Live Streaming Hardware Guide - Do I need to spend a lot?
I want to live stream, but I'm not sure what equipment I need to get started, can you help?
Live streaming has become very popular since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to find new ways to 'meet' without being in the same physical location. The same applied to church services, which, even when lockdown restrictions were lifted, had a cap on the number of people who were allowed to attend.
Now that COVID is behind us, churches are still finding immense value in continuing to live stream their services so that people who are not able to make it in person are able to attend and be part of the congregation and stay connected to people. The same goes for events such as weddings and funerals, where family members may not be in the same country even, so the facility of live streaming the event online from the church is invaluable to them.
This short guide talks you through the different levels of equipment that you can use to live stream in any context, whether that be at church or from home.
What are the key components for live streaming successfully?
- A camera - it seems obvious, but it's important that people can see what is happening!
- A microphone - people do not just want to see what is happening, they want to hear what is being said too.
- Streaming server (hardware or software) - in simple terms, we are referring to a device (most commonly a laptop or computer) which has the capability to stream to the internet.
- Broadband connection with minimum 6mb/s upload speed. If you have a slower speed than this, it is likely that the people watching your stream are going to experience lag and buffering while the stream tries to squeeze the content out to the internet with the limited upload speed it has available.
- Hosting platform e.g. Facebook Live, YouTube. This is where the stream is being uploaded to and broadcast from. The two listed are the most commonly used, but there are other options too and you can stream to more than one at once.
A smartphone actually contains all of these elements in a single device, so many people when making personal live videos will simply use their phone rather than any additional hardware.
So what different levels of streaming are there?
Entry Level - Smartphone, ideally with external microphone -remember the audio is the most important carrier of information so this should be a lapel type ideally to reduce the amount of room noise and reverberation picked up.
Level 2 - Laptop with integrated or separate webcam and microphone.
Level 3 - Laptop with video capture device. One or more remote cameras with a means of switching between them, plus a feed from an existing sound system, wired or radio microphone.
Level 4 - Laptop with installed remote cameras, a production switcher and a feed from a sound system.
OR as above but with a dedicated streaming unit instead of a laptop (this provides a simple-to-operate and very reliable system removing the need for a dedicated laptop).
Within level 3 and 4 the cameras may be fixed or temporary and may be purpose-built units or a camcorder or digital SLR camera with HDMI output.
This needs to be somewhere quiet, background noise can be distracting and reduce intelligibility, particularly for those who are hard of hearing. Make a test recording and listen back through headphones - how much of the ‘room’ do you hear? If you are recording in church then speaking softly rather than projecting your voice may produce a lower level of reverberation which will be less noticeable. If recording at home try hanging a spare duvet up out of sight of the camera this can reduce the ‘boxy’ sound from small spaces.
- Make sure you have enough bandwidth - check who else is using the broadband and kick them off if necessary!
- Simple and reliable is better than complicated and flaky.
- Check your background - no bright lights or windows.
- Do a test recording and listen back on a similar device that your users will be using.
- Audio is king! Ultimately good clear audio is far more important than super-high-quality pictures. Avoid reverberant spaces and keep close to your microphone.