I recently had the privilege of working with my friend Jerod Gilcher and some of his team at Christ Community Bible Church in Arlington, TX, helping them step up their livestream production.
Previously during the pandemic they were simply using a cell phone to stream their services. In some cases this is completely adequate. For example if a pastor is livestreaming a devotional or even a sermon from their home this works okay. However when you have a full band in a large echoey room with a congregation between the phone and the stage, it doesn’t work quite so well. The “signal” gets lost in the “noise.”
So Jerod contacted me asking for advice and in the end we decided it would be best for me to fly down, set it up and train their tech team on how to use it all! Here’s what we came up with:
The system centers around the Black Magic ATEM Mini Pro Switcher. The reason I recommended this switcher is because it is also a hardware encoder, which means you don’t need a powerful computer to produce a high quality livestream, because it does all the work. You do hook it up to your computer for configuration and set up of overlays and and streaming URL and key etc, but the computer is just acting as an interface for the ATEM, not actually doing the work, and not actually sending or receiving any video signals.
Because of that, we were able to simply use a laptop that they already had, saving money and making good use of tools on hand.
In addition to the switcher I included a preview monitor, power strip, and ethernet switch, all mounted to a pedal board so that it could easily be packed away (one of the requirements as CCBC currently meets in a school) without having to disconnect and pack away all the individual pieces and cables after every service.
While we could have gotten away with cheaper cameras we went with two Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 6Ks for a few reasons:
- They are made by Black Magic, so there are some really handy integrations with the ATEM Switcher such as being able to change exposure and white balance settings from the ATEM software on the laptop in real time and built in tally system (which lets the camera operator know which camera is live and which is in preview.)
- They easily run on a 12V power supply that comes with the camera, so you don’t have to worry about battery life or getting dummy batteries or anything like that—just plug them in and forget about it!
- These are cinema cameras, so if they ever wanted to use them for recording other kinds of videos in the future, they could easily purchase some recording media and do so. In other words, they are flexible—great for a wide variety of uses.
- The EF lens mount meant we could easily purchase high quality lenses for a decent price without having to either spend alot of money on adaptors or compromise with cheap adaptors—which is where the Sigma Art Series 18-35mm and 50-100mm come in.
I selected these lenses so that they could run two cameras from one central point in the back of the auditorium giving them a wide shot and a tight shot.
Lastly a few more things you can’t really see in the pictures but that are actually really important are:
- The audio set up—one of the biggest differences between great video content and amateurish video content actually has nothing to do with the picture—the quality of the audio is not something most viewers will consciously notice, but it is vitally important as it actually communicates the majority of the message, so you want it to be as clear and easy to listen to as possible. For CCBC, I was able to take an audio feed from their sound board and use the built-in audio processing in the switcher to optimize it for broadcast. And it sounds really good!
- The ability for them to overlay lyrics and scripture readings as lower thirds from the same computer they are using for their in-house slides. I set this up using ProPresenter 7 and a Downstream Key. This again, keeps them from having to purchase another computer and gives the viewer of the livestream a lot better experience as they can easily sing along with worship and read along with the scriptures on screen.
It was an honor to get to work with CCBC and I’m so grateful to them for the opportunity! And they know that as questions arise, they can email me or call me at any time. This is not the first livestream set up I’ve done for churches other than my own and I have continued to help support them as needed! So if you’re looking to up your livestreaming game during the pandemic and want someone who is a partner in ministry for the long haul, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org