What we love most about live streaming is that we get to give people around the world a glimpse of what’s happening in the room and point even more people to Jesus on a weekly basis.
If you’re thinking of getting started with live streaming, here’s a quick overview of how it works, how we do it at Hillsong and how you can get started streaming your services to the internet.
Traditionally a live streaming setup has consisted of 3 components: an encoder, a Content Delivery Network (CDN)/platform and a player.
The encoder takes a video input and packages it into an internet friendly format and delivers it to the CDN/platform.
The platform will usually re-encode the video into multiple bitrates with different quality video/audio and then delivers this video to devices via a CDN.
A player is then used on a web page or in an app to consume the content. In recent years a lot of live streaming CDNs/platforms have provided players to use with their service.
At Hillsong we use Elemental Live encoders for our live streams. This is probably overkill for most churches, however the ability to output multiple quality levels to multiple locations is a real benefit to us. These same encoders output to YouTube and Facebook as well as up to 10 different bitrates for our multi-location internal streaming platform (Lightstream).
A lower cost alternative that we use in some of our smaller locations is the AJA HELO. This is a great little device that outputs a live stream as well as enables local recording to a USB drive or SD Card.
As mentioned above, we publish our live streams through YouTube and Facebook. These services have their pros and cons. They are free services that have amazing reach, and the ability to stream to platforms where users already are is a huge bonus and will increase your audience size. However both YouTube and Facebook run content protection algorithms and as such, you will need to be careful about any music or pre-packaged video you stream. Many churches streams have been cut and banned because they played a recorded track or played a video that had come from YouTube. We at Hillsong have also come afoul of this, being temporarily banned for playing our own music.
For certain events, such as Worship and Creative Conference or private events, we want to limit the access to the stream. YouTube and Facebook’s mass distribution model doesn’t work in this case so we use a company called MediaFusion which uses Akamai as a CDN. We have the ability to place this player on a password protected page or into an online conference system.
Although premium services don’t currently employ content protection algorithms and won’t interrupt your stream if you stream protected content, this doesn’t waive your responsibility to have licences for the content you stream. CCLI provides a licence for live streaming.
Live streaming is no longer hard or expensive. Most churches with an existing media setup can get started quickly without a huge upfront investment. Start taking the gospel message from within the walls of your building out to the world, live and in real time.