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PTZOptics Move 4K IP PTZ camera
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Three tips for better Livestreams: Good cameras for Live Streaming

Peter Lane —

Welcome to the final instalment of our series, offering valuable tips for live-streaming your church services. We hope you've already witnessed significant improvements in your live streams by implementing our previous tips on enhancing audio and lighting.

If you were really keen, you might have even explored our bonus tip on network connections available only on the d|c|t website. Today, we'll delve into another crucial aspect of streaming: the camera.

All digital video cameras essentially operate the same way: they capture light through a lens, focus it on a digital sensor composed of individual pixel sensors, and convert the electronic output into a video signal, typically at 50 or 60 frames per second. However, not all cameras are created equal for streaming purposes.

While it's true that you can use a phone, a laptop camera, or a webcam for streaming, it's important to consider how they are used, which is optimized for close-up shots of individuals at a distance of about ½ to 1 meter from the camera. This differs significantly from the requirements of a worship setting, where you need to capture a mix of wide, contextual shots of the church sanctuary and medium to close shots of key locations, such as the lectern, the altar, or the organist. While your phone or laptop may suffice for a basic setup to get started and may still have a role for specific special-purpose shots, to elevate your live-streaming experience, it's worth investing in a high-quality camera optimized for live streaming.

Panasonic HC-X1500 — Image by: .

Canon XA60 — Image by: .

Sony FDR-AX43 — Image by: .

Let's explore some examples. Cameras with 4K or near-4K resolution, capable of recording to memory cards and streaming, and produced by industry-standard manufacturers, offer impressive features. The cameras pictured above are budget-friendly versions of cameras designed for broadcast and professional video production. However, they might not be the ideal choice for traditional churches looking to live-stream worship services.

To use these cameras effectively, you'd need to place them on tripods. Placing a camera on a tripod in the middle of an aisle with cables running to a computer isn't the most elegant solution and can pose safety concerns, especially when dealing with multiple cameras. Cabling can also be complex, requiring specialized cables and adaptors. Additionally, each camera demands a dedicated operator, potentially obstructing the views of the congregation. Finding skilled volunteers can be a challenge, and the setup and teardown process for each use can lead to operational errors.

While these cameras can be valuable for scenarios that require high-quality video, flexibility in positioning, and creative angles, they might not be the best choice for your primary camera.

Instead, consider PTZ (Pan, Tilt, and Zoom) cameras as a simpler and more practical solution for worship streaming. These cameras, originating from video-conferencing systems, are optimized for streaming needs. They are compact and can be discreetly mounted on walls or ceilings. With remote control capabilities, you can eliminate the need for camera operators at the camera location. Some newer models even offer features like automatic tracking. These cameras often come with native network connections for easy integration into your streaming setup.

PTZOptics Move 4K IP PTZ camera — Image by: .

Angekis Saber IP20X — Image by: Web Master

Teylcam Drive+ N — Image by: .

PTZ cameras such as the ones pictured here, provide most of the same features as the cameras mentioned earlier but are optimized for permanent installation and typically don't require a dedicated operator. While the initial cost may be a bit higher, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, the improvement in streaming quality justifies the investment.

In a church context, the following criteria are important:

· High resolution: Traditional churches benefit from high-resolution cameras as they allow you to create multiple views from a single camera feed, ensuring a better user experience.

· Presets and transitions: PTZ cameras can use presets and transitions to create smooth scene changes without compromising resolution.

· Optical Zoom: Look for cameras with optical zoom, as it delivers better image quality compared to digital zoom.

We trust that this series has been informative. If you have any questions on this topic or are interested in online training for live-streaming church services, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.

Camera images sourced from the respective manufacturer’s websites.

Peter Lane is Principal Consultant at System Design & Communication Services and has over 30 years of experience with Technology systems. We invite your questions, suggestions and ideas for articles. These can be submitted either through the editor or by email to dct@dct.org.nz. We also operate a website focused on building a community of people interested in improving how we can use technology in churches, located at www.dct.org.nz.