$6000 Church Live Streaming Setup

Many people are frequently asking what gear they need to start live streaming their church services. They usually receive answers ranging from don’t stream at all to you need to spend $100k+ to start. In this gear list, we are going to cover the best live streaming setup you can create for about $6000.


Switcher

Maybe you have heard that software isn’t as good as hardware, and in some cases, that is true. Many app-based software solutions are nothing more than consumer electronics (hint, hint: SlingStudio) that are not suitable for creating a reliable quality production. However, don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. Both vMix and OBS are very capable of handling production workloads and are the only reliable programs that have innovative features. (We’re talking about you Wirecast 🙄) OBS is open-source software that, while it is excellent for what you pay for, has its limits, so we are going to be using vMix HD, which costs only $350 one time.

You can purchase additional years of updates for $60 per 12 months. It’s not a subscription and includes all major version updates and minor updates. You’re not getting locked in with anything like the infamous Telestream tax that Wirecast users are plagued with.

But there may be a problem. vMix only supports Windows. Isn’t Windows bad for productions? Well, no, not at all. It’s a common myth that Windows is unreliable, forces updates, and is more virus prone than Mac. That is wrong. All those are user caused issues that Macs suffer from too.

Even the once Mac-first Renewed Vision, the makers of ProPresenter, recommend Windows for production.

Now other skeptics will say that hardware switchers are better. We will get to that tin detail at the end of this gear list, but I want to take a moment to point out that vMix, unlike other programs (you again Wirecast) it is incredibly stable. I, along with many other vMix users, can not recall a time where vMix caused a loss of stream issue. It just doesn’t happen.

Now that we have that out of the way let’s get into the technical ability of vMix, what PC you’ll need to run it, and how much it will all cost.

Computer

First, let’s cover what we will run it all on. In this gear list, we are trying to stay under $6k, so to understand what vMix needs to run, let’s visit their reference systems page. There they list all their recommended hardware. One of the laptops they recommend is the Asus ROG Zephyrus M. The Asus ROG Zephyrus M runs at about $1500 on B&H. It should work great for our needs.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M
Asus ROG Zephyrus M

Software

vMix Logo
vMix Logo

Now we need to purchase vMix. I recommend churches use the HD version because it is a delicate balance between price and features. vMix sometimes gives away licenses to churches, so it may be worth filling out the application form. If you don’t hear back from them, you can purchase vMix HD here for $350. vMix allows you to do a slew of things that usually take $$$$$ in gear and giant broadcast facilities to produce. Some of those included in vMix HD are:

  • Theoretically up to 1000 cameras
  • Fully NDI compatible on all versions
  • Pre-recorded video playout
  • DVD inputs
  • Audio file playout
  • Multichannel audio interfaces (including digital mixers such as the X32)
  • PowerPoint
  • Web browser input
  • Multi bitrate streams to up to 3 destinations simultaneously
  • Record to your computer
  • Virtual camera output to other programs such as Skype or Hangouts
  • SDI outputs for IMAG
  • Built-in title animation software
  • Digital zooming
  • Chroma and Luma Key
  • PC and Mac desktop capture via NDI Scan Converter
  • vMix Call
  • Delay and instant replay
  • A built-in audio mixer that includes, EQ, gains, noise gates, limiters, VST3 support, and more
  • 4:4:4 32bit color correction
  • Waveform and Vectorscope monitors
  • Four independent overlay channels
  • Web and mobile app control
  • SRT In and out
  • MIDI controller support
  • And much much more

Convinced vMix is the best by now?

Now that we have our computer ($1500) and software ($350), we are ready to move on to our encoder.

Encoder

Wait, I thought you said we could stream to 3 different destinations with vMix? Yep. I did, but there are a few things you will need to be able to stream without as many interruptions as possible.

Fast Internet

A slow or spotty internet connection can kill any production no matter what you are using. So make sure you have plenty of upload bandwidth to cover the bit rate you are streaming at and also allow room for other devices to do things such as moderating comments. Other than having the right internet service provider, there are a few things you can do to improve your connection. #1 Having a hardwires cat6 connection. The laptop we choose does have a cat6 port, so all you need to do is plug-in. #2 Having an up to date network. One of the biggest killers is having old and slow routers, network switches, or trying to use wireless. To stream and use NDI, you will need to make sure your network is up to modern standards. #3 Restricting access. Yeah, I know it isn’t always possible, but when it is possible, you want to be on a dedicated network and have a dedicated internet connection to keep other people from hogging up your speed.

