Streaming Software for Ministry

What Ministries Should Consider When Choosing Video Streaming Software

A New Year is upon us and that often means new budgets with opportunities to expand your media offerings online and in other areas. Perhaps your senior pastor has decided it’s time to live stream your services online to a campus web page or at least one or two social media portals. So, what now? Where do you turn to get ideas on how and what to use to put your live video online?

Fortunately, thanks to a number of years working with different ministries at different stages of their video streaming journey, we can help guide you to determine what your ministry should look for in a video streaming solution. Today, we’ll be going through what your ministry will need from your video streaming software.

Before we get into specifics, we recommend determining your needs through some basic queries.

  1. Are you planning to stream your content to your website, social media pages, or all of the above?
  2. Do you have staff or volunteer headcount to manually start, stop and manage the encoder for streaming?
  3. How much upload bandwidth is your internet service provider supplying you for streaming?
  4. Do you have other requirements like recording or closed captioning?
  5. What is your budget for this workflow?

Don't know the answers to these questions?

Don't worry! That's what Your Guide to Online Ministry is for: explore the basics of online ministry and discover the best options for you.

Establishing Your Streaming Workflow

The amount of upload bandwidth you have contracted from your internet provider will determine the overall quality and resolution you can stream. As a video encoder manufacturer we recommend that your overall streaming use no more than half of your available upload bandwidth.

It’s important to know how many portals you are streaming to in order to determine how many and what type of encoders you will need. This will also establish how many video sources you will require from your switcher or video router to the encoders.

Most software-only encoders are single input and single channel (output) so depending on the hardware (CPU, GPU and capture card) you use you will need to determine the workflow from your video source (camera/switcher/router) to determine which program will provide the best stream for the workflow you require. Some software encoders will allow you to ingest a single source and output to multiple destinations. There are also multi-channel hardware/software (baseband) encoders available that offer up to four inputs which (depending on the amount of bandwidth you have) allow for a minimum of four separate outputs to numerous destinations. This provides maximum flexibility for video distribution to your campus page, social media portals, and any other destinations.

Timing

Some encoding platforms offer the ability to schedule your streaming start and stop times. This can be a high value proposition if your ministry has few volunteers or a small head count and you are the media minister responsible for Front of House audio as well as executing on the video production. Scheduling your encodes for streaming has a very fast return on investment and should be strongly considered, especially if your team is small.

Video on Demand

Some live encoders offer the ability to record or capture the content being encoded and create an MP4 file on the fly. This file can then be uploaded to the cloud for a Video on Demand (VOD) experience after your live services are over. Of course, some online video platforms offer the ability to capture the content in your cloud account and allow you to deliver that VOD file to a number of destinations following the event.

Ease of Use

One of the most important aspects of a good video streaming software solution for ministry is that it is easy to use. Many ministries depend on volunteers to help operate their video streaming systems. These volunteers aren’t necessarily network or video streaming experts, but will still need to be able to understand and operate these systems.

Part of an easy to use software is that it limits the amount of work that needs to be done right before your services. More complex video streaming software will take longer to set up on Sunday morning, giving less room to make adjustments should there be any last-minute changes.

However, no matter how straightforward your setup, and how well your system was installed, sometimes, you need help. And that’s why another important aspect of an easy to use video streaming software solution is that it has a good support plan. Having a support plan is like having a backup parachute – you hope you don’t need it, but when you do need it, it can be a lifesaver.

Cost

Your ministry’s budget is a very important aspect to consider when planning for your video streaming solution. Streaming software, cameras, and other equipment, all cost money, and ministries, more than many organizations, are very conscientious of they spend.

We would, however, advise that ministries also look at a holistic picture of cost, beyond the dollar signs. There is the cost of time, staffing costs for complex solutions, the potential cost of failing solutions with cheaper equipment, and the panic of not having a support team available in case something goes awry before your Sunday service. Free and low cost encoding software can sometimes lack the features you’re looking for. Finding a balanced streaming solution will help ease these concerns without hurting your wallet.

What Next?

Well, you have already taken the first step into researching your video streaming software by reading this article. Congratulations! Once you have reviewed your ministry’s streaming needs and budget, you can begin to look at the different solutions available. As for recommendations, I may be a bit biased, but based on my discussions with the different ministries using it, I would highly recommend Haivision Video Cloud.

Haivision Video Cloud

Haivision Video Cloud distributes your live and on-demand video across multiple websites and social media platforms, allowing you to "set and forget" it.

If you’re just at the beginning stages of your faith streaming journey, we also have a resource available, titled A Guide to Online Ministry, which will walk you through all of the basics, (and not-so-basics) that you need to know before using streaming video in your ministry.

Your Guide to Online Ministry

Your Guide to Online Ministry will walk you through the basics, and not-so-basics of faith streaming, to help you grow your ministry with streaming video.

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