How to Live Stream a Church Event Over 3G / 4G in the UK

Update (26/5/15) I have found a solution that is rock solid – see bottom of the page for details.
The Church that I’m part of has national events every couple of months for people from all around the country. It isn’t practical for everyone to travel long distances so I looked into ways of doing a video live stream of the event so they can watch from home.
After 6 months of frustration I found a setup that works in both remote locations and city centres. There might be someone out there who wants to know so here’s what works for me – the details of the parts I use are at the end of this post.

Livestreaming from

Successfully live streaming a Church event inside a marquee, in a field, in the middle of the English countryside.

Testing

We already do IMAG (3 video camera mix) so what I needed to do was take a feed from the BlackMagic ATEM mixer and broadcast it online. Our events are often in unusual locations – a tent in a field in the countryside, on Trafalgar Square, in sports halls – so a stable broadband connection isn’t possible. I first tried streaming with a 3G router and PC software (using a HDMI capture card) and it would cut out frequently. You have to bear in mind that the congregation will all have mobile phones and if you’re in a remote location this can overload the 3G cell tower you’re connected to and cause unstable 3G dropouts.

Using the PC software also led to complications – you have to keep the PC updated, it can crash, takes up a lot of room, not very energy efficient etc. So I found a small piece of hardware called the LiveStream Broadcaster that does all the encoding and uploading. This ties you into the LiveStream service but the end user interface is professional and wasn’t too expensive.

As 4G mobile connections were being rolled out across the country I checked to see where there is 4G coverage on EE’s map – and our marquee field was just in range of one of their 4G towers.

EE's 4G coverage checker - our event field was just in range.

EE’s 4G coverage checker – our event field was just in range.

I did a couple of tests with the Broadcaster and an unlocked 4G modem I got off eBay and it seemed to connect OK.

Testing the LiveStream Broadcaster and 4G dongle in the marquee field.

Testing the LiveStream Broadcaster and 4G dongle in the marquee field.

However using the Broadcaster’s USB slot for the 4G modem led to difficulties and it would sometimes reboot or not connect to EE. So I hunted around and found a 4G router that would take the USB dongle, and from there on I didn’t have any connection issues. Even when the marquee was filled with a thousand people (all probably connecting to one cell tower) there was no drop outs over 4G.

Insulation tape

Live streaming from Trafalgar Square in London. JVC GY-HM600 video camera with HDMI out to the LiveStream Broadcaster. The 4G router was held with insulation tape to the roof of the gazebo just above the camera. Very professional.

Final Solution

BlackMagic ATEM video mixer  ­->  HDMI 720p50 (audio embedded) ­ ->  Livestream Broadcaster  ­->  Ethernet  ­->  TP-­Link 4G router  ->  4G dongle

­ I chose the Adaptive Medium setting (678kbs at ­768 x 432) as this uses around 300MB an hour. This is the best setting for image clarity vs data usage. I could up the quality but the chances of dropouts are higher, and the data use increases.

The Jesus Army LiveStream page with the 5 events so far -

The Jesus Army LiveStream page with the 5 events we’ve held so far which are saved for repeat viewing.

Stats: So far we’ve had 6,600 views and 127 followers from the 5 events. People have accessed the video streams from 45 different countries.

Parts and Costing

  • EE 4G SIM + 6GB data (£17) ­ eBay
  • HUAWEI E398 4G USB dongle (£55) ­ eBay
JC router

A live stream from inside the Northampton Jesus Centre. Still haven’t got round to making the setup look tidy. That’s next years project.

There has been plenty of positive feedback about live streaming as people have been grateful to be able to watch the meetings and feel a part. It’s also helped many of our overseas friends and church members stay connected.

Update (26/5/15)
I have tried some new kit which has proved to be rock solid, even in remote areas with weaker 4G signal.

The 4G box in position in the marquee - with only one cable providing power and network

The 4G box in position up a pole in the marquee – with one cable providing both power and network.

I created a waterproof box that houses all the kit which can then be hoisted up in the air, and only needs one Cat5 cable back to the technical area. Inside the box is a dedicated 4G router which takes a full sized SIM card, and a POE splitter to power it. This has enabled me to put the 4G box right at the top of a marquee pole by pulley and rope and the signal strength is much better than at ground level.