Proper Stream Setup

It is vitally important to make sure you have your stream settings appropriately configured. When choosing a destination, we recommend Facebook and YouTube, you need to look on their website to find what they recommend you send. You can also simplify this by using the API, aka presets within vMix, that allow you to configure your stream directly in vMix.

Cameras and Inputs

We are starting to get somewhere. Now it’s time to find some cameras. For this gear list, we are going to go with the BirdDog P100 ($1599/each) camera with the BirdDog PTZ controller ($1495). The P100 is 100% full NDI and NDI|HX compatible, which allows you to easily control and capture your camera all over IP, therefore, eliminating the need for running tons of extra wires and buying capture devices. If you have a higher budget, I highly recommend going for the P200 ($2799), which brings with it a lot of all-around image quality improvements.

BirdDog PTZ Controller
BirdDog PTZ Controller
BirdDog P100 PTZ Camera
BirdDog P100

BirdDog P100 Features

  • POE, which means a single cord to the camera
  • 10x optical zoom
  • F1.6 (W) – F3.0 (T)
  • 1 / 2.86 inch CMOS 2.2MP
  • 0.5 lux
  • NDI/HDMI/SDI outputs
  • Up to 1080p 60fps

ProPresenter Capture

Often you want to display a sermon title, Bible verse, or overlay lyrics on your live stream. Traditional systems make that hard, but vMix has a solution. With the advent of ProPresenter 7, there are now a few ways to do this. We will cover the old ways first.

ProPresenter 7
ProPresenter 7

Pro6: You can set up a separate computer running Pro with the master/slave module and have a green background. After getting the signal into your switcher, you can key out the green background and end up with transparent overlays. That’s a lot of work.

Pro7: Now, with Pro7, you don’t have to do that. Now you can create the green slide directly on your main Pro computer. Pretty sweet, right? But there is more.

Pro6 and 7: With this easy to use script, you can bring text directly from your Pro output into vMix as a text title that dynamically updates. I think this is the best solution because it allows your broadcast team to have complete control of the fonts, shadows, and sizes of your text.

Any Presentation Software: The final option is to use the NDI Scan Converter. All the other options have focused on getting transparent lyric overlays into your live stream. This option brings in an exact copy of our screen output into vMix. To use it simply run NewTek NDI’s free NDI Scan Converter on Mac or Windows, and then as long as both machines are on the same network, you can add the screen capture as a source in vMix via an NDI input. I recommend doing this alongside options 2 or 3 because NDI Scan Converter can efficiently run in the background.

Audio

Now let’s discuss maybe what is possibly the most essential part, sound. I have used the BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC1820 ($328), and it works great if you need to bring in more than one audio channel, but if you just want one, the smaller UM2 ($50) works aswell. For best results, take a mix bus off your sound mixer into the audio interface. You may want to include some ambient mics in the crowd to help make everything feel in person rather than distant. Once you get your audio into vMix, you will want to play around with the audio settings to find what works best for you.

Front view UMC1820
Front View UMC1820
Back view UMC1820
Back View UMC1820

Control Surfaces

Especially if you are familiar with hardware switchers, you will want a tactile control surface so that you can easily control vMix without having the constantly be moving the mouse back and forth. Here are a few I recommend:

BEHRINGER X-TOUCH MINI $79

X-Touch Mini
X-Touch Mini

The Behringer X-Touch Mini is a compact version of Behringer’s popular X-Touch control surface. The mini is perfect for vMix due to its small size and fader that works as a bar. With the mini, you get thirty-two layered light-up buttons, eight control nobs, and two faders, all of which are contained in 2 easy to toggle layers. There isn’t a better controller at this price range that can do all that the x-touch mini does.

X-Keys XKE-124 Video Switcher Bundle $900

X-Keys Controller
X-Keys Controller

The X-Keys t-bar video switcher bundle strongly resembles a traditional hardware switcher feel and allows operators easy control of virtually everything they will need in production. You can customize your controller to how you want to. It is for sure an investment but something I think is going to be worth it.

Our Setup vs. Blackmagic Design

vMix Setup

That adds up to a total of $6672, plus wiring and mounting supplies. I know that’s a little over budget, but the extra camera will make all the difference in your production quality.

BMD Setup

So what would a similar system cost to use Blackmagic Design gear? Let’s find out:

We are already nearly to $10k, and we have not even begun to scratch the surface of what vMix can still do that this setup can’t.

Summery

As you can see, a vMix system is the only viable option for church productions in 2020 and beyond because of its versatility, affordability, and simplicity. Gone are the days where we need whole rooms full of gear to stream; now we just need a laptop.

