‘Like a mighty stream’: live-streaming part 1

5 minute read

Live-streaming has become the Church of England’s latest must-have skill, for very good reasons. Lots of amazing stuff is going on: it’s been really impressive to see what’s been created in a short period of time.

Lots of that is being done by phone using Facebook Live. I don’t want to knock this at all. It is great. I would urge you to get an external microphone for your phone: I’d recommend either the Røde SmartLav+ as a lapel microphone with a cable or the Røde VideoMic Me if you want something fixed to the camera (Amazon Affiliate links). Otherwise, I don’t have many suggestions.

But if you want to do something a bit more ambitious or flexible, a phone won’t do it, because it is quite limited. If you want to cut in video or audio from external sources (such as a reader, a preacher, your choir, the Choir of the Nation, etc.), that’s either difficult or impossible on your phone. If you want to stream to YouTube and don’t have a thousand subscribers, that is also impossible on your phone. For that you need streaming software and a laptop/desktop computer. My choice and recommendation is OBS Studio. You can technically stream with specialist hardware as well, but that’s an expensive and complex option. You will need a decent internet connection. If you have a fast broadband/cable option, by all means use that (it will be faster if you plug it in with a network cable rather than using WiFi). Our internet connection is slow, so I use the 4G connection on my phone, using USB tethering (again, this is much faster than using a WiFi hotspot).

OBS Studio is really built for gamers, so it’s flexible and powerful; it’s also free, which is ideal. A relatively beefy computer will help (Windows, Mac and Linux are all supported), but I did it for weeks using a seven-year-old office laptop with no graphics card, and it wasn’t great, but it was fine.

I’m the assistant priest at St Mary’s, Bourne Street, and we have now done 54 live-streamed masses. These range from simple said masses in our dining-room oratory (such as this one) to sung mass from our church (such as this one) to the Easter vigil with 26 separate recorded elements (this one). This means I’ve got most of the tricks sorted now, so this is the first in a short series about doing a stream with OBS.

  1. Your first stream
  2. Cutting in recorded video and audio
  3. Microphones and sound
  4. Cameras
  5. Streaming platforms and scheduling
  6. Text overlays and countdowns
  7. OBS settings for improving quality
  8. Embedding your video in your website
  9. ???

Let’s make our first stream. I’ll trust you to install OBS for yourself from the website: it’s pretty simple.

When it’s installed and opened up, it looks like this:

The OBS opening screen

I’ll introduce the different parts of this screen in more detail in future, but for now let’s just notice that your computer’s microphone is already being picked up by the software. You can tell that because, when you make a noise, the a green bar will appear at the bottom of the screen. How far it goes (and if it turns yellow and red) shows how high the volume is. (As a general rule, try to aim for the top of the green or the bottom of the yellow section: if you end up in the red, you are in danger of clipping: going beyond the maximum volume, which does weird things to your audio.)

Now let’s add your laptop’s built-in webcam. In the ‘Sources’ box at the bottom, click the ➕ symbol, which will give you the list of the different things that we can insert into our stream. For now, let’s add a ‘video capture device’.

Adding a video capture device

This prompts you for a name for your source: let’s call it ‘Webcam’.

Adding a video capture device

This will bring up this menu, which allows you to choose what device you want to use. Your laptop probably has a built-in webcam, so choose that from the ‘Device’ option, then click ‘OK’.

Adding a video capture device

You might need to resize it to fill the whole screen, which you can do with the little handles in the corners. And that’s it for now: we have our video feed from the camera and our audio feed from the microphone. That’s the equivalent to what you would get from your smartphone, so let’s leave the feed here for today and get it online.

Adding a video capture device

Today we’re going to do the simplest possible feed to Facebook: in future we’ll look at more complex and powerful options.

Head to Facebook Live Producer. There is a way of finding it through the interface, but I can never remember how, so I just go to facebook.com/live/producer. This allows you to set up the stream. There are various options that you can fill in, including a name and description for your video. You can use the privacy settings to choose who will be able to see your livestream and the scheduling settings to choose when it will take place: for now I’m going to ‘go live now’ on my own personal profile so that it’s just visible to myself:

Adding a video capture device

Now, what we need from here is the Stream key. This is the code that allows Facebook to associate the video feed you’re sending with your account and the specific details of this video. You need to keep this information secret, for obvious reasons. Click ‘Copy’.

Adding a video capture device

Now head back into OBS and click ‘Settings’ in the panel on the right-hand side and go to the ‘Stream’ menu. Change the Service to ‘Facebook Live’, then paste (Ctrl+V) the key from Facebook into this field. Now hit ‘OK’.

Adding a video capture device

Everything is ready, so hit ‘Start streaming’ in the menu on the right.

Adding a video capture device

If you head back into Facebook, you will see that the stream you created in OBS will appear as a small preview. There is bit of a lag (I find it is between 10 and 20 seconds). Does it look OK? If so, hit ‘Go live’ and your feed will be out on the internet.

Adding a video capture device

It will appear on your personal profile page, though no one except you will be able to see it, because of the privacy settings we set earlier.

Adding a video capture device

When you’re done, hit ‘End live video’ (or ‘Stop streaming’ in OBS). Facebook will save the video and it will appear as a normal post on your Facebook feed, after a few minutes.

And that’s it! You are already at the equivalent point to what you had with your smartphone.

The options for privacy should be fairly clear: you can choose to share from your own account with friends, or the public, or a group; alternatively you can do what we do, which is to share from our church’s public Facebook page. I think these are fairly clear and obvious, but if you have any questions, let me know (sam.korn@cantab.net) and I’ll answer them in a future post.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at the single biggest advantage that this method of streaming has over your smartphone: being able to incorporate other recorded material.