I have been streaming church services for about a year and a half now, but have background in church media, as well as video production (long time ago). I've been getting questions about what we are doing for streaming in the world of COVID-19, so here's a post to explain different options. Our setup will be noted below. I've got a range of products here that allow for single camera to multi camera streams.

Camcorders / Cellphones

The simplest is to use a recent cell phone. The latest models of both Android and Apple phones all should do just fine.
If you want to step it up a bit, a camcorder is a logical step. A camcorder limits you to whatever the built-in lens is, and the resolution won't go higher than what it already has, but they are not expensive, especially used. A basic camcorder would be the Canon Vixia R800. This camcorder runs about $250. It has 1080p output over hdmi, a microphone input jack, but the lens is f4.5 at full zoom, which means you'll need a little better lighting.
A step up from this would be the Canon Vixia G50 at about $999 in price. This has a f2.8 lens at full zoom, so it lets in a bit more light than the prior camcorder. This camcorder also has a microphone input jack. We use the G10 and the G20 older models of the G50, purchased for around $500 to $700. These are advanced "prosumer" camcorder models, blending the line into professional cameras.
Higher than the above camcorders, you're looking at Canon XA40 or higher, starting at about $1500. Of course you could always spend a lot more.

DSLR / Mirrorless Cameras

The next logical step is to a DSLR or mirrorless camera. The benefit to these is that you can change lenses and get the right lens. Plus they usually have larger sensors bringing up the quality of the video without upgrading lighting systems. There are so many choices in this range that I couldn't possibly name them all, but popular choices are: Canon, Sony, Nikon, Blackmagic Design, Panasonic, among others.

NOTE: A DSLR isn't ideal as a mirrorless camera for this application. The mirror in the dslr isn't meant to be held open for such a long time.

I will say that I'm a Canon guy and bring my personal Canon EOS R with an "L" lens to use as one of our cameras. The EOS R is about $1799 for the body, and the lens I bring is the EF 16-35 f4 which is about $800 used, or the EF 24-105 f4 which runs about $500 used.

One popular, but not so expensive choice, is the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera (1080p) or Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (4k or 6k). These use MFT lenses (6k uses Canon EOS lenses), and are remotely controlled with BMD's other products, such as their switchers. These run $999 / $1295 / $2495, plus lenses that run $700-1000.

Lenses I would use with these cameras are pretty much a zoom lens with f2.8. Yes, I know, i'm contradicting myself from above. I don't own f2.8 lenses so I use f4. But the f2.8 would let in more light so you could have a less grainy video.

One other thing to mention is the HDMI output of these DSLR or mirrorless cameras. You need to check to see that they have a "clean feed" from the HDMI port. What this means is that you want a HDMI output that only shows the video with no other information. You don't want it showing the focus points, or the settings of the camera on this feed.

In the photo, that's my Canon EOS R with a 16-35mm lens on a tripod. It's hooked up to a BMD HDMI-SDI converter, and a 100 foot SDI cable, directly into the ATEM TVS switcher.

Video Switchers

I'm a fan of Blackmagic Design (BMD). They make inexpensive switchers that do a great job for the price. The 3 most inexpensive devices they have are the ATEM Mini ($295), the ATEM Mini Pro ($595) and the ATEM Television Studio (TVS) at $995.

The ATEM Mini and ATEM Mini Pro are both 4 input switchers that are also capture devices. They can switch between 4 hdmi inputs, such as 3 cameras and 1 powerpoint slideshow, and hook up to a computer via USB. It'll show up as a webcam.

The ATEM TVS is not a capture device. It has 8 inputs and can switch between any of these 8 inputs. We use this unit in our church and hook it up to a streaming device below (Vidiu Pro). We have 3 cameras and 2 pc screens on ours.

These switchers allow you to switch between different cameras, as well as give you the ability to overlay titles (lower thirds), or picture-in-picture, or full screen graphics, and more. We use the ATEM TVS to do lower thirds in two different ways: Pastor John, XYZ Church, and song lyrics. We also switch to PIP during the sermon if the pastor has slides that don't have tiny words. On slides that can be hard to read, we go full screen graphics.

Capture Devices

Elgato Cam Link - around $129

Capture devices can be as simple as a single input Elgato Cam Link 4k. This will take a single hdmi input and hook into a computer's USB port and show up as a webcam. Then you'll use your computer to stream via software such as OBS, or Youtube, or Facebook.

