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Gearing Up for Streaming for Worship

There are dozens of platforms offering live streaming for affordable rates, and churches can stream directly to their core audience in tailored, personalized ways that weren't possible a decade or two ago. Here we'll emphasize gear that will work best for houses of worship in today's high-tech streaming landscape.

Check out Streaming Media's Field Guide to Worship Streamingsponsored by Broadfield Distributing.

Religious organizations, be they houses of worship or faith-based charities, have been broadcasting over airwaves of all types since the earliest mediums were available. In the early 20th century, radio was the preferred medium, but as soon as television came along, that became the preferred outlet for religious teaching and evangelism.

As with every other aspect of society, the internet changed it all. As high-speed broadband connections became affordable, churches gained the ability to broadcast their message to the world without needing millions in capital to set up their own channel or pay a commercial broadcaster for airtime.

Now the next stage of evolution in streaming for worship has arrived. There are dozens of platforms offering live streaming for affordable rates, and churches can stream directly to their core audience in tailored, personalized ways that weren’t possible a decade or two ago. One thing that hasn’t changed throughout all of this progress is the need for high-quality, professional gear to capture and transmit the message. Here we'll emphasize gear that will work best for houses of worship in today’s high-tech streaming landscape.

Switcher/Streamers: The Brains of the Operation

A switcher used to switch between and combine sources for broadcast is a must for houses of worship looking to get serious about their streaming. Although a switcher and streaming appliance or encoder are not necessarily combined into one device, most pro solutions today offer them as a packaged deal. There’s no need to have separate devices anymore when one will do everything and do it well.

One of these that does switching, streaming, and more exceptionally well is the Telestream Wirecast Gear. A quick note for clarification: Telestream’s software-only solution for switching and streaming is called Wirecast, while their hardware is called Wirecast Gear. For simplification, we’ll be referring to the hardware option as the Gear.

The Gear comes in three different configurations to meet a range of budgets and needs. All Gear models come with a 1TB hard drive, and the following standard options and capabilities: live stream to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter (Periscope) or RTMP (custom), FaceBook Live comment administration, NDI input and output, animated 3D graphics and titles via NewBlue Titler Live Complete, and Telestream Wirecast Pro production software.

The Gear 310 is priced at $5,995. It has four HDMI inputs for your cameras, presentation computers, or other sources. The 1 TB hard drive can store up to about 20 hours of HD video. Stepping up to the Gear 320 costs $6,995 and switches your four available ports to HD-SDI. Along with this, you gain live sports, data feed, custom clocks, scoreboards, and other templates. The flagship Gear 420 (Figure 1, below) is priced at $8,995 and adds baseband SDI output, 4 integrated hardware encoders, and a fifth SDI input. All models feature live social media comment creation on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Figure 1. Telestream Wirecast Gear 420

With the 420 model, you also get an NVIDIA Quadro graphics card rather than the Intel IHD Graphics card included with the lower models. Since all Wirecast Gear models come with Telestream’s Wirecast Pro software, let’s take a look at what you get with your purchase. The expanded inputs and outputs with Pro allow you to utilize IP/network cameras and streams, Teradek feeds, baseband HDMI/SDI, 17-channel multiviewer and NDI program output. There are also expanded audio capabilities. You can add virtual sets and backgrounds and directly control PTZ cameras within the software. Churches can even link in missionaries or up to seven other remote guests to their video feed with Wirecast Rendezvous video conferencing.

If you only need the Wirecast software, you can purchase the Pro level for $699, while the Studio and One levels are $449 and $249 respectively.

In the same category as Telestream’s Wirecast Gear solutions is NewTek’s TriCaster series of switcher/streaming appliances. The TriCaster comes in three different base configurations. There’s the TC Mini Advanced ($7,995), mid-level TC410 ($9,995) and flagship TC1 ($14,995). As the top-of-the-line product in the TriCaster family, the TC1 (Figure 2, below) offers high-end, high-performance features that the most demanding broadcasters require.

Figure 2. The NDI-ready TriCaster TC1

With NDI, the TC1 supports up to 16 4K resolution inputs at 60 FPS so you can utilize the full-sensor capabilities of any 4K cameras in your setup. The four SDI inputs support 1080p inputs. The TC1 can control sixteen different PTZ sources via serial or network protocols. This means that it’s both present- and future-proofed, no matter what era your cameras are from. You can also set up four independent video outputs that can send simultaneously over SDI and NDI. With this you could set up an in-house CCTV system within your building while also sending out a live stream and offline recording. Of course, it comes with a whole host of keyers, effects, titling options, and virtual sets. And its 6TB of internal storage will keep your archived productions on tap for easy access and recall. The TC1 is also offered in either a 2RU or 3RU chassis. The advantage of the 3RU is the addition of a 500W redundant PSU versus the 2RU’s 400W redundant PSU.

Finally, let’s look at a unique option for your streaming and switching hub: SlingStudio (Figure 3, below). SlingStudio is a modular system all built around the $999 SlingStudio Hub. What sets the SlingStudio system apart from similar systems is that modularity and flexibility since it’s purposefully designed to be a wireless system. While wireless systems have their limitations and issues, I can testify based on personal use experience that the SlingStudio does wireless right.

Figure 3. The SlingMedia SlingStudio

The Hub supports up to four wireless HDMI sources that are connected with the CameraLink ($349) units. A CameraLink is required for each source included in the broadcast. With the free SlingStudio Capture app for either iOS or Android, you can also incorporate iPhone 6 or higher and Android 5.0 or higher devices as video sources. This could be useful for an inconspicuous roving camera on stage or in the congregation.

All of this can then be controlled by the SlingStudio Console app for either iPad or Mac. This full-featured software switches sources, live streams to social media channels and handles graphics, titles and keyers. The system also records both your program and ISOs for each source for later editing.

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