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Upcoming Industry Conferences
Content Delivery Summit [1 June 2020]
Streaming Media East Connect [2-3 June 2020]
Streaming Media West [6-7 October 2020]
Past Conferences
Streaming Media West [19-20 Nov 2019]
Esport & Sports Streaming Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
OTT Leadership Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
Video Engineering Summit [19-20 Nov 2019]
Live Streaming Summit [19 Nov 2019]

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.

Streaming Appliances: For Simpler Streams

For houses of worship wanting a simpler solution with fewer sources, there are some smaller options that are still full of pro features. The Epiphan Pearl-2 (Figure 4, below) is one of those solutions. The Pearl-2 comes in three different configurations: the Pearl-2 Base ($6,375), Pearl-2 Rackmount ($6,975) and Pearl-2 Rackmount Twin ($13,950). The Pearl-2 Base and Rackmount versions are essentially the same features and functionality but with different form factors. The Rackmount, as its name suggests, is ready to mount in your AV rack (2RU) right out of the box. The Rackmount option can be particularly useful for portable church solutions that have to be set up and broken down each week. The more expensive Rackmount Twin is the same form factor as the Rackmount, but it includes two Pearl-2 units within the same box. This effectively doubles your capabilities.

Figure 4. Epiphan Pearl-2 Rackmount

Pearl-2 is built off of Epiphan’s popular original Pearl, known for its compact size and professional features. Pearl-2 has an optional 4K add-on which allows you to be future ready without investing in unnecessary hardware if you’re not there yet. Of course, it can stream to popular social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, but it’s also ready for custom solutions like Wowza, Panopto, Kaltura and Ustream. It even offers secure streaming via the RTMPS protocol. It features a small, intuitive touchscreen interface on the front of the device, but it can also be controlled with a tablet, PC, or mobile device. The back of the unit offers up two 4K HDMI inputs, two HDMI 1.4a inputs, two 12G SDI inputs, three NDI inputs, and four XLR inputs.

A lower-cost alternative for the Pearl-2 is the Matrox Monarch HD (Figure 5, below). If your house of worship utilizes only a single HDMI source for streaming, the Monarch HD provides professional-level quality and features at a much lower price point ($995). The HDMI port supports up to 1920x1080 at 60fps. Audio input can be achieved by either extracting embedded HDMI audio or a separate audio input. The Monarch HD can stream to the usual CDNs like Facebook and YouTube, but it can also stream on a LAN for a CCTV-like setup. Configuring the system is easy using the browser-based control interface from anywhere on the internet.

Figure 5. Matrox Monarch HD

For a low-cost single-source stream that’s also super-portable, take a look at the LiveU Solo ($995). The Solo (Figure 6, below) is offered in either HDMI or SDI input versions. Both offer a robust streaming solution by way of bonding. Bonding allows you to connect to multiple internet connections simultaneously to increase your upload bandwidth and provide greater reliability. If one connection goes down, you still have other connections available to keep your stream for dropping out. You can use a combination of WiFi, Ethernet, and up to two cellular modems in just one Solo.

Figure 6. LiveU Solo

Cameras: The Final Piece of the Puzzle

No video system exists without cameras, and not any camera will do for pro-level streams. You need cameras that perform well for hours on end, year after year. The best cameras for most churches are PTZ cameras. These compact cameras allow for greater freedom-of-installation-location since they’re controlled remotely. They also offer tremendous value compared to much larger options.

One of the most popular PTZ manufacturers in the US is PTZOptics. They offer a huge range of cameras for every budget and technical requirement. Their cameras come in SDI, NDI and USB options, while the lenses come in 12x, 20x, and 30x (Figure 7, below) configurations. Most of their cameras are priced in the $1,750-2,500 range. They also sell hardware controllers in either IP or Serial protocols. But one of the best parts of PTZOptics is their dedication to DIY users. Not only do they offer their own open source software control solution, they openly promote alternative software controllers available elsewhere.

Figure 7. PTZOptics 30x-NDI PTZ camera

Another relative newcomer to the world of PTZ cameras is Australian manufacturer BirdDog. At $2,799, the BirdDog P200 (Figure 8, below) hits the sweet spot of price and features for churches. What truly stands out about BirdDog cameras is that they’re all NDI-capable, but they include HDMI and SDI ports as well. Inside, the P200 sports Sony internals for ultimate image quality. The cameras will integrate into any existing production ecosystems and can be configured and controlled either over a web interface or directly within software that supports PTZ control.

Figure 8. BirdDog P200 PTZ camera

For houses of worship, there’s never been a better time to get into broadcasting. A video stream can not only impact those in your congregation that can’t always attend in person, but it can touch lives around the globe that you may never meet. Solutions like those discussed here are the first steps in the right direction towards a robust, professional and reliable stream that your flock can count on for years to come.

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