BMD Decklink Duo 2 (4 input card) $495 each (two of these cards for 8 inputs/outputs)
If you want multiple cameras available into the computer, you can use a BMD Decklink card such as the one above. This will allow you to hook up 4 cameras to the computer.

BMD ATEM Mini / Mini Pro

Streaming Devices / Software Switchers

OBS software - free
OBS is software that can take a camera input via a capture device such as the Elgato Cam Link, or you could load in a Decklink Duo 2 (or other decklink card), and have the ability to select 4 cameras or more from within the software.

vMix software - free, $60, $350
vMix is software that can take a camera input via a capture device such as the Elgato Cam Link, or you could load in a Decklink Duo 2 (or other decklink card), and have the ability to select 4 cameras or more from within the software. vMix is a software based video switcher that allows streaming directly from within it, as well as recording capabilities.

Teradek Vidiu Pro Vidiu Go $1295

The Vidiu Pro is a unit that can take an HDMI video signal and stream it directly to Youtube or Facebook, or other RTMP streaming options. This device can be battery powered which allows you to use it on location. If you wanted to take a single camera and a Vidiu Pro, along with your cell phone, you could stream to the internet from just about anywhere.



Level 0 - Free option

The easiest way to stream is to use a cell phone. Go directly to facebook live or youtube live (if you have 1000+ subscribers), or vimeo, or any other platform. For God's sake and everyone else's sake, please use horizontal video, though. There's a reason that TV's are wider than they are tall. Our peripheral vision is wide, not tall. TV's are this way, movie screens are this way, computer monitors are this way. Even people that are watching on mobile phones can watch horizontal videos by turning their phone sideways. It's ok to cut off the ceiling and floors.

Level 1 - Single camera only - $129 plus camera plus computer

Elgato Cam Link - around $129
OBS software - free
Your existing camcorder or DSLR or mirrorless camera with an HDMI clean feed or purchase a camcorder.

If you can get your hands on one of these gaming capture devices, you could use any hdmi camera as a webcam. Then set up OBS to use the webcam as an input, and stream to standard RTMP feeds. With the current COVID-19

Level 2 - HW Switcher - multi camera (up to 4)- $300 plus cameras plus computer

BMD ATEM Mini - $295
BMD ATEM Mini Pro - $595
OBS software - free
Computer to run OBS ($500-1000 if you don't already have one)
Existing camcorders or DSLRs.

Realistically you're looking at around $2000-$3000 for this setup with cameras, cables, hdmi-sdi converters, etc. This assumes you already have a computer that can handle streaming. If not, add $1000 for that.

Level 2a - SW switcher - multi camera (up to 4) - $800 plus cameras plus computer

vMix software $350 for HD version
Computer to run vMix on ($500-1000 if you don't already have one)
BMD Decklink Duo 2 (4 input card) $495 each (two of these cards for 8 inputs/outputs)
Existing camcorders or DSLRs.

Realistically you're looking at around $2000-$3000 for this setup with cameras, cables, hdmi-sdi converters, etc. This assumes you already have a computer that can handle streaming. If not, add $1000 for that.

Level 3 - HW switcher - multi camera (up to 8) - $2000 plus cameras

BMD ATEM Television Studio - $995
BMD ATEM Mini Pro - $595 (as a streaming device) or Teradek Vidiu Go $1295 (streaming device)
Canon G20 used $500
Canon G30 used $750
Multicamzilla Remote PTZ $1197 + 2nd PTZ $895
Mac Mini used $400 - control of Multicamzilla and BMD ATEM
15.6" touchscreen $150 - control of mac mini
HDMI-SDI converters $59
SDI-HDMI converters $59
Decimator MD-HX $295

This is our setup, basically. We have a Teradek instead of the Mini Pro. I would purchase the mini pro instead of the Teradek because it does streaming, but would also allow us a second level of switching. We could have some other lower thirds, or the logo overlay on this mixer, and the cameras all on the primary mixer.

Our choice of used camcorders was specifically a price move. We were able to set the entire system up for $5000, and added the second camera bring our total to just under $7000. This system was set up in 2018 when it was not easy to get a 2 camera setup for $7000.

