Live-streaming Video from Your Congregation
Have you thought about enabling people to be able to watch your worship service or other events live on the Web?
Live vs. On-Demand
There are two ways you can offer video online: live and on-demand.
- Live-streaming means that people can watch while the event is happening. It provides a sense of being there, and you can provide ways for people to participate via a chat box or email. However, live-streaming limits the viewers to people who are available at the time of the event, and it’s usually more expensive.
- On-demand video is recorded and then posted on the Web for viewing anytime. Since it’s after the fact, viewers can’t participate. However, they can watch at their convenience, pause, and restart the video.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) provides both live and on-demand video of major General Assembly (GA) events; we stream them live, record them, and post the recordings on our website. The Church of the Larger Fellowship streams worship services at their Quest for Meaning website, although segments are pre-recorded.
What You Need to Live-Stream
You need a streaming service, encoding software, a computer, a fast Internet connection, a video camera, and microphones.
- Streaming service: You upload a video stream to a streaming service, which provides a website where people can watch it. Free services like Ustream or Livestream display advertisements, so they may not be acceptable to your congregation. Both Livestream (which the UUA and the Church of the Larger Fellowship use) and UStream also provide paid services which don't include ads.
- Encoding software: The video signal from your camera must be encoded into a streaming format before you upload it. Most services allow you to use the free Flash Media Encoder. Livestream provides their own free encoder. The UUA has also used Wirecast, which provides additional features.
- Computer: Any PC or Mac of recent vintage should have the power to do streaming. Check the specifications provided by your streaming service to make sure that your computer can run your encoding software.
- Internet connection: You need a DSL or faster Internet connection, with at least 400 Kbps upload speeds. Dial-up just isn't fast enough.
- Video camera: Many video cameras record, but don’t stream, even if they have a cable connection to a computer. Lower-end camcorders that record onto minDV tapes appear to work the best; check whether yours has a Firewire output. High-end webcams ($100-150) don’t have the quality for streaming events. Make sure that your camera has an audio-input jack (for an external microphone). Ustream has a list of cameras that work with their streaming service; Livestream also has a camera list.
- Microphones: Sound quality is more important than image quality. People can put up with a fuzzy image, but if they can’t understand what speakers are saying, the video is useless. If your congregation uses a sound system, get the output from that system as the audio input to your camera. Otherwise, put a good microphone near your speaker and plug it into your camera’s audio input jack.
Privacy and Copyright Concerns
Some parts of your service may not be suitable for live-streaming or posting on the Web, because they may include personal information that congregation members do not want to share. Consider omitting the Candles or Joy and Concern or similar parts of your service. Also, if you plan to include video of your congregants, provide an area that you never video, where people can sit if they do not want to be in the video.
If you are live-streaming or posting video on the Web, you cannot include copyrighted material for which you do not have permission to do so. This includes readings, hymns, and music performances. See Copyright Issues Related to Worship.
To ask questions and share expertise about web video and other website issues, consider subscribing to the Websters discussion list.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Wednesday, August 1, 2012.
- Chalice and UU Art
- Congregational Press Relations
- Civil Discourse
- GA Presentations
- UUA Monthly Bulletin