We’ve looked briefly at cameras, encoders, switchers, and audio. We hope it has helped you all get looking in the right direction as you embark on starting your own live stream. As always, we’ll remind you to start small as you get your feet wet. As you get more comfortable with it, you’ll have a better idea what you want to achieve, what has and has not worked, and it will all inform future decisions when you are ready to step up to the next level. Or if you don’t continue on, you won’t have sunk thousands of dollars into it.

With your equipment in place you still have to be able to distribute your video. There are a wealth of options to suit your budget with enhanced features to help you too! Let’s take a look at some popular choices.

Facebook & YouTube

When you’re looking for free, these are the first two places you’ll look. They both have built in audiences, and no one has a better encoding algorithm than YouTube. There are still drawbacks though, most notably the propensity for your audio to be muted. They are extremely aggressive with copyright violations and will mute your stream at the slightest hint of infringement, and this often occurs when the worship music starts. There are processes to dispute it, but if they are your primary, or only, streaming platform, you may be out of luck until that process is completed. Many churches have opted to stream to Facebook in conjunction with their primary stream.

Boxcast

A relative newcomer, Boxcast has proven to offer a reliable and good looking stream. They have a variety of options you can take advantage of, like closed captioning, time stamp markers, and media player apps for Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. They also make their own encoders, an entry level and professional grade, though you can use a third party encoder as well.

Stream Monkey

I’m not as familiar with this, but they have been mentioned numerous times in recent weeks and appear to be growing in popularity with the church market. They offer many of the same features as Boxcast, with more tiers and additional price points for the features required.

Vimeo/LiveStream

Vimeo had started their own live streaming service, but a few years ago they purchased LiveStream and have been tightening up integration since. If you’re using Vimeo already, LiveStream is a great option for you. While missing some of the convenient features of BoxCast and Stream Monkey, the Vimeo integration can be a big selling point for some.

Living As One

This is where the big boys play. Living As One is a proprietary service with their own hardware and some nifty tech ‘magic’ on the back end to offer what they claim is a perfect stream with no buffering. When you watch the live stream from some of the largest and most well-known churches there’s a strong possibility they’re using Living As One.

What To Look For

Whatever you choose, it needs to meet your needs and things you must have to do it well. Here’s some things to watch for.

  • Limits – It needs to be sufficient for your number of viewers and number of streams. Some archiving has data or time limits.
  • Scheduling – Can you set it up in advance, or start automatically?
  • Duration – Is there a limit on how long your stream can run?
  • Ads – Free services almost always have ads, you probably don’t want those.
  • Simulated Live – Can you record in advance to run ‘live’?
  • Destinations – Will it stream to other locations, like Facebook or YouTube, simultaneously?
  • Watching – Is it only in a browser or can you watch it on a media player too?
  • Support – Sunday is your biggest day, is support available Sunday morning?
  • Analytics – You’ll want to be able to track how many viewers and how long they watched.
  • DVR – Will viewers be able to pause and resume from the same spot?
  • Automatic Recording – Most services record your stream, how long until it’s available on its own?
  • Replacement – Can you do post production work to make it look/sound better and replace the video without any link or embed changing?
  • Private – Is there an option to make a stream private for things like weddings & funerals?

We hope that helps! Send us a message if you need help sorting through the options to find your best solution.