By Con McHugh

Last updated 10th June 2020

The outbreak of coronavirus has seen a large increase in the number of churches that are now live streaming online. This has been achieved in many different ways with some clearly better results than others.

It has provided a connection to the church for viewers to join Mass and other services online both locally and from far afield. However, for many churches, there is a lack of knowledge on how to livestream or the costs are prohibitive.

“Even an absolute layman can produce his own live broadcasting. The only thing you need is an internet connection”

This article is intended to provide basic information on what the available options and providers are.

A pre-requisite is a good broadband connection in terms of speed and reliability, available where the streaming source will be. Getting this right enables use of internet in the church too. For live streaming an upload of at least 2 Mb/s is recommended.

Audio is also a key factor. A feed from the church PA is ideal whether it is direct or derived.

There are several options for live streaming. Each with advantages and disadvantages depending on what you require.  This is an area that is rapidly changing with equipment, availability of streaming platforms and companies who provide dedicated services.

There are at least three approaches to live stream online:

Basic solution

Easy and quick to start. Often a temporary installation. No upfront costs, quality not great but it lets you connect.  It uses the camera and the microphone in your device (external microphone is sometimes used). Video/audio quality is often not great in a church but good in a smaller environment. Real time information on number of watchers.

  • Stream from your mobile device (e.g. phone) using Facebook or other 3rd party such as YouTube/Zoom /Microsoft Teams. It’s free.
  • Stream from web camera on laptop, desktop, Mac etc. to Facebook/YouTube/Zoom/Microsoft Teams.

This solution has been very popular due to the coronavirus but once churches are open, the positioning/installation of the equipment may need to change.

Hybrid solution

Dedicated camera and audio, often a permanent installation. No phone or computer needed. The quality can be the same as the dedicated solution below. Real time information on number of watchers. Costs from a few hundred pounds to less than £2,000 for a high spec fixed camera.  A Pan/Tilt/Zoom camera will be more. No yearly charge.

  • Higher quality camera streaming direct to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo Live, Dacast, your own Wowza, etc.
  • Mevo Start Live Event Camera available from Amazon £399. Example using Mevo: St Marys Harborne
  • Axis – P13 (Box) series or V59 (PTZ) series. These have the advantage that they can stream direct to YouTube with Camstreamer ($299) which can be downloaded to the camera.  Typically P13 series (£700) to V5915 (£2,000). A value added with these cameras is that you can fit a memory card to use as a back up for your recordings.
  • PTZOptics 30X Zoom £1,800 from Amazon. Will stream direct. See live streaming setup for small churches video
  • Example church streaming to YouTube using Axis cameras:
  • Recordings. These can be setup for YouTube.
  • Remote access to camera is a good idea for remote support. This is possible with a dns provider such as noip/dyndns  and some configuration on the device providing broadband.
  • Video mixing. Use of 3rd party S/W to mix video as required. One of the best examples is Walsingham with livestream made available to Church services, YouTube, Facebook.

Dedicated Solution for equipment and streaming service

Providing that compatible equipment has been used for the hybrid solution it should be possible to use one of the following providers. The converse is also true in that you can change to a hybrid solution if you are not happy or indeed change provider below.Initial costs  (£3k to £5k including first year streaming) dependant on type / number  of  camera’s. After the first year there will be  yearly charge. The following is a list of known providers:

Please ensure you confirm what is included in price i.e. camera type (ideally make/model), how are recordings set up, how are viewer statistics provided, is there Facebook/YouTube integration, how do I get the app for TV sticks like Roku. Is there a user interface available to setup and modify site details.  How do I turn the stream on/off. Any extra charges?  What is the annual charge for ongoing streaming?

Also consider references. How is support provided and what is the turnaround time for assistance including onsite if required. Who is your contact (ideally name/contact number)?

Copyright issues with live streams

All live YouTube broadcasts are scanned for matches to third-party content, including copyrighted music content. When third-party content is identified, a placeholder image may replace your live broadcast until the system no longer detects third-party content.  Three copyright strikes and your channel will be taken down. More information is available on YouTube.  It is worth continuing to research this as there is a lot of information out there. 

More information

There is lot of information on YouTube - for example see Churchfront.

Search the internet, there is a lot of information out there.

Signage to consider using to alert visitors when live streaming:

  • Newsletter
  • Parish website (also show viewing area)
  • Within Church – add visible signage

Archdiocese Guidelines

Read the Archdiocese live streaming guidelines before proceeding as these consider safeguarding and GDPR.
Live streaming guidelines

Once online

CPAS Everybody Welcome Online resource.