Inside the box - a Dlink router, POE splitter, and securing points for the Cat5 cable.

Inside the box – a Dlink router with 4G aerials going down, a POE splitter, and securing points for the Cat5 cable. The electronics are held in place with velco to secure it and also reposition if need be. I custom drilled the holes for the cable and the aerials.

Revised Parts and Costing

  • Dlink 4G LTE DWR-921/B router with dedicated 4G aerials (£150)
  • Waterproof box (£30)
  • Grey Cat5 50m cable (£30)
  • TP-Link TL-POE150S Power injector (£23)
  • TP-Link TL-POE10R PoE splitter (£9)

I ran a whole weekend with this kit on a remote field in a marquee without any drop outs. That’s over 12 hours of streaming.

Over 3 1/2 hours running.

Over 3 1/2 hours running. The low bit rate was a black screen at this point when the meeting ended. It was running throughout at adaptive medium (600kbps average).

If you have any questions about the setup or details on how you’ve done it then please let me know in the comments below.

A Wall of Colour: Bringing A Church Stage Design To Life

A Wall of Colour
Once a year the Jesus Army holds a national event in the north of England called “Sheffield Praise Day”, which as the name suggests is held in Sheffield. We hire out a sports hall and this gives us some flexibility with the layout. A team gets together to design the stage and then implement it, and after seeing a CSDI post about video mapping onto boxes I thought it would be interesting to try it out.

The design
After scribbling some initial ideas onto paper I handed it over to the experts to improve – Tim, Sam, and Josh, and they worked on making the panels and designing the stage. The theme for this event was “Crossing the Line”, so Josh incorporated a walkway that enabled people to go through a door in the middle of the wall, and down to the stage.

The ideas come to life in Sketchup

The ideas come to life in Sketchup

Capture Polar software

Capture Polar software was used to pre-program the lighting

Panels for the video wall
Material: correx (a coroplast equivalent) – 8’x4′ (1200 x 2400mm) sheets cut down to 4 foot squares, 4mm thick, with a bevelled edge so the squares stand out.
2″x1″ (50 x 25mm) timber on vertical sides of each panel. Panels all held together by a metal hinge to join 4 of them together in each corner.
Attached to the main top truss by velcro straps – 10m drops 50mm wide velcro. Loops on panels stuck to strap, and screw put through strap into the wood.

The panels being made in the workshop

The panels being made in the workshop

The panels are scored along the bevel lines, and then folded back

The back of the panel – each one is scored 50mm in, and then folded back into the score so that the panel slightly protrudes

Setting up

Testing the panels at our local church

Testing the panels and fixings in our local church auditorium

rigging

The usual discussion about replacing most of the PA with moving lights

http://vimeo.com/78812362

Lighting Fixtures

  • 6x ADJ ViziBeam 5R
  • 8x Martin Mac 101
  • 6x Showtec ArcBar3
  • 1x 8cell Molefay
  • 2x 4-bar ACL
  • 6x Showtec Sunstrips
  • 2x Robe 148LT & 6-Bar Par for stage wash
  • 4x StudioDuo LED600 & 6no. CYClite for audience wash

Visuals
I’m part of a team that creates visuals for events, and this year as we had a big screen to project onto we made some videos to play before and during each meeting.

The event ident video playing while the congregation gathers

The event ident video playing while the congregation crosses the line

I was particularly keen to show something of the city of Sheffield, as some people travel hundreds of miles to sit in a hall for the day which doesn’t seem very fair. So the week before I went round the city with Viv, and made a short video which encapsulates a little of what Sheffield is like.

As the panels were square and we knew their layout it meant we could map our content accurately.

Editing knowing where each of the panels would be

Editing knowing where each of the panels would be

Voilà! It fits! Peoples happy faces mapped to each panel

Voilà! It fits! People’s happy faces mapped to each panel

We used two Barco FLM-HD20 projectors at the back of the hall behind the congregation. These are full HD 20,000 lumens beasts, and made a big difference to the brightness and clarity of video on the wall. Supplied by XL video.

