When it comes to creating worship livestreams, consider your camera choice and placement carefully, and take volunteer operators into account.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced houses of worship to explore virtual and socially distanced services. Worship facilities and worship leaders have relied on technology tools to help them deliver engaging services while ministering to their congregations’ needs. Even as vaccines roll out, worship leaders and volunteers
will continue to rely heavily on hybrid and virtual services to reach their communities. Audio and visual technologies adopted during the pandemic have given houses of worship the ability to connect through worship livestreams. Giving congregations a flexible way to gather—even in the face of illness, the loss of mobility or simple physical distance—will help church families grow in strength for years to come.
By following some simple best practices and technology tips, worship leaders will be on the right track to continue to create captivating virtual services.
Selecting A Platform For Video Communication
The first step in creating engaging livestreamed content is to identify a video-communication solution that will work for both the worship leaders and the communities that they serve. Livestreaming on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, is a free and easily accessible option. Worship leaders can stream the service live, or
they can schedule a prerecorded video on Facebook or YouTube with embedded links to the house of worship’s website.
However, the ability to interact on social-media platforms is limited—mostly just to likes or comments. So, remote participants might be left wanting more interaction. The transition from in-person services to hybrid services can leave house-of-worship members feeling disconnected from one another. Although livestreaming does keep the community connected, two-way communication is necessary to cultivate relationships and foster engagement in future worship sessions. So, when considering video-communication platforms, think about the effect that two-way communication will have on congregants.
Right now, there are affordable video-communication-platform solutions that allow worship leaders to simply share a clickable link with the congregation; by clicking that link, members can easily join the session. Leaders can stream the service as the main part of the session, but there’s also the option to create small breakout sessions to give members of the worship community time to connect and discuss the service. Those smaller, more personal discussions will create a greater sense of belonging, and they’ll allow worship leaders to connect with remote participants more easily.
Selecting A Video Camera
The ability to see individuals’ faces clearly is an important component of personal connection over a virtual platform. That means that optical zoom is a critical consideration for livestreamed worship sessions. Because houses of worship, in general, are large spaces, it might not work simply to set up a camcorder with a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) output and connect that to a livestreaming system using a capture card. After all, subjects would not be properly framed, and the camera wouldn’t be able to capture activities happening in different parts of the space. Larger houses of worship should consider a camera that can zoom in from distances of 50 to 100 feet.
Pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras are generally a perfect fit for houses of worship that wish to record services. These cameras can be discreetly placed in hidden locations, and they can be controlled remotely. Once the ideal placement is determined, it’s possible to identify the zoom capabilities required by measuring the distance between the planned camera location and the areas that will be recorded. Cameras can even be wallmounted at the back of the facility if necessary (although they must be mounted high enough to provide a clear view).
Making Audio Quality A Priority
When you livestream a service, it’s essential to prioritize audio quality. Worship leaders and volunteers must be sure that everyone tuning in to the livestream can hear all the content clearly. Congregation members won’t feel engaged with the service if they can’t understand the message. Music is also a major part of worship services; remote participants should be able to sing along with the songs, just as they would if they were attending in person.
Worship leaders should think carefully about all the possible audio sources—both those they want included in the stream and those they don’t want included. Will there be participation from the congregation? Musical performances? Crying babies? Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems that are very loud?
A high-quality virtual or hybrid service should have the audio tools to capture all of the signal, but as little of the noise as possible. That means investing in a camera with high-quality audio features, or additional microphones. A gooseneck or podium mic might be sufficient if all the speakers will be speaking from the same location (and if only one person will be speaking at a time). If there’s a worship band, or if people will be speaking from the congregation or other areas of the space, it will require a more complex system to capture and mix the audio from the service effectively.
In short, although audio capture and mixing is a complex art, it’s essential for an appealing livestreamed service.
Working With Volunteers
Most houses of worship rely on volunteers to execute their services, whether those services are in person, hybrid or livestreamed. Although some churches have media programs that give volunteers the requisite practice and experience to use audio and video technology confidently, some volunteers are hesitant to try new gear. Often, a worship team might have one or two members who are highly technically skilled, along with a larger number of volunteers who, although enthusiastic, are worried about pushing the wrong button. The technical experts can’t be everywhere simultaneously, so worship leaders should look for tech that has guardrails.
Many sophisticated control technologies, such as lighting boards, audio-mixing consoles and camera-control joysticks, can be configured with presets. Some can also be locked in “basic” or “safe” modes, leaving the presets accessible but turning off access to the other controls. Many volunteers find those features very empowering. The most technically proficient members of the team can set the presets, making sure that the audio is mixed correctly, the camera settings are appropriate, the capture areas are framed properly and the lighting cues are correct. With presets, volunteers are set up for success. All they have to do is select the right options;
there’s no need to make further adjustments.
To create a successful virtual or hybrid worship service, it’s necessary to consider the experience from all angles. Worship leaders must select a communication platform that makes remote congregants feel as though they’re part of the service. They must deploy the right audio and video capture devices to ensure that congregants have access to every aspect of the service. And, finally, they must give their volunteers the right tools to control those capture devices with confidence. If they follow those steps, worship leaders and volunteers will be on the right path to create engaging, impactful services for remote congregation members, whether those services are livestreamed or recorded.
To read more from Sound & Communications, click here.