If you have found any pricing issues or outdated gear above, please drop a comment below so that we can update this gear list to the latest and greatest. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, and a fellow reader or I will try to answer your questions as soon as possible.

Featured Image by Anna Earl on Unsplash

Mackenly Jones

Mackenly Jones

Founder of The Church Factory

I am the founder of The Church Factory and Tricities Media Group.

Questions or Business Inquires?

Enjoyed This Post?

Buy me a sweet teaBuy me a sweet tea

14 Comments

  1. Hayden Wedel

    This is top class brilliant info sharing! Im in tears thank you. I will be in contact. THANK YOU SO SO MUCH

    Reply
    • Mackenly Jones

      Glad you enjoyed it! If you have further questions please share them!

      Reply
  2. Justin Rhodes

    Definitely one sided. But if it works for you then it’s good advice

    Reply
    • Mackenly Jones

      I’m sorry you feel that way. Do you suggest any other systems we should compare?

      Reply
  3. Tim Kirby (@yokirby)

    Yes– One-sided. I’d be interested in a setup using the ATEM TV HD Live Production Switcher ($995).

    Reply
    • Mackenly Jones

      I’m sorry you feel that way! I don’t feel that it’s relevant to discuss in detail other less capable options that cost even more. That switcher doesn’t have a tactical control surface and isn’t a great option for switching for live multi-cam events because of that. I don’t have access to an ATEM Television Studio HD just the Pro so can’t really write much up about it. Thank you for the feedback!

      Reply
  4. Chris

    So how would you add other SDI or HDMI cameras to VMIX?

    Reply
    • Mackenly Jones

      Hi, there are many ways. The most simple is a capture device, they work over USB or Thunderbolt. They’re typically limited to a single input. The next option is capture cards. They work over PCIe which allows you to capture many many cameras much like a traditional legacy hardware switcher solution. The last, but maybe best, option I suggest is NDI. For example, http://www.Bird-Dog.tv makes NDI devices which are designed to be on camera, provide tally, comms, and of course camera capture all over cat6.

      Reply
    • Mackenly Jones

      Hi, there are many ways. The most simple is a capture device, they work over USB or Thunderbolt. They’re typically limited to a single input. The next option is capture cards. They work over PCIe which allows you to capture many many cameras much like a traditional legacy hardware switcher solution. The last, but maybe best, option I suggest is NDI. For example, http://www.Bird-Dog.tv makes NDI devices that are designed to be on camera, provide tally, comms, and of course camera capture all over cat6.

      Reply
  5. Jerry

    Great article! One other inexpensive idea for audio – we use a Yahama MG-10XU small mixer that has a USB output. We premix our mics and house sound, then input it into VMix as an audio input. We add a 100 microsecond delay inside VMix and lip-sync is perfect. We like the freedom to eq and premix our audio feed for video. Blessings!!

    Reply
  6. Tadhg

    Hello,
    Wow, 2020’s gone sideways since this was first posted. But because it’s gone sideways, we’ve also seen options in the market completely change and open up!
    We now have the ATEM Mini, Mini Pro and Mini Pro ISO. Which are WAY cheaper than the 4k, include a touch interface, and match the vMix streaming capacity (1080 @ 60fps).

    I’m looking to put something together. My budget says single camera. I’m considering a camera, an ATEM Mini Pro ISO (already have an HDD to connect so we can record), and a new PC to run our presentation software (Proclaim). Stream directly from the ATEM.
    How would you consider that to stack up, in comparison to a single camera version of your vMix setup?

    I should also note – we have basically ZERO experienced volunteers (and prospective volunteers) and no staffers. It’ll likely be handled by our existing sound techs, who are already stretched (and run Proclaim). We’ll use sound from an X32 (running out of a Matrix – set up from our pre-recorded worship sessions). So running multiple software packages simultaneously – especially in a singular computer – isn’t manageable, and neither is pre-programming much (i.e. ‘change slide on Proclaim, change video feed (add lower third from Proclaim to video from camera)).

    Reply
    • Mackenly Jones

      Hi, yes, it has gone sideways, haha. With ATEM Minis, you’re limited to HDMI, which limits you to approx. ten feet with a high-quality signal. That can make having a Multicam setup or even a single-cam setup get expensive considering reliable HDMI to SDI converters cost around $100 and SDI to HDMI converters also cost around $100. That’s a total of $200 additional per camera. That also introduces more points of failure. When converting to SDI, you lose the ATEM Mini’s camera control method, which allows you to control BMD cameras from the ATEM Mini. So kind of a no-win situation.

