With the outbreak of COVID there has been increase in demand for streamed live content. In this blog I will be covering some of the options in South Africa for Churches and Musicians to get their content live onto the web.

There are many solutions on the market these days and you can share your content online for minimal costs but getting the correct solution for your needs and resources is key to avoiding much frustration and poor outcomes.

Capturing the content live

Capturing Video Content

You will need a minimum of one camera but having an alternate camera for different angles and zoom will add to the dynamics of your content and keep your audience engaged.

For cameras you can start with Pro-Sumer handy cams such Canon Legria HF G50 UHD Camcorder R16995. Your camera will need a HDMI or SDI output.

The pro level camcorders offer better low light performance and generally have better audio connections should you with to use a on camera microphone or wireless camera solution.

PTZ (Pan, tilt, zoom) cameras can be a useful solution for those wanting a fixed camera point that can be remote controlled. Generally, the video quality of these cameras are not as good as the other options listed, but have the advantage of not requiring an operator at the point where they are mounted.

Many of the DSLR and mirrorless cameras offer excellent video performance. The camera bodies and lens are bought separately. You can build up a collection of quality lens to suit your application and this option doubles for great stills photography. Canon, Panasonic, and Olympus all offer suitable solutions catering to a wide range of budgets. You must ensure that the camera has an HDMI out and can output a “clean” feed – you don’t want to see the information overlays on your camera output.

The BlackMagic Design Pocket Cinema range comes in 4k and 6k versions offering M4/3 and EF lens mounts. The bodies have excellent features with SDI and HDMI outputs and can be remote controlled from the ATEM switches too. Check them out at https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/sa/products/blackmagicpocketcinemacamera

Computer Content

For churches wanting to show slides and song lyrics ProPresenter is a great software package and is available for PC and Mac.

Audio Content

Most churches and bands should have a mixing desk. Digital consoles are ideal as offer a lot more flexibility and helpful features like delay on selected outputs that might be required to sync to your video content. So generally, a feed from your mixing console is all that is required to get quality audio. If you are capturing video outside of your main venue it would be helpful to get a decent microphone for your camera. The HDMI camera output will contain the video with the audio embedded into it. Check out the range from Rode for great value quality mic options. https://www.rode.com/microphones/video

Bringing it all together

Basic setup

For a very basic setup with one camera and an audio feed you could connect directly to a computer. For the video you will need either a USB output camera or a video capture card to convert HDMI or SDI to USB. The Elgato Camlink is a basic HDMI to USB device. BlackMagic Design have a few options such as the Ultrastudio Mini Recorder https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/sa/products/ultrastudio

Including a Switcher

Including a video switcher will make a huge difference when you have more than one video source. The switcher allows for switching between various cameras and computer inputs, along with any corresponding audio embedded with the video or the feed from your mixing console.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini – this is a 4 channel video switcher and scaler that is ideal for smaller setups. It has 4 HDMI inputs and 2 additional audio inputs. It can output via HDMI and USB to send you video mix direct to your computer. It offers transitions, picture-in-picture and more. Only R6650

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro – as above but built in encoder so you can stream direct to the web with no computer required. It can record direct to external hard drive and has a Multiview output to preview all your sources. This is an excellent value solution at  R13 350 https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/sa/products/atemmini

The Blackmagic ATEM Television Studio HD is a step up offering professional features with both HDMI and SDI inputs and can take up to 8 sources. From R22 350 https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/sa/products/atemtelevisionstudio

Encoding for online

Once you have prepared your video content to share with the world you will need to encode it into a web friendly format that can be shared with social media platforms or a web page.

Encoders can either be hardware based or software based. There are pros and cons to both.

Software encoders – these are software packages that allow you to bring together your video production and encode it for streaming. OBS is a free very popular software package. VMix and ECamLive are other popular paid for packages. Encoding on your machine is very intensive and requires a decent processor and video card and RAM. Ideally i7 processor, 16gig RAM, dedicated video card and Sold State Hard drives are key to success. So while the software might be free you do require a sizeable investment in a suitable computer.

Hardware Encoders – these receive the output from your scaler and encode the signal for streaming. The advantage is that they are generally setup once and don’t require much technical knowledge. More stable than software and lower investment. Downside is that it is not as easy to incorporate some of the features the software packages offer. Kiloview make some excellent low cost encoders. http://en.kiloview.com/product/7/

Sharing with social media and your website

Most of the software encoder packages can stream to one social media platform at a time. These solutions, as well as the ATEM Mini Pro, use a format know as RTMP. Should you wish to stream to  multiple locations there are solutions that offer this for a monthly fee. Eg. https://restream.io/

In a country such as South Africa our internet is not amazing and we are located far from the servers that host these  social media platforms and so this step is where your stream is most likely to fail. Sonic AV has partnered with StreamWorks to offer our clients a locally hosted LiveCast Platform. Using SRT to transmit the stream from your location to the local server, we are using a modern protocol that is more resilient than RTMP and less likely to result in dropped content. Once your stream has reached the local StreamWorks server it will be transcoded and share your content directly to multiple social media channels such as Facebook and YouTube. You can also share your video to your own website or app with an embedded player using HTML5. These features are covered in a fixed monthly fee. The StreamWorks platform is developing more features such as scheduling and uploading of pre-recorded content too – so watch this space for more on these developments. We are also able to customise the StreamWorks solution to you needs. If you are wanting a robust locally hosted platform to get your message out please contact us to assist with signing you up.

Should you be looking for the most robust streaming solution you can check out the offering from https://livingasone.com/ They have developed propriety solutions using dedicated encoders to offer a very robust solution to poor internet connectivity. Sonic AV can assist further with this, so please contact us if interested.

In summary: 

Streaming your event to the world is an awesome way to communicate but can be very challenging to achieve. I hope this overview has given you some insight into the process. Sonic AV would be honoured to assist you with your setup. We are ready to supply hardware from industry leaders and hosted streaming solutions such as StreamWorks and LivingAsOne. More features are also in the pipeline and I’ll update as they come online. Please contact us to find out more.

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