A lot of churches are streaming their services at the moment. Some are pre-recording and some are going out live. Here we discuss the pros and cons of each approach and provide some links to more detailed how-to information.
Most people have a smartphone, tablet or digital camera available to them and making a recording is really very straightforward. You can get many people to record their own contributions from home and stitch it all together into a single video to be viewed online. You can even get away without editing at all if you use YouTube’s playlist facility to chain a set of separate videos together.
YouTube is a good place to host your video. It’s a free service and you can upload huge video files without it overwhelming your own website. It’s also available to view by anyone without needing to create an account or login.
If your website supports video embedding (most modern sites do) then your viewers will get a better experience without the background clutter and distractions of the main YouTube page. It also means you can give them the same page on your website with the current service video embedded, rather than having to send them to a different YouTube URL each time.
If you are able to edit all your video clips together then you’ll end up with a single cohesive video which is more likely to retain your congregation than a collection of separate videos. You can make smooth transitions between speakers and you can correct differences in sound level and even remove fluffs.
The down side to this of course is that video editing requires a significant commitment of time, usually from one person. You get quicker with practice, but expect it to take many hours to start with.
If you don’t already have a video editor then we can recommend DaVinci Resolve. It’s a professional grade editor available for free with very few limitations. You need to be prepared to put in the time to learn how to use it but it’s well worth the effort. A good place to start is the Introduction to Editing on their training video page.
Another thing to be aware of when creating your own single video is that it’s not so easy to get worship songs included due to copyright and royalty restrictions. Find out more about this on our Streaming Songs page.
If you don’t have the facilities to edit, or you don’t want to make that time commitment, another options is to use a YouTube playlist to link your separate videos together. Upload all your separate videos first, then create a playlist which links them together in order and give people the URL for the playlist rather than a single video.
One advantage of doing this is that you can include links to existing song videos without infringing copyright, so you can have a cathedral choir or the Hillsong worship band in your service.
You do need to make your viewers aware that this is a playlist and that they should wait for the next item to start, otherwise you may lose people along the way. It’s helpful if the person introducing the song also says this.
Occasionally YouTube may insert advertising in the middle of your playlist – not very helpful, but they are providing a free service which is paid for by ads.
Remember that not everyone has internet access. It is possible to make some or all of your service accessible over the phone. You need to convert it to MP3 format (audio only) and store it somewhere, such as on your website, but you can then set up a telephone access service using these instructions from Bryony Taylor.
The alternative to pre-recording is to live-stream. There are a couple of ways to do this, either with a single smartphone streaming directly to Facebook or YouTube, or by using a conferencing applications such as Zoom to bring people together from separate locations and generate a single live output stream.
Live streaming from a phone to Facebook is really simple to set up and this tutorial shows how to do it. All you need is a phone, a tripod and a good WiFi connection. This works well if you have just one person taking the service, or people in the same household. Social distancing makes anything else quite difficult.
Going up a stage from that, with a little more preparation you can create a split screen with the live video on one side and the liturgy on the other, as explained in a tutorial by Bryony Taylor.
Live streaming using Zoom can be very effective, but it’s much more of an undertaking. You need one person in the conference whose sole job is to coordinate the other participants and select what is going into the video stream.
Either way, when you’re working live, things can and will go wrong. Commonly with Zoom streams the audio quality for music can degenerate to the point of being unusable and participants can drop out due to network problems. With single camera streaming it’s all down to you and one camera and if anything goes wrong there’s no backup. You need a cool head and nerves of steel to be able to continue through anything.