      Another downside to ATEM Minis is that it doesn’t have XLR inputs and no way to connect a multichannel audio interface. As a result, that increases your audio costs and may require an additional audio mixer to run your broadcast mix.

      Additionally, the ATEM Mini only has one HDMI out. You have to choose if you want to see a multiview (necessary for switching Multicam) or see a program output. So there’s no way to send your production to additional screens without sacrificing your ATEM’s multiview.

      Don’t get me wrong, the ATEM mini is a powerful tool for specific use cases, but it’s not the greatest thing ever and comes with some serious downsides. With a $1200 desktop PC build, $350 vMix HD, $500 bmd decklink duo 2, USB DAW out from a digital audio mixer, and $79 Behringer x touch mini control surface, you have a much more robust setup with room to scale. I get it though, there’s a big difference between a $2k setup and a $900 setup, but the features you get and scalability of the $2k makes it 100% worth it long term.

      I may be wrong on this but I belive the ATEM Mini Pros also only allow streaming to one place at a time while vMix of course supports multibitrate streaming to three places at the same time. If the Pros only allow one destination, in order to stream to let’s say YouTube and Facebook you’d need something like Restream.io which costs around $50/month. So it adds up.

      Reply
      • Tadhg

        You’re right – US$2k is a big jump from US$900 (I’m not in the US). And I’m not sure that everything you’ve listed is valid? The HDMI to SDI issue is noteworthy, but it’s also an issue for other solutions (i.e. you’ve got to use SDI, or USB over Ethernet, or similar).

        The audio interface issue? That depends on where you’re mixing. If you’re mixing in a DAW, there’s no reason why you can’t go straight into the mic/line TRS. Same if you’re taking a send from your existing desk. We haven’t gone streaming yet (I’m trying to price things up and get budget – the second part being much, much harder), but that’s how we’ve organized our pre-recorded services. Taking a matrix feed out of our X32 (FOH + extra verb/drums/ambient mics, plus extra compression ) and recording directly into the mic input on the (borrowed) camera. The Mini Pro also has onboard sound processing (i.e. gain/EQ/Level/Compression/Limiter) for the two separate inputs and the HDMI audio inputs (i.e. through the cameras – though I can’t imagine why using those would be a great idea in a church setting). I want the sound going into the streaming system (ATEM, vMix, OBS, whatever) coming from a singular source, and being correct before it his the streaming system. So I don’t see it as an issue.

        I do see the singular HDMI output as not ideal. I think it means the only solution for extra room monitors fed by your broadcast is to take a feed over the net from a stream. If we were big enough to have another place we wanted to display the feed on site (we’re only 200-odd adults), that would be more significant.

        In terms of multi-streaming, for me, that’s not a big deal. We live on YouTube. FaceBook’s mono (and not used by younger people – I’m not young, but I don’t have FaceBook), and YouTube’s copyright algorithm seems to be a significant advantage (even though we’ve paid for a CCLI licence). That said, I’ve read that you can stream to multiple sources – albeit in the one format/bitrate – by editing the XML file that controls everything.

        Scalability, I agree, if you’re past three cameras (three cameras plus one HDMI from the computer with chroma-keyed graphics), then it may be an issue (combined with the HDMI-SDI issue, or USB for PTZ style cameras). Though if you’re looking at that, odds are you’ve got more volunteers and capacity to spend well more than US$1k on streaming (plus camera(s)).

        The lack of volunteers and my preference not to have my sound tech switching between programs on computers to run streaming and presentation software is a significant factor for me. We’ll be one camera (likely not a BMD camera, but hopefully a DSLR/mirrorless camera – we’re at about 60′, I believe it’s necessary, but obviously a budget blow – a secondary camera isn’t the most remote of possibilities), set up at the sound desk (HDMI run of less than 6′, all vertical), with audio input only from the X32, and with only Proclaim as a secondary video input (for the medium term). But you’ve given me much to mull over…….

        Reply
    • Mackenly Jones

      An alternate solution could be using ProPresenter 7. Pro allows you to stream from it and display lyrics so you could simply purchase something like the BirdDog Flex 4k ($400) and put it at your camera, run a POE cat6 to it, and then use Pro to stream the camera via NDI. But if you’re using Proclaim that wouldn’t be possible.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Our Latest Content

Coronavirus: It’s Okay To Not Be Perfect

Coronavirus: It’s Okay To Not Be Perfect

I’d like to remind everyone that you’re not doing it for the highest production quality, best camera shot, and greatest color grade. You’re doing it for Jesus.

%d bloggers like this: