What Churches Need to Know to Choose the Best Live Streaming Gear

how to choose the best live streaming gear

The fact that you’re reading this post–looking for the best gear to live stream a church service–tells me that you realize how big a deal live streaming for churches has become.

Thankfully, many places around the nation are reopening and churches are welcoming people back into their buildings. However, many congregants continue to prefer watching from home. Whether they do so out of an abundance of caution or an abundance of convenience, it’s safe to say live streaming for churches is here to stay.

WSN Understands

At WSN, we’ve been in the live streaming arena for years. We know from experience what works and what doesn’t, and we want to help you and your members enjoy the best virtual worship experiences possible…including finding the best gear to fit your situation.

If you’ve caught any of our recent posts on how to live stream a church service, you’re already up to speed on:

(And if you haven’t read those articles yet, feel free to go check them out. We’ll wait right here until you get back.)

For more information, download our free PDF on “How to Choose the Best Live Stream Partner for Your Church.”

After “what is live streaming?” and “how does it work?”, the next big question we get is:

What Live Streaming Gear Do I Need?

A lot of people get overwhelmed when it comes to any kind of technical equipment. We get it. There’s just so much gear out there! Unless it’s part of your day-to-day world, the odds are that you feel like a deer in headlights trying to figure out which way to go.

Plug-and-Play Pros and Cons

Some sites that specialize in providing live streaming equipment attempt to make the process easier. They usually offer pre-selected packages ranging in quality (and price) from “Basic” to “Pro.” In whichever bundle you choose, you’ll automatically receive everything they think you need to get up and running.

While that sounds like a convenient plan and will at least get you broadcasting, the end results can often leave customers frustrated. Every church is unique. Generic packages can’t possibly take into account the size and layout of your sanctuary, the lighting in the room, or the various elements that determine how your service flows.

When clients ask us to put together the equipment for their live streaming ministries, we never simply point them to universal pre-selected packages of gear. Our team spends time with you learning about your budget and your specific needs before we recommend anything. We want to be sure that your gear is exactly what you need to deliver quality services to your congregation.

In any of the categories below, you could easily spend thousands and thousands of dollars getting the Rolls Royce versions. But with a little knowledge and a trusted guide (like WSN) you can get great results without breaking the bank.

With that in mind, here are some basic elements to consider when looking at what equipment you’ll need to live stream a church service.

Basic Gear: (must haves)

  • Camera—This one is kind of a big deal. If you skip it, you’re going to have a really tough time. There are a lot of options, and we’re not affiliated with any one particular brand (we think you should be free to choose what works best for you). But here are 3 examples of the types of cameras that work well for live streaming:
    • Prosumer (affordable HD quality, ex: Canon VIXIA HF G21)
    • Professional (bells and whistles, ex: Sony NX5 R)
    • PTZ (“Pan Tilt Zoom”; small and discrete, remotely operated; ex: any of these)
  • Tripod—While a stack of hymnals balanced precariously on a folding chair might technically hold that new camera up, an actual tripod can take your image to a whole new level. Even though you could spend a huge chunk of your live streaming budget on one, there’s no need to get fancy here. Any one of these that you can afford will do the job well.
  • Microphone—Don’t let yourself be tempted to skimp on quality when it comes to audio. Someone watching your live stream may forgive an occasionally poor image, but they’ll quickly tune you out if what you’re saying is hard to listen to. People are used to listening to sermons on radio and podcasts. Those media channels have been around a while and have gotten good and sounding good, so their ears expect you to as well. A good microphone setup can make you sound like a million bucks without costing as much.
    • Low-level: built-in microphones on phones and consumer-grade cameras, or this. (Avoid them.)
    • Mid-level: USB microphones (Good for Zoom calls.)
    • Pro-level: XLR (Most likely what your church audio team already uses.)
  • Lighting—The better your lighting, the better your picture. Lighting doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be a step above family members holding flashlights. For decades, the industry standard for basic lighting has been the 3-point setup. It includes:
    • A key light – in front of the subject to the left
    • A fill light – in front of the subject to the right
    • A back light – behind the subject and slightly to one side. A few well-placed lights can make a world of difference. If the platform in your sanctuary uses any sort of overhead lighting beyond the fluorescent bulbs in the ceiling, you may already have what you need. Our team can help you make sure, though.
  • HDMI cable—This is the high-definition link between your and your audience. It’s the cable that runs from your camera to your computer.
  • Encoder—All of the great looking, great sounding, well-lit high-definition things that you’re recording at this point are creating some reeeeally big files. In order for everything to be sent to your online congregation without breaking the Internet, it has to be compressed first. A good encoder (whether a piece of dedicated hardware or some software) will keep your church service looking great in a way that can be easily streamed.

Bonus Gear: (nice, but not essential)

  • Multiple Cameras for more than one angle and clean transitions between worship elements
  • Switcher to seamlessly go back and forth between multiple cameras
  • HDMI Extender to be able to move all of your streaming equipment further away from the stage area to a more out-of-the-way tech area

Still overwhelmed?

If all of this still sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher (“wahn wahn wah”), you might be tempted to just use your phone. After all, it does everything, right? Camera…check. Microphone…check. Internet…check.

The only problem with using your phone to live stream something like a church service is that….well, it will look and sound like someone using their phone to live stream a church service.

If you’re going to make the commitment to your congregation to meet them online when you can’t be together, why not do it with some excellence? Your messages of hope in times of chaos deserve to be heard and seen clearly.

WSN has decades of live stream production experience under our belt. Our team can help you put together a simple yet effective gear package that is a perfect fit for your church and situation. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Connect with us today to learn more!

For more information on this topic and more, download our free PDF on “How to Choose the Best Live Stream Partner for Your Church