Choosing a Camera for Live Streaming Church

PTZ Camera for Church SpeechIf you are getting ready for live streaming church services, one way or another, you are going to need at least one camera. There are a lot of pieces that go into a live streaming setup, but the camera is where it all starts. By choosing the right camera, you can ensure that you have the image quality and control you need to get the most out of your entire system. For those just getting started with live streaming church services, choosing a camera can seem overwhelming.

There are thousands of video camera options from smartphones, stand-alone camcorders, to PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cameras. In this blog post, we will review the various types of cameras churches are using today to start live streaming their services. It’s also worth noting that most churches already have audio systems in place that can be paired with a good quality camera to complete the entire live streaming system. 

Smartphones

Churches wanting to get started with live streaming sometimes have little to no budget, to begin with. Often, the simplest (and least expensive solution) is to use an iPhone or another smartphone. This works especially well if someone on your team already has one that they are willing to part with, at least on Sunday mornings. All you will need is a stable WiFi connection and a tripod and mount so that you get a steady shot. Just keep in mind that this is only less affordable if you can’t find someone to lend you or give a decent smartphone.

Purchasing one for this purpose could raise the cost high enough to consider one of the other options below. If you do decide to upgrade to a PTZ camera later you can actually use an iOS or Android phone to control the PTZ camera. This is another great way to save money on a budget. 

Learn more about PTZ camera smartphone apps here.

Pros of Using a Smartphone for Live Streaming Church Services:

  • Inexpensive – Free if someone will give or lend one to your church.
  • Easy to Use – Most people are already comfortable with operating a smartphone camera.

Camcorders

The obvious next step up from a smartphone for live streaming church services is a camcorder. The term covers a wide range of dedicated video cameras ranging from a couple of hundred dollars for inexpensive consumer models to tens of thousands of dollars for broadcast-quality cameras. The wide range of prices, quality, and features makes this category especially tricky for people new to live streaming. Also, to get the most out of a camcorder, it will require a dedicated operator to stay with the camera to operate the zoom and manually pan and tilt.

Using a USB Capture Card

Most camcorders do not live stream directly to places such as Facebook and YouTube. Therefore, you do need to purchase a USB capture card that can convert the HDMI or HD-SDI video cable into a USB output that can be plugged into a computer. From here you can use free live streaming software such as OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) or other paid streaming software such as vMix or Wirecast with the USB input.

Camcorders vs PTZ Cameras

The great thing about Camcorders is that they do feature optical zoom which can be used to zoom in from the back of the church. The drawback when compared with PTZ cameras is the lack of useable controls to actually pan, tilt and zoom remotely. Camcorders generally run off a battery and therefore need to be plugged in for use during most church services. PTZ cameras generally are powered over ethernet or a power source. Either way, most churches do not install a camcorder in a location such as a balcony or a wall permanently. PTZ cameras have the ability to mounted in multiple discreet locations in the church (learn more about that here). 

Pros of Using a Camcorder for Live Streaming Church Services:

  • Wide Range of Prices – Some are less expensive than smartphones.
  • Wide Range of Features – Models are available with optical telephoto lenses, image stabilization, and other helpful features.
live streaming equipment for churches

live streaming equipment for churches

PTZ Cameras

Churches new to live streaming often fail to consider the type of camera that may be the best option for the short and long term. PTZ cameras are more affordable and offer features that make them perfect for church applications. With a PTZ camera, you get the broadcast-quality optics and features of higher-end camcorders and the ability to control each unit remotely. That means you don’t need a dedicated camera operator at each camera to control pan, tilt, and zoom. Controls for one or multiple cameras can be handled remotely using a joystick controller, software, or even a smart device. PTZ cameras also offer numerous options for installation, power, control, and sending the video signal.

Pros of Using PTZ Cameras for Live Streaming Church Services:

High-Quality Optics – For a crisp, clear picture.

Remote Control – Operate the pan, tilt, and zoom on multiple cameras from a physical controller, software, or smart device.

Multiple Installation Options – Can be mounted on a tripod, wall, ceiling, or pole.

Multiple Cabling Options – Video signal can be sent via HDMI, SDI, USB, or IP.

Learn more about PTZ Cameras and Church Production