The projectors double stacked for extra brightness on the panels

The projectors double stacked for extra brightness on the panels, due to the width they had to cover

Resolume Arena 4 was used to map the video accurately on each panel.

Crossing the Line
band-worship
small 1

A family goes through the door holding one of the pieces that made up a long line for people to step over

A family goes through the door holding one of the pieces that made up a long line for people to step over

Perhaps the most powerful moment in the evening, as we remembered the martyrs

Perhaps the most powerful moment in the evening, as we remembered the martyrs

A short video of a couple of songs from the event and showing the church stage design:

Filming The Adventure of RAW 2013

At RAW (Real and Wild), a Christian youth event, I get asked to make a video which shows what goes on during the afternoon’s outreach activities around Leicester. And here it is:

The idea was quite simple – go round to the various locations in Leicester, interview people, get shots of what’s happening, and then edit the video. The mission is that this has to be done in a few hours. In past years there has been one video per day, but now it’s one video covering the two days so with a bit more time available I decided to add in a highlights section at the end.

The kit used during RAW

The kit used during RAW

As I was planning on doing a few timelapses I borrowed some cameras. The kit list was:

Cameras:

  • Panasonic GH3 + lenses (SLR Magic 0.95 25mm, SLR Magic 12mm 1.6, Lumix X Vario 12-35mm 2.8)
  • Canon EOS 1100D + 18-55mm lens
  • GoPro HD2

Other kit:

  • Konovo K5 slider with Manfrotto head
  • Tripod
  • Rode VideoMic Pro.

Having more than one camera enabled me to place them in different locations so I could make the video a bit more interesting, and also meant I could use the GH3 for video on the slider. Thanks to the people who lent me their cameras.

GH3 doing a timelapse
For timelapses there is a brilliant bit of software called Panolapse which somehow turns static images into ones with motional panning. The two images below show the effects of using the software.

The original GoPro image

The original GoPro image

After being put through Panolapse - notice the lines are now straight.

After being put through Panolapse – notice the lines are now straight rather than curved

Running around Leicester trying to find people could have been a bit of a mission, but we managed to spot people pretty easily. It was great having a focus for our outreach with treasure hunting (words of knowledge to find and pray for people) and healing. Anyone could spot this happy bunch a mile off:
RAW-2013.Still003
As I wanted a shallow depth of field (blurred background) effect when people were talking I had to have the lens wide open, which made exposure and focusing hard to get right. In fact using a DSLR and prime lens for a news broadcast style video is far from ideal! The results when it’s right are worth it though.
RAW-2013.Still004

I was glad to have Gideon helping me – it’s always worth having someone alongside you that can cope when you’re stressed, and able to help out.

Squinting. That's one way of getting a nice blurred background...

Squinting. That’s one way of getting a nice blurred background. And Gideon doesn’t seem too fussed about the sign post stuck to his head. Having a small camera also helped to not be intrusive.

We had a little setup on the balcony for editing. The first step was to process the timelapse shots and make the highlights video, and then go through the footage from RAW outdoors and make a video from that. It was helpful having a big screen to preview work on so you can actually tell when something is in focus! There was quite a lot of data involved too – 8,200 timelapse photos (30.9GB) and 34GB of footage.
2013-08-03-22.10.37
When it came to editing it was clear that some shots were over exposed (too bright). Having to adjust frame rate, iris, focus, iso, sound, ND filter, and white balance all manually was challenging, and I’ve still got much to learn to get it all right. So the edit shown on Saturday night was a bit ropy as I didn’t have time to adjust levels.

The backing track of the first part was an instrumental of “Attractive Spirit”, which was helpfully done by Jonny during one of the lunch breaks.

The music in the second half of the video, the highlights section, was by a band called Snarky Puppy. The track is called Binky. It’s well worth a look at the video below to see musicianship at its very best.

The challenge with creativity is always to not settle for what you know or have done before, but to take risks and experiment with the kit you have. This can be seeing what your camera is really capable of, or trying a new painting style, or learning a new tune (or even a new instrument!). And it’s definitely fun when you do so.
GH3 and starscape timelapse