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What your church can learn from the General Conference livestream

 

By Jeremy Steele

More than 400,000 people watched at least a portion of the livestream of the special session of General Conference — nearly double the number who viewed General Conference 2016. On the final day alone, more than 36,000 people were watching concurrently.

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Powerful technology provided by United Methodist Communications democratized the information flow from the historic gathering, empowering United Methodists around the world to view the proceedings in real time in sign language (ASL), in English and in French translations.

Local churches are increasingly streaming worship services and midweek studies to their remote congregation. The tools that were used by United Methodist Communications to stream General Conference may be just what your church needs to take its livestreaming to the next level. 

For many churches new to streaming, the most difficult part to figure out is how to transfer the video from a source (camera) to the destination (YouTube, Facebook, etc.). Fortunately, there are tools that make the process as easy as plugging two cables.

United Methodist Communications' live video from the General Conference utilized the Blackmagic UltraStudio Express system to transform the signal into a digital format a laptop could process. Once the live signal was digitized, three tools were available to send it to online viewers.

  • OBS Studio - a free but complex open source software allows churches to use multiple cameras and make digital video enhancements such as a chyron in the lower third section of the video.
  • Livestream Producer - available to subscribers to Vimeo’s premium package (currently priced at $75 per month), allows livestreaming directly from a laptop or mobile phone to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch and (of course) Vimeo.
  • Wirecast Studio - professional-level software that allows unlimited live sources (cameras, laptops, mobile phones), simultaneous live destinations (YouTube and Facebook and Twitter) and broadcast-quality graphics. The price is steep, Studio package ($695) or Pro package ($995), but the streaming is seamless to every destination service using a fantastically easy user interface.

Some of the easiest improvements you can make for an effective livestream is to rely on hardware you already have.

First on the list is audio, says United Methodist Communications' General Conference live stream manager, Lane Denson. “People will forgive poor video,” he says. “But if they can’t hear what’s going on, they’ll tune out.”

Make sure to have a good microphone or (better yet) a feed from a soundboard to a computer via a Behringer U‑Phoria ($99) or similar device.

The next improvement for optimal livestreaming is the internet connection. Wi-Fi is notoriously unreliable among video streaming experts. Denson adds, “If you can get a hardwire (Ethernet) to the computer, that will give you a level of stability that wireless can’t provide.”

Whether you’re trying to improve your Facebook live broadcast or mitigating winter weather with virtual worship, we hope these tips from General Conference will help you take your streaming to the next level.

Jeremy Steele

— Jeremy Steele is the teaching pastor at Christ UMC in Mobile, Alabama, as well as a writer and speaker. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches, including his most recent book All the Best Questions, at his website: JeremyWords.com.