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One way or another, if you want to live stream video, you will need a camera. What kind of a camera depends on things including your budget, your capture device, the size and layout of the room and how good you want it to look. Putting all those things together makes choosing a camera a little complicated.
The single most important thing is finding a camera that will work with your capture device. So do you get a camera that works with your capture device or a capture device that works with your camera? Yes. You may be starting to see that you need to think this all the way through before buying anything.
Three Basic Types of Cameras for Live Streaming Church Services
It may make it a little simpler to think of cameras in these categories. It oversimplifies it a bit, but it is a place to start.
Webcams for Live Streaming Church
Probably the fastest and easiest way to get video online. In some cases, with a USB camera, you don’t even need to use an encoder. They are inexpensive and require virtually no setup. The flipside is that they have some limitations. First, not all encoding software works with all webcams. Second, these little cameras lack much in the way of zoom, manual focus, and white balance meaning the image quality is going to suffer. Still, sometimes a webcam is the easiest way to get started.
Consumer and ProSumer Camcorders for Live Streaming Church Services
Camcorders can be an excellent solution for churches since they can also be used for other applications. If your church is thinking about making videos for social media, recording testimonies, or creating videos for sermon series, these camcorders are great tools. And, they also work great for live streaming.
There are many affordable HD cameras on the market that capture High Definition video and can feed the signal through an HDMI output. Many capture cards and boxes will accept HDMI. If your card or box accepts HDMI, this is a great choice. These cameras range in price from around $300 to thousands of dollars. You can likely find a camera with the quality and features you need in the right budget range. The biggest drawback won’t affect most users. That is the fact that there is a limited length of cable runs with HDMI. This will affect you if you are installing a multi-camera setup in a large facility. In that case, you may want to look at a professional camera with an SDI output. You also have the option of converting the HDMI signal to SDI.
There is another issue to watch for on the consumer models. Manufacturers are moving away from including a microphone input. Depending on how you will set up the audio for your livestream, this may or may not be an issue. If you are planning on using the camera for other purposes, this may be an issue. If there is no microphone jack, you will not be able to plug in an external microphone or other audio source.
Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder $199 (amazon.com)
This camera has been discontinued by Canon so get it while you can. It offers a 32x optical zoom, and HDMI connection, and a microphone jack.
Professional Camcorders for Live Streaming Church Services
If your budget allows it, these camcorders have some features not available on consumer models. While these still don’t have some of the advanced options as the professional cameras listed below, stepping out to pro gets you thinks like XLR terminals for professional external microphones, lens attachments, and better image processors.
The Canon camcorders recommended below offer either HDMI output which work with a large number of capture devices, or SDI output. SDI works with more advanced capture devices and has the advantage of being able to handle longer cable runs. This is important if you are considering an installation in a larger facility where your camera might be far away from your capture device.
Professional Cameras for Live Streaming Church Services
If you are serious about video and have a serious budget,, the possibilities are endless once you get to the professional camera range. If you have a large facility, the need for interchangeable lenses, a desire to run multiple cameras, a need to operate a camera remotely, you will find what you are looking for in higher-end cameras. At this point, unless you have some experience or access to someone with experience, it may be time to bring in an expert. If you want to give it ago on your own, B&H Photo has some great resources.
PTZ Cameras for Live Streaming Church Services
So far, all the cameras I have mentioned are multi-purpose. That means you can use them to live stream on Sunday, then take them out of the sanctuary and record video anywhere you want. If you are willing to leave your cameras in your worship space all the time, PTZ cameras offer some options not available on portable cameras.
PTZ is an abbreviation of Pan, Tilt, Zoom. They are also referred to as robo-cams. These are used for a variety of purposes including security, live sports, video conferencing, and church live streaming. Modern PTZ cameras have three major advantages over regular cameras.
- Remote Control – There is no need for an operator at the camera’s location. All of the features of the camera (zoom, pan, tilt) can be operated from a central location.
- Small form factor – These cameras can be inconspicuously mounted eliminating the need for platforms and tripods.
- Power over Ethernet (POE) – POE allows power to be delivered through a standard ethernet cable making installation a lot less complicated.