Live Streaming on a Small Budget
There are so many options for getting started in the live stream. Don’t fear, we are going to limit this blog post to just ONE small budget setup. If you’re looking to take your stream to the next level, but don’t have a huge budget or the volunteers & staff base to manage a huge production, this could be the setup for you! With that in mind, this isn’t the setup for everyone. Just because it may be an option does not mean it is the best option for you. We want to provide general setups as a starting place. We highly recommend talking to a professional about what the best live stream setup is for your specific situation.
Choose A Live Streaming Service
With so many social services offering free streaming solutions, there are many easy affordable (or free) choices. Today, many organizations are making use of Facebook and YouTube for live streams. These platforms enable you to engage your viewers in the comments and even schedule your streams ahead of time. On Facebook, your viewers can click “notify me” to get a notification when your stream goes live. On YouTube, your followers who have the app can opt to get notifications from your channel when you go live. While those are some of the free options available, most encoders only allow you to stream to one platform at once. What if you want to stream to more than one? Some popular solutions for this are restream.io and castr.io… both have nominal monthly fees.
Beyond the video stream itself is the experience that you can offer to your audience. When streaming to a social platform like YouTube or Facebook there is an opportunity for comments, which you might consider either a nice feature, or an invitation to distract your audience from the live video. Conversely, if you choose to stream directly on your website, you might lose the opportunity to interact with your audience. One popular solution for creating an engaging web site experience for churches is the Church Online Platform. Created by life.church, this free, widely-used tool has a load of flexibility and customization that allows you to curate a fully-featured online experience for your online-attendees.
Decide your Video Switcher & Encoder
In this step, we included the video switcher & encoder in one category. Why? With trying to maintain a small budget it can become expensive fast to invest in a high-quality video switcher and hardware encoder. Instead, one option to keep the cost down is to go with a software-based video switcher & encoder that are an all in one solution. A free solution in this scene is OBS. OBS stands for Open Broadcast Software and is a video switcher and software encoder. Many churches and other organizations use OBS as it allows for a lot of flexibility in how it’s used, what services it encodes your live stream to, as well as it being absolutely free. OBS can take receive video inputs from hardware solutions, ProPresenter, and even Skype. If you’re looking to use lower thirds lyrics or overlay your video feed on a live stream, OBS makes this very easy using technology like NDI & Syphon.
Invest in a Video Capture Solution
In order to get your camera into OBS or any other software switcher, you’ll need some sort of video capture solution. The option that exists range from cheap and potentially unreliably, to expensive and future proof. The great thing is once you have a video capture solution in place, if you want to add a hardware video switch down the road, you’d be able to input that video switcher’s signal and continue to use your software-based streaming solution! To stay on budget one middle of the road entry is the Blackmagic UltraStudio HD Mini. This device brings in an HDMI signal through Thunderbolt to a computer to be read by your video switching software. This would cost around $495.
Make the Decision on a Camera
The last big piece to the puzzle is your camera. For many people, this may be a cost that you don’t have to worry about as you may already own a capable DSLR with clean HDMI out, a camcorder, or even a professional level video camera that is currently being used just for recording. Those devices would be able to be used with this setup. If you don’t already have a camera we would always recommend talking to a professional about the best affordable option for your situation. Lighting, distance from stage (or the talent), and quality desired all have a huge impact on the camera to consider investing in. The least expensive camcorder style, and entry-level camera that would be worth considering is the Canon Vixia HD G50, it can often be found as low as $899.
Too Long; Didn’t Read?
Here are some of the products mentioned in this post.