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Choosing the Right Encoder to Stream Your Church Services

If you want to stream your church services to your own website, (and other platforms as well), you need a live encoder. The encoder has one simple job in a live stream: to take all the sources that you send its way and compress them into a neat & compact format to easily share with online.

There are two types of encoders:

  1. Software encoders
  2. Hardware encoders.

Let’s start with hardware encoders. This is a physical piece of equipment that you connect your sources, (cameras, microphones, presentation software), into using wired connections.

Hardware encoders have come a long way. They are great because they are reliable and they don’t require your computer’s processing power – this is very important and we’ll get to that in a moment. The downside of hardware encoders is that it’s another piece of gear that you’ll need to buy.

A software encoder is a program that you download onto your computer. Like Hardware encoders, they have also improved over the years. You plug your sources into the computer and the encoder gets to work. Software encoders are nice because you don’t need to buy that extra piece of gear if you already have a computer. But.. you will need a video capture device.

A video capture device is a hardware device that you connect to your computer that converts the video signal from your camera's output into a digital format your software encoder can recognize. If you intend on using a camera that outputs HDMI, HD-SDI, component, etc., then you will need a capture device. Another but…

Software encoders do use your computer’s processing power, and depending on what kind of software encoder you are using, they can use a lot. The computer you already have right now may not be robust enough to handle the scope of encoding you need. Or, it may be able to handle it, but perhaps it’s not entirely reliable and now you’re vulnerable to a stream dropping out.

Recommended Computer Specs if you use a Software Encoder:

Operating System: Windows 10 21H2, macOS Monterey 12

Processor: Intel® 7th Generation1 or newer CPU – or AMD Ryzen™ 3000 Series or newer; Apple M1 or newer

Memory: 16+ GB of RAM; Apple silicon: 16 GB of unified memory

Hard Drive: Solid State Drive (SSD)

Graphics Card: Dedicated Nvidia GeForce, 4GB+ video memory, DirectX 12 capable; Apple silicon: 16 GB of unified memory

Internet Upload Speed: Recommended: Total bitrate needed x 2 = Required upload bandwidth

There are now lots of encoders available for churches, (software and even more hardware encoders). We’ve listed a few that we recommend along with links so you can investigate further. Bottom line; decide what is best for your church and the people who will be using it. If you are new to streaming, you might consider the free software encoders like OBS. You can always upgrade later.

Recommended Software Encoders

Open Broadcaster Studio (OBS)

vMix

Wirecast

Recommended Hardware Encoders

Epiphan Pearl Nano Streamer & Recorder

Teradek

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro

We know this topic can seem overwhelming at times but fear not. For over 20 years our staff has worked exclusively with churches and ministries around the world. Let us serve you. We are available 7 days a week, even on Sundays. Email us at [email protected] or use live chat at the bottom right of your screen.