In this photo, left to right, you'll find:

  1.  ipad to mix audio feed to the switcher
  2. LS9-32 mixer for FOH
  3. ATEM Multiview and ATEM controls on a touch screen. The multiview is showing (blank),(blank),powerpoint, 2nd computer output, cam1, cam2, (blank), cam3, Preview, Program.
  4. Game controller to control the PTZ on the cameras.
  5. On the right, the top monitor is the Powerpoint Presenters View
  6. Just below that is the ATEM TVS switcher, and the Teradek Vidiu Pro.
  7. Below that is the CD player for FOH music


Level 3a - SW switcher - multi camera (up to 8) - $2000 plus cameras and computer

vMix software $350 for HD version
Computer to run vMix on ($800-1000)
BMD Decklink Duo 2 (4 input card) $495 each (two of these cards for 8 inputs/outputs)

Realistically you're looking at around $4000-$6000 for this setup with cameras, cables, hdmi-sdi converters, etc.

Remote PTZ

Multicamzilla is a product that lets one operator run up to 8 cameras and the video switcher at the same time. It uses a game controller to manipulate PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) of each of the cameras. I like this setup and we use it with 2 cameras, and will probably add a 3rd camera. It requires a Mac of any type to run some custom software that talks with the customized PTZ head. The PTZ head is a common Bescor MP-101 with some custom hardware installed inside of it. That hardware also hooks up to the camera through the LANC port to conrol the zoom, and the IR port to control the camera menus. It's slick, but a little expensive. Plus one person running multiple cameras and the switcher would really need to be paying attention to not make mistakes. With this setup, you could have 2 people, one on cameras, and one on the switcher.

In the photo is PTZ camera 1, and the rear projector screen (confidence monitor).

vMix has the capability to control PTZ for cameras they support. This makes it simple to have the "one man show" with the video switcher person also operating the remote cameras. This also saves thousands over the product listed above.


HDMI - SDI converters

BMD HDMI - SDI Microconverter $59
BMD SDI-HDMI Microconverter $59
Decimator MD-HX Up/Down/Cross Converter with HDMI to SDI and SDI to HDMI $295

HDMI is good for 20-40 feet maximum. The most common way to extend HDMI is using SDI.  SDI has a longer maximum reach of about 300 feet. And even at 300 feet, you could put in a reclocker and go another 300 feet.

The basic setup would be:  Camera -> HDMI/SDI converter -> SDI cable -> (SDI/HDMI converter optional if switcher doesn't have SDI inputs) -> Switcher

The Decimator MD-HX is used to switch resolutions and frame rates and SDI to HDMI or HDMI to SDI.


Perhaps one of the most important parts of video is audio. Audio quality is paramount. The best way to get this right is to have a separate room and a duplicate console with all the same inputs, and have a person mixing the "audio for video" feed. They should be using studio monitor speakers, and watching a video feed so they can see what's happening.

Apart from that, the next best way is to use a separate mix on the FOH console. Ideally this should be a stereo pair mix so that you can give space to the audio feed for video. This is usually accomplished by 2 aux busses, or a matrix feed, on your main sound board. Someone could use headphones to mix this feed, but the acoustical energy in the room will make that difficult. But this is the best answer for most churches with limited budgets.

The last option is basically to point a video shotgun mic at the main speakers in the room. Quality won't be fantastic.

And the no-go option is to use a built-in microphone on the camera or camcorder. Quality will suffer and people would rather turn it off, than endure 1 hour of listener fatigue.

Software switcher vs Hardware switchers

I regret not going to vMix 3 years ago when I setup our church's video system. But 3 years ago, it was more of an unknown. It would give me flexibility in adding inexpensive cameras (iphones with NDI) to get more views easily and without cost. For children's choir, we could have someone in the front row with an iphone on a dedicated wireless network and NDI to bring that camera into vMix. I calculated the cost to be roughly the same, $5000 for the vMix system with 1 camera with remote PTZ, and the same $5000 for the ATEM TVS, Teradek Vidiu Pro, and 1 camera and remote PTZ. But we had already ordered some of the equipment when I learned of vMix and NDI.

In todays world, for simplicities sake, I would still go with a hardware switcher, namely the ATEM Mini Pro. Or if you need more inputs, the ATEM TVS with an ATEM Mini Pro as the streaming device. One major benefit of the Mini Pro as a streaming device (or Vidiu Pro / Go) is that a hardware streaming device is optimized for streaming. If you are using a computer, there are times when the computer may have issues with streaming and you'll be the one trying to figure out what's wrong. With the Vidiu, you just press a button and it's live.


A quick note: product links are to BHPhoto.com. I have no affiliation with them and DO NOT earn any commission on any product you may buy through them.


© Copyright 2021 - Steven Hong - All Rights Reserved. Each office independently owned and operated.
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