Live streaming is a medium that has grown significantly in popularity in the last few years. Streamers from churches to broadcast news organizations are all bringing their content to viewers through this real-time digital form. But at this stage in technology, streams can still drop randomly and rapidly, leaving content producers at the mercy of Internet connectivity.
When streaming your church service, the last thing you want is for the video feed to disconnect halfway through, especially after spending thousands of dollars on high-tech digital media equipment. Luckily, there are ways to make sure your encoders don’t fail you when you need them most.
- Use A Wired Connection or Dedicated Wireless Access Point
Despite the fact that all of digital media is heading towards wireless, wired connections are considerably safer. Due to the unstable nature of wireless connections, it’s difficult to identify if a dropped connection is due to the ISP or the router.
While signal strength is generally reliable on most routers, do yourself a favor and use a hardline connection for certainty. If you can’t, use a wireless access point dedicated to streaming so bandwidth isn’t being taken by parishioner traffic.
There are a number of great wireless options available for churches of every size.
Asus TM-AC1900 is an affordable dual-band router with long range that will ensure your devices stay connected across the facility. For larger campuses, the Ruckus Zoneflex 7372 will provide incredible coverage and data throughput, but take note that these are not cheap!
- Bonding Connections
In many cases there are multiple connections available at your church, whether that’s WiFi, Ethernet, or cellular. Wouldn’t it be great if you could combine the bandwidth from these for a much stabler connection? This is what techies call network bonding.
Bonding is basically the combining of more than one Internet source to give your devices a more reliable connection. But bonding cannot be done on just any device; you’ll need a special router or encoder to do it.
There are a couple of reliable bonding devices out there that help ensure your streams never fail. The VidiU Pro by Teradek is a very popular video encoder used by many churches. The device sends video from a camera or video switcher directly to any online video platform, including Facebook, YouTube, and Periscope. Used together with its built-in Sharelink feature, users can combine up to 4 iPhone LTE connections, giving you more bandwidth to stream over. In addition, it can also aggregate bandwidth from WiFi, a USB modem and an Ethernet connection, all at the same time. It’s a great solution for areas with challenging bandwidth constraints.
If you’re looking for a router that can perform a bonding function, Peplink offers several devices that act as a great backup. The Max 700 by Peplink can bond up to 4 cellular connections and 4 USB connections together. It also comes with Peplink’s SpeedFusion technology, which makes video streaming during shaky connection moments seamless. It’s an excellent device for Internet browsing and video meetings.
- Lower Your Bitrates/Resolution
Depending on your tech arsenal and connection speed, broadcasting your video at a bitrate or resolution that is too high for your available bandwidth can lead to repercussions. Bitrates influence the file size of your live stream, and that means too high of a bitrate can leave your viewers stuck in buffering limbo. Achieving optimal bitrate is a bit tricky (and will boil down to trial-and-error) but there are some predefined bitrates that are recommended for every resolution. Check with your destination’s website (Facebook, Youtube, Livestream etc.) to find their suggested settings.
To keep your stream stable, Videoguys, a live streaming reseller, recommends 720p as the optimal streaming resolution for all workflows, because most viewers’ computers can handle this setting. That’s not to say you can’t stream 1080p, but in order to maximize viewership, finding a resolution most people can view without sacrificing too much quality is ideal.
- Update Your Firmware
This may seem pretty obvious, but firmware updates can sometimes contain hotfixes that improve stream quality dramatically. The truth is most people don’t remember to check manufacturer websites for the latest updates, and devices get left in the digital dust when issues arise with a stream. While this may seem trivial when compared to more common issues, it’s a surprisingly easy task to complete during production preparation.
While this list doesn’t cover every possible solution with live stream upkeep, they do provide the most common solutions that exist in the streaming world. Because church service is so important to people in attendance or at home, it’s crucial to make sure viewers can enjoy the entire service without fear of connection failure.