, straightforward broadcast.

Brick-&-Mortar Churches—A Live Streaming Equipment Checklist

If your church has a permanent meeting location, you may be in a different situation. Many “brick-and-mortar” churches already have extensive audio equipment and possibly even some in-house video recording equipment as well. If this sounds like your situation, use the following equipment checklist to build a church video system that lends itself to permanent installation and delivers a top-quality live stream.

1. A single professional-level camera or multiple professional-level cameras.

Consider investing in a professional-level camera (or cameras) for a more polished-looking stream. And although a single camera would be sufficient, why not up your game with multiple cameras? Mounted IP cameras (internet protocol cameras) could serve double duty as not only live streaming devices but also security cameras set to record 24/7. Also, one person can control multiple IP cameras simultaneously, making it easy to zoom in and out and pan any camera from a central location. Our recommendations include this traditional professional-level video camera and this one that allows for local or remote operation.

2. Hardware-based video switching and encoding units.

We recommend a hardware encoder for brick-and-mortars. A TriCaster is the most common hardware option for churches that use multiple cameras. Another choice is Sony’s Anycast, which is a simple touch-screen unit that’s easy for a novice to learn fairly quickly but requires a lot of infrastructure to run properly. Both the TriCaster and the Anycast can be installed permanently in a control room.

3. A way to integrate in-house audio.

Good-quality sound is critical for a professional-quality live stream. If you already have a mixer or speaker system, you’ll need a way to bring that into the feed. A mixer like this gives you control over volume and tone.

4. A way to integrate in-house graphics into your broadcast.

You’ll also need software to incorporate passages, hymns, or anything else typically shown on a projector. There are various ways to do that depending on your platform, whether it’s hardware or software. For clients using Wirecast, we usually recommend using Desktop Presenter.

5. An internet connection.

Before You Get Started…

That’s all the live streaming equipment you’ll need to get your church up and running. If you’re still feeling less-than-confident about the buying process, we encourage you to work with someone who can guide you through it. Whether it’s with us here at Stretch or someone else, a knowledgeable, objective third party may be all you need to start off on the right foot.

If you’d like to get some honest advice about the video production equipment your specific church needs for live streaming, we’d love to talk. We’ll consider your budget and your goals and figure out a way to make your plan a reality.

It’s our feeling that investing in your equipment is synonymous with investing in your church. You’ll be glad you did.


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The Complete List Of Ways To Increase Church Attendance

The Complete List Of Ways To Increase Church Attendance

“Full attenders”—people who attend church every week religiously (pardon the pun; it’s an old joke, but we can’t resist)—are becoming a rare breed. According to a Pew Research Center study, attending church once or twice a month is becoming more typical, and a good portion of people report that they seldom or rarely attend services throughout the course of a year.

But these numbers are nothing new. Over the past few years, there’s been no shortage of ideas about how to reverse this trend and an equally large number of ideas about why it’s happening. (The good news is that there seem to be a variety of reasons for the drop, at least some of which can be addressed.)

To cut through the clutter, we’ve rounded up what we think are some of the best thoughts about ways to increase church attendance and put them together in one nice, neat blog post.

5 Actionable Ways To Increase Church Attendance

1. Focus on the big picture, not the numbers.  

This pastor from Open Network brings up a good point: The focus on numbers—for example, increasing attendance by 24% year over year or growing the organization by 10%—may be getting in the way of achieving the real goal, which is to invite more people to benefit from your message. To get into this mindset, he encourages church leaders like you to switch places with your congregants occasionally (literally sitting in the seats of your church) and reflecting on why people attend in the first place—and on what brought you there as well. What actions can you take that will help others feel the same? As Pastor Charlie LaTurno says, “We don’t have seats, we have opportunities.”

2. When you’re happy and you know it, tweet.

Okay, we admit it—this one appeals to us because we’re techies. But so are many of the folks you’re trying to reach, which is why it has the potential to be so effective. As Southeastern Seminary’s Chuck Lawless notes, genuine excitement can be infectious. Strategically use social media (that includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, among others) by finding out what platforms your target audience are already using and focus your efforts there. Ideas for building anticipation about upcoming services include posting pictures of sermon notes, screenshots of videos in progress, or snippets of the band rehearsing. Look to Josh Blankenship for tips on how to avoid social media blunders.

3. Mobilize your volunteers.

Carey Nieuwhof of Connexus Church says that engagement is the key to growth. In his view, having a church filled with members who sit in the back row and come to “get fed” once weekly is what leads to disengagement. He advises leaders to “stop trying to attract people and start trying to engage people,” which is a natural way to increase church attendance. Passionate volunteers are also likely to inspire and motivate others, effectively inviting them to join the cause. To make the mission more tangible, consider connecting your sermons directly with volunteer opportunities, giving people a chance to put into practice what they’ve just learned rather than simply walk away. The experience could be so impactful that people will look forward to coming back.

4. Add value to the community.

Echurch rightly points out that the more your church is viewed as an integral part of the community, the more inclined people will be to associate themselves with it. Know what makes your community unique and find ways to reflect that in your mission. Get involved in community events, even if it’s just opening the church doors to give people a place to take a break or use the restroom or offering the parking lot for public use. Here’s another way to make it less about you and more about the community: Mark Alves of Churchmojo.com suggests transforming your ministries fair into a community expo and inviting outside groups to participate. Highlight a wide variety of community organizations (like tutors, food assistance centers, and homeless shelters) in addition to those your church is associated with, and you may be surprised how many community-minded people will be interested in the church as a result.

5. Expand your reach with live streaming.

As we mentioned in this post, it may be time to reconsider your definition of “attendance.” Live streaming makes it possible for people to attend your services without showing up physically, increasing the chances that more people will participate. In turn, live streaming offers a whole host of benefits that are likely to lead to greater physical attendance in the long run—including an increase in engagement levels, an enhanced sense of community, and a sense of gratitude for the flexibility that your church provides.

It’s natural for participation to have ups and downs based on what’s happening in people’s lives at any given time. So think bigger than that. When it comes to increasing your church’s attendance numbers, be focused on your mission. Be relevant. Be reflective of your community. Attendance will follow. 


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