In March of 2020, Leesville UMC was faced with the COVID pandemic and was forced to cancel in person worship services. The technology team sprang into action and transformed the fellowship hall into a full production studio. This setup yielded a very professional product, but took many people to operate. A dedicated Sound Engineer, Camera Operator, Graphics Operator and a Producer were all needed. Fast forward to June of 2020 and it was time to open the church back up for in-person services, and the slew of cables, operators and equipment could no longer be used to capture the worship services. A permanent solution would be needed, and it would have to be simple enough for mildly tech savvy church members to operate with basic training.

The technology team settled on a single camera format using a single PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom, Robotic) camera (PTZ Optics) and digital audio mixing solution(Behringer/Midas). This would allow a complex service like the contemporary worship service to be produced with just 2 operators: video and sound. The livestream operator sits behind a custom spec’d PC running dual monitors, a traditional keyboard and mouse and a simple audio mixer.

Audio is provided to the livestream mixer via a custom house mix from the front of the house mixer and a room microphone (the sanctuary also has a feed from the electronic organ). This custom mix includes additional inputs that are not amplified through the house speakers but need to be present in the online feed, such as wind instruments. Other adjustments are needed to balance the vocal and instrument levels. The operator has headphones that can be used for monitoring and adjusting levels feeding the livestream.

Early on, we realized that to increase audio quality, we would need to upgrade our sound system from the analog mixer with amplifiers to a more advanced digital mixer with powered tower speakers. This addition allowed for a cleaner mix, quicker response for mixing, and a less congested production and presentation area for the technology team and praise band.

Video is provided to the livestream computer via HD-SDI, this is a rugged, reliable and broadcast grade connection. The video passes through an audio processor where the audio and video are combined into a single digital signal. This signal is captured by the computer and used as a video source in Open Broadcast Software(OBS).

 OBS is a software solution we choose to use to produce the live programming. It is very flexible and allows for a variety of sources including text, images and other camera/computer sources to be overlaid on the video. Our pre-roll and post-roll footage, video bumpers before and at the end of a service, are queued and played via this software.  NDI a network streaming protocol is used to capture the worship presentation for use as a video source in OBS, this allows us to stream the same content that is projected to the in person audience. OBS is also used to record a copy of the service for future use.

Camera Control is achieved using the camera manufactures OBS plugin. This plugin allows for full motion control of the camera as well as presets. Presets are typically set up before each service depending on the order of worship.

Streaming Services – Leesville UMC started its live streaming on YouTube, this was chosen due to the ease of playback and quality of service. YouTube allows congregation members to use smart tvs with built in youtube apps to easily find and stream services both live and replay. In addition, YouTube makes it very easy to embed live services into the church website. After receiving feedback a decision was made to also add a simultaneous Facebook Live feed. Due to bandwidth and software limitations at the church we could not upload two live streams simultaneously. The solution was a service called Castr, this allows us to send one feed from the church and have it routed to YouTube and Facebook.

Time Study– In an effort to understand the commitment from our Technology Team, Praise Band members and all other individuals, a time study was done. The study indicates that forty-eight to fifty hours of prep are necessary for production of the 9am Sunday service each week.

The weekly production of this live stream could not be possible without the dedication of the Technology Team and Worship Leaders. A quality production that looks, sounds and feels good is produced, usually, without a hitch for dozens of online viewers.

Respectfully submitted by the Technology Team

Leesville United Methodist Church