I’ve been live-streaming training over at my blog for a few months now, so when YouTube lowered the number of subscribers necessary to take advantage of the service, I thought I’d take a look.
For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming that you’d want to embed the video of your stream on your church’s website along with moderated chat. Unfortunately, how YouTube live streaming works doesn’t make it easy. Soon, I’ll write about how to overcome these hurdles, but first I want to talk about what they are and why they’re a problem.
YouTube live streaming isn’t designed for regular, weekly streaming.
It’s clear to me that YouTube envisions this service for corporate, school, sporting, and other randomly scheduled events. If you stream regularly, like churches or live webcasters do, you’ll be disappointed by the fact that you need to schedule each event separately. You can’t just repeat every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and since each event has it’s own unique embed code, you need to re-embed for each event.
YouTube live streaming isn’t designed for two or more services in a day.
To avoid re-embedding, you might think, “I’ll just start the stream at the beginning of the first service and stop it at the end of the last one.” In this case, the limit of 4 hours per session might be problematic, too.
Imagine you’ve got two services at your church, a 9:30 and 11:30. You’re under the limit as long as you end the service by 1:30. What if the 9:30 ends at 11:00, but you keep the stream running, but unfortunately, your pastor, freed by the fact that there isn’t another service after the 11:30 puts in a little more of the sermon that he didn’t really want to cut and adds an altar call at the end? Before you know it, it’s 1:15, the stream has been running for 3:45 and the announcement time and offering still need to happen before worship pastor steps up for the closing song.
YouTube doesn’t have an editor that can deal with files longer than two hours.
If you do finish in less than four hours, your next problem is that you need to edit the file so that each service is its exact length. The solution is to download the MP4, edit it, and upload the final product, but that’s more time and depending on your editor, you might need to transcode it first, too.
For files that are two hours or less, the YouTube editor can trim off the beginning and end with no problem. If you only have one service, that’s less than that time, it’s not difficult to do at all. I don’t like deciding between re-embedding multiple services in a short time in between services and doing a much more involved “download, transcode, edit, re-upload” process.
YouTube live streaming doesn’t let you encode on one machine, but monitor on another.
The other live streaming services have told me that monitoring the stream on the same machine that you’re using to encode can cause decreased performance, but I can’t seem to find a way to stream without watching the video on YouTube at the same time. Sure, you can watch the video on another machine, but YouTube’s encoding page includes a preview of what YouTube is receiving, so if the encoding machine is on the edge of being powerful enough, you might have problems.
All these problems have solutions, but…
For churches who have paid staff that do any of these steps, the additional time might be more expensive than the cost of paying for a streaming service that is built with churches in mind.
For churches that use all volunteer labor, there’s still a cost in time. Those volunteers could be doing other things, like spending time with their families or doing other tasks.
What do you think? Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?