The technology behind online church

Over the last month we have put our services online to YouTube in 3 different ways. Just for those that are interested in this sort of thing and other churches still struggling with how to get online I hope this blog entry will be interesting (everyone else will prob skip it).

Every week we have used vMix ( https://www.vmix.com/ ) to actually stream to YouTube. You can do the basics with the free version but I recommend using the trial full version to see if and of the extra features are worth paying for. If you are not needing to do live linkups some people find OBS ( https://obsproject.com/ ) easier to use – so try both to see what works best for you and stick to it (help for both are available on YouTube).

Week 1 – live service

Before the lockdown really came into force we basically ran a normal service with a simple camera at the first row of chairs. We exported our slides into powerpoint and added the powerpoint slide as an input in vMix with the camera and audio feed from our mixer as the 2nd and 3rd inputs.

Week 2 & 3 – Mix of Live and prerecorded

After the lockdown, we could not justify meeting up even as a small group to do the service so switched to pre-recording the Sermon and Songs whilst keeping the Welcome, Notices and closing blessing live. We did this by streaming with VMix from my house and opening a “VMix call” video linkup with the minister. In vMix we the input like a camera and he sees the “Live output” so knows when he is live and needs to speak.

Week 4+ – A live recording

During week 3, the laptop that was streaming the service reacted badly to some updates applied the day before and we had to abandon the stream about 20mins in. We quickly recorded what should have been the live segments and had the service uploaded in parts within 15mins of the stream going down (then merged into 1 video later in the day). Looking at the viewing stats there was a notable difference in viewing habits between a “Live broadcast” and an “Uploaded video” so we now have settled on what will probably be our setup going forward (until we are back in the Church building).

We now pre-record/edit the entire service by 12 hours before it goes live. This creates 1 video file that is shared between our team. At 10mins before the service time we then simply play this video through vMix to our YouTube channel. In the event of any difficulties, any one in the team can take over the stream as they also have the video. We still have some flexibility to insert extra video in live or almost live but normally expect that once we have started we can all just enjoy the service.

Software

I have already mentioned we use vMix to stream the video to youtube. This is really easy to setup once you have created a YouTube Channel. I can include a step by step guide on request 😉

The video recordings are done with whatever people have to hand normally just using a mobile or the camera software on a laptop. We are experimenting with different ways to do this going forward so may be easier for the non-technology minded to record and send their videos soon.

For now we still created the song slides in openLP before exporting them to png image files and then into the video editing software.

The main video editing software I am using just now is PowerDirector but sometimes switch to Vegas Pro.

Anyway I hope that gives a quick overview for those interested.

A simpler approach

For some churches out there this may all sound a bit complicated. Don’t worry if you have a smartphone or a laptop with a webcam, there is an easier way. Probably the hardest thing is decide is what to put online. I would recommend if you have not done anything for the last few weeks – keep it simple and just do a talk.

Even without any technical background most people should be able to goto YouTube and create an account for their church. Once you have an account what you do next depends on what equipment you have:

Desktop/Laptop (with webcam)

Both Windows & Apple computers have a camera application. Simply start this and record the video you want to upload – the earlier in the week you do this the easier it is to overcome problems. Once you are happy with the recording, login to the Youtube website and click on the “Create” (or a camera with a plus in it) button located at the top right of the screen. It will then allow you to “Upload video”. Then follow the prompts until you get to “Visibility” – I would suggest ticking the Schedule option and selecting a time for the recording to go live (Probably the time of your normal Sunday service). Then click on the blue “Schedule” button and once the video has finished uploading that is all that is needed.

Smart phone

Download the youtube app for your phone. After you have logged into the church YouTube account, click on the camera icon at the top. You can then select a video from your phone or click on the “record” button, once recorded click on upload. You will probably find it easier to edit the visibility and scheduling its release from logging in on a computer.

Extra Notes

In addition to above, you can also “Stream live” – This is not too much of a difference and you can even do so direct from the youtube website/app with your camera on both a smartphone or laptop. However it is probably best to take one step at a time and if you try something new, do a test run during the week beforehand. Everytime we did something new we did a test run 24 hours before.

If you plan to do more than a simple talk, the easiest solution is to simply merge separate videos (you may well have an application on your computer installed with the operating system to do this). Alternatively you can create a playlist for your Sunday service and link to songs/hymns that other people have created on youtube in addition to an uploaded Welcome, Sermon & blessing.

Please get in touch if your church needs any extra help to get online at ithelp@standrewsleckie.co.uk